Making the Grade: Passes/Fails from the UFC’s two-for weekend
Cub Swanson might have earned a title shot by beating Jeremy Stephens, Nate Marquardt saved his job by tapping out James Te Huna and Kelvin Gastelum continued his ascent at welterweight.
With two events this weekend, a boatload of stuff happened. You know all about who won and lost. We here at Haymaker prefer to go beyond that. This is what we took away from the cards in San Antonio and New Zealand.
Best entrance ever?
Imagine if James Te Huna took the time he spent choreographing his entrances and put it toward training? We kid. Because the best thing about Te Huna is his entrances, no matter what he ends up doing in the UFC. The New Zealander already had arguably the best walkout of all time when he and his cornermen strutted toward the Octagon with dark shades and suits to the "Men in Black" theme in February 2013. They even had a little dance number thrown in.
Well, Te Huna topped himself Saturday morning in his home country. Ahead of him, native Maori warriors performed a Haka routine, which fired up the Kiwi crowd. Te Huna succumbed to a submission from Nate Marquardt in the first round, but who’s going to remember that? Everyone needs a niche and Te Huna’s is elaborate entrances. UFC, don’t you dare cut him.
Everyone loves a good knockout. But submissions are becoming a lost art. Statistically, they are way down this year. Our own Mike Chiappetta wrote an outstanding story about the Art of Submissions earlier this month, so we won’t rehash any of that stuff here. This weekend, though, we were treated to a mini-tapout resurgence. And we thankfully don’t mean the t-shirt line.
In New Zealand, Nate Marquardt finished James Te Huna via armbar in the main event. Up until that point, there had been only two non-choke submissions in the UFC this year, which is an incredible statistic. Also on that card, Charles Oliveira locked in a beautiful guillotine choke on Hatsu Hioki, who had never been submitted before. Even more hopeful? Three prospects — Jake Matthews, Carlos Diego Ferreira and Ray Borg — all won by submission. Maybe the future is bright for the ground game after all.
Hall of an idea
If Pat Miletich were a baseball player, he would be a no-doubt, sure-fire, first-ballot MLB Hall of Famer. In the UFC, things aren’t always that way. Getting your name on the mythical list of greats is sometimes political in nature and other times completely arbitrary. Kudos, though, to the organization for planning to honor Miletich this coming week in Las Vegas, as our own Damon Martin reported Saturday.
Miletich and the UFC have not always seen eye to eye. And he has routinely worked as a broadcaster for competing organizations — and a damn good one at that. Miletich’s career résumé speaks for itself. He was the first UFC welterweight champion, a welterweight tournament winner and went 8-2 in the UFC. On top of that, he trained the likes of Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Robbie Lawler and Jens Pulver, who all had excellent UFC careers. Frank Shamrock will probably never get in, but Miletich will and that’s a positive.
Swept under the rug-by
If a UFC announcer makes a mistake in the middle of the night on Fight Pass, was it really a mistake? Well, apparently Mike Goldberg’s faux pas is causing a hub bub in New Zealand, because, well, what else is there to really talk about in New Zealand?
Goldberg announced an Australian Rules football player was in attendance at UFC Fight Night in Auckland on Saturday morning (Friday morning? We don’t even know anymore.). The problem was the guy actually plays rugby. This news.com.au story says Goldberg’s boo boo further fuels "the American stereotype of being completely ignorant about other countries." OK. It isn’t like he got Messi and Ronaldo mixed up, calm down.
And rugby? This is the same sport that made news this weekend for a team cutting a player for posting a picture of himself on social media urinating in his own mouth. Cue the Lyoto Machida jokes.
In his mind, Johnny Bedford is currently living some kind of Greek tragedy, where he continues to win fights only to have them ripped from his grasp by evil referees. It’s not nearly as dramatic in real life, though you do have to feel for the guy. Bedford clashed heads with Rani Yahya in April, causing Yahya to be knocked out. Officials ruled it a no contest and Bedford freaked, getting all up in Yahya’s face like it was his fault or something. Then on Saturday, Bedford was dropped by Cody Gibson, certainly unconscious for a second, and referee Kerry Hatley jumped in for the TKO.
Bedford was irate once again, kind of pushing Hatley off him and screaming some stuff that’s probably not printable on a family website. It certainly was not the worst stoppage ever — Bedford went stiff on the landing — but Hatley was pretty indecisive in stepping in, which made it look worse. Bedford has a case, but he needs to calm down a little bit. This wasn’t the same deal as the Jason High incident. Bedford sort of pushed Hatley off him. Hatley initiated the physical contact. High just flat-out shoved Kevin Mulhall earlier this month in Albuquerque, earning himself a UFC release and one-year suspension. But still. Don’t put your hands on the referee. All he’s trying to do is protect you.
You got a glimpse of how good Kelvin Gastelum could be in the second and third rounds against Nico Musoke on Saturday night. When he got into a striking rhythm and started letting his hands go, it was a beautiful thing to watch. And then you remember he’s only 22 and has only tapped into a fraction of his potential. That’s when you start believing the kid could be a UFC champion one day.
The one thing that cannot be ignored is his struggle with cutting weight. Gastelum missed weight Friday and had a terrible cut before beating Rick Story in March. It’s hard for us to believe an athlete the caliber of Gastelum has a discipline problem, so this must be something technical. Maybe he’s getting some bad advice. Gastelum said nutrition guru and weight-cutting specialist Mike Dolce is "expensive," so he stopped using him after his first cut to 170 (a flawless one, by the way).
Dolce probably is expensive. Regardless of how you feel about him, he’s got a pretty good track record. An investment in Dolce now could mean a lot more money for Gastelum down the line. He should probably just bite before people start comparing him to John Lineker or, worse, Anthony Johnson.
Jingoism and the UFC fan
It took all of two minutes before we got our first "USA!" chant Saturday night. Anthony Hamilton, a debuting fighter who San Antonio could not have picked out of a lineup before he entered the Octagon (and maybe after), was the heavy crowd favorite against Oleksiy Oliynyk simply because he was from the United States. We have nothing against a little patriotism — it is World Cup time, after all — but if you’re a UFC fan and your sole basis for rooting interest is a person’s geographical background, it’s slightly disturbing. Hamilton wasn’t wearing a Team USA jersey. He was an MMA fighter wearing board shorts with sponsors on them.
"USA!" chants are not uncommon at UFC events. Actually, they’re the norm. In Brazil, fans at events chant a phrase at foreign fighters that translates to "You’re going to die." All of it is a little weird in 2014. Shouldn’t followers of MMA make a better distinction between fighters than where they are from? But then again, this is also a company that is promoting its biggest event of the year, UFC 175, with athletes’ faces splayed with the flags of their countries — worn almost like war paint — on posters and television ads.