February 3, 2013

The Highs and Lows of UFC 156

By Roy Billington

On Saturday night, the UFC hit The Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas for UFC 156, the first PPV broadcast of 2013. The night featured a featherweight world title fight, as Jose Aldo defended his belt against former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar. Also featured on the card was Rashad Evans' return against the Brazilian jiu jitsu stylist Antônio Rogério Nogueira, and in addition, the long awaited fight between Alistair Overeem and "Bigfoot" Silva finally went down. The night also featured a stacked undercard featuring a number of highly-ranked fighters. Here are the highs and lows of Saturday night’s event:

The Highs

The night started on Facebook with a bout which on paper looked like a Fight of the Night candidate, and it lived up to its billing. Francisco Rivera and Edwin Figueroa went toe to toe from the get-go, and Figueroa had the better of the opening exchanges; he even dropped Rivera early and won the first round. But much to his credit, Rivera recovered, and once the second round started it was obvious Rivera was the fresher fighter. In the second, Rivera used his speed and technique to expose Figueroa’s winging style, and he scored a brutal knockout halfway through the round. Rivera looked very impressive as always and I’m really looking forward to watching him fight a higher-ranked opponent.

In the next bout of the evening, Chico Camus faced the highly-touted prospect Dustin Kimura. In the first minute, Camus landed clean and dropped Kimura. But the debutant was unfazed. Camus looked to take Kimura down and score points, but from the get-go Kimura showed a great awareness from his guard and constantly looked for sweeps and submissions. In the second, Camus was lucky to survive a late triangle choke, but his luck ran out in the third. After a sloppy takedown attempt, Kimura reversed Camus and mounted him before landing ground and pound that forced Camus to give up his back to Kimura, who finally cinched in a rear naked choke and earned the tap. Kimura showed his obvious talent and lived up to the hype that has surrounded him as of late.

On the FX prelims, former Strikeforce title contender Tyron Woodley faced former Bellator title contender Jay Hieron in his UFC debut, and looked like a much involved athlete. After starting out in Strikeforce primarily as a wrestler, Woodley has much evolved in recent times, and tonight landed his first UFC victory with one-sided first round beating. Woodley first landed a massive right before swarming the semi-conscious Hieron with a barrage of ground and pound that forced Herb Dean to stop the fight. Woodley was coming off a lot of criticism for his KO loss against Nate Marquardt, but he silenced the critics with his performance Saturday night and proved he was the real deal.

The Lows

In a Strikeforce vs. UFC matchup, the outspoken Jacob Volkmann faced Bobby Green, and despite implementing his usual tactics, the night didn’t go as planned for Volkmann. Early on in the first and second rounds, Volkmann secured takedowns and took Green’s back, but he struggled to cause much damage, and finally in the third, Green got his chance and took it, by first landing brutal ground and pound, and then securing a rear naked choke. Volkmann has been very hit and miss as of late, and really needs to get his mind straight. He has seemed preoccupied and uninterested in competing at the highest level since Paul Sass ended his 5-fight winning streak.

The sole heavyweight attraction of the night pit former Dream/Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem against former Cage Rage and EliteXC champ Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, and from the get-go I was perplexed by Overeem's performance. "The Reem" looked very lackluster and unable to pull the trigger; his performance was reminiscent of his second fight with Fabricio Werdum. Much to Silva's credit, he pushed the pace before landing a brutal KO, but I was so disappointed with Overeem.

In an interview with Fight Site, former Overeem opponent Mirko Cro Cop had an interesting take on Overeem’s performance:
"I wasn't surprised by Silva's victory at all and I had believed he would win. I don't want to come off as a smart-ass or say I knew it all along, so I'll explain why I'd believed so. First, Silva is a big tough guy with a huge heart who had demolished Fedor and he needs no better reference than that, and Alistair hugely underestimated him and belittled him with his arrogant statements, so this mobilized Silva in the best possible way. Second, Silva is a natural heavyweight, and Alistair - for the first time since way back in 2007, when he began to gain huge weight - fought without the drugs he had used constantly for years, including testosterone and all the other shit that goes with it."

Next up I think we’re bound to see Overeem face Junior Dos Santos, and Silva should in my opinion face Josh Barnett.

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