MORE THAN BIG NAMES NEEDED FOR A SUCCESSFUL EVENT
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Frank Mir and Roy Nelson are all bigger names than Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, but their combined star power still didn’t make this event anything more than an average show.
Losing the intrigue of the light heavyweight championship fight took the steam out of this show. Jackson did a good job earning laughs and building some interest during the week, but the sluggish pace of the main event and the one-sided beating Mir put on Nelson didn’t win over any fans.
There is no one to blame here; the injuries to the two 155 pound stars lowered the expectations of the card. In the process, the new structure showed that fans are becoming increasingly interested in compelling fights, not just marquee names.
JACKSON STILL ONE OF THE BEST, BUT FOR HOW LONG?
Heading into UFC 130, there were a lot of people who questioned whether Jackson still had the focus to beat a hungry fighter like Matt Hamill. While he was certainly the more talented of the two, Hamill was the one who pushed for this fight and saw it as a way to propel himself to new levels in his career; Jackson was a former champion who talked more about his exit plan than his upcoming fight.
Saturday night, Jackson proved that he remains one of the top light heavyweight competitors in the sport, dominating Hamill over three rounds. He repeatedly stuffed the decorated wrestler’s takedown attempts and landed with his hands throughout. Though it was a solid performance, many questions remain.
Beating Hamill is one thing, but can Jackson do the same against the elite of the light heavyweight division?
UFC President Dana White announced at the post-fight press conference that Jackson would likely be the first man to challenge Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title he won back in March. Could Saturday night’s Jackson get the better of Jones? Few people would say yes, and therein lies his problem.
While there is no doubt that Jackson can hang with fighters in the lower half of the top 10 and below, without committing himself to fighting completely, he will remain at this stage until he reaches the exit point he’s talked about so much over the last year.
That might be good enough for Jackson, but is it good enough to keep fans interested in seeing him fight?
FRANK MIR: THE AAAA HEAVYWEIGHT
There is a description used of baseball players who are superstars in Triple A but struggle in the majors; critics call them “AAAA talents.” The name implies that they are in a different class than most everyone else, but still a notch below the best in the business.
That’s where Mir stands right now; he’s a Quadruple-A heavyweight.
Mir dominated Nelson in the UFC 130 co-main event, giving him back-to-back wins and positioning himself near the top of the division. Like Jackson, he’s clearly a cut above the middle of the pack in the heavyweight ranks, but against the elite, Mir doesn’t matchup as favorably.
After stopping Brock Lesnar in his UFC debut, Mir has gone 0-2 against Lesnar and Shane Carwin, and many pundits would cast him as the underdog against Cain Velasquez or Junior dos Santos. That leaves Mir in a tricky position.
The hyper-confident former champion wants those big name fights and to make another run at the title, and while he’ll probably get his chance, his last two outings against those above him in the rankings haven’t gone favorably. Whether he can reverse those outcomes remains to be seen.
That leaves Mir in a strange holding pattern within the heavyweight division; the better than most, but perhaps not quite good enough to be the best.
KNOCKOUT WIN EARNS BROWNE NOD AS TOP HEAVYWEIGHT PROSPECT
Going into their meeting on Saturday night, most people were talking about Stefan Struve as the top young talent in the heavyweight division. After a middling performance against Cheick Kongo in his previous outing, Travis Browne was viewed as a good prospect, but maybe not good enough to take the next step.
That all changed with his performance at UFC 130.
With a perfectly timed Superman punch, Browne knocked out the near seven-foot Dutchman and moved himself to the top of the list of young stars in the big boy division. Though a case could be made for Brendan Schaub, the TUF 10 finalist isn’t nearly as well rounded as Browne, who brings a strong ground game honed with the team at Alliance MMA in addition to the knockout power he’s exhibited in two of his three UFC appearances.
Struve still has room to grow, especially if he makes an effort to use his length to his advantage in the future, but Saturday’s victory set him back a step or two. Browne now steps into his place, and should earn a step up in competition next time out. Another win or two, especially if they come in spectacular fashion, should put him in the thick of the title chase.
STORY ANNOUNCES HIS PLACE IN WELTERWEIGHT TOP 10
The Brave Legion fighter used a game plan predicated on is wrestling to keep Alves pressed into the fence, nullifying his striking and forcing him to expend energy on the defensive. Even when he eschewed his successful strategy in the final round, Story’s granite chin and determination to earn the biggest win of his career kept him pressing forward.
With six straight wins, Story has climbed from the preliminary ranks into the upper echelon of the division. He’s being described as a more aggressive Jon Fitch, and it’s an apt comparison. Like Fitch, Story brings a strong control game into the cage thanks to his wrestling pedigree, but unlike the American Kickboxing Academy standout, Story has shown a willingness and ability to throw hands and finish fights.
Ironically, Fitch was the man Story said made the most sense as his next opponent. Maybe once the former #1 contender recovers from shoulder surgery, we’ll get the chance to determine whether the comparison is correct inside the Octagon.