The Hit List: The Top 5 moments from UFC Sydney and Uberlandia
It’s hard enough pinning down five memorable moments from one UFC card. This week, we’ll try to do it with two.
Ovince Saint Preux came away with a stunning 34-second knockout of legend Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Luke Rockhold pulled off a comprehensive victory over Michael Bisping. And there were many more things worth talking about, too.
We’ll try to pare down the best below.
Down with OSP
If Ovince Saint Preux was going to beat Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, it was going to be a slow grind due to Saint Preux’s superior reach, clinch and athleticism. At least that was the scouting report going into Saturday night in Uberlandia. Saint Preux must not have read it. He landed a perfect left hook with Rua coming in and dropped the legend less than a minute into the fight. Saint Preux went for the finish and just 34 seconds he had knocked out "Shogun."
To make the victory even more noteworthy is that Saint Preux wasn’t even supposed to fight Rua in the UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 1 main event. Rua was initially scheduled to face Jimi Manuwa and Saint Preux had Francimar Barroso, until Manuwa broke his foot and the UFC shuffled the card around. Saint Preux now ends up being one of the biggest winners of a wild UFC weekend. This was by far the most significant victory of his career.
Domination Down Under
Outside of finishing Michael Bisping in the first round, Luke Rockhold did every single thing he said he would Friday night in Sydney. Rockhold outclassed Bisping standing and then finished him on the ground in the second with a mounted, one-armed guillotine. Bisping had never been submitted before and, frankly, never completely styled on like that either.
Rockhold downplayed the pre-fight trash talk afterward, but you know that had to have felt good for him to get such an impressive win in a grudge match. The bout was more than just that, too. Rockhold really solidified himself as a top middleweight contender with the submission. The American Kickboxing Academy product is right there with Vitor Belfort and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza as title hopefuls. Belfort will get this shot against champion Chris Weidman at UFC 184 in February. We’ll see where Rockhold goes from here.
Move over Chris Weidman. There’s another star shining on Long Island. Al Iaquinta picked up the biggest win of his career against Ross Pearson on Friday night in Sydney and it didn’t happen the way many expected. Pearson was supposed to be the superior striker. Not so. Iaquinta outboxed the kickboxer, knocking Pearson out in the second round. Neither man came in as ranked lightweights, but a win over Pearson is significant.
Maybe none of this should be a surprise. Iaquinta trains with Weidman at Serra-Longo, which has rapidly become one of the best gyms in all of MMA. New York is not exactly known for being a hotbed for the sport — professional mixed martial arts isn’t even legal — but Matt Serra and Ray Longo are producing some studs. Iaquinta is the next in line after Weidman and Aljamain Sterling, an up-and-coming bantamweight, is after him.
Controversy in Uberlandia
Kenny Florian on commentary called Warlley Alves beating Alan Jouban a "robbery" and he probably has a point. Every judge gave Alves the first and second rounds, which is questionable at the least. Jouban clearly won the third round and probably lost the first. The second one was pretty close and it seemed like Jouban kicked it in late and took it. Alves was pretty tired after demolishing Jouban early in the first.
No matter who you thought won, it seemed pretty clear Alves and Jouban put on the Fight of the Night. But they were not granted $50,000 bonuses for that distinction. Thomas Almeida and Tim Gorman took home the cash instead. That was a very good fight, but Alves and Jouban threw down rather violently in a co-main event that was replacing what should have been a great fight between Ian McCall and John Lineker. It should have been good enough to best a prelim fight.
Taking a fight in Australia on about two week’s notice must not be that fun. That’s what Louis Smolka did this weekend when Neil Seery dropped out of a bout with Richie Vaculik. Smolka had a steep cut and missed weight on his first try, then got pummeled for the better part of two rounds against Vaculik. Somehow, though, he found a way to turn the tide in the third with a head kick and TKO finish of the Aussie. Pretty wild.
Moments like that are what can launch and make careers. Smolka is a young kid, just 23 years old. It was risky to take that fight on short notice, especially coming off a loss to Chris Cariaso in May. Vaculik is from Australia, so he didn’t have to deal with a lengthy flight and jet lag. Smolka overcame all that — and some hard punches to the head — to win anyway. If the Hawaiian ends up becoming a star at flyweight, we might look back at this bout as the one that vaulted him.