Despite the lack of build up to the event, UFC 115 proved to be a great night of fights, as the low key events tend to be. In the two main event fights, one legend managed to pull off one last big win while another fell by the wayside against younger competition. The young guns were also prominent, with Rory MacDonald showing skills beyond his years and Martin Kampmann announcing himself as a major force at welterweight.
With yet another event on the books then, it’s time to take a look at what comes next for the winners and losers and how their triumphs and disappointments shaped their divisions going forward.
In the main event, Chuck Liddell was again brutally knocked out and Rich Franklin proved his mettle against the man who once ruled the light heavyweight division. Before he thinks about anything else, Franklin will need some time off to repair his broken forearm and spend his $85,000 knockout of the night bonus. After that if he’s serious about a run at the 205lb title, he needs another decent step up in competition. While Liddell might not have been ranked anywhere near the top of the light heavyweight division when Franklin beat him, he was a much bigger name than most of the fringe contenders there is talk of Franklin now facing. If the UFC are eager to give Ace a big push as they have been in the past, then the might well jump him ahead in the queue and have him face another big name. Forrest Griffin or Keith Jardine would both make for good tests at this stage.
Chuck Liddell looked better in losing than he has for several years, until he was knocked out by an opponent not known for bring a big puncher that is. At his age and with his history in the sport retirement is really the only sensible thing for Chuck at this stage. But then again that was probably the best course of action several fights ago as well.
Dana White for his part has said that Liddell will not fight again, but we’ve heard this kind of thing before and I’m not that convinced. If Chuck is still adamant on fighting again, which he may well be in a few months time, then there are two options open to the UFC as far as I can see them. Either they can let chuck go, which will undoubtedly mean he will fight in a rival promotion and gain them a lot of exposure, or they will have him fight Tito Ortiz again. Ortiz is simply a poor striker, always has been and always will be, who relies on his diminishing wrestling. Liddell, shot chin or not has beaten him twice before and remains difficult to take down.
Mirko Crocop managed to recapture a little of his old magic in beating Pat Barry in the co-main event, despite suffering two early knockdowns in the first round. After arriving back in his homeland of Croatia, apparently after quite a grilling from the Canadian immigration services, Crocop told a newspaper that he is retiring from the sport. Citing that he was too tired and doesn’t enjoy the training as much as he used to.
No official word has been forthcoming either from the UFC or any U.S representatives of Crocop, but this seems a good time to bow out the right way. All too many fighters, Chuck being a prime example, tend to fight on a long time past their best and damage their legacies as a result. In beating Barry, Crocop has one last good win on his resume after a less than stellar run in the UFC, and goes out on something of a high point. It wasn’t vintage Crocop we saw at UFC 115, but he did look a lot better than he has recently, and started to utilize his arsenal of kicks once again.
Pat Barry goes back to the drawing board after his latest loss, and obviously needs to do some serious work on his ground game, conditioning and aggressiveness. It was clear from the opening bell that he admired Crocop, but having knocked down the former Pride star he should have been more willing to go in for the kill when he had the chance. It seemed almost as if Barry wanted to win in a spectacular fashion or not at all, and he abandoned his game plan of beating Mirko to the punch and wearing down his lead leg with kicks towards the end of the first round.
From there he seemed to be constantly looking for head kicks and started to look tired. Barry’s ground game was also shown to be severely lacking when he was submitted with a rear naked choke without any hooks, although part of that was likely fatigue as well.
After his broken hand and foot have healed up, the UFC might well match Barry up with fellow recently defeated prospect Todd Duffee, which would push one of them, probably Duffee, back on course. Another more Barry friendly option would be Gilbert Yvel, who fell to Ben Rothwell earlier on the same night. Neither has much of a ground game to speak of and neither has very good conditioning, meaning a stand up battle with the first to tire being knocked out would probably be the most likely outcome.
Moving further down the card, Ben Rothwell ground out an ugly win against Gilbert Yvel largely on the strength of being bigger and better conditioned. Yvel did manage a few sweeps, and got the better of Rothwell on the feet at times as well, even coming close to finishing the former Militich fighter on one occasion. It wasn’t enough to counter being controlled for the majority of the fight though, and Yvel falls to 0-2 in his current UFC run.
Next for Rothwell could well be a fight with Cheick Kongo, which was booked once before but fell apart before the pair could meet. Kongo these days is rather like Yvel 2.0 in that he has the striking chops but can wrestle a little as well. A good next test for Rothwell, and it will be interesting to see what he does with someone he can’t hold down as easily.
Gilbert has been given a tough first pair of fights in his UFC tenure so far, and because of that I think the management will give him another chance. A fight against Pat Barry would prove interesting, and Yvel would have a better chance against a fellow kick boxer than anyone else in the division.
Martin Kampmann used his superior technique to dominate Paulo Thiago on the way to a unanimous decision, and didn’t look particularly troubled in doing it. What Thiago lacks in technique, he makes up for in tenacity and power, but against a striker like Kampmann he looked raw and ragged from the start. Thiago is someone who many have trouble ranking in the current welterweight division, simply because of the ridiculously difficult run of opponents he was given after signing up with the UFC. Having already fought all three of the AKA welterweights, the best option for Thiago now might rest with Dan Hardy, himself a fighter many feel was pushed along too quickly.
In short Kampmann did everything right against Thiago, and is big at the weight to boot. Next on the agenda for the Dane will probably be a dominant wrestler to really test his ground skills. The only weakness he has shown thus far is a less than solid chin, but finding himself in the welterweight division, there aren’t that many strikers at the upper levels good enough to test this out. A showdown with the perennial welterweight meat grinder Jon Fitch should reveal just how far Kampmann might go.
Without a doubt, the best fight on the card was the back and forth battle between Carlos Condit and Rory MacDonald, which saw the youngster clearly win the first two rounds before a last minute stoppage secured the fight for Condit.
At just 21 years of age MacDonald is already more well rounded than most of the fighters in the division, and he’s only going to improve with age. As important as showcasing talents such as MacDonald is, giving them the right opponents rather than rushing them before they are ready is essential. A couple of prelim fights against lower tier welters to build up Rory’s confidence is probably the next course of action for Dana and co, although having won the first two rounds against a seasoned veteran like Condit, he is probably ready for tougher competition already.
Condit’s next move will likely be another step up the welterweight ladder, perhaps against someone like Marcus Davis or Chris Lytle. Both well rounded and both essential wins for fighters looking to move into the upper echelons. Condit’s take down defense has always been an issue, and both Davis and Lytle would test his ground game and resolve as well as keeping up with him on the feet.