When a champion steps into the Octagon to defend their belt, one of two things can happen: they can leave with their belt after the fight, or without it. Both reigning champions walked out of the Mandalay Bay with their titles still strapped around their waist, but their defenses couldn’t have been more different. In the main event of the evening, Chris Weidman (12-0) and Lyoto Machida (21-5) put on a classic title bout that saw the stock of both men rise, if that were possible. In the opening rounds, Weidman was able to get Machida out of his comfort zone on the feet by landing effective striking and not allowing the karate stylist to set up his game. His effective striking led to takedowns, and those takedowns opened up even more striking in the third round, where it looked like Weidman was about to stop the fight. After those 15 minutes however, the bout changed drastically. Machida came out with urgency in the fourth round and was able to set up in front of a tired Weidman without having to worry about the pressure he faced earlier in the fight. That allowed Machida to use his feints and land effectively on Weidman for multiple periods during the round. Many thought the fight was close to be stopped in the fourth, but Weidman survived to the final stanza. The champion found a second wind in a fantastic fifth round and actually hurt Machida with a standing elbow before taking him down and getting his back. Machida still stormed back to close out the bout, but his late flurry left Weidman unaffected, as the champion called him on as Machida backed away after the final exchange.
Machida cemented his status as an elite fighter at middleweight, giving the champion the toughest test of his career, while Weidman added another Hall of Fame scalp to his young career, and answered the only questions that remained about him going five rounds and looking good in the final round. Vitor Belfort is slated to be the next challenge for Weidman, but personally I would prefer if ‘Jacare’ Souza got the title shot first (should he get past Gegard Mousasi) while Belfort proves he can pass a drug test and compete effectively while clean. I mentioned that the two title defenses couldn’t have been more different, and that’s because it will take you longer to read whatever I write about this bout than the fight actually took. Ronda Rousey (10-0) and Alexis Davis (16-6) met in the center of the cage, and although there were only two striking exchanges the champion’s speed and power advantages were evident. Rousey hurt an opponent on the feet for the second consecutive bout, and quickly followed that up with a devastating throw and punches from the scarf hold position that finished the bout off. All in all, the bout took 16 seconds, which ties Frank Shamrock all the way back in 1997 for the second fastest finish in a UFC title bout (Andrei Arlovski defeated Paul Buentello in 15 seconds at UFC 55 for top spot). I normally post highlight videos of fights, but for this one… well, just watch:
Rousey still doesn’t have a tight and technical striking game, but the fact she is such a strong athlete means that her punches and knees carry more power than all but the very best female MMA fighters. That’s a frightening proposition for potential opponents — the next of which is likely Cat Zingano — but unfortunately for Rousey fans, and for “the truck” that next bout will not be on August 2nd at UFC 176. Between an arthroscopic knee procedure and a potentially broken hand, Rousey will be out for a few months to enjoy the spoils of her newfound Hollywood career. The third bout of the evening was… not Stefan Struve versus Matt Mitrione. Struve blacked-out, no wait… he fainted… or nearly fainted… or, umm… had a panic attack in the back as he was getting prepared for the bout, and he was pulled from the card. Given Struve’s diagnosed heart condition, the correct decision was made to pull him from the event as his health needs to take precedence. That meant the much-maligned Uriah Hall (9-4) moved up to the third bout of the evening in his bout with Thiago Santos (9-3). It was one of the more memorable bouts in the UFC this year, but not necessarily for the fighting action. At some point in the first round, Hall broke the second toe on his right foot and he favored the foot for a moment before focusing back on the task at hand. It wasn’t until the end of the first round that the rest of us discovered how grotesque his foot looked, at which point Hall’s corner had to repeatedly convince the referee and ringside physician that he was fit to continue. Hall continued to outstrike Santos — and even kick using the right leg — following the break, and his performance had the fans in Las Vegas cheering for him when he was announced the winner of the decision. An interesting striking battle for Hall could be against Clint Hester, but who knows how long Hall will be out of action. Opening up the evening was the obligatory controversial judges decision of the night, as Russell Doane (14-3) got the nod on the judges scorecard Marcus Brimage (6-3). Doane outgrappled Brimage in the first round and clearly took that frame, but Brimage got the better of the striking in the last two. Doane got some grappling done in the second round which made that the swing round, but most people still gave the nod to Brimage, who looked solid in his debut at 135. Perhaps Yves Jabouin would provide a good test for Doane next, although I wouldn’t mind a matchup with fellow UFC 175 winner Rob Font. On the undercard, Urijah Faber (31-7) picked up his fifth submission win in the UFC over a surprisingly game Alex Caceres (10-6, 1 NC). Faber’s ability to continue to dominate and finish solid fighters even at 35 years-old is one of the more impressive things in MMA, even if he’s never going to get the chance to carry a UFC belt. Other impressive performances on the undercard included Rob Font (11-1) finishing George Roop (15-11-1) with a massive right hand that sent his opponent’s limbs in every direction at the same time. It was an excellent UFC debut for the prospect who was one of five consecutive underdogs to come through on the preliminary portion of the card. The man who started that trend was ‘King’ Kevin Casey (9-3), who made his return to the UFC in spectacular fashion, dropping Bubba Bush (8-3) with a left hook and then finishing him off with some brutal elbows in the AXS TV main event of the evening. No rest for the wicked, as the UFC is back for another event on Sunday, with the TUF 19 Finale taking place in the exact same arena as UFC 175. Keep it locked to MMAOddsBreaker.com for analysis on the card.
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