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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday landed in Montevideo, Uruguay, with UFC Fight Night 156: Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2. With it came some good, some bad and some ugly.
The Good: Cruise Control
In only her second defense of the flyweight title, Valentina Shevchenko is displaying the makings of a dominant champion. The Peruvian import made it look like an easy day at the office in her clear decision win over fellow former bantamweight challenger Liz Carmouche. There just wasn’t a moment where the outcome was in doubt.
Carmouche had no success in forcing her highly regarded wrestling as Shevchenko easily stuffed takedowns and made herself hard to hold. She even managed to put Carmouche on her back in the lone completed takedown of the fight. While Carmouche has been hard at work over the years improving her standup game, Shevchenko reminded everyone about her muay Thai resume with sharp counters. In the third round, a well-timed left cross sent the challenger to the floor as well.
There simply wasn’t a moment that Shevchenko wasn’t in control of the contest. What makes this particular interesting is the poise that “Bullet” showed last night. Calm, collected, and calculated, she shut down her opponent at every turn without seeming to break a sweat. While it lacked the same dramatic flair she showed in her recent destruction of Jessica Eye, she showed the demeanor of a tenured belt holder, completely confident without becoming careless. The workmanlike nature of her performance was reminiscent of some of the more dominant performances of Demetrious Johnson or Georges St. Pierre.
To reach such a zen-like state in the cage so early into a title reign is bad sign for the limited number of challengers in the relatively thin and still developing weight class. Sure it wasn’t a thrill ride and lacked the action many fans crave. But most dominant champions are guilty of the same crime. “GSP,” “Mighty Mouse” and Jon Jones managed to retain belts in similar fashion as well.
There is a benefit to such dominance. The chances to build the highlight reel, work toward the big money fights and give eventual challengers a firm target to set in their sights being chief among them. Shevchenko has a bit to go before she can be truly considered in that upper echelon of commanding champions but she appears well on her way.
The Bad: Platinum Gates
Vicente Luque could easily have found himself in the good column for what he did last night. Engaging in Perry’s fight in spurts but managing to keep things from getting too unhinged was the perfect balance between effective fighting and pleasing the audience. Perry marks the biggest name in Luque’s six fight winning streak.
For all of the entertainment value he presents, the book appears to have been written about Perry. Despite having a personality that attracts attention, a knack for chaotic brawls and the occasional devastating knockout, it looks like we’ve seen the ceiling on what “Platinum” can offer the welterweight division. His split decision loss to Luque all but cements Perry as a gatekeeper at 170 for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that the nature of the fight was perfectly on brand for Perry. He landed hard punches, absorbed punishment, but showed an inability to adapt to the challenges his opponent presented to him. Perry couldn’t find an answer to Luque’s changes in rhythm as the Brazilian wasn’t content to simply stand in the pocket and trade.
The other reason that last night likely boots Perry from any potential talk of breaking through the rankings is the quality of opposition he has been able to defeat. Going exactly half and half between wins and losses since the Danny Roberts KO win at UFC 204, Perry’s most notable wins come at the expense of a lightweight moving up temporarily, a shopworn Jake Ellenberger, a man who hasn’t fought since, and Alex Oliveira, who consistently struggles strategically as well. Luque’s impressive win streak, fight IQ, and versatility put him in the category of fighter that Perry has typically had a hard time dealing with.
Perry is far from a dead man walking. His charisma and fan friendly style will likely lead to favorable card placements and style matchups that highlight his best qualities as a fighter. Much like a Joe Lauzon or Clay Guida, he can remain on the roster and cash better checks than he could on the regional scene. Perhaps his unstable training situation has become a problem yet again as he has yet to evolve. He returned to his original camp, Orlando’s Fusion X-Cel, ahead of the Oliveira bout after a brief run at Jackson-Wink in Albuquerque. Ironically, he left Florida due to lack of evolution but has decided to return to his roots. If Perry has decided to settle into the role of the entertaining brawler then he’s probably right to remain where he’s most comfortable. However if he has intention on reversing his fortunes, then he should probably begin shopping around for a better option.
The Ugly: Uruguayan Horror Story
By far the ugliest part of the UFC’s first trip to Uruguay was the literally ugly nature of the injuries endured by the fighters. Dedicated fans of MMA should be used to blood and certain levels of gore. But every so often, we get to see something that makes us all cringe. With that in mind, three moments stand out from last night.
The first was the wound suffered by Rogerio Bontorin in his bout against Raulian Paiva. A quick left hook opened a nasty cut just below his eye. That cut sat on top of a sizeable welt and leaked a decent amount of blood as he lay on top of Paiva in half guard. The doctor was satisfied that it wasn’t impacting his ability to continue fighting and everything carried on.
But Paiva couldn’t be left out of the fun and one-upped his opponent with a horrible gash just above the eye. After eating a knee about 30 seconds after the bout was restarted after the initial cut related time out, Paiva suddenly found his face dripping with blood as well. As the fight hit the floor, Paiva’s blood appeared to be running towards his opposite eye. Referee Osiris Maia again stepped in and the doctor understandably shut it down after getting a good look at his skull through the cut. Even color commentator Michael Bisping quickly reversed course from criticizing the ref for his frequent interruptions to reacting with horror upon seeing the wound.
Perry endured a fair amount of punishment during his three round fight. But as the final round came to a close, a flying knee from Luque created one of the worst nose breaks in MMA this side of Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin. Completely crushed and crooked, it’s amazing that Perry was able to see the final bell. This is especially true after being caught in a tight guillotine choke afterwards. Likely unable to breathe properly with a crushed nose, arms wrapped around his neck and blood profusely draining out of his body, Perry should be commended for his resilience as the fight drew to a close. There would be no shame in tapping out under those circumstances.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely the type of person to spend an unhealthy amount of time sitting in front of the television watching elite fighters beating each other into oblivion. The blood and injuries are just an unavoidable part of the show and normally fade into the background as we keep up with the nonstop pace of events. However jarring the three aforementioned images were, there is a sense of comfort we can draw from them. By being stunned at the sight of the deep cuts, hematomas, and crushed noses, it’s refreshing to find out that despite our appetite for destruction we still aren’t completely desensitized.