SILVA FINALLY FINDS A HOME
It is no great secret that Wanderlei Silva is on the downside of his amazing career. The living legend certainly has a bit more gas in the tank, though it is closer to empty than full. Nonetheless, he proved that opponents had better take him deadly seriously if they choose to sign on the dotted line to face him. Brian Stann found that out in painful, thudding fashion on Saturday night, when the living legend turned out the lights of the middleweight contender.
I think Silva’s move back to light heavy is the right decision at this point in his career. The 36-year-old simply taxes his body too much when he diets and then cuts down to the middleweight limit. On fight night, the 185-pound version of Silva is a tired, depleted and mentally exhausted fighter. At light heavy, which is the weight where he spent the vast majority of his career, Silva is a fully energized, strong, savage beast.
Don’t get me wrong. Silva is not going to compete for the light heavyweight title any time soon. Despite the fact that he is better served competing at 205 pounds, his frame remains that of an average-sized middleweight. Thus, he will always face size and strength disadvantages at that weight.
Thus, I think “The Axe Murderer” should continue competing against middleweights who are open to competing one weight class up. If he does that and continues securing matchups against non-wrestlers, then Silva likely has a few more solid performances left in the tank.
TACTICAL ERROR LEADS TO LOSS, BUT FURTHER CEMENTS STANN’S APPEAL
Brian Stann is a war hero, having thrived in real-life combat situations. Those life-and-death moments forever change a man. There is no argument to the contrary.
Whether it is a renewed sense of mortality or an irrational conviction of immortality, combat veterans are different after experiencing life’s most harrowing moments.
I didn’t know Stann before he bravely served our country. Heck, I’ve never actually spoken to the man. No matter, watching him compete at the Saitama Super Arena made it perfectly clear that this man fears nobody. And he is very comfortable putting himself in harm’s way in search of sudden victory.
Stann’s bout with Silva was the single-most entertaining bout of 2013, in my opinion. Both guys scored multiple knockdowns. Neither man so much as raised his hands in defense of incoming fire. Well, not until Stann was flat on his back and defending in an auto-pilot state. Instead, the combatants freely fired their fists, embracing the notion that the best defense is great offense.
Despite getting bloodied and battered, Stann got the better of Silva in the first round. Then he got knocked out. Cold. You know, the sort of knockout where the body is temporarily rendered limp.
It was a savagely brutal end to a beautiful fight. Silva displayed amazing restraint and sportsmanship by halting his attack the minute he realized Stann was unconscious. Stann remained a gentleman in defeat, humbly acknowledging that he had always been a huge fan of Silva and stating that it was an honor to compete with him, heartbreaking loss notwithstanding.
If those two fought 10 times, I have a feeling that Stann wins more often than not. But that doesn’t matter. He didn’t win on Saturday night. Yet, the loss does nothing to diminish his star appeal. In fact, I think quite the opposite happened.
Competing with such a brave, crowd-pleasing effort makes fans want more. The outcome is irrelevant. It is the Arturo Gatti effect. And Stann has it in spades.
My guess is Stann will headline another fight card before the end of the year. If not, he will certainly receive co-main event status.
HUNT CREATING INTERESTING POSSIBILITIES
Mark Hunt has lots of things working against him. For starters, he is unbelievably short for a heavyweight. He also has a notoriously low gas tank, thanks to the unnecessary pounds of padding on his body. Hey, that is as politely as I could write it.
Most importantly, he is something of a one-trick pony. Hunt’s ground game remains fairly nascent, though he is improving it each and every fight.
Those are the negatives. Those negatives were largely responsible for the New Zealander suffering through a horrifying six-fight losing streak from July 1, 2006 to September 25, 2010. To put it into perspective, I’m struggling to think of a single fighter on a six-fight losing streak who has received a bout in the Zuffa-owned UFC. I’m not saying he doesn’t exist. But that certainly hasn’t happened in the last three or four years.
Despite all of those shortcomings, Hunt has three features that make him a live opponent against any human alive—raw, bone-crushing power in both hands, world-class kickboxing technique and probably the sturdiest chin in the sport.
His knockout win over Stefan Struve was a career-defining moment for the new heavyweight contender. It suggests, in my opinion, that Hunt can easily become the UFC heavyweight champion, if everyone is brave enough to stand and trade with him, like Struve did in Japan. Those sledgehammers for fists that Hunt wields in fights makes him fun to watch and extremely dangerous to fight, unless an opponent is focused on nothing other than taking the fight to the ground and keeping it there.
For my money, I’m not sure I would pick UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez or former champion Junior dos Santos as odds on favorites to survive a standup-only bout with this guy.
GOMI GOT ROBBED
I’m going to keep this short and simple. Takanori Gomi deserved the judges’ decision on Saturday night. He easily outpointed Diego Sanchez in my opinion. I will concede that the first round could have gone either way. Sanchez scored a couple of takedowns, but did absolutely nothing with him. Gomi completely dominated on the feet. The only good shots Sanchez landed were illegal ones to his opponent’s cup.
The second and third rounds were landslides in favor of Gomi. He controlled the action from bell to bell in those rounds, putting on a striking clinic. Sanchez did nothing.
Enough lamenting. We all know that any fight that lasts the distance is fair game for a bizarre decision. That is just part of the sport. Fighters know it. UFC president Dana White knows it. The press knows it. The fans know it. Unfortunately, it’s the fighters who pay in the end.
LOMBARD MUST MOVE SOUTH
Hector Lombard is one bad dude. He mixes world-class judo skills with Mike Tyson-like punching power. The problem, however, is he is short. Very short for a middleweight, actually. As a result, he is at a severe disadvantage against just about every 185-pounder in the UFC.
Sure, he can win Mark Hunt style with a crowd-erupting knockout at just about any moment of any fight. But more often than not, he will be taken down and controlled on the ground against top middleweights, just like Yushin Okami did to him.
Height is an irrelevant factor on the feet. On the ground, it is a very real impediment for a significantly shorter fighter, particularly one with a short torso, when it comes to defending and executing ground-and-pound attacks. The closer an opponent’s head and shoulders are to his attacker’s hips, the more leverage the attacker can put on ground-and-pound strikes from inside the guard.
Tito Ortiz made a career out of that reality, using the fact that he had an extremely long torso for his weight class as a major advantage when dishing out fists and elbows from inside an opponent’s guard with the sort of leverage that is usually only experienced from side control or the mount.
The same logic applies in the reverse when trying to attack from inside an opponent’s guard. That was on vivid display when Lombard tried to punch Okami in the face over the weekend. Lombard’s head and shoulders are so far from Okami’s head and shoulders that he could only throw meaningless arm punches. Sure, maybe hammer fists will do occasional damage, but Lombard isn’t knocking anybody out on the ground from that position. Not unless he takes a real risk by stacking up his foe, which opens the door to a host of submissions.
Lombard isn’t going to get any taller any time soon, and I seriously doubt that UFC middleweights will begin to get shorter. Thus, the Cuba native has a couple of options. He can continue facing the same issues my buddy Phil Baroni faced during his UFC and PRIDE career, or he can shed some of that unneeded muscle and fight at welterweight.
While Lombard is shaping up to be a middle-of-the-pack middleweight, I think he would be an extremely dangerous threat to Georges St-Pierre’s reign at welterweight. Assuming that the diet and ensuing weight cut doesn’t sap him of his explosiveness and already light gas tank, he could very well become a dominant champion one division to the south.