THE REMIX, VOLUME 3:
Every week, we’ll release a new MMA mix tape entitled “The Remix” that looks back at not only the biggest stories of the last seven days, but some of the ones that aren’t getting enough attention too, with some weekly awards and a prospect to watch moving forward added in for good measure.
Rising stars shine in Denver
Yair Rodriguez was down on the scorecards and literally seconds away from coming out on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result when he hit Chan Sung Jung with the most ridiculous up elbow we’ve seen in MMA since Anderson Silva stepped in an iced Tony Fryklund:
HOW DO YOU LAND THIS?!?!?!?! OH MY @PanteraUFC!!! #UFCDenver pic.twitter.com/CJx9dMpg0h
Did I mention Rodriguez took the fight on 15-days notice and hadn’t fought in 18 months? Yeah, dude is ridiculous.
Earlier in the night, 20-year-old Maycee Barber delivered a grown-up beating to Hannah Cifers in her promotional debut. After finding her distance and starting to land heavy elbows standing late in the first, “The Future” split Cifers open with one early in the second, got the fight to the floor and unleashed hell, earning the stoppage two minutes and a tick into the middle stanza.
Reviewing the finish with analyst Paul Felder after the bout, she was matter-of-fact about her handiwork, telling the UFC lightweight, “That’s what I do; I like to throw elbows” before calling out fellow unbeaten prospect Mackenzie Dern.
On a night where nine members of the Next Gen November squad stepped into the Octagon, Rodriguez and Barber showed that not all emerging talents are created alike and that the best way to cultivate potential new stars is to allow them to do their thing in the cage and make an organic impression.
The UFC screwed up by hustling Rodriguez into his clash with Frankie Edgar at UFC 211, even though it was a fight the 26-year-old Mexican featherweight requested — he was coming off a drubbing of the ghost of BJ Penn and struggled over five rounds with Alex Cacares, so it should have come as no surprise that “The Answer” reminded everyone that there are levels to this.
But Saturday night, “El Pantera” came back and put his creativity and heart on full display, winning everyone over with a finish that left everyone at a loss for words and scrambling to book his next fight. He still may not be ready for contention — and he may not ever get there — but it’s obvious that Rodriguez is no worse than a secondary star for the UFC and someone the company should promote accordingly going forward.
As for Barber, the unbeaten Colorado native fights with a maturity beyond her years and oozes confidence, showing all the early indicators you look for in a potential future champion. She’s the real deal, which is why it’s imperative that a fight with Dern or a Top 10 opponent doesn’t happen for at least another year.
Saturday night was the first time a ton of people were introduced to Barber and she left them wanting more, so rather than hastily putting together a clash between a pair of unbeaten potential stars in the early stages of their UFC careers, keep them apart and see if that grudge match continues to gain steam.
Let Barber work her way up the divisional ladder incrementally, picking up more people for her bandwagon with each appearance, rather than giving her the Paige VanZant treatment and rushing her into dangerous fights against tougher competition; although the UFC newcomer is already better than the soon-to-return Dancing with the Stars silver medalist.
We talk all the time about what the UFC can do to build new stars, but the answer has always been pretty simple: let them do their thing and be themselves and the truly special ones will deliver memorable performances and connect with audiences on their own.
The Other Side of the Would-Be Star Coin
Can we please be done trying to make Mike Perry a thing?
Saturday night, Perry showed an incredible lack of Fight IQ by taking Donald Cerrone down, as “Cowboy” quickly attacked with submissions and sweeps and ultimately ended up forcing Perry to tap after torqueing his arm at an ungodly angle in the waning seconds of the opening round.
It was his fourth UFC loss in nine appearances and third in his last four fights. He’s yet to beat anyone remotely close to contention in the welterweight division and he’s had more than his fair share of problematic moments within the media sphere.
While he brandishes big power and has delivered some strong performances, we’ve got a large enough sample size now to see that Perry is a mid-pack welterweight and the energy that has been committed to pushing him as someone to watch would be better used shining a spotlight on some of the actual emerging names in the 170-pound weight class.
Leon Edwards handled Cerrone without much issue earlier this summer and can’t get a lick of recognition. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos has won six straight, the last two in spectacular fashion, but he’s yet to make a main card appearance. This weekend’s headliners in Argentina, Neil Magny and Santiago Ponzinibbio, have significantly better records, with the latter holding a win over Perry, but they too have gotten less of a push than “Platinum Mike.”
Give the guys who are actually beating quality competition and climbing the ladder more attention and let Perry spend a couple of fights outside of the spotlight.
25 Years of Memories
Saturday’s broadcast celebrated the 25th Anniversary of UFC 1, complete with outstanding retro graphics, the “Ulti-Man” back on the canvas and a throwback soundtrack which were universally adored on social media:
Who ya got?!#UFCDenver pic.twitter.com/bdYTInbMm8
It also got me thinking back to my introduction to the UFC, which came the same way it did for many people my age.
My older brother and I rolled into the Jumbo Video location a couple blocks from out house in Downtown Hamilton and grabbed the first two events on VHS, along with a bag of the over-salted free popcorn you could “enjoy” while strolling around the store.
As a kid who grew up doing taekwondo and loving Van Damme, Seagal and all things ninja-related (Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are still my favorite action figures of all-time), seeing a real-life version of the Kumite was mesmerizing.
From then on, every fight between my brother and I involved one of us trying to cinch in a guillotine choke because while you can’t really get away with kicking your brother in the face Gerard Gordeau-style, you can try to choke them unconscious without anyone knowing.
Like a lot of people, I lost track of the UFC through the dark ages and only reconnected once it started popping up on The Best Damn Sports Show Period, but I instantly fell back in love and now find myself being fortunate enough to make my living covering this incredible sport.
Saturday was a great reminder of why I was initially enthralled with MMA and why it is such a central part of my life now because on a random weekend in early November, beautiful things can happen in the cage and the stories that emerge are incredible.
Happy Anniversary, UFC!
Fight of the Weekend: Yair Rodriguez def. Chan Sung Jung by KO at 4:59 of Round 5 (UFC Denver)
There is no other option here.
This was 24:59 of awesomeness that got better and better as the fight progressed, with Rodriguez showing his toughness and ingenuity and “The Korean Zombie” doing what “The Korean Zombie” does from start to finish.
And THAT is why they call him Korean [email protected] lands a spinning-elbow FLUSH, but @KoreanZombieMMA just eats it! #UFCDenver pic.twitter.com/KtBUAkzZd7
How some people booed these two when they momentarily hit pause on the action with 13 seconds remaining is still beyond me and emblematic of what is wrong with some fans these days. The same can be said for all the people who still think these televised shows are nothing special, given that the last five such events have all featured some memorable finishes and terrific fights.
Even if the fight didn’t end the way it did, Saturday’s UFC main event would still be the best scrap of the weekend, but the fact that Rodriguez ended it with that spectacular back elbow leaves no room for debate.
Submission of the Weekend: Magomed Magomedov def. Walter Pereira Jr. by submission (guillotine choke) at 4:41 of Round 1 (ACB 90)
There is nothing particularly dynamic about this finish — it’s a pretty standard arm-in guillotine — but I wanted to use this space to show a little love to Magomedov, who is an outstanding prospect who should be on everyone’s radar.
nice quillotine choke from Magomed Magomedov Taps Walter Pereira Jr. in 1R#ACB90 pic.twitter.com/MIKknR5yL5
Training with the Iron Army crew in Toms River, New Jersey, “Tiger” has now won three straight and pushed his record to 16-2 overall with his win on Saturday morning at the Ice Palace in Moscow. More importantly, he’s won 15 of his last 16, which includes splitting a pair of entertaining scraps with current UFC bantamweight upstart Petr Yan.
Given how excited everyone is about Yan’s prospects in the UFC — and they should be — it only makes sense to pass some of that enthusiasm along to the only guy to get the better of him today, especially considering we could see him competing in one of the larger North American promotions next year.
Knockout of the Weekend: Yair Rodriguez def. Chan Sung Jung by KO at 4:59 of Round 5 (UFC Denver)
Again, there is no other choice.
There were some other impressive finishes — Anthony Engelen had a nice headkick finish on the ONE Championship card in Singapore, Oleg Borisov blasted Thiago Henrique at ACB 90 — but Rodriguez’s last-second back elbow is the clubhouse leader in the Knockout of the Year race now and it’s going to be hard to top.
Here it is one more time for the people in the back:
HOW DO YOU LAND THIS?!?!?!?! OH MY @PanteraUFC!!! #UFCDenver pic.twitter.com/CJx9dMpg0h
And so we’re clear, I am most definitely here for watching people try to one-up “El Pantera” before the year is out.
The bar has been set, people — go on and do your thing!
Prospect to Watch after this Weekend: Garry Tonon
This was a weekend where there were tons of exciting and intriguing up-and-comers in action, including a whole host of them who picked up victories in the Octagon on Saturday night in Denver. But if I have to narrow the field down to one I’m the most immediately interested in right now, it’s Garry Tonon.
“The Lion Killer” moved to 3-0 in his mixed martial arts career with a second-round submission win over Sung Jong Lee at ONE Championship: Heart of the Lion on Friday in Kallang, Singapore.
Garry Tonon (3:0 now) finishes Sung Jong Lee with a guillotine choke in 2R (One) pic.twitter.com/vh2AlD2cT2
What makes Tonon such an intriguing prospect, of course, is the wealth of elite grappling experience he brings to the cage.
Remember a decade ago when Demian Maia hit the UFC and was just running through guys because they had no answer for his abilities on the ground? While replicating Maia’s run would be difficult now because people are far more knowledgeable on the canvas overall, Tonon has the game to potentially do something similar; he’s that good.
Watch the clip above — recognize the tremendous timing on the takedown and how quickly he looks to advance and gets his right arm into position for the choke almost immediately. It takes him 30 seconds to secure the hold and get the tap, but the whole time, he’s maintaining that arm under the neck and adjusting, staying one step ahead of Lee as he looks to escape.
He still has ways to go before he can be considered a title threat, but the talent is there for Tonon to continue stacking up submission wins and become a force to be reckoned with in the ONE Championship lightweight division in the future.
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