UFC 155: Top 15 Things We Have Learned
UFC 155 was full of surprises
This past year has been a memorable one for UFC. Several changes were made to fight cards due to training injuries and the UFC had their first cancellation with UFC 151 back in September.
While many fighters had to pull out bouts, others made the choice to step up on short notice and make the most of an opportunity, whether it was former champion Vitor Belfort fighting for the light heavyweight championship at UFC 152 or Jamie Varner getting the chance to come and fight in the octagon after being cut from the WEC back in 2010.
As with any other fight card in 2012, UFC 155 was an event where fans saw the debut of new fighters like Strikeforce veteran Derek Brunson and the return of old faces such as Todd Duffee, who returned to the UFC after a two-year absence.
Some fights were expecting to be classic, like the Brunson's fight with Chris Leben, ended up lack luster. Other matches that may have not looked all that appealing on paper, such as the heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos going all five rounds, turned out to be pleasant surprises.
While the UFC roster and MMA fight fans prepare to ring in a new year that is filled with exciting, action packed bouts and as few injuries and card cancellations as possible, there are several future matches that came as a result of this last pay per view.
Here are the 15 things we learned from UFC 155.
Cain Velasquez’s first title defense may be against Alistair Overeem
Cain Velasquez dominated Junior Dos Santos for five-straight rounds to regain the UFC Heavyweight championship. Never before had anyone manhandled Dos Santos the way Velasquez did. While the possibility of a rematch between the two is up in the hair, there is little doubt that Velasquez will remain champion for the next two or three years.
Velasquez has the wrestling ability, punching power and stamina to pose a challenge to any contender that steps up to challenge him.
One fighter who has a chance is Strikeforce, Dream and K-1 champion Alistair Overeem, who faces Antonio “Bigfoot" Silva at UFC 156. If Overeem can get past Silva then there is little doubt that he is next in line for a title shot.
If Velasquez is able to dominate Overeem the way he did Dos Santos, Bigfoot and Brock Lesnar, then he may become the most dominant UFC Heavyweight champion of all time.
Junior Dos Santos has the heart of a champion
Fans can say what they want about former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, but there is no question that man has the heart of a champion, especially after taking a beating like that from Cain Velasquez.
After losing the title, Dos Santos is now at the same crossroads as many former champions before him. The question is, how long will it be before he climbs back to the top?
Five-round heavyweight fights can be exciting
It was a surprise to many critics and fans that the championship fight between heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos went all five rounds. After all, heavyweight fighters are known for their power and bulky bodies cannot make it all five rounds in a title fight, and if they did it would not be as entertaining.
Yet Velasquez and Dos Santos had everyone on their toes for all 25 minutes whether it was the the awe of watching challenger dominating the fight or the hope that the champion would make a surprise comeback.
It just goes to show that even the big boys can make a long time entertaining, as long as they have the conditioning and stamina.
Todd Duffee is back
While Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos were fighting for the heavyweight championship, Todd Duffee returned to the octagon at UFC 155, after a two-year absence.
As a replacement for Matt Mitirone, Duffee faced British fighter Phil De Fries and scored a two-minute TKO to win the fight. In addition to making an impressive return, Duffee won “Knockout of the Night” honors for his performance
Daniel Cormier might be dropping down to light heavyweight
UFC signee and Strikeforce grand prix champion Daniel Cormier said if his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Cain Velasquez won the title, he would most likely drop to light heavyweight.
Although Cormier has not officially announced the drop in weight, Dana White has said that Cormier would likely get a shot at current UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who is set to defend the title against Chael Sonnen in April 2013.
Cormier has said he would fight Jones in the past and it looks like the two will meet in late 2013, if Jones can retain his title against Sonnen.
AKA is emerging to becoming one of top MMA gyms in the world
Regaining the UFC Heavyweight championship is not only a victory for Cain Velasquez, but it is also a victory for American Kickboxing Academy. Headed by Javier Mendez, AKA has become one of the top MMA gyms in the world.
With AKA members Todd Duffee scoring a knockout in his return match inside of the octagon and Daniel Cormier likely getting a shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight title, 2013 will be a big year for the academy.
Jim Miller is a winner, but both he and Joe Lauzon are both stars
Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon was an exciting fight from the get-go. Miller threw some elbows in a clinch that made a large cut over Lauzon’s eye. Even with the blood pouring down his face and onto the canvas, Lauzon continued to hang in there with Miller.
In the end, Miller’s performance and control got the decision from the judges, but it was the heart and display from Lauzon that helped both of these men earn the “Fight of the Night” bonus.
With this win over Lauzon, Miller has once again asserted himself as one of the top fighters in the UFC’s lightweight division.
Jamie Varner has earned his spot in the UFC
Former WEC Lightweight champion Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard were originally supposed to face on “The Ultimate Fighter 16” finale until an illness forced Varner to pull out of the fight and the match was moved to UFC 155.
After some taunting from Guillard, who called Varner a “coward,” and a heated exchange at the weigh-ins, Varner and Guillard put on a show that ended with the former champion getting the split-decision.
This was Varner’s third fight in the UFC in 2012. It was two years ago when he had been cut by Zuffa after the last WEC event back in 2010. Since me hade his UFC debut back in May, Varner has gone 2-1, with his loss coming against Joe Lauzon, that ended with both men getting a “Fight of the Night” bonus.
With his UFC run already off to a good start, Varner will no doubt have a big 2013 ahead of him with many exciting fights along the way.
Chris Leben has some cage rust, but can still make a full return in the future
Middleweight Chris "The Crippler" Leben has made a career of being one of the more entertaining fighters in the UFC. After a year suspension that resulted from testing positive for drugs back at UFC 138, Leben made his octagon return against Strikeforce fighter Derek Brunson in a fight that saw both men gassed out after the first round.
While Leben’s return was not what fans expected, it is no surprise that he may have some training to do before he fully gets back in the swing of fighting and training.
Leben is an accomplished fighter whose career is filled with amazing wins and devastating losses. If he makes the right adjustments and trains enough, he can make a full-fledged comeback in 2013.
Derek Brunson's victory makes good impression for Strikeforce fighters
Middleweight Derek Brunson’s path to the octagon was had its rough patches. After getting knocked out by former Strikeforce Middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in August, he was originally supposed to make his debut on “The Ultimate Fighter 17,” but Showtime had not released him from his contract.
When he finally did make his UFC debut, it was on short notice against the returning Chris Leben. After a lackluster match, Brunson got the decision victory.
While Brunson’s debut was not a performance of a lifetime, it guarantees him at least one more fight. It also gives a good impression for other Strikeforce fighters who make their way to the octagon.
Yushin-Okami has got his groove back
At UFC 62, both Yushin Okami and Alan Belcher stepped into the octagon for the first time. After three rounds, Okami walked away with a decision victory. Fast forward six years and history would repeat itself as Okami faced Belcher in a rematch at UFC 155 and win via decision.
Okami controlled much of the fight and was able to counter any offense Belcher tried to throw at him. With his latest victory, this puts Okami on a two-fight winning streak. After seeing last night’s performance, it was hard to believe that at one point in 2012, he had back-to-back losses to Anderson Silva and Tim Boetsch.
Okami continues to be one of the top middleweights in the UFC and will surely continue his winning ways in 2013.
Michael Bisping one step closer to middleweight title shot
With Yushin Okami defeating Alan Belcher in their rematch, UFC President Dana White has said that Michael Bisping will be next in line to face Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight championship, if he can get past Vitor Belfort in January 2013.
Bisping, who has fighting in the UFC since 2006, has been itching for a chance to fight Silva for a long time. If he can make it past Belfort, he does indeed deserve a shot at the title.
UFC fighters can have some fun with entrances, as long as they have a good reason
One criticism I have heard from MMA fans is how the UFC does not their fighters to come up with creative and fun entrances when they are walking out to the octagon.
Bantamweight Erik Perez was able to convince UFC President Dana White to let him walk out wearing a luchador mask as he made his way through towards the cage. According to White, Perez wanted to do this as a way to proudly show off his Mexican heritage.
Contrary to what some fans may think, the UFC has given some leniency towards fighters. Rony “Jason” Mariano Bezerra wears a Jason Voorhees mask to the octagon. Then there is Tom Lawlor, who dressed up as Apollo Creed, and Hulk Hogan during his entrances.
White said that he allows fighters to have some creativity with their entrances as long as they have a reason. So if you are a fighter and you want to walk to the octagon in the style wearing the mask of a Japanese wrestler, tell the UFC President you are paying homage to Kazushi Sakuraba, who happens to be one of White’s favorite Pride fighters.
Fighters with losing streaks can still have a job as long as they fight their hearts out
Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia lost his fourth-straight fight after being defeated by Max Holloway by a controversial split-decision. While this would certainly earn him a pink slip, UFC President Dana White said that he would not cut Garcia.
Garcia is not the first fighter that the UFC has pardoned for a losing streak. Former welterweight title contender Dan Hardy was kept his spot on the UFC roster, even after he accumulated a four-fight losing streak from 2010-2011.
White and other UFC officials are known for having a soft spot for fighters like Hardy and Garcia, who put it all out in the cage.
Garcia will have to step up in his next fight; otherwise it might be his last appearance in the octagon.
John Anik has the chops to call pay per view matches
One man who was absent at UFC 155 was play-by-play man Mike Goldberg, who according to Dana White, was taking some time off. With Goldberg missing the event John Anik, who has been calling the fight cards on FX and Fuel TV, stepped in Goldberg’s place and worked alongside Joe Rogan for the event.
Considering it is was his first time working a pay per view, Anik performed well. He was clear and had good timing for the most part. His play-by-play was also a fine compliment to Rogan’s color commentary.
While the date of Goldberg’s return is still up in the air, Anik will have little trouble filling in for him
Thoughts on UFC 155?
What were some of your favorite UFC 155 moments? Answer in the comment section below or send a tweet to @alstover with the hashtag #RantMMA.