In wake of the madness that was Saturday’s stacked UFC 173 card, you won’t find many fans complaining of a shortage of jaw-dropping individual performances.
With T.J. Dillashaw’s incredible upset of the seemingly untouchable champion Renan Barao, Daniel Cormier smothering and submitting MMA legend Dan Henderson and Robbie Lawler’s annihilation of top welterweight Jake Ellenberger, there is no denying that the main card of UFC 173 delivered.
Of these performances, it would be hard to say that the show newly-crowned UFC bantamweight champion Dillashaw (10-2) put on the main event wasn’t the most impressive. Dillashaw kept a frenetic pace for a solid four rounds where he dominated Barao in every aspect of the fight before finishing the champ in the fifth. But despite this career-defining win, the most impressive moment of the night goes to unranked lightweight fighter Mitch Clarke (11-2).
Going into his fourth UFC appearance, the Canadian prospect Clarke, who entered the promotion with a perfect 9-0 record, had gone an underwhelming 1-2 in his first three Octagon outings and was in desperate need of another impressive performance to stay relevant after regaining his footing against John Maguire with a decision victory last June.
This would be no small task as Clarke was slated to face fast rising lightweight contender and teammate of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, “Raging” Al Iaquinta (8-3). After being floored and then controlled on the ground by the stronger wrestler in the first round, it appeared that Clarke was in for another long night.
The beginning of the second looked to be more of the same, as Iaquinta popped Clarke with hard shots on the feet and again established top control early in the round, and it was over in an instant — at least to the untrained eye. As Iaquinta attempted to move from side control to north-south position, Clarke was able to snake his right arm under the left arm and chin of Iaquinta from the bottom, sit up, and roll the talented wrestler into a tight D’arce choke against the cage. He established half guard to tighten the choke, which rendered “Raging” Al unconscious 57 seconds into the second frame.
While it was not on par with the dominance of Dillashaw, Cormier or Lawler, Clarke’s finish of Iaquinta was by far the most unexpected and refreshing. Avid MMA fans will never tire of big slams and knockouts, but these methods are a dime a dozen.
Hitting a D’arce from the bottom as someone passes your guard, without a gi and in a fight no less, is truly a diamond in the rough as far as a finish to a fight goes, and my hat go off to Mr. Clarke for this “Submission of the Night” — this man earned his bonus and then some for that spectacular comeback victory.