This weekend’s UFC 143 fights certainly lived up to the hype that was created when it was first announced that former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz (26-87 (1 NC)) would be fighting for a title, albeit an interim one.
With Diaz’s behaviour previously in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, interest was mounting as to how the North Californian based fighter would handle the pressure of media requirements, combined with training one of the biggest fights of his life.
Another fighter having a large fight in his career was Fabricio Werdum (15-5-1), who was re-entering the UFC after just over two years of fighting in Strikeforce under the heavyweight division.
While Werdum looked like a more rounded fighter from what we had previously seen, he was still unable to finish the tough competitor in Roy “Big Country” Nelson (16-7), taking it all the way to the judges decision.
While these fighters were attempting to create new opportunities, the UFC itself unveiled its own new beginning to the broadcast, a history of the promotion done in the only way it could, with big hits.
It certainly is more sophisticated than the previous gladiator feature, and looks great as the promotion turns into a new era.
With a new era come new fighters moving up the ranks, and this event saw the familiar and new names fighting to win and to maintain their place in the promotion. The overall winners and losers of the UFC 143 card are:
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson
Welterweight fighter Stephen Thompson (6-0) debuted into the UFC with knockout of the night via a head kick KO against fellow UFC first time fighter Dan Stittgen at 4:13 of round one.
While having amassed a large kickboxing record 57-0, as a result of both amateur and pro fights, Thompson has only been in the MMA game since 2010 and going into this fight Stittgen held a record of 5-0.
Thompson has definitely captured the attention of MMA fans with his spectacular knockout and should face fighters such as Matt Riddle (6-3) or even the more experienced Duane Ludwig (21-12) in order to gain some more notches in his belt.
If Thompson can maintain the same consistency in his fights, we can expect to see him in the higher tier of welterweight fighters in 2013.
Submission specialist Ed Herman (20-7) was again on form at UFC 143, this time finishing fellow middleweight fighter Clifford Starks via rear naked choke at 1:43 of round two.
Herman may be best remembered by Australian’s as the fighter who handed Queenslander Kyle Noke (19-5-1) with his first UFC loss via an inverted heel hook at 4:15 of round one back in August 2011.
Herman is now on a three fight win streak and we can expect him to face fighters such as Jason “Mayhem” Miller (24-9 (1 NC)), Jake Shields (26-6-1) and Brian Stann (11-4) throughout the rest of the year.
Things changed within the welterweight division once champion Georges St. Pierre (22-2) was forced out due to an ACL injury, resulting in the creation of an interim title and a level competition.
In the last couple of months we have seen numerous changes within the division, former number one contender Jon Fitch (23-4-1 (1 NC)) was knocked out by Johny Hendricks (12-1) back at UFC 141 in December 2011, and previous title contender Josh Koscheck(17-5) has announced at the UFC 143 post fight press conference that he has left his gym American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) to train on his own. This leaves the option open for a future fight with ex-team mate Jon Fitch.
While we wait for news on whether interim champion Carlos Condit (28-5) will defend the interim title or face GSP, the rest of the division will continue to take shape, and become a different landscape to what we were facing in 2011 in which we may see new title contenders rise from the rest of the pack.
Bantamweight fighter Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres (6-5) is now 1-3 in the UFC after his split decision loss to fighter Edwin Figueroa (9-1), however it was the actions within the fight that have marred the result.
While it is common to sometimes suffer a low shot to the groin area (the UFC is aware of such occurrences and allows a five minute time out to recover) Figueroa was the recipient of two such hits, even after Caceres was warned by referee Herb Dean in the first round.
On the second hit, which occurred in the second round, the fighter was deducted two points which resulted in Figueroa obtaining the win.
Up to the point of the second groin shot, Caceres looked to be dominating the second round, maintaining the fight momentum that he gained when he took Figueroa’s back and attempted a body lock submission in round one.
Caceres will be lucky to survive a cut from the promotion after this fight, there have been others cut for less, however he may get a reprieve given the circumstances of the fight.
Always controversial welterweight interim title contender Nick Diaz was clear favourite to beat Condit and look to title unification in a bout with Georges St-Pierre sometime in the future.
What everyone seemed to forget was Condit himself and the fighter stuck to his game plan, out manoeuvring and out striking the frustrated Diaz, who at one point was so frustrated that he through a slap.
The fight itself was extremely close, with even the fans arguing as to who won, and on announcement of the winner Diaz took it upon himself to announce that he was over MMA and would be leaving the sport.
The reaction of Diaz lands him in this end of the column, although we really shouldn’t have expected him to be gracious in defeat.
With such a big expectation and then disappointment one can expect some fireworks in the heat of the moment. So can we expect to see Diaz in the cage again?
Perhaps. A loss of Nick Diaz in the welterweight division will leave a large unfillable gap in the roster, currently there are plenty of contenders that are experienced enough to face him such as Koscheck, Martin Kampmann (18-5) or Jake Ellenberger (26-5) – all dependent on the outcomes of upcoming fights.
While those around Diaz can suggest what the fighter should do next the decision comes down to Diaz himself.
While he is known for making off the cuff comments, Diaz has been saying that he doesn’t enjoy fighting as much as his used to and prefers competing in triathlons.
If he does remain in the promotion the question that remains is how long Dana White (and the fans) will put up with this behaviour?
Welterweight and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 alum Chris Cope (5-3) may be feeling anxious about his position within the promotion given his second loss in three fights within eight months against fellow TUF 7 contestant Matt Brown (13-11).
For Cope the decision to stand and bang with his competitors has ended with the fighter receiving two TKO losses.
While the first round was fairly evenly matched, Brown took control of the second round catching Cope with a large right hook which stunned the fighter and then followed up with a successful left hook sending Cope to the ground.
Brown then took the opportunity to throw hammerfist punches on the downed Cope, until the ref came in to stop the fight at 1:19 of round 2.
Given the schedule of 2012 with the combination of UFC on Fox channels and pay per view fights, any cut from the promotion isn’t permanent; we may see Cope competing in regional events or promotions such as Bellator before getting the opportunity to fight in the UFC again.