Travis Browne blasted Stefan Struve at UFC 130. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
With the third bout of the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard rivarly scratched due to injury, UFC 130’s movers and shakers were largely on the undercard.
Rick Story scored a career-boosting decision over former title challenger Thiago Alves, and unbeaten heavyweight bruiser Travis Browne scored a spectacular knockout of Stefan Struve. It’s all the thrills, chills and spills in one: the UFC 130 Stock Report is here.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson: I’m tempted to give Jackson a “hold” rating after his largely tepid three-round showing, where “Rampage” plugged along and outworked the hapless Matt Hamill.
However, when Jackson mentioned he’d brought a fractured hand into the bout, it suddenly made sense why he was fighting with uncharacteristic reserve (one can only imagine the blowback from Jackson dropping off the card after the Edgar-Maynard bout getting scratched).
In the context of a performance, Jackson essentially showed he’s a level above Hamill, who wasn’t able to be effective enough standing to close the distance and execute effective takedown attempts. In past performances against Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans, Jackson was defeated on gameplans backfiring; on pure physical assets, guile and resilience, he’s a handful for anyone.
With two healthy hands, he’ll be a knockout away from securing a title shot. In a nebulous light heavyweight division, Jon Jones is apparently on hold, with Rashad and Phil Davis likely squaring off in an elimination match. A big win by Jackson could have inserted him into the discussion, which didn’t happen here. But it was a showing typical of the veteran -- Jackson’s one of the most durable guys in the game.
Rick Story: With a five-fight win streak against increasingly good competition, Story faced a big jump up against Alves, a former title challenger. Promising to push the pace and wear Alves down, Story did just that, showcasing a cast-iron chin and big-time resilience in the process.
After sweeping the first two rounds, two things became apparent. Story is one of the division’s best takedown artists, and his ability to trade in the pocket is exceptional, which makes his wrestling all the more effective. In a rocky third round, he absorbed some big shots from the game but worn-down Alves, revealing the gameness you like to see in a rising contender.
At just 25, Story jumped up a couple notches in the welterweight pecking order, perhaps into the top five. Top contenders like Jon Fitch, Jake Shields and Josh Koscheck have all been handily beaten by champ Georges St. Pierre in title shots, with rematches a hard sell.
A win over any of that trio would likely make Story a marketable challenger; along with fellow young guns Jake Ellenberger and Carlos Condit, it’ll be interesting to see how the UFC lines up its new blood with the veteran guard to produce challengers for the dominant champ (Story decisioned Ellenberger before both fought in the UFC, and each has improved considerably since then).
Throw the winner of Anthony Johnson-Nate Marquardt into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a party. Story’s tenacity, chin and willingness to trade standing make him a live wire against any other contender in the division.
Travis Browne: Whomever Browne fights next, it’ll certainly be easier to find sparring partners. Facing the 6’11 Struve, Browne scored a huge win with a bodacious knockout off a Superman punch, sending Struve crumbling to the canvas, as though he’d been clotheslined.
Heavyweights, in lieu of reliable conditioning and the sharp technique of the little guys, can deliver red-meat knockouts, and this was precisely why the big guys can deliver. At 6-foot-seven-inches and 250 pounds, Browne has considerable size, menace, and a nice boost to his marketability with this win.
Brian Stann: Mr. All-American keeps progressing, and Stann’s performance was on-point and memorable. In dispatching Jorge Santiago, Stann’s strikes were sharp; he showed a solid chin, and he stuck to a disciplined game plan (increasingly a hallmark of Greg Jackson-trained fighters).
Santiago had exited the UFC in 2006 after going 1-2, then reeled off 11 wins in 12 bouts, taking 3 of 4 in two-fight rivalries with Kazuo Misaki and Mamed Khalidov (both are talented overseas products, and Khalidov may be one of the best fighters not currently competing under the UFC/Strikeforce umbrella).
Stann’s rebound at middleweight, since going 2-2 in the UFC’s 205-pound division, is an inspiring success story. As a former Marine Captain who was awarded the Silver Star after heroic actions in combat while serving in Iraq, the Naval Academy grad is now in a position to pick up considerable mojo. Stann’s a marketing dream, and his fighting ability seems to be catching up nicely.
Lack of wrestling pedigree may be his eventual weak spot, but with his toughness, power and intensity, it may be the only oneapparent as he keeps climbing the contender ladder.
With Chael Sonnen’s immediate future in limbo, the UFC has a big vacuum to fill with a marketable stateside star. Stann took a huge step in filling that gap with his win tonight.
Thiago Alves: With a renewed approach to diet and training, Alves performed well in the final five minutes tonight against the imposing Story, scoring with strikes and piling up points to take the final stanza. The problem was, he’d been clearly outworked in the first ten minutes.
It’s quick to jump on a guy’s bandwagon and even easier to jump off, which is why Alves gets a “hold” rating here. He remains a dangerous, physically gifted welterweight. He was simply outworked by a better man tonight.
Alves will always pose problems for anything less than the elite level of the division. His next match will definitely be a must-win situation.
Frank Mir: The former heavyweight champ ground out a unanimous decision over Roy Nelson, who down the home stretch looked hopelessly gassed in being taken down repeatedly. Ironically, in the first round, it appeared Mir was close to gassing, as he repeatedly looked at the clock and seemed to be tiring.
Frank’s experience proved the difference in this bout, as he caught breaks where he could, and scored effectively; particularly in close with strikes while making Nelson burn considerable energy in several tie-ups.
However, Mir gets a hold rating here. While his cardio is never going to be top notch, he’s still too heavy at 260 lbs. After losing to Brock Lesnar at UFC 100, Mir bulked up considerably, and the added muscle isn’t worth the tradeoff. Earlier in his career he was in the 240-pound range -- where I think he’d be better -- especially in scrambles and exchanges, where his quickness was always a plus.
Matt Hamill: As in his bouts with Rich Franklin and Jon Jones, Hamill hit a competitive ceiling again tonight, losing a chance to break into the top ten of the 205-pound division. Unable to use his standup effectively, he was reduced to taking long-distance, low percentage shots against Jackson, whose takedown defense and upper-body strength are a vexing combo to say the least.
Interestingly, while Hamill showed success with low leg kicks early -- something Forrest Griffin worked to perfection in taking Jackson’s title in July 2008 -- Matt abandoned the one tool that was working for him. As the fight moved past its midway point, his punches lost all authority and he was essentially shut down.
Losing to Jackson didn’t shock anyone, but Hamill’s definitely going to have to go back to the drawing board and work on his standup if he’s going to crack the next level of the talented light heavyweight ranks.
Stefan Struve: A crushing loss to Browne is something that’s going to happen to most heavies, as their sheer size and power makes it a card almost all of them draw eventually. Struve had put together a pair of nice wins in his last two outings, and gone 5-1 in the UFC after a crushing debut defeat to Junior dos Santos.
At just 22, Struve will be around because he’s got a big upside, both figuratively and literally. He’s got more bouts than birthdays (26 fights) and is still filling out at 250+ pounds. A definite long-term project worth the investment, particularly with ability to sell tickets on European cards.
Roy Nelson: While Mir is, allegedly on my part, too heavy at 260, he at least carries it on a muscled frame. Nelson’s 260 didn’t work for him tonight. While his trademark belly didn’t look any different than previous outings, Nelson’s usually in far better cardio shape than the dreadful showing he gave tonight, where he essentially ran flat out of gas.
He was so tired he could barely throw punches midway through the bout; a puzzling sight, indeed, after seeing him absorb endless thunder from Dos Santos and keep bombing away. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nelson had something wrong physically with him tonight. If not, he needs to use this loss to motivate himself and improve his cardio.
Jorge Santiago: A tough loss to Stann for Santiago, who seems to be one of those fighters that simply performs better outside of the UFC. It wasn’t one big thing that unraveled Santiago. He struck fairly well, and nailed Stann with some good shots. It was more a case of Stann’s willingness to keep coming and play the percentages, which eventually paid off. Santiago’s inability to get the fight to the mat cost him dearly here, as in standing he gave Stann his best chance to win the fight, which he definitively did.