UFC 155 recap: The King is dead. Long live the King!

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Sports writers like to throw around the term “redemption” to describe any kind of performance where you overcome some level of difficulty you have failed at previously, however minor.  Going into UFC 155, Cain Velasquez was a candidate for this moniker although after losing his title by devastating KO to Junior Dos Santos 13 months prior, he wasn’t expected to earn it.  What happened is that Velasquez put on the type of dominating performance that says “I don’t need your redemption! I was always the best”.  After five rounds of abject fury and decimation of the former undefeated in the UFC champion, I find it hard to argue with the sentiment.

Cain’s cardio and athleticism is the stuff of MMA legend and many wondered where it went in the first fight.  In recent weeks, we’ve heard that Cain was injured going into the first fight.  It made sense given his lack of movement and how quickly he was put down.  Not so this fight.  Velasquez came out aggressive, looking for takedowns and pushing the pace; basically daring Dos Santos to keep up.  Then came a thundering right hand midway through the first that put Dos Santos on the mat and Velasquez swarmed.  Dos Santos survived but was battered and bruised.  He looked bewildered and broken going into the second round, a stanza where Velasquez poured in on and completely dominated.

From there, it was all Cain but Junior Dos Santos proved that he still holds a champion’s heart as he kept getting up and attempted to put up some offense but his body would simply not respond with the power and skill we’ve been accustomed to.  Velasquez was simply not going to give any room to recover or find any glimmer of hope. For five rounds, the challenger imposed his will and remained singularly focused on reclaiming his title, no matter what it took.  In the end, Velasquez prevailed via unanimous decision and begins his second reign as heavyweight king.

For Velasquez, the next challenger is probably Alistair Overeem if he is able to get past Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. For JDS, back to the drawing board and another fight, perhaps with Daniel Cormier, as he looks to set up the trilogy.

In the co-main event, Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon put on one of the most entertaining and bloodiest fights in recent memory.  Miller looked absolutely fantastic in a fight where Lauzon, despite horrific cuts to the face and head, would not go away.  Miller showed terrific high and low striking, good ground skills and excellent submission defense as he fended off a late comeback by Lauzon in rounds 2 and 3.  Lauzon simply would not admit defeat, diving for a heel hook at the last minute and struggling to find a way to finish and steal the bout but ultimately came up short.  Jim Miller reasserts his claim for a shot at the lightweight title but will likely have to wait in line for either Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez, or both.  He’s had trouble with the elite fighters before, so we will have to see.  As for Lauzon, despite the loss, this was the type of performance that increases your stock with the UFC and the fans.  Lauzon is never in a boring fight and he will bounce back.

Tim Boetch looked okay early but then he broke his hand in Round 1 and got accidentally eye-poke in Round 2. The two enabled Costa Phillipou to patiently wait for his opportunity to pound Boetch out for the victory.  Both men were on the rise in the middleweight division and the victory puts Phillipou in the conversation for a shot at the belt.  In my opinion, he needs another fight first against a high profile opponent such as Yushin Okami or the loser of Belfort/Bisping in a couple weeks.

MMA: UFC 155-Okami vs Belcher

Yushin Okami smothered Alan Belcher for three rounds in an unexciting affair.  Okami has never been the most entertaining fighter ever but it’s hard to argue with his efficacy in controlling his opponent and not allowing them to generate any meaningful offense.  Belcher attempted some guillotine chokes that were no trouble for Okami to defend.  Okami is nowhere near another shot at Anderson Silva however and will continue to guard the upper echelon of the middleweight division.  Belcher’s title dreams have now been shattered and it’s difficult to see where he goes from here beyond challenging younger up-and-comers.

Chris Leben and Derek Brunson put on anything but a showcase in their PPV opener. Both guys plodded around the cage like they were the fattest of heavyweights and by the middle of round 2, neither man was generating anything resembling UFC-caliber offense. For two men who really needed to put on a show, Brunson in his UFC debut and Leben returning after a year-long suspension, they both have to wonder about their futures in the big leagues.  I suspect they both will get one more fight since Brunson won and Leben because Dana White hopes there’s still some of the “Crippler” left in him.

In the main event of the FX Prelims, former WEC champion Eddie Wineland won a split decision over Brad Pickett.  This was a nice little bantamweight scrap which saw a tough Pickett take some hard shots but was never able to counter Wineland’s reach and counter punching.  With losses to current champ Renan Barao and perennial gatekeeper Scott Jorgenson, one has to wonder if Pickett will ever be able to crack the elite level of the division.  Wineland could be in line for a shot against the winner of the interim title fight between Barao and Michael McDonald.

Rising bantamweight Eric Perez looked impressive in a lopsided destruction of Byron Bloodworth.  A precision knee at the outset drop Bloodworth who managed to hang on for a while but ultimately succumbed to a big right hand that had the ref jumping in to stop the fight.  Perez is 3-0 in the UFC and now needs a step up in competition if we are to see if he’s the real deal.

In the night’s most ridiculous judging, Jamie Varner defeated Melvin Guillard in a spirited affair that had Varner controlling the fight while Guillard managed some good leg kicks and striking.  Varner effectively used counters and takedowns to bring Guillard to the mat and keep him from the dynamic striking he’s known for.  The third round was a particularly fantastic display of scrambles and escapes culminating in Guillard hanging upside down on Varner’s back which allowed the former WEC lightweight champion to spike Guillard’s head to the mat.  While competitive, there was no doubt in this viewer’s mind that Varner won the fight which makes the lone judge that scored the fight 30-27 for Guillard all the more incredulous.

Myles Jury beat Michael Johnson pillar to post for three rounds.  Jury used takedowns to keep Johnson on the mat and beat him up.  A formerly highly touted prospect, Michael Johnson, looked absolutely horrible.

On Facebook, Todd Duffee returned to the UFC from his heavyweight exile to KO Philip De Fries in just over two minutes.  Max Holloway narrowly took a split decision over veteran brawler Leonard Garcia and in flyweight action John Moraga took two and half rounds to guillotine Chris Cariaso.

Overall a solid card to end 2012 and crown a new Heavyweight champ for 2013.  Next UFC event is UFC on FX 7 headlined by “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort vs. Micheal “The Count” Bisping.  See you then.

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