LYTLE LEAVES ON A HIGH NOTE
Chris Lytle told Dana White and the UFC Saturday afternoon that Sunday’s meeting with Dan Hardy would be the last of his career; the father of four wanted to spend more time with his wife and kids. Sunday night, the soon-to-be 37-year-old went out with a win, submitting Hardy in the closing seconds of the final round of his career.
This was the perfect way for Lytle to close out his time in the Octagon, delivering a vintage “Lights Out” performance and having his hand raised in the end.
The veteran welterweight was ahead on all three scorecards heading into the final frame, landing the heavier shots in a back-and-forth slugfest with Hardy. They continued to trade throughout the third before Hardy made the mistake of attempting a takedown, leaving his neck exposed in the process. Lytle slapped on a guillotine, transitioned to the mount, and squeezed a submission out of Hardy just before the final horn sounded.
DESPITE FOURTH STRAIGHT LOSS, HARDY STAYING IN UFC
“Will not cut @danhardymma I love guys that WAR!!!!”
That was the message UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta tweeted following the main event, informing everyone that Hardy will not be released despite a four-fight losing streak. While there is no questioning the entertainment value of Sunday’s main event, the decision to retain the struggling Hardy sends mixed messages.
While the UFC is both sport and entertainment, Hardy has come up short on the sporting side in four consecutive outings, leaving him winless over the last two years. Having released fighters with losing streaks half the size of Hardy’s in the recent past, the message being sent here is a dangerous one — winning doesn’t matter as much as entertaining, provided you’re a highly marketable fighter.
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE FOR HENDERSON
Any hope Jim Miller had of fighting for the lightweight title went out the window on Sunday night, as Ben Henderson brought his seven fight winning streak to an end, dominating Miller on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
The former WEC champion used his signature submission defense, and superior size and strength to manhandled Miller throughout their 15 minute encounter. Though Miller threatened with numerous submissions, not were ever close, and Henderson made him pay dearly for each failed attempt.
Exhibiting more dangerous striking than we’ve seen in the past, this was Henderson’s coming out party. The victory moves the 27-year-old into title contention, perhaps setting up a meeting with Clay Guida later this year to determine the next #1 contender.
YOU’VE GOT TO FEEL BAD FOR MILLER
After going unbeaten over the last two years and racking up seven straight wins, one loss is going to push Miller to the back of the line to start all over again. No matter how fair, valid or understandable, that’s rough, but it’s also life in the lightweight division.
Miller is a victim of bad timing and a bunch of decisions at the start of his string of victories. The lightweight ranks have been in a state of change over the last year-and-a-half, and he kind of got lost in the shuffle.
Only three men have fought for the title over the last two years — BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard — with former contenders like Kenny Florian transitioning out of the division as new contenders like Anthony Pettis and Guida emerged. Though he kept piling up the wins, Miller’s lack of flash left him out of the title picture, and now he’ll have to put together another impressive winning streak to get back into the mix in the future.
COWBOY’S COMING OUT PARTY
Donald Cerrone joined his former WEC rival Henderson in making UFC on Versus 5 his personal coming out party. The three-time former title contender stopped Charles Oliveira in three minutes to earn his third consecutive win since crossing over to the UFC.
Traditionally a slow starter, Cerrone came out of the gate quickly in this one and it paid off. After both fighters tried to find their range, Cerrone landed with a straight right down the pipe before dropping Oliveira with a heavy knee to the body. From there it was academic, as “Cowboy” poured it on with punches until referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in.
Sunday was the best showing Cerrone has had to date in the UFC. Though he looked good in each of his previous two bouts, to put away a well-regarded up-and-comer like Oliveira in such a convincing manner will ensure the 28-year-old Greg Jackson product a step up in competition next time out.