UFC 159 kicked off on Facebook and YouTube with two high-quality, high-energy featherweight bouts on Saturday evening.
From Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh to Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie, the early prelims featured young fighters looking to carve a spot in the division and aging veterans striving to prove a point, entertain the masses and avoid the call of the unemployment line.
These fights showcased beautiful moments of standup and grappling alike, and they provided the perfect primer for a great evening of mixed martial arts activity inside the legendary Octagon.
Let's recap what went down.
Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh
Steven Siler and Kurt Holobaugh opened up the evening's festivities with a supremely entertaining ground battle that saw Siler snag a unanimous-decision victory.
Siler's ground skills were evident throughout the bout, and he came very close to ending the fight on multiple occasions, most notably with a rear-naked choke attempt in Round 1 that had Joe Rogan writing Holobaugh off and prematurely calling the fight.
Holobaugh persisted, and the two slugged it out on the feet a bit, and Holobaugh landed some huge shots and some devastating ground-and-pound as the fight continued.
Still, Siler proved just a bit more technical, a bit stronger and a bit more tenacious, and he frequently utilized his superior ground control to score points and to overwhelm Holobaugh en route to the decision victory.
In all, this fight was an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that set the bar highly for the rest of the night.
Cody McKenzie vs. Leonard Garcia
Cody McKenzie is fun, and Leonard Garcia is done.
In the night's second preliminary fight, McKenzie outclassed Garcia in all facets of the game and secured an easy decision victory.
Garcia, never known as a technical, refined fighter, suffered mightily at the hands of McKenzie in this bout, and he had no answers for the Alaskan's superior grappling throughout the three-round affair.
McKenzie repeatedly took Garcia's back and searched for the rear-naked choke, but Garcia managed to do just enough to avoid the submission time after time, proving that his brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu was well earned.
On the feet, where many figured Garcia would have the advantage, McKenzie showed off much-improved striking defense, and he stayed away from Garcia's powerful haymakers and returned fire with some nice kicks and combinations of his own.
While Garcia is clearly not a top-level UFC fighter at this point in his career, there is no doubt in my mind that this was the best McKenzie we have seen inside the Octagon. If he continues to improve his standup, he could become a solid gatekeeper in the near future.
The only silver lining for Garcia in this one is that he did not get finished despite McKenzie's many submission attempts, but I'm sure that will be of little consolation to him when he's standing on the unemployment line hoping Bellator or World Series of Fighting will pick him up.
Sadly, I fear we've witnessed "Bad Boy's" last hurrah inside the Octagon, and Cody McKenzie was the man to show him the door.