UFC on FX – The Flyweights Cometh
On Friday Night, March 2nd, the Octagon returned to the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia for the second Fight Night on FX. Although Thiago Alves vs. Martin Kampmann was our advertised main event of the evening, most of the buzz around this event centered on the creation of the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion. The four Flyweights in the tournament where UFC newcomers Ian McCall and Yasuhiro Urushitani, touted as the Number 1 and 2 Flyweights in the world, against UFC Bantamweight veterans Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. To round out the four fight card, a Middleweight bout between Court McGee and Constantinos Philippou was placed as the opener for the FX broadcast.
Court McGee has looked extremely impressive since his UFC debut on the Ultimate Fighter. His heavy hands and excellent wrestling base led him to three straight wins on the big stage. I have to admit that I looked at this fight with Constantinos Philippou as more of a showcase fight for McGee than a tough test, as Philippou had yet to show me anything substantial. Much to my surprise, McGee looked stiff and very hesitant in the first two rounds, where as Philippou was able to put on a solid boxing display. Finally, in the third round, McGee started to push the pace, but found himself unable to take Philippou down and thus unable to secure a victory. I really believe that if McGee would have fought the entire fight at the pace he did in the third round, he would have been able to wear his opponent down and probably get the takedown. However, McGee was slow to pull the trigger and rightfully lost this fight by unanimous decision.
Next up was the first round of the UFC Flyweight Tournament, pitting former Bantamweight Title contender Demetrious Johnson against Ian McCall. The first round was an action packed back and forth showdown that showed, even at a lighter weight class, Johnson may be the fastest man in the sport. Johnson displayed superior striking skills, but fell pray to some very pretty takedowns from McCall. A close round, but I felt like McCall’s takedowns made the difference. The second round saw the fighter continue to press the pace, to the point that it looked much like the previous fight, only in fast forward. Johnson continued to out strike McCall in the second and really push the pace, to take the second round. McCall responded in the third with more strong takedowns and some really nice ground and pound. As the third round drew to a close, McCall was able to get full back mount on Johnson and just unleash a series of strong strikes. You have to think that if there had been another minute on the clock, the ref would have had to award the bout to McCall, due to Johnson being unable to defend himself. McCall put on a strong performance and showed why he is considered by many to be the number 1 Flyweight in the world, unfortunately it appeared the judges didn’t see it that way as they awarded the fight via majority decision to Johnson.
My first reaction to Demetrious Johnson being given the decision was echoed loudly by the crowd in Sydney, bull . . . crap or something very similar, after all this is a family website. Anyway, it turned out that the commission somehow misread the judges score cards and in fact it had been scored as a draw. This falls in the category of ‘it would be funny if it weren’t so sad‘, since the UFC had foreseen this possibility and were ready, in the event of a draw, to go to a sudden victory round. A policy that I think should be implemented in the future for all title fights. Unfortunately this mistake was not caught until later in the show, and therefore there was no sudden victory round, the fight was officially ruled a split draw and the two will meet again. I have to say that despite the apparent error by the commission in reading the score cards, the real blame falls on the judges. I just don’t see anyone that actually understands the rules of this sport giving Johnson two of those three rounds. A case could even be made that McCall was so dominated in the 3rd, that it should have been a 10-8 round. I didn’t go quite that far, but I honestly do not know what it is going to take to get the judging system corrected in MMA.
Our next bout in the Flyweight Tournament, saw Joseph Benavidez battle Yasuhiro Urushitani. Benavidez completely dominated the first round both on his feet and on the ground. Urushitani did show some good takedown defense, but was just over matched by Benavidez. That fact was given a huge exclamation point when Benavidez dropped and finished Urushitani with punches in 11 second of the second round. While I believe that Urushitani was over hyped as the number 2 Flyweight in the world, a nod I would probably give to Jussier da Silva or perhaps Mamoru Yamaguchi, at the end of the night Benavidez decisively beat a Top Ten opponent and maybe the man to beat in the UFC at 125 lbs.
Next up was the main event of the evening as Thiago Alves and Martin Kampmann battled for relevance in the UFC Welterweight division. Kampmann seemed a little off his game for the entire fight due to Alves constant movement, effectively stalling Kampmann’s usually high strike percentage. The first round did see Kampmann connect with a front kick that staggered Alves, but he failed to properly follow up on it. Alves eventually took the fight to the ground, worked his way into full mount and was able to ride out Kampmann for the rest of the round. While Kampmann did more damange, I believe that Alves’ ground control earned him the round. In the second round, Alves continued to use his movement to his advantage and was able to tee off with some heavy shots. Kampmann just didn’t seem able to impose his will or fight his fight with Alves, leading to another round for Alves. Alves continued to assert his control of the fight in the third round, stuffing Kampmann’s takedown attempts and winning the stand up battle. It seemed all but over as Alves connected with a hard right hand that rocked Kampmann. Then in a shocking turn of events, Alves opted to attempt a takedown on Kampmann instead of just following up with a flurry of round ending punches. The takedown would prove to be a huge mistake as Kampmann was able to immediately lock Alves up with an arm in guillotine and force the tap out. A huge blunder on Alves’ part but even more of a testament to the will to win of Martin Kampmann.
Overall I thought this was an enjoyable night of fights. Aside from the terrible call in the Johnson/McCall fight, my only legit gripe is with Jon Anik on commentary. Maybe I am in the minority here, but this guy really gets under my skin. Where is former WEC announcer Todd Harris when you need him? I really hope Anik doesn’t end up doing the play by play for the live fights on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. Speaking of TUF, I will be back next week with a look at the debut of the newly formatted show and my early picks for victory inside the Octagon.
Joe R. Beason