The UFC returned to your television screen with a bang Saturday night. After two weeks off, the UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Saint Preux main card delivered five finishes in six fights and a boatload of excitement.
There was early talk that the most interesting fights of the night were slated to be on the prelims. That didn’t end up being true. The main card was one of the best of the year with all of the bonuses coming from those six fights.
The pivotal main event between Ryan Bader and Ovince Saint Preux could have decided the next legitimate title contender in the light heavyweight division, but it also might have been the least exciting.
Here we are again
Ryan Bader is about to get yet another chance at a top 205-pound contender.
Ryan Bader has had at least three chances to earn UFC light heavyweight title shots — losses to Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida and Glover Teixeira. There’s a good chance he’ll get at least one more after his main event victory over Saint Preux. Bader could end up facing someone like Anthony Johnson or Alexander Gustafsson next. And a win over one of them would put him right in line.
Is he ready? That’s another question. There’s little doubt that the 31-year-old Bader is much better than the 27-year-old prospect that lost to Jones four years ago. Bader did what he had to in order to beat Saint Preux in Bangor. He wasn’t necessarily dominant and it didn’t look good at times, but he was clearly the better fighter. His technique and strategy have come a long way. Bader will only be meeting better athletes than himself from here on out, though. And that could present a problem.
The Maine event
Tim Boetsch leveled Brad Tavares in the second round.
Do not adjust your set. That was not a replay. Tim Boetsch’s knockout of Brad Tavares only appeared to be exactly the same as his comeback over Yushin Okami two years ago. Just like in the Okami fight, Boetsch was down on the scorecards and essentially getting dominated. This time, though, the Boetsch walk-off KO came in the second round and not the third.
The coolest part of the whole thing is that Boetsch did it fighting for the first time in his home state. "The Barbarian" grew up in Lincolnville, Maine, just about an hour drive south of the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor where Saturday’s fights were held. The crowd gave Boetsch a huge pop when he landed a crushing left hook followed by a right that put Tavares to sleep. It was a memorable moment, one that could end up being one of the highlights of Boetsch’s solid career.
Time to call it quits?
Gray Maynard has taken far too many of these.
After two straight knockouts, Gray Maynard admitted to thinking about retirement. Instead, he decided to leave his home in Northern California to do his training camp at Power MMA in Arizona with Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway and others. It’s not like being there didn’t help. Maynard’s boxing did look sharper. But his chin was just as susceptible Saturday night.
Ross Pearson landed a short right hand that rocked Maynard in the second round and Pearson pounced in to do even more damage. Before long, the fight was stopped and now Maynard is staring at three knockout losses in a row. A few years ago, when he was battling Frankie Edgar in those epic title fights, Maynard was one of the best and most durable lightweights in the world. "The Bully" still has skills, but they are mitigated by a propensity for getting knocked out. It may now be time for Maynard to retire.
Not just a pretty face
To think Alan Jouban almost got knocked out himself moments earlier.
All the buzz about Alan Jouban coming into his UFC debut was regarding his other job as a male model. There was nothing pretty about his win over Seth Baczynski on Saturday night, but it was damn entertaining. Baczynski dropped Jouban with a hard right hand in the first round and it looked like Jouban would have an early night. He did, except he was the one coming away with the victory.
The Los Angeles resident rallied to crush Baczynski with a hard left, knocking him out cold just a few minutes after he was nearly done. The two men ended up winning $50,000 Fight of the Night bonuses. Jouban, who trains striking at Black House with the likes of Anderson Silva and grappling at Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, is someone to keep an eye on — and not just because of his model looks.
Fair or foul?
Sara McMann (right) did most of her damage on the ground against Lauren Murphy.
Lauren Murphy outstruck Sara McMann, 193-64, according to FightMetric and still ended up losing the fight via split decision. How does that work? Well, Murphy spent the majority of the bout on her back with McMann in dominant position. FightMetric says that McMann had control for 10:41 compared to Murphy’s 14 seconds. That makes a huge difference in MMA fights — strikes off your back are never going to be counted as much as strikes from the top.
McMann is calling for a rematch against UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who beat McMann back in February. In that fight, Rousey caught McMann with a knee to the liver in the first round. Many people thought the stoppage was too quick — and they might have a point. McMann, ranked No. 4 among 135-pound contenders, likely didn’t do enough against Murphy to warrant another title shot yet. She’ll probably have to win one or two more to get back to Rousey.