UFC: Miller to climb lightweight ladder as Etim loses momentum in Rio
UFC Rio last weekend lived up to all expectations, providing ample illustration (if any were needed) as to why the UFC returned to South America so swiftly following UFC134 in August. Even from the comfort of your living room the electricity in the crowd and emotional fusion with the fighters was evident. In an eventful night which seemed to race by, thanks in many instances to the speed and ferocity of the finishes Jose Aldo once again proved why he is the king of the featherweight division. Despite the doubtless title credentials of the undefeated Chad Mendes it was clearly apparent that once he was frustrated in his efforts to take the fight to the mat, this would be a short night for the Team Alpha male representative. Aldo’s overall speed of thought and movement coupled with wild celebrations with the ecstatic Rio crowd will live long in the memory in an iconic night for both him and the birthplace of mixed martial arts.
The entire Belfort versus Johnson match-up was overshadowed inevitably by the latter’s absolutely inept attempt at making weight. In a sport where even the slightest weight advantage can prove the difference between glorious victory and crushing defeat, attempts to lose such a huge amount of bodyweight in the days leading up to fights must be addressed. As I watched Dan Hardy lock horns with “Rumble” in Seattle the size difference was genuinely unsettling. Not only does trying to squeeze your frame into an entirely unsuitable weight category smack of xxx it may not actually be the shrewdest course to plot, as Frankie Edgar will surely testify. At some stage the powers that be may examine moving the weigh in time substantially closer to fight time in an effort to secure a level playing field for all. It was academic in the end as “The Phenom” dominated the rapidly tiring Johnson to send the home crowd into raptures and place Johnson’s future in further peril. Dana White has since cut Johnson, which given the unmistakeable ire which greeted his failure at the scales is not surprising.
In last week’s column I picked Liverpool’s Terry Etim to emerge victorious from Edson Barboza’s backyard in an entertaining scrap. Whilst the bout was indeed fight of the night, Etim fell victim to a highlight reel spinning wheel kick which will be replayed repeatedly in the years to come such was its sheer brilliance. Even UK MMA fans simply had to applaud the audacity and execution of a technique never before seen in the Octagon. However, I believe that Etim was more than making a fight of it up to that fateful third stanza. Barboza is clearly a star in the making and Etim’s stock won’t take too much of a hit in the eyes of the UFC’s top brass and fans alike.
Refereeing performance is once again in the spotlight in the immediate aftermath of Saturday night’s landmark event. Firstly, as a fan of all aspects of mixed martial arts I was perturbed to see Dan Miragliotta repeatedly stand up the protagonists in the co-main event. Consistently is key as always and whilst in other bouts combatants have been given time to work their ground game, Johnson must have been frustrated at the lack of time he was permitted on the mat prior to the stand-ups.
Whilst many have been quick to criticise Mario Yamasaki in his decision to disqualify Erick Silva, I believe that he made his call on the spur of the moment and as in other sports (notably our own beautiful game) human error is almost impossible to eradicate. Yamasaki is usually sound as the third man and will know himself that he made the wrong call on this occasion.
This weekend’s action takes place in Tennessee where Melvin Guillard will attempt to re-align his faltering title charge following his departure this week from Team Jackson in New Mexico.
If you asked a selection of industry observers and UFC fans who the most explosive and talented current UFC fighter never to hold championship gold is… the name Melvin Guillard would feature prominently.
“The Young Assassin” has exhibited enormous potential and athletic prowess in his surge through the UFC’s shark infested lightweight waters. Something in Guillard’s tool belt is missing however, but it is not of a physical nature. Of the many assets needed to be victorious in any sport, mental toughness and poise under pressure are often labelled as the innate intangibles that an athlete must display in the white heat of battle. This is where the 28 year old New Orleans native has been found distinctly lacking. Guillard is sometimes overly confident, bordering on contemptuous towards his Octagon opponents when fight time arrives. Prior to UFC136 in Houston, talk within the MMA world was not if Guillard would be champion but rather a question of when. After a mere 47 seconds of a fight he was predicted to dominate, Guillard was again left wondering where it all went wrong. The brief bout was a microcosm of a career which has proven electrifying and frustrating in equal measure.
This Friday night the likeable knock-out artist will be well served not to take his opponent, fellow 155lb contender Jim Miller for granted. Miller is as tough as they come and with an unrivalled work ethic and cardio to burn he may well hold the mental kryptonite to the new “Team Blackzilian” student’s title aspirations once again.
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UFC Guillard vs Miller takes place on Saturday January 21st at 2.00am
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