UFC 96 wasn’t the most prestigious event on paper leading into Saturday evening in Columbus, Ohio, but it did manage to produce some exciting bouts. We now have a clearer picture of the Heavyweight division’s upper-echelon talent, as well as what the potential is for the Light Heavyweight division title. Let’s take a look at Saturday’s action and what to expect in the future from the outcomes.
“Rampage” Jackson vs. Keith Jardine
Definitely a great scrap by both fighters. I scored this matchup 29-28 Jackson, but could definitely see a 30-27 score for Jackson as well. I wasn’t sure what all the hoopla was about the judge telling Jardine that he lost the fight in the last 10 seconds as I thought it was evident that Jackson won the bout, but it doesn’t really matter at this point.
Jackson made Jardine pay when he threw leg kicks, and the gameplan of using his range wasn’t very effective considering Jackson would move to strike when Jardine planted his feet to strike from distance. For most of the fight, Jackson was the aggressor, and Jardine tried to use his awkward style to counter.
The big problem is that Jackson’s power and technique in the standup were just too much in implementing that gameplan. You could hear Greg Jackson’s team telling Jardine to take Rampage down when things were getting a bit overwhelming for Jardine, and that was just a horrible gameplan to try to implement. Jackson would easily crush Jardine when he tried to move in, and Jardine doesn’t offer much on the ground.
Solid bout for Jackson, and it now looks like Evans may be his next opponent at UFC 98. Dana White’s VLog caught the discussion backstage regarding the matchup, and Quinton will have to get medicals done first to determine if he needs a medical suspension or not. If not, Rampage could take on Evans at UFC 98, otherwise we’ll see Machida in his spot.
Shane Carwin vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
The action is this fight went somewhat the way I imagined it may go, although Gonzaga had a great shot at ending this early. Gonzaga caught Carwin with some stiff striking early, but the big man recovered well, was able to get off his back fairly easily, and put a nice short jab on Gonzaga’s chin that floored him instantly.
I think the main issue to come out of this fight is that Shane Carwin’s power may be a huge danger to anyone in the division. While he isn’t technically sound, neither is Brock Lesnar. Both guys have unbelievable power, and they can both knock opponents out with one well-placed blow. Carwin actually seems to have a bit more of a technical base that Lesnar, so that matchup may be a very interesting fight in the future.
Gonzaga has been a product of the hype machine ever since his knockout win over Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic. Do I think he’s as good as he has been made out to be? Not exactly, but we can’t really say that Gonzaga is past his prime or “done” in the division. Carwin may very well be a great rising star, and the power that Carwin has with some a small jab could end up creating some massive upsets in the division.
Matt Brown vs. Pete Sell
Brown completely crushed Pete Sell with very good, accurate striking from the beginning. Sell, who hasn’t been the most technical striker, was just overwhelmed with shots by Brown, and Brown’s range was excellent in this fight to work those strikes. Sell really had no way to counter as he tried to stalk Brown into the fence. Brown would circle, use good footwork, and counter with more kicks and punches. Impressive performance by Matt Brown.
Matt Hamill vs. Mark Munoz
Having had a lot of discussions about this matchup over the last week, I ended up switching back to picking Matt Hamill in this matchup. It really revolved around the fact that wrestling credentials in MMA don’t hold much water when you’re taking on a fellow wrestler. Unless you’re a very quick shoot wrestler, the takedown defense that most wrestlers have against their counterparts is usually enough to make these types of bouts slugfests. That’s exactly what Hamill brought to the bout.
As expected, Hamill’s takedown defense was enough to allow him to punish Munoz with his slightly better striking game. Hamill has improved in that department, but in small strides. He still leans with his strikes, isn’t very technical with his jabs, but he is effective in using his dirty boxing style to inflict damage.
The knockout of the night by Hamill was impressive though. Munoz likely had no idea that Hamill would throw any type of headkick, and Hamill used it perfectly. Having never previously seen Hamill throw such a tremendous kick to the head was likely the reason Munoz never saw it coming. Impressive victory by Hamill.
Gray Maynard vs. Jim Miller
Maynard was the absolute epitome of sprawl and brawl in this fight. His power coupled with the fact that he could easily sprawl Miller’s takedown attempts was overwhelming. Every time Miller tried to takedown Maynard, he was met with a sprawl and the ensuing punishment from Maynard.
One of the things I mentioned to many of my friends during this fight is that Maynard is becoming somewhat of a Dan Henderson in the division. He loads up his right hand, uses his wrestling to sprawl opponents, and then tries to unload that right hand on opponents. That’s exactly what he worked in this fight, and it was very effective.
Miller needs to improve his boxing in order to compete with guys like Maynard, so that should be one of his focus points for future matchups. Maynard should begin pushing into the upper echelon of talent in the division with this win, and hopefully he’ll continue to improve. I’m still curious as to how he’ll do if he ends up on his back, but as for now, he looks to be doing very well.
Tamdan McCrory defeated Ryan Madigan, TKO, Round 1: McCrory’s standup was effective enough to get him to the clinch, and that’s where Madigan couldn’t produce the power strikes that he’s known for implementing. McCrory easily got the takedown and controlled Madigan on the floor. Easy win for the “Barncat”.
Kendall Grove defeated Jason Day, TKO, Round 1: I really thought Day had a chance in this fight, but Kendall looked to be in very good shape, and his striking has improved. It’ll be interesting to see how well he has improved his game in his next few fights.
Jason Brilz defeated Tim Boetsch, unanimous decision: This was a bout that I mentioned could have potential for an upset in the Betting Preview over the weekend, and it ended up actually happening. Boetsch was unable to put huge strikes on Brilz, but he did manage to wobble him a bit in the first round.
Brilz stayed vigilant though, and he was able to work a ground and pound takedown game that has brought him success throughout his career. Solid upset win for Brilz, but I don’t know if he has the chops to be a staple in the division.
Brandon Vera defeated Mike Patt, TKO, Round 2: Vera looked much more energetic in this bout, and he has likely been able to get used to the weight cut. He was quick, brutalizing with his leg kicks, and just overall much more “alive”. Patt isn’t exactly a prime candidate for being a danger to Vera, but it was a nice to see Vera get a win under his belt and show the fans he’s not done.
Shane Nelson defeated Aaron Riley, TKO, Round 1: After seeing the replay in Dana White’s VLOG, I will have to say that Riley was completely robbed in this matchup, Riley was basically on the floor moving to avoid shots when the referee stopped the fight for some odd reason. It was very unprofessional, and I can’t really comment on the actual bout due to the outcome being tarnished. White has a point in arguing that this referee is incompetent.
Betting Review: This was a very tough night of betting, and I was able to stay far away from this card in terms of dumping massive cash on it. I made a few bets, notably on Carwin, Miller, and Hamill. I made single bets on those bouts, but I also parlayed the three with Miller losing me the parlay. Overall, I lost out on about $5, but didn’t bet a whole lot either. This definitely wasn’t a card to make a lot of money on, but it was possible with the right parlays.
Overall Grade: B-
It was a decent event, produced some highlight reel finishes, but the star power and overall matchups weren’t that compelling. It does clear up the divisional pictures a bit, but the Light Heavyweight division is still in limbo until Rampage’s medicals come through. I’m assuming we’ll see Rampage-Evans at UFC 98 though.
With Mir getting hurt, will Carwin’s stake in the division rise to the point in which he’ll get a title shot at Lesnar? I wouldn’t be surprised, but Mir says he only needs another month after rehabbing his knee. That bout should be pushed back to July, Couture vs. Nogueira will be in the mix, and then we’ll see who Carwin takes on. Of course, the rumor mill looms with a potential signing of Fedor later in the year as well. It’s getting very interesting.