Jay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from UFC Fight Night 59 in Boston, Massachusetts. #5 Hollywood –Iowa born and raised lightweight Johnny “Hollywood” Case is quickly making himself a name worth knowing in the UFC’s deep lightweight division. Not only is Hollywood winning, but he is doing so in impression fashion. On Sunday night, Case fought talented Ricardo Almeida trained fighter Frankie Perez at the highly promoted UFC Fight Night 59. From the start of the matchup, Case showed an excellent combination of striking technique, power, and significantly improved grappling. Perez had no answer to anything Case offered and was dominated for the entirety of the matchup. It was a real dominant performance that Case culminated with a referee stoppage in the third round to make it two finishes in his first two UFC fights. At only 25 years of age, Hollywood is certainly one to watch and worthy of a step up in competition. #4 New Weight, Different Result – Former Strikeforce middleweight title contender Lorenz Larkin was on the cusp of being released from the UFC. Following three straight losses at 185 pounds, Larkin dropped down to welterweight for the first time facing veteran John Howard in the fighter’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Larkin looked like a totally different fighter at welterweight. His speed and movement was apparent from the start as it didn’t take him long to land the decisive strike against Howard. Howard, a very durable fighter, had only been knocked out once in his career prior to Sunday’s fight card. The drop in weightclass gives new found optimism for Larkin. His power at welterweight will give most fighters fits. He already holds a victory over champion Robbie Lawler (at middleweight) in his career and could be a real dark horse in this weightclass moving forward. #3 Ireland’s Second Home – Most people would think that New York is the home away from home in the United States for Irish people. Heck, New York even has a team in Ireland’s Gaelic football league. However, Boston showed that it really makes the Irish fighters feel at home. Fighters from Ireland went undefeated on the card. Patrick Holohan won a dominant decision over Shane Howell, Cathal Pendred won one of the most controversial decisions in memory (we’ll get into that later), and Conor McGregor was spectacular in a knockout win over Dennis Siver. The crowd really buoyed the efforts of the Irish fighters pushing them to victory. A real crowd advantage can be a significant factor in fights and Boston seems to be a place where fans really gets behind the Irish fighters. #2 As Bad as it Has Ever Been – Of the many problems that have plagued mixed martial arts over the years, none may be worse than the scoring of fights. The judging as a whole on the night’s fight card was as bad as any I had seen in my years watching the sport. Early on the preliminary card, American Top Team’s Charles Rosa fought Blackzilians lightweight Sean Soriano. While the fight was decided by a submission in the third round, the release of the scorecards showed that two judges scored the first round for Rosa. Soriano easily out landed Rosa 30 to 20 in significant strikes in that round. He had Rosa wobbled from leg kicks in what was a clear round for Soriano. Later on the preliminary card, Cathal Pendred was given a unanimous decision victory over Sean Spencer. In the first round, Spencer staggered Pendred with three strikes dropping the Irish fighter. Somehow, two judges scored the round for Pendred. Never have I seen a round where one of the fighters is dropped with no other significant acts in the round scored to the dropped fighter. The entirety of the fight saw Spencer land 41 head strikes vs. the 20 landed by Pendred. The only scorecards that had the fight for Pendred were the ones that were paid to score it. Even after the fight, Joe Rogan and Dana White both appeared on the telecast describing the fight as a “robbery.” However, the poor judging was not done. In the co-main event, Benson Henderson lost a unanimous decision to Donald Cerrone. In this fight, Henderson set a UFC record for most leg strikes landed in a three round fight scoring on 53 of the 55 he attempted. Overall, Henderson outscored Cerrone in significant strikes 86 to 57; a whopping 50% difference. Yet, all three judges scored it for “Cowboy” Cerrone. While there may be a difference of opinion on a particular fight, a series of poor judging on the same night is a real problem. The biggest issue is that in all three of these fights, the judges gave preference to “crowd favorites.” It almost seems like the judges listened for crowd reaction and scored fights in that matter. That’s not how judging works and it has come to the point where changes needed to be made and accountability increased. Judges are getting paid over $1,000 a night to score fights; while that may seem modest in scope, it’s good pay for one night of work. Like any other job, management needs to review its employee’s performance. An audit or review of judges is necessary. If a judge has too many controversial scorecards, they either need to justify their scorecard or have their work lessened. In the end, judges have a significant stake in the career path of fighters. A fighter like Ben Henderson will decrease in ranking and thus lessened sponsorship pay from Reebok due to a poor decision. Nearly all fighters get a win bonus if they’re victorious. Judges are costing fighters a significant amount of money due to lack of understanding of the unified rules and how to accurately score fights. It has become a real black eye for the sport. #1 The Runaway Hype Train – After a rather lackluster fight card with erroneous judging, it was in the hands of Conor McGregor to change the script. Fox heavily promoted the card putting in game features of McGregor during its telecast of the NFC Championship Game. The game itself was the most watched telecast since the 2014 Super Bowl with nearly 50 million viewers. That kind of spotlight put a lot of pressure for McGregor to deliver for Fox and UFC. The crowd roared for McGregor as he entered the octagon and luckily for the UFC he put on a show. His aggressive attacking style with technical boxing and capoeira kicks was really fun to watch. Dennis Siver had very little answers for McGregor as the Irishman applied the damage fast and furious. Within a couple of minutes, it became not if but when McGregor would finish Siver. The “Notorious One” dropped Siver early in the second round and got into full mount as Herb Dean was forced to stop the fight. McGregor didn’t waste any time as he leaped into the crowd for a memorable moment as he charged at champion Jose Aldo. McGregor’s display was rather breathtaking in a division dominated by wrestlers that is in need of attacking style fighter. The matchup with Aldo will be the biggest PPV ever done by the UFC headlined by featherweights. One of the best fighters the sport has ever seen to face against an exciting, brash, charismatic fighter that has not lost in the UFC makes for a great storyline. On Monday, the ratings came in for Fight Night 59 and the show did a 1.7 rating; the biggest the UFC has ever done in the 18 months it has been on Fox Sports 1. That in and of itself shows the marketing power / interest there is in McGregor. Looking ahead in 2015, there may be no fight more anticipated than Aldo and McGregor. For that, fans of MMA have a lot to be excited about.
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