The UFC Gate Keepers

Last night at UFC Fight Night 28, Ronaldo Souza was able to pick up an impressive win over Yushin Okami in the middleweight division. That victory established Souza as a legit contender in the division, as he was able to beat the “gate keeper” of the division in Okami.

The “gate keeper” is a fighter that is good enough to be one of the top fighters in the division, but not good enough to beat the elite few on top. They will likely never be a champion, but they will never be without an important fight or spot within the UFC. Here are who I see as the gate keepers in the UFC.

Flyweight – Ian McCall: McCall is a great flyweight, but already has proven that he can’t compete with the likes of Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. He just doesn’t have the skills to break into the top.

Bantamweight – Urijah Faber: Faber is a tremendous talent, but he was clearly outclassed by Renan Barao and lost his last fight with Dominick Cruz. Faber is just a step to slow to earn the title.

Featherweight – Dustin Poirier: “The Diamond” is a great fighter, but he hasn’t been able to get the job done in his toughest fights. He will always be in discussion as a top-5 featherweight, but not able to get any higher.

Lightweight – Jim Miller: Miller has tremendous heart and wrestling ability, but he can’t quite get to the mountain top. If a contender isn’t cut for the elite status, Miller will prove it.

Welterweight – Jake Ellenberger: Ellenberger seemed primed for a title shot with a win over Rory MacDonald, but he failed to take his talents to that next level. He can beat most of the division, but not the very best.

Middleweight – Yushin Okami: As said previously, Okami is a tough guy to get past, but if you can, it puts you in the 185-pound title picture.

Light Heavyweight – Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Lil Nog is a talented fighter, but doesn’t really show anything to make you feel like he could actually be the 205-pound champion. He has some big wins, but some bad losses. If someone is going to be a champ in this division, they have to get through him.

Heavyweight – Antonio Silva: Silva proved he can’t be the champion of this division, getting hammered by Cain Velasquez on two occasions now. However, he owns wins over guys like Fedor and Alistair Overeem. Silva is no easy victory, but he doesn’t have the total package to be champ.

Ranking the UFC title fights to end 2013

The UFC has made a lot of noise about its schedule to end 2013.

I can’t argue with the organization, because the year is ending (barring injuries) with a tremendous series of title fights. Here is how I rank which title fights I am most looking forward to:

7. Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland at UFC 165 (for UFC Interim Bantamweight title) – Barao is really a fighter that deserves more pound-for-pound credit. The guy has been a wrecking machine for quite some time. No disrespect to Eddie Wineland, who is a gritty fighter, but I don’t think he is in the same class as the champion. Wineland has a puncher’s chance, but this should be an easy defense for Barao.

6. Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate at UFC 168 (for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title) – I have a great deal of respect for Rousey and her skills. She has already established herself as a dominant champion in this division. I just don’t see Tate being able to win this fight. Rousey made quick work of her the first time and I don’t think that will change the second time. Tate would have to overpower Rousey with striking, and that is not her game. I think a fight with Cat Zingano would have been much more entertaining and had a greater possibility for an upset.

5. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos at UFC 166 (for the UFC Heavyweight title) – This is the trilogy fight for these two, but both fights have been decisive loses for each man. I think the second fight told more about the matchup than the first. Velasquez was able to tire dos Santos in the first round with his aggressive pace. As long as Velasquez can avoid the big punch from the challenger, he should be able to dominate this fight again with his wrestling and ground control.

4. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 (for the UFC Light Heavyweight title) – Jones has been absolutely dominant in this division, but Gustafsson appears to be a new challenge for Jones. Like the champion, Gustaffson has the ability to use his length to gain a striking advantage. The length edge that Jones always has on his opponents won’t quite be as much of an advantage in this bout. The question coming into this fight is can the challenger handle Jones’ wrestling, and can he go 25 minutes if need be?

3. Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 (for the UFC Welterweight title) – GSP has been the kingpin of this division for a long time, but Hendricks seems to have the right style to finally dethrone the champion. Hendricks has the wrestling background to contend with St. Pierre, but has the powerful hands to knock him out. The question will be if Hendricks can deal with St. Pierre’s jab and technical striking, and if he can go 25 minutes. If the fight ends quickly, Hendricks will be the champ. If the fight goes into the later rounds, you would have to think GSP will retain his title.

2. Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva at UFC 168 (for the UFC Middleweight title) – Was it a fluke when Weidman beat Silva? I think so, but the champion will have a chance to prove me wrong at UFC 168. I am looking forward to see how Silva approaches this fight. I truly believe if he is focused on winning and not putting on a show, he can’t be beat. I feel he could have beaten Weidman whenever he wanted to in the first fight, but was trying to embarrass the opponent instead, and got caught. This time around, will Silva take the fight seriously? Will he try to prove a point again? Weidman will probably have to have the fight of his life to win.

1. Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis at UFC 164 (for the UFC Lightweight title) – Of them all, this fight has me the most excited. The first fight between these two was tremendous and non-stop action. Now, both fighters are greatly improved. Henderson has evolved as a powerful striker with great wrestling and scrambling ability. Pettis is one of the most skilled and dynamic strikers in all of MMA and he is tremendous at fighting off his back. Both men can go 25 minutes and have plenty of motivation to win this fight. I expect this fight to live up to the hype.

Anderson Silva embarrasses himself in historic loss

Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter in UFC history.

Nothing that happened Saturday night can change that.

But, there is no denying that the way in which he lost the title to Chris Weidman at UFC 162 tarnishes his career, if even just a little bit.

We all think of great champions in any sport and we want to see them going out as a champion, giving a heroic effort, but being bested by someone who is just better than them.

With all due respect to Chris Weidman, Silva lost Saturday’s fight more than Weidman won it.

We have seen it before, Silva with his hands down, challenging his opponent to knock him out. But, unlike some previous times, Silva was making no attempt to actually win the fight.

He did his usual dodges and taunts, but instead of throwing his usual pin-point punches, he preferred to go with some open-hand slaps. He was disrespecting Weidman, as if to say “you are the guy that is supposed to destroy me?” The fight was shaping up to be more like bouts Silva had with Thales Leites or Demian Maia, where he wanted to embarrass them for 25 minutes as opposed to do his job and finish his opponent.

I have no doubt in my mind that Silva could have won that fight. I am not saying he didn’t want to, but he clearly wanted to do it with a message. We have seen fighters pay before for taunting, and Silva finally paid for his taunting.

It would be hard to imagine someone putting on a 16-fight UFC win streak like the one Silva just had. During the run, there were so many impressive knockouts and finishes. His talents are truly once-in-a-lifetime. Unfortunately for Silva, he didn’t go out as a champion. He went out as a clown, and that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Velasquez vs. Dos Santos: The trilogy the UFC needed

Image ALT text goes here.There was a time when two men ruled the UFC heavyweight division.

Those men were Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski.

The two had established themselves as the best heavyweights in the UFC at the time, and had a trilogy of fights for the UFC to capitalize on.

At that time, it was also clear that there were better heavyweight fighters out there, mainly in PRIDE, thus the trilogy didn’t have that feel of greatness.

Now, years later, the UFC finds itself with the heavyweight trilogy that it always longed for.

There is no question that heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and top contender Junior dos Santos are the top two heavyweight fighters in the world. They verified as much on Saturday with their knockout wins over Antonio Silva and Mark Hunt, respectively.

Now, the UFC is able to market a rubber match between the two after each one has decisively beat the other.

Velasquez and dos Santos have provided a legitimacy to the heavyweight division that has been lacking for a long time.

Sure, there have been some impressive fighters over the last decade, but none that were as technically skilled as Velasquez and dos Santos.

Brock Lesnar was a draw, and a physical freak, but he proved he wasn’t a fighter when he cowered in a ball at the first body kick he took.

Velasquez and dos Santos would have dominated the UFC in the early 2000s and the winner of this upcoming trilogy fight could rule the roost for quite some time.

The UFC finally has its mega heavyweight fight, and it is Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III.

UFC pound-for-pound rankings

Image ALT text goes here.It has been a while since a pound-for-pound rankings has been done on this site, but there is no time like the present. Here we go:

1. Anderson Silva (33-4) – Silva is still the pound-for-pound king due to his dominance in the middleweight division and his ability to finish his opponents.

2. Jon Jones (18-1) – I put Jones ahead of GSP because Jones really hasn’t lost yet. His one loss was a DQ where he essentially finished his opponent. Jones has shown well-rounded skills, winning with strikers, submissions and wrestling. He has truly dominated a division that was stacked a few years ago, the 205-pound division.

3. Georges St. Pierre (24-2) – St. Pierre has been on top of the 170-pound division for five years now, but his inability to finish opponents has gotten tiresome. St. Pierre has great wrestling and striking, but he doesn’t have the finishing ability of the top two on this list.

4. Jose Aldo (22-1) – Aldo can start making an argument to move up this list if he beats Anthony Pettis later this year. A win there may earn him a lightweight title fight. Aldo has tremendous striking, but he has shown the ability to fatigue over 25 minutes. That could be a problem as he starts fighting elite-level fighters.

5. Cain Velasquez (11-1) – The heavyweight champion is very light on his feet and he pushes a pace that can’t be matched in the division. He may not be the top striker, but that didn’t matter against Junior Dos Santos, as he constantly forced JDS to use energy. Velasquez never tired, but JDS did quickly.

6. Benson Henderson (19-2) – Henderson has some great skills, but he also isn’t overwhelmingly winning his recent fights. He isn’t losing them either, but his razor-thin decisions hurt his ranking on this list.

7. Renan Barao (30-1) – Barao doesn’t get a lot of credit for being as impressive as he has been. He is arguably the bantamweight champion, since Dominick Cruz has been out for so long. Sure the 135-pound division isn’t filled with a lot of big-name talent, but Barao has dominated all of the would-be contenders, including Urijah Faber. Barao hasn’t lost since 2005 and has 20 finishes since that time.

8. Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1) – Johnson is the fastest fighter in the UFC and he has great wrestling and conditioning. The 125-pound division doesn’t have a lot of superstars yet, but Johnson is the king of that hill and has looked impressive on top.

9. Gilbert Melendez (21-3) – Melendez gave a good accounting for himself in his UFC debut, nearly beating Henderson for the lightweight title. After a lengthy run as champion in Strikeforce’s lightweight division, Melendez looks to be a real force in the UFC’s 155-pound division.

10. Johny Hendricks (15-1) – Hendricks doesn’t have the look of a dominant MMA star, but he keeps beating the big names that get thrown before him. A great wrestler already, Hendricks has developed the most powerful hands in the welterweight division and he has now cleared out the division, leaving himself and St. Pierre on top. The two will meet later this year and that should be an epic fight.