UFC Adelaide wasn’t a good night of fights. The main event delivered. The co-main event wasn’t bad either. But too many other aspects of the card were depressing and the last two fights weren’t awesome enough to make up for that. There were other glimmers of hope on the card – Kai Kara-France and Elias Garcia put on a show, as did Sodiq Yusuff – but those moments were too fleeting for me to walk away from UFC Adelaide feeling good.
Nonetheless, despite my despondent attitude, there were those who walked out of the event in a much better place than they were walking into it. It wasn’t all a loss… though there were losers….
Junior dos Santos: The former champion had some rough moments, having his head snapped back on several occasions by the powerful Tuivasa. JDS persevered, getting a read on Tuivasa’s attack, and capitalizing as Tuivasa plunged forward with several powerful punches. You could argue luck was on the side of JDS, but sometimes luck is a skill. Believe it or not, the win has JDS’s name back floating around as a title contender. I’m not saying he’s getting the next title shot, but would a fight with Francis Ngannou or Derrick Lewis sound ludicrous? I think not. Getting back to that level less than a year after being on suspension makes for a good evening.
Shogun Rua: Early on, it looked like it was going to be another horrible evening for the Pride legend as Pedro Tyson hurt him on several occasions. Yet, Shogun somehow survived and executed the most brilliantly veteran strategy by grounding and grinding Pedro in the second round. You can blame an ankle injury for Pedro’s loss all you want, but it occurred while he was fighting Shogun… in other words, over the course of the fight. We all know Shogun’s days as a title challenger are long gone, but he proved he can still squeeze out some wins with the veteran savvy he’s accumulated over the years.
Rocco Martin: Sine he doesn’t want to be known as Tony anymore, Rocco it is. Don’t want to deal with three names. Anyway, Martin had some rough moments – like being put on his ass by Jake Matthews in the opening round – but he never lost his composure and stuck to his guns. It paid off as Matthews began telegraphing his offense, allowing Martin to counter and get the fight to the ground where he put the young Aussie to sleep. Martin then called for a 165 lb. division. I think it’ll eventually happen, but we’re a way away from that. Regardless, Martin looking awesome since moving to welterweight.
Sodiq Yusuff: Admittedly, I was a bit lower on Yusuff than some of my associates. I still picked him to win, but I just didn’t think he was far enough in his career to pass enough judgment on him. I was wrong. I didn’t take long for Yusuff to prove he’s the real deal, winging heavy shots at Suman Mokhtarian with surprising accuracy. All Mokhtarian could do was cover up… which is essentially doing nothing. Yusuff looks like he’s going to be a big deal… though I do believe we need to be patient with the youngster.
Jim Crute: It’s hard not to find favor when a guy secures the first finish of the night after seven fights. But I wish he could have done it with more than 10 seconds left in the fight?! Kidding aside, Crute caught a second wind after exhausting himself early and showed some grappling skills that hadn’t fully manifested themselves. It’s still early for me to believe Crute is onto big things, but he’s on the right track.
Alexey Kunchenko: Yes, the performance was boring. However, Kunchenko was the only one to create any excitement against Yushin Okami, flurrying with kicks in the final round when he wasn’t stuffing takedowns. The win keeps the Russian undefeated at 20-0 and established him as a hell of a wrestler.
Kai Kara-France: Though the likes of Joseph Benavidez have been attempting to give reasons for the UFC to keep the flyweight division around, no one made a bigger statement than a debuting Kara-France. Yes, he had a lot of help from his dance partner, Elias Garcia, but Kara-France kept the pressure up and walked out with the most dominant victory of the weekend. Yes, I said the weekend. And I realize that includes what Kamaru Usman did to Rafael dos Anjos.
Damir Ismagulov: It wasn’t very entertaining, but Ismagulov scored a dominant victory over fellow newcomer Alex Gorgees. He also addressed one of the concerns when he said he was moving to featherweight as he does look small at 155. Not ready to say he’s an up-and-comer, but he is worth keeping an eye on.
Tyson Pedro: Some might say there is no shame in losing to Shogun. Those people probably stopped watching MMA around 2010. While I will grant Pedro came very close to finishing off the former champion, almost doesn’t cut it. Perhaps I should take solace in Pedro being as young in his career as he is, but it’s hard not to be disheartened by this loss. I haven’t given up on the young Aussie yet, but there’s a good chance others have.
Mark Hunt: I love watching Mark Hunt as much as anyone… but that performance was depressing. Hunt, one of the most technical heavyweight strikers in the history of the sport, followed Justin Willis around the cage without any thoughts to cutting angles. I know Hunt has been in the game for a long time and has had it with the UFC brass… but that was embarrassing. His last UFC fight was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.
Jake Matthews: Had this gone to decision, I don’t think I would have put Matthews in the loser’s column. However, he went to the overhand right too many times and Martin was able to stumble him. Every time the UFC gives Matthews a step up in competition, he falters. We can take comfort in the fact he’s still just 24, but you’d hope the push the UFC continues to give him pays off at some point.
Suman Mokhtarian: I’m waiting for a Mokhtarian to have at least one good performance. I couldn’t figure out why the UFC gave the larger Mokhtarian a chance after his unimpressive showing on TUF and still have no idea why as he all he did was push Yusuff against the cage. Can we please be done with the Mokhtarians in the UFC?
Yushin Okami: I was surprised when the UFC brought back the grinding veteran as they released him because he’s boring as hell. I wouldn’t be surprised if they let him go after this loss as his only form of offense was takedown attempts. Notice the emphasis on attempts as he didn’t complete any of them. At 37, I have no interest in seeing Okami continue to grind out his opposition.
Ben Nguyen: Fight IQ has often been a question for Nguyen. This was a classic example as Nguyen never showed any desperation even though it appeared to be clear Reis was ahead on the scorecards. I get that the striking exchanges were mostly in favor of Nguyen, but Reis scored takedown after takedown. He might not have done a lot with them, but he did something. Poor showing of intelligence from Nguyen.
Salim Touahri: The young Pole looked solid through the first round against Keita Nakamura. Then Touahri got clocked early in the second and he became reluctant to get hit. I get no one wants to get hit, but that’s a job hazard you’ve got to successfully conquer if you want to find success in this sport.
Mizuto Hirota: The UFC gave the longtime veteran about as winnable of a contest as they could. Despite his best efforts to overcome the fading Christo Giagos in the final round, he ultimately came up short and dropped to 1-6-1 in the UFC and Strikeforce. At 37, it’s hard to see the durable vet returning.
Alex Gorgees: I would put him under the neither category for simply making it to the UFC at this stage of his career, but the cockiness exhibited by the youngster knocks him down a peg. He threw a Stockton Slap early. First of all, the Diaz brothers have a patent on the Stockton Slap. Secondly, you might want to have accomplished something before doing something like that. The youngster will probably learn, but he may have a target on his back now.
Australia: If we count Ben Nguyen as an Australian native – born in the US, but currently lives in Australia – the hometown favorites went a miserable 2-7. Ouch. I don’t think the Aussies left the arena too happy.
Tai Tuivasa: Let’s get the negative out of the way. Tuivasa suffered the first loss of his career. He also got reckless chasing JDS after finding success with it earlier. That’s about it. Tuivasa hung tough with a former champion who isn’t too far removed from his prime, damn near sending JDS to the canvas on a couple of occasions. He did a good job of keeping JDS against the fence too. Tuivasa is legit. However, he wasn’t able to take the win when it was there, so I can’t quite call him a winner. Nonetheless, Tuivasa gave the people something else to talk about when he called out “that little bitch” when addressing Willis. The dude knows what he’s doing to remain relevant….
Justin Willis: Any time you get a win over Mark Hunt on your resume, that’s a good thing, even if it’s the 44-year old version. However, because it was not only the 44-year old version – it was also a disinterested version – and it was boring as hell, Willis isn’t getting full credit. I’ll admit Willis looked better in the third round, but it was too little, too late to get the sour taste out of everyone’s mouth. Willis will need to impress in his next contest to get the wind behind his sails again.
Paul Craig: Most expected Craig to lose to Crute anyway, but the Scot turned in a fun contest when the card was badly in need of one. There were times when his wrestling looked much improved, but other times when it looked terrible. Until Craig can turn in consistent performances, he’s not going to win very often. However, he at least makes up for that with his entertaining manner. At light heavyweight, that’s badly needed.
Wilson Reis: For all that Kara-France did to save the flyweights, Reis did all he could to stall that progress with a takedown-heavy decision victory. Given it was the fifth straight decision to open up the card – and the UFC is cutting the division anyway – Reis prolonged the pain and drove another stake into the heart of the division.
Keita Nakamura: I’m an unabashed Nakamura fan and a big part of me appreciated his win over Touahri. But I’m also aware of how little the UFC brass appreciate a steady, workmanlike performance over a dangerous youngster. He won, but he didn’t do anything to endear himself to those whom he needs to endear himself to.
Elias Garcia: I wanted to call Garcia a winner. He somehow stayed alive in a contest where he was outlanded in total strikes by well over 100. However, Garcia was game, throwing up submission attempt after submission attempt when he wasn’t getting punched in the head. The problem was how many times he got punched in the head. Credit to the youngster’s toughness, but he can’t take that type of abuse every time out. Still, at least he got some people to know who he is.
Christos Giagos: Hey, I admit it was a good win for the American. Very good win. But the way he faded down the stretch against an opponent many would say is washed up doesn’t inspire much confidence for Giagos’ future. Beating Mizuto Hirota cleanly is one thing. Barely surviving the final round to escape with the win in another.