The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 174
If UFC 174 showed one thing, it's that one man can't make an event.
Demetrious Johnson put on a masterful performance. In the same way Fedor Emelianenko played his opponents' game and beat them, "Mighty Mouse" attacked Ali Bagautinov in the one area where Bagautinov was assumed to be superior: the clinch. He brutally tenderized the Russian's torso from bell to bell.
It left the UFC commentary team asking "What is next for Demetrious Johnson?" It left the Vancouver crowd wondering "Can I beat the traffic if I leave during the second round?"
Indeed, a mass exodus took place during Johnson versus Bagautinov, and there are many ways to interpret that. Are the flyweights still being rejected by fans? Were they dissatisfied with the lengthy stretch of yawn-inducing fights beforehand? Did this stem from comped tickets going to people that just didn't actually care much?
Tough call. Also beyond my pay grade.
What I do know is that the biggest loser tonight was Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson. He just reasserted himself as one of the greatest fighters in the world, and the only people that could muster up applause were the crickets.
Real Loser: Jonathan Brookins
Jason Saggo def. Josh Shockley, TKO (Round 1, 4:57)
Jonathan Brookins. I know. That wasn't actually Jonathan Brookins...but the resemblance is uncanny in the hair and losing areas.
Seriously, though. Josh Shockley was unable to muster any sort of offense. Saggo took him down, pounded him, kept him in place and scored a win just three seconds before the horn sounded.
Not much to say here. Great UFC debut for Saggo. Pretty terrible UFC debut for Shockley.
Saggo's win was emphatic enough that you might want to keep an eye out to see who he is going to face next. Of course, this is the super-crowded lightweight division so it's not like there's a shortage of hot young up-and-comers to watch out for.
Real Loser: Squash Matches
Michinori Tanaka def. Roland Delorme, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Squash matches. Roland Delorme, one of the many super-talented fighters to enter the UFC's bantamweight division following The Ultimate Fighter14, was given what was almost certainly expected to be an easy win in UFC newcomer Michinori Tanaka. Well, it didn't work out that way as the 23-year-old Tanaka got the better of the Canadian in every exchange and every scramble.
I, and I'm sure many others, were surprised to get to see Delorme matched against an utter tomato can (on paper). Lopsided squash matches are usually reserved exclusively for Brazilians.
Make no mistake, either. Delorme entered the cage with a 3-1 (1) record and came up a hair short against Alex Caceres. This was supposed to be a nice, cheap win to get the Canadian crowd invested in one of their own.
Tanaka, though, proved to be a can of whoopass and used his Judo and raw athleticism to make Delorme look bad. With such an emphatic win over a decent competitor in his UFC debut, Tanaka suddenly becomes one of the hottest youngsters in the UFC.
Real Loser: The "UFC-Caliber" Tag
Tae Hyun Bang def. Kajan Johnson, knockout (Round 3, 2:01)
The "UFC-caliber" tag. Kajan Johnson didn't get a shot in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter Nations. Probably because he was still nursing that destroyed jaw that Chad Laprise gave him. For his official UFC debut he was given, quite literally, the worst fighter the promotion could muster in Tae-Hyun Bang. In a relatively fun scrap, Bang used some skillful level-changing to score the knockout win, sending another Canadian back home with a loss.
While this fight wasn't a squash match like the last one was supposed to be, this was another fight they were hoping the Canadian would win. Alas, he could not even come close. Bang, by the way, had no technique, no real wrestling, and the only thing he did that really looked good was a sneaky front headlock to set up a reversal.
And these guys pass for "UFC-caliber" these days...
Real Winner: Karma
Yves Jabouin def. Mike Easton, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Karma. Lloyd Irvin's last student stepped into the cage riding a three-fight losing streak. Easton needed to stop the bleeding to preserve his UFC career...and he didn't. Yves Jabouin took him down at will and got the better of him throughout most of the fight, earning a handy-dandy 29-28 win.
So yeah, in case you hadn't heard, Lloyd Irvin is one of the biggest scumbags in MMA. Outside his ability to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there isn't really a single good thing about him. Not one thing. While most of Irvin's top students left him behind, Mike Easton stuck by his coach, turning his back on Alliance MMA and all the high-caliber fighters therein.
And look where it got him.
Maybe there isn't anything good about Irvin...
Real Winner: Women's 135-Pound Division
Valerie Letourneau def. Elizabeth Philips, split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Women's 135-pound division. One of the first UFC women's bouts between two prospects saw Valerie Letourneau and Elizabeth Phillips put on a hearty scrap. Was it a technical matchup between elite-level athletes? Not quite, but it was one of those "leave it all in the cage" bouts that ended with Letourneau taking a narrow split decision.
From Ronda Rousey on down to Jessica Eye, the UFC's women's division is pretty darn good. After that, though, it's just...wow...it's awful. What's even worse than that, however, is the complete void of rising talent in the division.
The TUF 18 women's crew has been a complete dud thus far with physically gifted fighters like Raquel Pennington and Jessamyn Duke looking utterly lost against unimpressive competition. Meanwhile, a host of random fighters have fallen out of competition for a variety of reasons, which has led to the middle tier of the division underperforming against clearly not-very-good opponents. The results have been dreadful.
Well, while Letourneau and Phillips may not set the world on fire with their debuts, at least they have spunk. The women's division has been very short on scrappiness lately, and on that alone, they rank among the fastest-rising fighters in the division.
Real Winner: Japanese UFC Fighters
Kiichi Kunimoto def. Daniel Sarafian, submission (Round 1, 2:52)
Japanese UFC fighters. Brazil 1's honorary runner-up Sarafian was still heavily hyped after the show, and his drop to welterweight, theoretically, would make him even better. Haha...nope. In a parlay-busting fight, Kiichi Kunimoto scored a huge first-round win over a heavily-favored opponent.
The UFC has a card in Japan later this year and those, historically, have been a little bit tough for the UFC to pull off. Japanese fighters struggled in the UFC with the only exception being Yushin Okami (who they cut because he was boring), and there aren't too many Pride fighters left these days that aren't depressing to watch.
While there is just one Japanese fighter ranked in the top 10 of any division (Takeya Mizugaki), at the very least there are a bunch coming off wins. Between Kunimoto, Tanaka, Takanori Gomi and, God willing, Hatsu Hioki, they have enough to put together a pretty solid card for Japanese fans.
Real Winner: Strikeforce Fans
Ovince St. Preux def. Ryan Jimmo, TKO (Round 2, 2:10)
Strikeforce fans. St. Preux was a staple fighter for Strikeforce, and he has been lights-out with the UFC so far, too. Riding a three-fight winning streak in the UFC entering the night, "OSP" beat up Ryan Jimmo for a round before earning a verbal submission due to a freakin' broken arm.
OSP was a staple fighter towards the end of Strikeforce's life. He was viewed as an uber-prospect by the promotion, and he was groomed against weaker competition during much of his tenure.
The UFC has been doing the same, but they officially took the training wheels off on Saturday. While Jimmo isn't an elite light heavyweight, he is a fighter with solid striking and solid wrestling. This was the first real test for St. Preux since he was fed to Gegard Mousasi in 2011 and, clearly, he aced it.
Real Loser: Everyone Involved with Arlovski vs. Schaub
Andrei Arlovski def. Brendan Schaub, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Everyone Involved with Arlovski vs. Schaub. Eesh. What a boring fight.
For the first two rounds, Arlovski clinched Schaub. Schaub utterly whiffed badly telegraphed punches. The third round was a clear-cut round for Schaub but could still barely keep me from checking out pictures of food on Instagram. In the end, Arlovski got the nod via 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 split decision.
Boring fight. I regret watching it. The UFC brass likely regrets making it. Schaub regrets losing it. Arlovski regrets stinking up the joint in his UFC re-debut.
Real Winner: Ryan Bader
Ryan Bader def. Rafael Cavalcante, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ryan Bader. In a battle to stay relevant in the light heavyweight division, TUF 8 winner Ryan Bader faced off with former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante. To say that Bader won would be a profound understatement.
Bader took Cavalcante down at will and delivered punches on punches. By the end, Cavalcante looked utterly defeated over his inability to even compete with Bader.
Ryan Bader looks so damn good when he fights against weak competition. He can look like a legit challenge for Jon Jones when he's wrecking Anthony Perosh, Vladimir Matyushenko or, in this case, Rafael Cavalcante.
It's hard to look past how badly Bader has been beaten by legitimate competition in the past, however. His losses to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira and Lyoto Machida all loom large on his record. Nonetheless, he finds himself further entrenching himself in the light heavyweight top 10.
With a couple more wins...who knows? He might just get that rematch with Jon Jones.
Real Loser: Tyron Woodley
Rory MacDonald def. Tyron Woodley, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Tyron Woodley. Rory MacDonald put on one of the best performances of his career against Tyron Woodley. Woodley is a fighter defined by his aggressiveness, whether it be in his brutal right hand or powerful takedowns, but he found himself running for almost the entire fight. It was an impressive performance by MacDonald for sure...but it was equally telling for Woodley.
Everyone loves a knockout. The UFC brass really love a knockout, though. If a dude debuts in the UFC the way Tyron Woodley did against Jay Hieron, they will reflexively jam him down fans' throats. To anybody that has watched Woodley closely, however, he has always had a big double-leg takedown and a big right hand...and that's it.
When an opponent can keep him from landing one or the other, whether it is with wrestling like Jake Shields or striking and Jiu-Jitsu like Nate Marquardt, Woodley will lose. He has two excellent tools, but that is it. It wasn't exactly a secret before, but it's public knowledge now.
Real Loser: Demetrious Johnson
Demetrious Johnson def. Ali Bagautinov, unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
Demetrious Johnson. Demetrious Johnson dominated a game Ali Bagautinov. It would have been shocking if fans hadn't come to expect perfection from him at this point.
Unfortunately, the night ran long. In fact, it almost ran as long as possible. Every fight on the main card went to a decision, save Ryan Jimmo calling it quits due to a broken arm. The event was a flop at the box office and in practice. It showed best as loads of fans with comped tickets headed for their cars before the main event ended.
There are good fighters, there are great fighters, and then there's Demetrious Johnson. While he didn't drop jaws with a one-punch knockout as he did against Joseph Benavidez, he was no less dominant. Bagautinov tied up Johnson with his formidable clinch on a couple occasions, but every time he did so, Johnson was able to minimize damage and strike back with devastating knees in the clinch. That led to one of the most lopsided affairs you will see between two legitimate top-five fighters.
Alas, while it was a brilliant tactical and technical display, Johnson's performance had a dark cloud hanging over it in the form of the general crappiness of the card.
While the question entering the night was whether or not Johnson could draw flies, the event proved to be a flop before Johnson even set foot into the cage. That brings us back to 2013 where fans and media alike openly questioned the division's staying power.
UFC 174 Main Card on Pay-Per-View
- Demetrious Johnson def. Ali Bagautinov, unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
- Rory MacDonald def. Tyron Woodley, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Ryan Bader def. Rafael Cavalcante, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Andrei Arlovski def. Brendan Schaub, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Ovince St Preux def. Ryan Jimmo, TKO (Round 2, 2:10)
Prelims on FX
- Kiichi Kunimoto def. Daniel Sarafian, submission (Round 1, 2:52)
- Valerie Letourneau def. Elizabeth Phillips, split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Yves Jabouin def. Mike Easton, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Tae Hyun Bang def. Kajan Johnson, knockout (Round 3, 2:01)
Fight Pass Prelims
- Michinori Tanaka def. Roland Delorme, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jason Saggo def. Josh Shockley, TKO (Round 1, 4:57)