Ten Things We Learned: UFC 128

Miller after defeating Shalorus

6. Jim Miller Dominates, Cements Standing in Lightweight Division

Earlier in the month, Miller told me there was no way he was going to overlook Kamal Shalorus; beating the former WEC fighter was the only thing on his mind.

Saturday night, Miller proved himself a man of his word and then some, putting on a powerful performance against the previously unbeaten “Prince of Persia,” earning a third-round stoppage. It was also the seventh consecutive victory for the AMA Fight Club product, bumping his UFC record to 10-1 and placing him at the top of the list of lightweight contenders.

While Anthony Pettis can earn a title shot ahead of Miller with a win over Clay Guida, Miller is no worse than the 1A option at this point, and deservedly so. He’s done everything that has been asked of him over the last seven fights, winning them all and finishing his last two in impressive fashion.

The performances of both Miller brothers are even more impressive considering the heavy hearts they carried into the cage. Saturday would have been the second birthday of Dan’s daughter who passed away last May.

7. Marquardt Fails to Impress, Ponders Drop to Welterweight

Nate Marquardt is the MMA version of Nicholas Cage for me, and I really dislike Nic Cage.

My feelings for the man who has starred in such disasters as Gone in Sixty Seconds, Ghost Rider and Next stems from his quality performances in Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. I know he can be very, very good, but all too often he hovers around alright, and as such, I just can’t bring myself to be excited about his next project.

It’s the same thing with Marquardt; he looked so good in dominating Jeremy Horn, Martin Kampmann and Wilson Gouuveia that his lesser performances, even when he wins, are disappointing.

While Dan Miller is a very tough out (he’s never been finished), he took this fight on seven day’s notice and everyone agrees he’s a notch below the upper echelon in the middleweight division. But there he was, hanging in with Marquardt, threatening with a guillotine in the opening frame and bringing out another okay-at-best performance from “Nate the Great.”

After the fight, Marquardt informed MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani that he would like to drop down in weight and compete at welterweight in the future, provided the UFC is okay with the decision.

Personally, I think it would be an interesting move that would add some new match-ups to the calendar in the stacked but stalled welterweight ranks, and add further fuel to the now roaring fire of teammates facing each other; Marquardt is a long-time training partner of 170-pound kingpin Georges St. Pierre.

8. Schaub Scores KO Win, But Still Isn’t Ready for Primetime

I hate to break it to all the Pride loyalists and people pushing Brendan Schaub as a contender in the UFC heavyweight division, but beating Mirko Cro Cop doesn’t carry that much weight anymore.

It hasn’t actually carried any weight since Gabe Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo handed him back-to-back losses in the Octagon at UFC 70 and 75 respectively.

While Schaub scored the knockout victory many were expecting on Saturday night, it came at nearly the four-minute mark of the final round. Though Schaub was ahead on the scorecards, he hadn’t really done anything to overly distinguish himself prior to catch Cro Cop with a hard right behind the ear sent him crashing to the canvas.

As much as “The Hybrid” has put together a tidy four-fight winning streak, his rising in stature in the heavyweight ranks has more to do with the dearth of talent in the big boy division than his performances in the cage. Finishing Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer were givens, and Gonzaga is by no means a legend, no matter how many times Joe Rogan said otherwise Saturday night.

It will take a marquee win before I’m convinced that Schaub belongs in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. The one time he’s stepped in with a legitimate contender, Roy Nelson knocked him out in before the first round ended. Until he avenges that defeat or does the same to someone else in the top tier, Schaub will remain a good prospect who isn’t quite ready for primetime.

Cane batters Marshall

9. Impressive Undercard Performances from Cane and Koch

Luiz Cane and Erik Koch served notice that they deserve to be mentioned as potential contenders in their respective divisions on Saturday night, as both earned impressive first-round finishes.

Cane bounced back from consecutive defeats to maul Eliot Marshall on Spike TV. It was a performance reminiscent of the dominant victories over Jason Lambert and Sokoudjou that earned him a place on the fringes of the light heavyweight top 10 prior to his two-fight slide. While Marshall was a last minute replacement and far from being considered elite, Cane made a statement in victory and returns to the outskirts of being a contender at 205-pounds in the process.

In the opening bout of the evening, Roufusport product Koch landed a short right hand flush on the chin of Raphael Assuncao that floored the Brazilian. It was an impressive way to kick of the UFC 128 card and Koch’s UFC career, and earned the 22-year-old a Knockout of the Night bonus in the process.

It was the third straight first round finish for Koch, and second straight Knockout of the Night award; he stopped both Francisco Rivera and Bendy Casimir in his last two WEC bouts prior to the merger. The lone loss of his young career came against the featherweight division’s top contender Chad Mendes, which should put Koch right in the mix in the 145-pound class moving forward.

10. The Judging Thought of the Night

While the two 30-27 scores got some people flustered, the judges got it right in Mike Pyle’s unanimous decision win over Ricardo Almeida. Watching the fight on Facebook and following the conversations on Twitter (@ESKHeavyMMA), there were a lot of people who had the result flipped in Almeida’s favor, but this was the right result in my opinion.

Though all three rounds were close, the results hinged on Almeida’s inability to do much with his takedowns and Pyle landing the great volume and impact with his strikes. Each time Almeida was able to get Pyle to the ground, Pyle either got back up to his feet quickly or Almeida sat in his guard doing very little, and it was nice to see the judges score those moments properly.

I had Almeida winning the opening round; he tagged Pyle and had him shaking out the cobwebs at one point, and scored with the uneventful takedown and some basic work in the clinch as well. But the final two frames were Pyle’s for me, as he did more in the striking department and removed most of the value from Almeida’s takedowns by getting back up and taking minimal damage.

This was one of those fights were you had to watch closely, seeing what landed and what didn’t, and finding a sweet spot between the value and effectiveness of a takedown that doesn’t go anywhere. For once, I was surprised to see that the judges got it right.

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