UFC 118 Analysis: The Prelims

Aug 31, 2010
Notice how there is little mention in post-UFC 118 discourse of Joe Lauzon’s dominating performance or Greg Soto’s invention of new ground-and-pound techniques.

It’s a sick, sad world that fails to give the prelim stars their proper dap. With that in mind, here is a truly felicitous bit of post-prelim analysis. Props to Sideshow Bob for making me look up the word “felicitous” back when I was 18.

Godzilla Be Not Proud

After struggling to return from an enfeebling knee injury, Joe Lauzon finally looks like the same fighter that put on brilliant performances against Jeremy Stephens and the like. He handed in a spectacular treatise Saturday on why he’s much better at MMA than Gabe “Godzilla” Ruediger.

Lauzon makes for an interesting wild card in the freakishly competitive lightweight class and should comfortably settle back into his upper-tier gatekeeper role.

As for Ruediger, he’ll probably get another prelim slot since he did do the UFC a favor by stepping in on short notice. Unfortunately, there aren’t any favors the UFC can do for him on the matchmaking front.

The Sound and The Distinct Lack of Fury

Like many fans and observers, I fully expected the bout between Andre Winner and Nik Lentz to make for a fun style clash. Instead, it rapidly devolved into an ugly war of detrition that Lentz won by virtue of … well, there’s not really a proper explanation for why Lentz won since the bout should have been scored a draw according to the standards of the unified rules.

Regardless, neither fighter walked away from this bout with any sort of substantial gain. Lentz will likely face a next-level lightweight who can capitalize on his dearth of offensive ability while Winner seems to be one of those guys set to disappoint everyone who tabbed him as a serious prospect.

Unless Winner starts using his footwork, there are plenty of lightweights in the UFC who can replicate Lentz’s performance against him. The inverse applies to Lentz, who was lucky to get a “W” and needs to develop some real offense before taking a dip into the deep end of the lightweight alligator-gorilla-shark-raptor tank.

Shooting In Is The Ender’s Game

If you’re ever interested in finding out what getting choked feels like, try shooting in on Dan Miller without setting it up. It’s as close to a guarantee as there is of temporarily losing the ability to breathe. After getting out-boxed by Miller nearly every moment he spent on the feet, John Salter tried shooting in for a takedown and was quickly ensnared in the figure-four guillotine that is all the rage in MMA.

It was a desperately needed submission win for Miller, who was on the verge of getting cut thanks to three straight losses in the Octagon. Although it will take a Karelin-esque winning streak to get back in the middleweight title picture, at least he doesn’t have the sword of Damocles hanging over his UFC contract anymore.

For Salter this fight is hopefully a lesson learned with the lesson being to work on his boxing. Much like his preliminary compadre Lentz, he needs to set up his takedowns or else he’ll keep getting caught by any half-decent grappler.

A Clockwork Straight Armbar

Drawing welterweight siege tank Mike Pierce for your UFC debut is a rough hand to be dealt, but Amilcar Alves was hyped as being more than up to the task. As so often happens in the Octagon, hype and reality did not get along.

Showing the same substandard wrestling that has plagued many of Brazil’s grappling-centric products, Alves was all but done when it became clear he had no answer for Pierce’s deadening top control. Obviously, there is no shame in losing to Pierce, but when a Nova Uniao black belt turns the wrong way into a straight armbar, there is no choice but to assume he was looking for a way out.

At best, he committed the sort of grievous error that elucidates the need for better regional promotions in Brazil. Either way, Alves needs some time against mid-range competition outside the UFC before jumping back into the fray. The only thing Pierce needs to do is cut down to lightweight so he can start fighting people his own size. Just sayin’ it would be a pleasant change of pace for him.

Soto’s Choice

It had been a little over five minutes of beatdown for Greg Soto and there was no reason to believe Nick Osipczak wasn’t putting the finishing touches on a dominant “W.” Then something happened that rarely happens at this level of the game: The guy getting beat on decided to do something about it.

For the remainder of the fight, Soto hulked up Osipczak and did a dandy job of putting the instructions of his cornerman, Kurt “The Point Pleasant Screamer” Pellegrino, to good use. It made for an unexpected turn of events since Osipczak has been in 15-minute burners before and more than held his own. Regardless, Soto took the fight from him and bludgeoned the Brit in a fashion that not even monster ground-and-pounders like Rick Story were able to manage.

If there is a moral to this fistic story, it’s that both guys are young prospects still learning an unbelievably complex game. Some more time on the prelims would do them a world of good, and the dividends they would pay out make keeping them out of the spotlight a worthwhile choice.
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