10 Things We Learned: UFC Fight for the Troops 2

Fort Hood Soldiers prepare for fights

Guillard, Hominick and Mitrione shine in fundraising event

UFC Deserving of Praise for Fundraising Efforts

For all the crap the UFC (and mixed martial arts in general) takes from opponents, name me another major sports organization that has brought their product directly to the men and women who protect us?

Fight for the Troops 2 gave more than 3,200 soldiers the chance to watch the sport first-hand, and the fundraising efforts attached to the event generated more than $650,000 in donations during the broadcast alone. The initial Fight for the Troops event held two years ago raised over $4 million for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and Saturday’s event should eclipse that number when all the dollars are counted.

While other major professional sports leagues honor soldiers during regularly scheduled games and show their support for the troops in various ways, the UFC is the only organization to bring their product onto an Army base and give those soldiers a night away from their everyday stresses.

Regardless of your opinions on the sport, you have to give the UFC the credit they deserve for putting together an event of this nature.

Potential Realized

There aren’t going to be many lightweights interested in facing Melvin Guillard after his performance Saturday night, and I can’t say I blame them.

After teasing with his blend of power and speed for a number of up-and-down years, Guillard seems to have put it all together since joining Team Jackson. His impressive first-round finish of Evan Dunham pushing his winning streak to four, and gives Guillard victories in seven of his last eight bouts; a momentary brain cramp against Nate Diaz standing as the only blemish over the last three-plus years.

Saturday’s showing was a perfect example of what makes Guillard so dangerous; his speed is second-to-none in the division, and he has the power to stop you dead in your tracks. While he still has some room to grow on the ground, Guillard was able to get up quickly against Dunham and that will be crucial as he continues his climb up the ladder in 2011.

We see so many over-hyped prospects and guys with loads of potential fizzle out early or never arrive at all, it’s nice to see Guillard come through his struggles to put it all together.

Changing of the Guard Continues

In less than 12 months, the lightweight division in the UFC has undergone a makeover worthy of Ty Pennington and his annoying sidekicks from ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Once dominated by B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian, Guillard’s victory over Dunham showed that the changing of the guard at the top of the 155-pound division is still in progress, but we’re getting closer to completion.

Dunham had gotten the better of Sherk in the eyes of many back in September, a performance that, while not judged as a win by those charged with scoring the bout from cageside, signalled his emergence into the upper echelon of the division. By blasting him early and often Saturday night, Guillard showed that he too belongs in that group, and that perhaps Sherk’s time amongst the best in the weight class is nearly an end. Penn has already vacated the division to pursue welterweight dreams, and Florian was manhandled by Gray Maynard in his last Octagon appearance. When you add Jim Miller, George Sotiropoulos and Anthony Pettis in with current champion Frankie Edgar, you have an entirely new cast of characters dominating the lightweight division.

Like death and taxes, change is inevitable.

Mitrione Ready for More

Every time Matt Mitrione takes to the cage, all he does is impress and Saturday night was no different.

The former TUF 10 contestant stopped Tim Hague with a barrage of punches in the opening round of the co-main event meeting, giving Mitrione a four-fight winning streak since leaving the Ultimate Fighter house. While some will detract from his accomplishments by attacking his level of competition, Mitrione has posted those victories after less than two years of training, and he’s ready for more.

A deceptively athletic big man, Mitrione told Joe Rogan post-fight that it’s time to take a step up the competitive ladder, and the UFC will undoubtedly oblige. While it is too soon to see Mitrione square off with TUF 10 winner Roy Nelson or former interim champ Shane Carwin, someone in the Ben Rothwell/Cheick Kongo range would be a good fit.

With the heavyweight division lacking in depth and dealing with four of it’s biggest names out of action until June or later, this is Mitrione’s opportunity to work his way into the Top 15 or higher, and the former NFL’er is looking forward to the challenge.

Dream Opportunity Awaits Hominick

Despite having been a professional fighter for the last ten years, Mark Hominick hasn’t gotten a chance to compete in his home province once. After scoring an impressive first-round TKO win over George Roop Saturday night, the Thamesford, Ontario native is going to get that chance and more at UFC 129 in April.

Not only will Hominick be fighting in his home province, but “The Machine” will also be challenging Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title in the co-main event of the evening. After more than a decade spent fighting around the world, Hominick’s homecoming bout will be the biggest of his career.

The long-time Shawn Tompkins trainee proved on Saturday night that he is one of the top strikers in the sport, a blend of speed, power and precision that can be overwhelming for opponents. Unfortunately, the same can be said of his opponent.

Whether or not those skills are enough to get his a win over the extremely talented Aldo is yet to be determined. For now, Hominick can enjoy the fact that he’s finally getting to fight at home, and for a championship no less.

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