Could you have possibly asked for a better way to start 2011 than an instant classic in the main event?
Here’s what we learned from the opening event of the year.
No Complaints about Outcome
There are controversial fights (see Machida/Rua 1 or Beebe vs. Easton) and then there are close fights, and the UFC 125 main event was an ultra-close fight. As such, you won’t hear any complaints about the outcome from me.
My personal scorecard ended with a 47-47 draw; Maynard took a 10-8 in Round 1 and a 10-9 in Round 3, while Edgar pulled a trio of 10-9 rounds in the remaining three. That said I can understand a 48-46 for Maynard if he won the fifth on your card. The only score that doesn’t make sense to me is the 48-46 for the champ, as that would mean he won every round but the first, and that wasn’t the fight I watched.
To say Maynard was robbed or that this fight is proof that we need judging reforms would be a stretch in my opinion; there have been shakier scorecards handed in over the last couple of years and if they haven’t forced changes to the way fights are judged, this fight isn’t going to be the impetus of change either.
That was arguably the best championship fight we’ve seen in the UFC in some time, a true classic that had you captivated from the opening until the final bell. If the rest of 2011 is anywhere close to being that incredible, we’re in for the most exciting year in mixed martial arts history.
No More Questions for “The Answer”
There is no more room for questioning Frankie Edgar’s legitimacy as lightweight champion or his resolve as a fighter. Any lingering doubts had to have been removed with his improbable performance on Saturday night.
You cannot teach the kind of heart and steely resolve that Edgar showed in coming back after one of the most dominant first rounds in recent memory to easily take the second frame from Gray Maynard. Yves Lavigne could have stopped the fight in the first frame without anyone having a legitimate complaint; that’s how badly the champion was beaten in the first five minutes. In being afforded the opportunity to continue, Edgar silenced all his critics and orchestrated a tremendous performance.
Not to take anything away from Maynard, who also proved his legitimacy as a top-tier lightweight in this bout, but the champion’s ability to battle back from that initial onslaught to make a draw even possible is incredible and puts Edgar amongst the absolute best in the business in my books.
The Fight of the Year Bar Has Been Set Really High
I never thought I would be saying this after the first day of 2011, but we may have witnessed the Fight of the Year. At the very least, the bar has been set exceptionally high.
The UFC 125 main event incorporated everything you could hope for in a high-calibre fight: a compelling story heading into the bout playing out accordingly in the cage, with close calls, an inspiring comeback, technique, tension, drama and even a cliff-hanger ending. Professional wrestling couldn’t put together a better storyline and their work is scripted.
While being just a few hours removed from the contest and admittedly still caught up in the awesomeness, I’m hard-pressed to find a fight that tops Edgar/Maynard 2 in my list of all-time favorites.
That said, I kind of feel bad for everyone else who steps into a ring or cage in the coming 364 days because it’s going to take a lot to take Fight of the Year honors away from the first main event of 2011.
Tough Decision Ahead Regarding Anthony Pettis
The UFC did the right thing in recanting their initial announcement that Anthony Pettis would be the next man to face Edgar, but it sets up a difficult decision regarding the future of the final WEC lightweight champion.
As outstanding as “The Showtime Kick” was, there is a shelf-life on Pettis’ momentum and having him sit on the sidelines as Edgar and Maynard resolve things could be a risky move. While you would expect to see Round 3 of this battle fought sometime in the next five months, anything can happen and a minor injury could push the bout back into the six-to-eight month range, which would leave Pettis on the sidelines for close to a year.
Though he would certainly be a viable option in an interim title fight if either Edgar or Maynard was to suffer a serious injury, the best course of action might be to capitalize on his current buzz before it reaches a crescendo. While promises were made and a title unification bout was supposed to take place, you can’t fight the winner of a bout that has no winner, and sitting on the sidelines is a colossal waste of positive momentum.
It will be interesting to see what happens.
Middleweights Should Be Afraid of Brian Stann
The former WEC light heavyweight champion wasn’t supposed to be able to stand-and-trade with Chris Leben; it was a recipe for disaster that many other men had cooked up for themselves in the past. Nevertheless, Stann did just that and came away with a massive win that should make the rest of the middleweight division a little nervous.
The decorated Marine showed everyone that he has serious power, putting the notoriously tough to finish Leben on rubber legs with a few different strikes en route to the first-round finish, but what is most intriguing about Stann is how his athletic and military background seem to be working quite well under the guidance of the MMA Jedi Council that calls Albuquerque, New Mexico home.
You can’t teach athleticism and Stann has it in spades, as well as being ready and willing to accept all the instruction passed on to him by Greg Jackson, Mike Winklejohn and everyone else at Jackson’s Gym, and those traits will continue to serve him well moving forward. If Jackson and company could turn Keith Jardine into a contender in the 205-pound division with his “Hunchback of Notre Dame” stance and limited athleticism, it will be interesting to see what they can do with a specimen like Stann.
So far, the results are impressive and the rest of the division should certainly take note.