There were going to be a lot of questions answered at UFC 175 on Saturday night as reigning middleweight champion Chris Weidman (12-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) put his strap on the line against No. 1 contender Lyoto Machida (21-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC).
Weidman, who was coming off back-to-back victories over Anderson Silva, was still somewhat of a question mark in the eyes of the MMA community. The respect that should have come with defeating the fighter widely recognized as the greatest of all time had eluded him for the most part.
His bout with Machida was his opportunity to assert his dominance.
While the circumstances were a bit different for Machida, the former light heavyweight champion came into UFC 175 looking to complete his climb up the 185-pound ladder. The Dragon had been on a tear since dropping down into middleweight waters, and two convincing performances in his new weight class earned him the right to challenge for the divisional strap.
The All-American was on a mission to prove his two victories over Silva were no fluke, and the Brazilian karate machine looked to pick up a title in another division. The bout figured to be a stylistic chess match, and that's how it played out.
Weidman took the early rounds with his pressure and wrestling, while Machida's counterstriking and offensive rushes tagged up the champion in the two final frames.
The end result was Weidman making his second successful title defense, as he took the unanimous-decision victory in one of the best fights of 2014.
Where there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the top fight on the billing, the co-main event was figured to be a lopsided affair.
Anytime women's bantamweight champion and megawatt superstar Ronda Rousey steps into the Octagon, there is heavy expectation. Few seemed to be giving No. 1 contender Alexis Davis much of a chance in the tilt.
It wasn't so much that anyone was taking the Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, native lightly, but it was more so that the Rowdy one had been absolutely dominant coming into UFC 175.
Many figured that the women's 135-pound title bout would be another installment of the Ronda Rousey Show, and boy (girl) was it ever. The former Olympic judoka cut like a buzzsaw through Davis en route to a 16-second victory.
It was nasty.
It was brutal.
It was lightning-quick violence.
It was the perfect Ronda Rousey fight.
Outside of the two showcase bouts on the card, there was plenty of action that went down at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday night.
Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from UFC 175.
There may have been doubt hovering over Weidman coming into his bout with Machida at UFC 175, but there won't be any in the aftermath.
The New York native proved he's the real deal, as he battled toe-to-toe with the former light heavyweight champion every step of the five-round affair.
While Weidman's wrestling scored him points at critical times in the fight, it was his stand-up game that served to keep Machida at bay. The champion landed some shots that kept The Dragon on the run and allowed him to take a big lead in the early rounds of the fight.
His performance Saturday night was a gritty showing that proved he's every bit as legitimate as a man who defeated Anderson Silva on back-to-back occasions should be regarded as. Weidman is the undisputed champion of the 185-pound division, and the respect that was held out from him should certainly be coming his way after defeating Machida.
As for the 36-year-old Brazilian, he has nothing to be ashamed of. While Weidman got the nod from the judges' table (49-45, 48-47, 49-46), it was Machida who received the love from the crowd in attendance at the Mandalay Bay events center.
Although the former 205-pound strap-holder started out in his conservative counterstriking mode, he became aggressive when he needed to.
Nevertheless, it was too little too, late for the title challenger. That said, Machida's stock definitely went up with his showing at UFC 175.
OK...here is where it gets crazy. Ronda Rousey is a fighting goddess among mortal women.
It took the women’s bantamweight champion 16 seconds to smash Alexis Davis into oblivion. Rousey put on such a violent display of technical brilliance that any type of lengthy description would be a disservice. Rowdy is simply in a class of her own, and she used Davis to prove that fact once again.
The term "annihilation" doesn’t do justice to what happened in that fight. That was a flat-out trucking from the get-go. Moving on...
Urijah Faber has never lost a fight where there wasn’t a title on the line, and that trend continued at UFC 175. While the brand of steamrolling The California Kid has been known to dole out wasn’t on display, that had more to do with a game Alex Caceres than anything else.
Faber and Caceres engaged in a back-and-forth affair for two rounds until the Team Alpha Male leader caught Bruce Leeroy’s neck in a hectic scramble on the ground. Once Faber locked in the rear-naked choke, the MMA Lab fighter tapped shortly after, and the former WEC featherweight champion picked up his fifth win in his past six outings.
While Faber got the victory, Caceres has nothing to hang his head about. His performance against a perennial contender like Faber shows just how far he’s come since his time on The Ultimate Fighter. Caceres may have had a five-fight winning streak snapped at UFC 175, but he proved he’s the real deal, even in a losing effort.
Mixing his time between teaching and fighting is apparently a working formula for Kenny Robertson. The East Peoria, Illinois, native continued his winning ways by defeating Ildemar Alcantara via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26) on the preliminary portion of the card at UFC 175.
While Robertson did ping the Brazilian with a pair of accidental groin shots, the 30-year-old Central Illinois Combat Club fighter picked up his third victory in four showings and his second consecutive win inside the Octagon.
Getting that first victory inside the Octagon can be an emotional moment for a fighter, and those tides certainly got the best of Luke Zachrich. The Ohio native earned his inaugural win under the UFC banner by defeating Guilherme Vasconcelos on the judges’ cards (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) to pick up the unanimous decision.
It was a solid back-and-forth affair, but when the final bell sounded, The Ultimate Fighter alum’s hand was raised. Then he cried. And then he cried some more.
Rob Font made an impressive showing in his debut performance, as he starched veteran George Roop in the first round of their tilt on the preliminary portion of the card.
The TUF alum attempted to use his range to strike from a distance, but Font waded in and dropped him with a huge shot. Font finished things up with a flurry on the canvas shortly after.
Kevin Casey was looking to make the most of his second chance with the UFC, and he wasted no time making good on those intentions.
The Ultimate Fighter alum put a stone-cold drubbing on Bubba Bush, as he pounded out the victory with a series of nasty elbows to pick up the win. Casey dropped Bush with a left hand then unleashed the fury as he secured the victory in just north of one minute of work.
Stefan Struve was set to return to the cage after a 16-month hiatus due to a heart issue. Doctors cleared him to resume training in April, the fight with Matt Mitrione was booked in May and the UFC’s annual Fourth of July card was supposed to be his comeback.
Yet, that’s not how things would go down.
Shortly before the first fight on the pay-per-view portion of the card got underway, SportsCenter broke the news that Struve had fainted in the back locker room due to an elevated heart rate and was pulled from the bout.
Several minutes after the news broke, Dana White swung by press row to inform the media that Struve had indeed blacked out and had been taken to the hospital to undergo additional testing.
While losing one of the more high-profile fights on the card is unfortunate for the fans and promotion alike, a fighter’s health is without question the No. 1 priority.
That said, there will undoubtedly need to be a stern conversation as to where Struve goes from here. Despite being a seasoned veteran in the fight game, the rangy Dutchman is just 26 years old, and he—and the UFC—will need to determine what matters the most.
Fight fans have endeared themselves to Chris Camozzi for his full-throttle fighting style, but he may find himself in troubled waters after his bout with Bruno Santos on Saturday night.
While the Colorado representative gave another one of his signature showings, the 27-year-old came out on the business end of a split decision against his Brazilian opponent (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). The loss is his third consecutive setback, and three is typically the magic number where pink slips in the UFC are concerned.
While Camozzi may live to see another opportunity inside the Octagon, he’s certainly going to have to make some adjustments going forward. Putting on entertaining squabbles for the fans at a regular clip is undoubtedly a positive, but three straight losses will bring him right up to a line no fighter wants to see.
He may not have been happy with the tactics Santos used to get the nod, but winning is what matters, and Camozzi has not seen that particular column since March 2013.
Urijah Faber was on the preliminary portion of the card at UFC 175.
While the UFC placed The California Kid in the final slot on Fox Sports 1’s collection of free fights to be a strong lead into the pay-per-view portion of the card, it was still strange to see one of the most recognizable fighters in the game on the undercard. Meanwhile, a handful of competitors who were far less notable were on the main card lineup.
The former WEC featherweight champion is a solid draw in the fight game, and it was weird to see him in that position on the billing. I understand the move, but it was certainly a worthy entry to this category.
Curious things happen to the human body when feet and fists are slammed into the head. Sometimes the body goes rigid and stiff. Other times the infamous “robot arms” rise to the heavens. Yet, there are other instances where the initial shot does not claim the fighter’s consciousness, but the rest of their body rebels against the central-command center, and awkwardness ensues.
Roop became the latest example of this phenomenon in his tilt with Font on the preliminary portion of the card for UFC 175. Roop was attempting to use his length to his advantage, but the promotional newcomer timed his counter perfectly and put a blaster square on the TUF alum’s chin.
Once the shot landed, Roop attempted to circle out, but his body had other ideas, and he went into a herky-jerky trot that resulted in a trip to the canvas.
There was plenty of strangeness before Roop hit the mat, and his trip to the ground became instant highlight-reel material. In other words, Roop there it is, was and will be in the fight-footage library for quite some time.
Speaking of strange things from the human-anatomy department, Uriah Hall’s toe became one of the stories at UFC 175.
The New York native was letting his feet fly at a fast and furious pace in the opening round versus Thiago Santos and, somewhere along the way, he suffered a gnarly injury to the middle toe on his left foot. The UFC cameras picked up a shot of the injury between rounds, and it was unclear whether the fight would continue.
Hall decided to trudge forward and battle through 10 more minutes of action, all the while continuing to use the injured foot in his arsenal. Hall’s decision to continue certainly registered on the “bonkers” scale and received a huge pop from the fans in attendance at Mandalay Bay.
The Ultimate Fighter alum stuck it out to pick up the unanimous-decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) and grab his second consecutive win under the UFC banner.
On final addition to the “zombie pilot” mode the brain shifts into once it is hammered was put on display by Davis courtesy of Rousey in the co-main event.
After the champion rocked Davis with a right hand, she cranked on a headlock and whipped out one of her signature throws. While the Canadian title challenger was already rocked from the big shot she ate, the impact of the throw put her somewhere out in limbo. With her opponent on the ropes, Rousey poured on a fountain of short punches until referee Yves Lavigne stepped in to stop the fight.
As the official intervened, Davis locked a tight single leg on Lavigne. While these things sometimes happen in mixed martial arts, Davis’ commitment to taking the referee to the ground was fierce, and it took her corner running into the cage to finally get her to unlock her hands.
It was a brutal drubbing, and I’m positive the last thing Davis wanted in the fight was to be hugging Lavigne’s leg as Rousey celebrated another successful title defense.
A 16-second destruction, a toe bone exposed in the sanitary world of the Octagon and the two best middleweight fighters in the world put on an instant classic for the love of the fighting faithful.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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