UFC: Nate Diaz seals title shot with clinical display
As Nate Diaz seizes a deserved lightweight title tilt with aplomb, we review a busy fight night in New Jersey and take a look at which British fighters were affected most by the MMA week that was…
The headline story emerging from the weekend’s card is of course Nate Diaz’ sublime display against a man who previously had never been finished Jim Miller. The fact that Diaz Jnr disposed of the gritty Miller in such an accomplished manner in front of a partisan crowd renders his display even more laudable. If the Donald Cerrone victory was Diaz’ break out performance then Saturday night confirmed emphatically that he has indeed got the grappling chops to drag high level wrestlers into his world. The way in which he expertly submitted the BJJ Black belt was the icing on the cake of a clinical all round performance which saw him emerge confidently from the shadow of his older brother and fighting clone Nick. Next up for Diaz is the winner of the recently announced Edgar vs Henderson rematch. On this form you wouldn’t bet against him, though it will be a further step up in competition for the always improving Cesar Gracie protégé.
In the fight game as in many professional sports you make your own luck. Josh Koscheck can rightfully feel aggrieved that he didn’t receive the judges’ nod against Johny Hendricks in their co-main event clash. I had Koscheck winning the first and last rounds and whilst Hendricks was throwing bombs for the entire fifteen minutes “Kos” displayed slicker footwork and cage generalship for the duration of the fight. At this level however the former two time title challenger knows that decisions are dangerous. He was never able to fully impose his will on a foe who could match his wrestling credentials. Koscheck will have the old adage of “never leave it in the hands of the judges” ringing in his ears in recent days. With the bout being so close I don’t see it affecting either man’s immediate future in seismic fashion. Hendricks’ somewhat fortuitous split decision victory should demonstrate that he is some distance from a 170lb tilt and is a work in progress, albeit one with immense potential.
Johnson makes short work of HD
On Saturday night we saw in real HD (pardon the pun) the power that Lavar Johnson possesses in both hands. The drive by shooting survivor has illustrated in his last two outings that he is ready for a marked step-up in competition. I believe however that his future in the heavyweight division will be an entertaining yet ultimately limited one. If pitted (as some have suggested) against Shane Carwin next time out, the grappling deficiencies which were patently apparent against Barry will be brutally exploited. Quite why Barry insisted upon standing in front of such a concussive striker in an all out fire-fight is the real mystery of this bout. Barry was never going to triumph in such a phone box slugfest and making in Octagon misjudgements has again cost the entertaining kick-boxer dearly when the fat was truly in the fire.
Belcher serves notice
If Nate Diaz’ blistering display in the main event was the headline grabbing story coming out of New Jersey then Alan Belcher’s arrival as an imminent 185lb title challenger was a closely run second. Belcher found himself in deep waters against grappling powerhouse Rousimar Palhares and not only survived to tell the tale but displayed matt skills comparable to his excellent stand-up game. Palhares’ vaunted BJJ has had its image of invincibility unceremoniously shattered. Whilst he remains a potent threat on the ground he did not appear to have a viable Plan B once Belcher was able to repel his leg lock assault. Its back to the proverbial drawing board for the talented Brazilian if he is to challenge for title honours, as the era of the one or two dimensional fighter has clearly been and gone. Belcher has since been vociferous in his targeting of our own Michael Bisping as a future opponent in the aftermath of his victory on the east coast. He sees the TUF alumni as the next logical step en route to Anderson Silva’s championship door. Whilst Belcher’s skills both on the mat and standing are doubtlessly legit he may soon find out what others before him can attest to…“The Count” is no-one’s stepping stone.
Hathaway carves out key victory
Brighton’s John Hathaway overcame the considerable challenge of previously undefeated German prospect Pacal Krauss on Saturday night. Krauss may not have the name of a Diego Sanchez but by chiselling out the unanimous decision win “The Hitman” has shown that he is gathering momentum in the promotions perilous 170lb division. The former rugby player has now amassed a more than respectable six wins in seven Octagon appearances.
Ogle displays Bulldog spirit
Another Englishman who emerged from the week that was with an enhanced reputation is the North-East’s Andy Ogle. Following Mike Rio’s elimination of Ogle’s friend Ali Maclean many expected the likeable striker to succumb to Rio’s wrestling in similar fashion. Ogle displayed bulldog spirit to the very end however, as he secured a thrilling submission victory in the bout’s final throes. Ogle seems like an emotional character who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is obviously finding it difficult to adapt to the monotonous environs of the iconic reality show. Gut –check performances such as Friday night will however mark him out as more than a one dimensional British striker.
Click here to check out my new “In the Octagon” column in Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun. This week we look at what’s next for Machida, The Korean Zombie and more…
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