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Hindsight – UFC Hamburg: Shogun vs. Smith in retrospect

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For those who watched the UFC Hamburg card, you have my sympathy. The card wasn’t an absolute disaster, but nine consecutive decisions can be painful to deal with. It was shooting for ten in a row going into the main event, but Anthony Smith refused to work more than necessary, disposing of Shogun Rua in just under 90 seconds. In the process, he established himself as a force to be reckoned with in a division badly in need of fresh blood. Given the co-main event also featured a younger light heavyweight overthrowing an established member of the upper echelon of the division. Though it was a long event, it could prove to be a turning point for the division.

Here’s a breakdown of every contest on UFC Hamburg. I’ll cover the important parts of the fight, some of the techniques I noticed that were either effective or ineffective, and where the fighters appear to be going.

Liu Pingyuan defeated Damian Stasiak via unanimous decision

Even though no one cared about this contest, the consensus was that Stasiak would emerge victorious as Pingyuan didn’t look like anything special as a prospect. While Pingyuan certainly looked better than anyone though he would, Stasiak’s performance was below his past showings too. It resulted in a close contest, but a hard spinning back-fist and some timely GnP from Pingyuan proved to be the difference, giving the Chinese debutant an unexpected victory.

The loss probably knocks Stasiak out of the UFC. I would feel for him, but the UFC couldn’t have provided him with a more likely win than they did here. If he couldn’t beat Pingyuan, he doesn’t deserve to be on the big stage. Pingyuan’s timing was much improved from his time on the regional scene. He showed signs of aggression, but he knew when to use it. I still have major doubts about Pingyuan becoming a keeper, but the chances of that happening are far better than they were heading into the event.

Darko Stosic defeated Jeremy Kimball via TKO at 3:13 of RD1

The first two-and-a-half minutes were a real snoozer as neither Stosic nor Kimball were doing much of anything. Kimball committed a cardinal sin when he telegraphed a shot as Stosic redirected the American, resulting in Stosic falling on top of him. Not long after, Stosic was laying into the American with some heavy elbows and punches that required the ref to step in.

I do like the potential of Stosic, but his inactivity in the opening minutes worries me moving forward. It’s plausible it was Octagon jitters, but he looked just fine once he got the fight to the ground. However, Kimball’s role is to give prospects like Stosic a showcase fight and that’s what happened. Stosic will need to show more aggression on the feet if he’s going to get anyone excited about him. On the flip side, Kimball announced on Facebook that he was calling it a career. Even if he didn’t have a memorable career, the dude deserves props for making the most of his limited skill set. Most didn’t believe he’d even get to the UFC and he was able to walk out with a W about a year ago. Best of luck to him in his future endeavors.

Manny Bermudez defeated Davey Grant via submission at 0:59 of RD1

Bermudez has been hyped as one of the top prospects in an increasingly stacked bantamweight division. He showed why, immediately putting Grant on his ass with a hard right. Bermudez immediately jumped on top looking for an armbar before transitioning to a triangle choke. It took awhile before he sunk it in, but he did just that to secure an impressive win.

Bantamweight is turning into a real shark tank, Bermudez one of the most noticeable youngsters making it such a dangerous division in which to reside. All he needs is the slightest opening and he can snag a neck or an arm and finish his opponent. Not even Demian Maia is quite that dangerous, though I don’t believe Bermudez is nearly the technician Maia is. Bermudez is simply more willing to take risks. Grant’s UFC run is probably over. He’s been affiliated with the UFC for five years and this was only his fourth UFC contest due to some rough breaks. As much as I like the guy, he won’t be missed very much… at least in terms of his fighting abilities.

Aleksandar Rakic defeated Justin Ledet via unanimous decision

Given his more extensive UFC record, Ledet was the favorite heading into the contest. He ended up on the wrong end of one of the most savage beatings in UFC history. No, that is no hyperbole. It was BAD. Fight Metric only claimed 104 of Rakic’s 263 total strikes as significant, but it felt like a lot more were meaningful than that. Rakic kicked out the legs of Ledet in the first two rounds before maintaining top control and delivering some vicious GnP. Plus, he showed off some wrestling skills no one knew he was capable of. The end result was the most lopsided three-round score in UFC history.

Before the fight, Rakic was a young guy the UFC was taking a look at, nothing more. He had a nice frame and some decent kickboxing chops. Walking out of this fight, he was receiving comparisons to Dominick Reyes by fans and analysts, the latest star prospect in the light heavyweight division. Though there wasn’t a part of the fight that didn’t impress me, it was Rakic’s ability to pour on the punishment for the full 15 minutes. He didn’t slow down one bit in the final round. Rakic is more than kickboxer. He’s proven to be a well-rounded threat.

Ledet was thrown of his game immediately with Rakic’s powerful low kicks, knocking out the legs from underneath him. Ledet never recovered. Ledet’s energy level didn’t look very good either. Perhaps the move down to 205 disagreed with him as he looked weaker fighting at light heavyweight than he did at heavyweight. I’ll be very interested to see where his next fight takes place at and his mental state after such a brutal beating.

Nad Narimani defeated Khalid Taha via unanimous decision

There wasn’t a lot of hype behind this contest going into the event. Once it played out, there wasn’t any mystery as to why there wasn’t. Narimani utilized his innate ability to smoother his opponent, pushing Taha against the fence and grounding the youngster in every round. Taha had a few moments on the feet, but not nearly enough to overshadow the control of Narimani.

Though it wasn’t the most enjoyable viewing experience, Narimani did what he’s known for with his blanketing style. That’s why no one is talking about him as a potential up-and-comer at featherweight. That’s he’s already 31 doesn’t help either, but Narimani proved he deserved this look. I was impressed with his dirty boxing on occasion too. I don’t think he’ll be a contender, but he looks like a solid low-level gatekeeper.

Taha simply hadn’t faced an opponent of Narimani’s caliber. He showed promise on the feet, but it wasn’t a surprise he couldn’t deal with Narimani’s physicality. After all, Taha is a natural bantamweight. Regardless, I’m still not sold on Taha being a UFC talent quite yet, though I do feel more confident about his chances moving forward.

Bartosz Fabinski defeated Emil Meek via unanimous decision

I really should have listened to my gut. I knew Meek wouldn’t fight like a wild man. I knew Fabinski would get his takedowns. I knew Meek’s aggression would wear on Fabinski. I just overestimated how much Meek’s energy would take out of Fabinski. Fabinski was able to hold down Meek just enough in every round to not only take the round, but to avoid Meek’s powerful hooks when the fight was on the feet. It wasn’t a total drag as Meek’s efforts to put away Fabinski, but those periods were few and far between.

There isn’t much to be said moving forward. The UFC will want to cut Fabinski loose as soon as they have an excuse as nobody enjoys watching him. I’m not saying the guy needs to change things up. You utilize what brought you to the dance. I’m merely saying nobody wants to watch it. Fabinski will hit his ceiling soon as he probably would have lost to Meek if Meek opted to fight intelligently.

Speaking of Meek, I love the guy. He never quits and has a gas tank that goes for days. But… what the hell? The last thing he should have done was make it easier for Fabinski to take him down. Moving forward with reckless abandon doesn’t accomplish that. It doesn’t look like he’ll live up to the hype he set for himself when he beat Rousimar Palhares.

Damir Hadzovic defeated Nick Hein via split decision

I’m not surprised Hadzovic and Hein traded punches. I’m not surprised Hadzovic’s power wore down Hein. I am surprised Hein didn’t put together more combinations. I’m even more surprised Hein didn’t bother a single takedown attempt given Hadzovic’s historically poor takedown defense. Well… I guess I’m not. Hein has completely ignored the fact he has an extensive judo background since he came into the UFC. Granted, he has won more than he lost, but it seemed inevitable it would eventually bite him in the ass. This is where it did.

Perhaps Hein finds it to difficult to get close enough to his opponent to flip them on their head, but he’s going to be taking damage regardless thanks to his miniscule reach. If he wasn’t so stout, I’d say he should be fighting at featherweight, his disparity is regularly so bad. Nonetheless, Hein doesn’t have the power to regularly pick up stoppages and it’s a dangerous proposition to try and land more volume than the hard-hitting Hadzovic. I like Hein, but I won’t feel bad if he’s released.

Hadzovic should feel lucky. He found someone with a fraction of his power willing to stand and trade with him. That’s about the only way the Bosnian Bomber will consistently win fights. I did like the addition of low kicks, something he had been allergic to in his previous UFC contests. It’s safe to say he would have had enough volume without those, but that won’t always be the case moving forward.

Nasrat Haqparast defeated Marc Diakiese via unanimous decision

Two losses in a row from Diakiese and I struggled to see any reason to believe he would look to change his ways to pick up a win over Haqparast. To be fair to Diakiese, he did make a few minor adjustments, but not nearly enough to overcome Haqparast’s consistent offense. The German export even outworked Diakiese in the clinch, an area of which he was expected to outmuscle Haqparast. Nope. Haqparast no selling Diakiese’s offense while coming thisclose to finishing the English product at the end of the second sealed the deal.

Haqparast has snuck up on many people. Though he performed well enough in his UFC debut against Marcin Held, it didn’t hint at the youngster possessing a skill set to get excited about. Be given a full camp to prepare for his opponent as well as a bit more maturity – he is still just 22 – and he looks like he could be title contender a few years down the road. Haqparast has quickly made himself a name to keep an eye on.

Diakiese has fallen on seriously hard times. Just a bit over a year ago, he was an undefeated prospect with three wins in three attempts in the UFC, including a 30 second KO. Now he’s riding a three-fight losing streak. He’s still overly reliant on his elite athleticism, still looking for the highlight reel KO while forgetting his base is in wrestling. Perhaps his luck would have been different if he had looked for takedowns earlier, but that was an afterthought until he was exhausted and Haqparast was firmly in control.

Danny Roberts defeated David Zawada via split decision

It was expected to be an exciting striking contest between Roberts and Zawada. We didn’t get that, but the grappling contest they put on was one of the best in recent memory. It wasn’t the most technical showing, but the two of them traded submission attempts, sweeps, and guard passes in hopes of picking up the win. It really could have gone either way, but the judges preferred the emphasis on GnP from Roberts as opposed to the barrage of submission attempts from Zawada.

Roberts’ abilities on the ground has been a pleasant development for the former boxer. It’s a good thing as Roberts has struggled to maintain taut technique on the feet as was expected of him when he entered the UFC. If he could avoid the brawls that he has continually been sucked into, he might actually make headway in the welterweight division. Otherwise, he’ll continue to be an action fighter and nothing more.

Zawada’s fate looks very similar. In fact, it would be downright shocking if he developed into more than that. He may have been able to pull off the upset if he would have used some of the submission attempts to gain a more advantageous position and do some damage with strikes, but I also admit some of the subs looked like they had a chance of sticking. Despite the loss, Zawada established himself as a positive addition to the roster.

Marcin Tybura defeated Stefan Struve via unanimous decision

More to establish a pecking order than to determine if Tybura or Struve were contenders, Struve’s inability to consistently utilize his height had most favoring Tybura. Tybura utilized takedowns in every round with a steady supply of low kicks. Struve had moments where he utilized his reach effectively, including a brutal front kick to the face of Tybura in the second round, but couldn’t overcome the control exercised by Tybura.

Unless either one could win in impressive fashion, a win wasn’t going to do much for either competitor as they’ve both come up short when presented with opportunities against the divisional elite. Though Tybura fought a smart fight – he usually does — it wasn’t the most impressive victory. Some have found it easier to KO Struve with his chin being there to be hit, others have struggled with the range and couldn’t finish the job. Tybura fell into the latter camp.

Struve’s best moments showed exactly why fans and analysts have forever been frustrated as he landed some brutal shots from range. However, Struve wasn’t throwing those to keep Tybura on the outside. He was looking to put Tybura to sleep. I doubt his mental makeup and personality will ever allow him to utilize his range consistently, but he’ll forever irritate viewers when he lands those type of shots. Even though it was his third loss in a row, he’ll be back. You think Bellator or PFL wouldn’t gobble him up?

Abu Azaitar defeated Vitor Miranda via unanimous decision

Though this fight had some fun moments, it was largely a slopfest. Azaitar came out with his trademark reckless aggression winging heavy hooks, though it wasn’t enough to finish Miranda. Azaitar’s pace slowed significantly and Miranda threatened with his grappling – including an armbar in the final round — but that has never been the Brazilian’s strength. The difference proved to be Azaitar’s high activity level.

Azaitar doesn’t look like he’s anything special, though he could prove to be a fun action fighter. His reckless style won’t be too difficult for disciplined and more athletic fighters to expose. His hooks had power behind them, but they were also wide, easy to counter. Miranda proved to be too disciplined as he struggled to pull the trigger… an issue that has been plaguing him for quite a while. It will probably cost him his spot on the UFC roster as it was his third loss in a row.

Corey Anderson defeated Glover Teixeira via unanimous decision

I don’t know too many people picking Anderson given his traditionally weak chin combined with Teixeira’s powerful boxing. Anderson was aware of that and didn’t give Teixeira many opportunities to land the power shots he’s notorious for by continually looking for the takedown. Teixeira stuffed most of Anderson’s attempts early, though it wasn’t long before he broke under the constant pressure of Anderson. Every time Teixeira got back to his feet, Anderson dragged him right back down. It wasn’t the most entertaining contest, but it proved to be the biggest win of Anderson’s career.

Props to Anderson for not only putting together the perfect strategy to beat Teixeira, he did it on short notice. The contest was very reminiscent of Teixeira’s loss to Phil Davis about four years ago. Teixeira had attributed that loss to poor conditioning and preparation. Anderson figured it was a combination of Davis’ wrestling ability and athleticism… a skill set very similar to Anderson’s. The strategy is indicative of Anderson maturing. If he can continue to hide his chin against the heavy hitters, Anderson will likely continue his ascent into contention.

Teixeira’s time near the top appears over. He’s always been slow, but he was absolutely glacial against Anderson. It made it difficult for him to finish off any of his own takedown attempts as Anderson was able to quickly sprawl, nullifying Teixeira’s wrestling. It wasn’t a factor here, but Teixeira’s durability has been declining too. Given his power hasn’t completely disappeared, Teixeira still offers an element of danger, but this loss definitively eliminates him from consideration as an elite fighter.

Anthony Smith defeated Shogun Rua via KO at 1:29 of RD1

Shogun had been riding a three-fight win streak going into the event, indicating he wasn’t completely finished as a fighter. Perhaps all it took was a someone who wouldn’t show him any respect as Smith went right at the legend, finishing him just shy of 90 seconds with a brutal elbow after a flurry of offense had Shogun on shaky ground. The win gave Smith consecutive victories over former champions, having dispatched Rashad Evans just a month-and-a-half ago.

Smith appears to have made the right decision jumping up to 205. Though he spent most of his career at middleweight, he isn’t suffering from a size deficiency and has shown little restraint in his attack, something he was required to do at middleweight given the major amount of weight he was forced to cut to make the weight limit. While the two wins have done a lot to raise his profile, his calling out of Alexander Gustafsson will do even more as it now appears Gustafsson may be ducking him. I’m not saying Gustafsson wasn’t injured – I have no way of knowing that – but it is mighty suspicious that Gustafsson pulled out of UFC 227 just after Smith called him out. Smith may have just effectively attached himself to the Swede.

Nobody genuinely believed Shogun was a title contender at this point in his career. However, the three-fight win streak proved he isn’t completely finished, adding a bit more credence to Smith’s rise as Evans hadn’t won a contest since 2013. Nonetheless, this loss will have people calling for Shogun to hang it up. His last loss was eerily similar, Ovince Saint Preux finishing him early in the first round. Much like Teixeira, there are still fights Shogun can win. However, Shogun’s durability is a far greater concern than it is for Teixeira given the wars Shogun endured over the years. It’s easy to see where people hope Shogun retires.

Well, those are my thoughts. Until next time….


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