When there is a fight card that has been so highly anticipated and hyped, one might assume the event might come up short of expectations. But UFC 126 failed to disappoint and major credit to not just the UFC for building the fight card, but to the fighters who rose to the occassion. Now here's the overview:
UFC Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva versus Vitor Belfort
Result: Silva by KO
If anyone doubted Anderson Silva as the top Pound for Pound fighter in all of MMA before this fight, you can disregard most of those doubts. Vitor Belfort seemed like the ultimate challenger: a fighter who has great standup skills, solid wrestling, and good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But it was Belfort's hesitation to attack Silva that allowed the Champ to settle in. The kick Silva used to put down Belfort was a fake front kick to the body and he then snapped up a variation of a Tae Kwon Do kick that didn't just stun Belfort, it stunned most of the people watching the fight.
Next for Silva: Anderson Silva has won 13 straight fights in the UFC, including 8 UFC title defenses. There are a few scenarios that are available to him at this point. UFC President Dana White has stated that if Silva won his fight against Belfort and UFC Welterweight Champ George St. Pierre wins his schedule fight against Jake Shields that there would be a "Super Fight" between the two long time Champions. If St. Pierre losses to Shields in April, Silva could either take on number one Middleweight Contender Yushin Okami (who is credited with Silva's last career "loss" due to a Disqualification) or he could move up to Light Heavyweight and take on the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
Next for Belfort: This was Vitor Belfort's first fight since September of 2009. Losing to Anderson Silva is nothing to be ashamed off and I think there was some mental "ring rust" on the part of Belfort in this matchup. If Silva ends up facing St. Pierre, it is logical to have Belfort take on Okami. But if Silva instead faces Yushin Okami, it would be interesting to see Belfort face Chael Sonnen if his suspension is over before the end of the summer or Belfort could face the winner the Bisping/Rivera fight later this month.
Forrest Griffin versus Rich Franklin
Result: Griffin by Decission
Having not faught for over a year did not seem to affect Griffin too much. He used his agression and strength to neutralize Franklin's speed and slick striking. Even though Griffin is only a couple inches taller then Franklin, he looked much larger then Franklin inside the Octagon. Franklin also seemed to have no real defensive gameplan to deal with being taken down by Griffin.
Next for Griffin: It is hard to tell if Forrest Griffin wants to really make another run at the UFC Light Heavyweight belt or if he just wants good fights. If Griffin wants to work his way up the UFC Light Heavyweight ladder, then I suggest he face the winner of the Matt Hamill/Phil Davis matchup that will take place in April.
Next for Franklin: At this point in his career, Rich Franklin is running out of time to make a run at another title. He is 5-3 in his last 8 fights, two of those three losses were by decission. He is right now in the middle of the pack in the Light Heavyweight division. A matchup with the winner of the Tito Ortiz/Antônio Rogério Nogueira fight in March would say a lot about what Franklin's future is in MMA.
Jon Jones versus Ryan Bader
Result: Jones by Submission
For someone who has only been a Professional MMA fighter since 2008, Jon Jones is way ahead of the curve. He was better in every aspect of the MMA game against Ryan Bader. His striking was sharper, his wrestling was more technically sound, and his jiu-jitsu was light years ahead of Bader. The submission was just the icing on the cake for Jones in this fight.
Next for Jones: Since Rashad Evan blew out his knee while training to face Maurico "Shogun" Rua, Jon Jones will now face "Shogun" for the UFC Light Heavyweight Belt in March. That means Jones will have a little over five weeks to prepare for one of the top MMA fighters in the world.
Next for Bader: Ryan Bader looked limited in contrast with Jon Jones in this fight. He really needs to develop more as an MMA fighter and not just be a wreslter with above average boxing skills. He needs to face an experienced fighter who will test how much he learned from this fight with Jones Either Krzysztof Soszynski and Vladimir Matyushenko would be an interesting opponent for Bader.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha
Result: Ellenberger by Split Decission
Jake Ellenberger did not do much in this fight until the end of the second round. Rocha dominated the first round and Ellenberger did enough to win the third round on the score cards. Both guys are young, up and coming fighters but this win isn't something Ellenberger should be proud of. He should be happy he came out of it with a win.
Next for Ellenberger: After spending too much time worrying about being taken down by Rocha, Ellenberger needs to work on his off the back grappling defense. In the meantime, a matchup with DaMarques Johnson would be an intriguing fight.
Next for Rocha: For a young fighters' first fight in the US, Rocha did well. He dominated Ellenberger on the ground in the first round and showed above average standup skills through out the fight. He is still very new to fighting in the UFC. A matchup with Charlie Brenneman would be a good choice for him at this point in his career.
Miguel Torres versus Antonio Banuelos
Result: Torres by Unanimous Decission
Miguel Torres' win looked similar to George St. Pierre's win in December against Josh Koscheck: Both fighters used the jab to neutralize their opponent's offense. Torres, who now trains with St. Pierre's head trainer Firas Zahabi, looked sharp on the feet and stayed balanced in his attack for all three rounds. On the other hand, Banuelos looked tenative and unsure of how to execute his coaches' gameplan for him in the fight.
Next for Torres: This seems to be a new look Miguel Torres who uses patience and skill to beat his opponents. After two straight wins, the former long time Bantemweight champion of the WEC needs to face someone who will push him in a fight. Scott Jorgensen would make sense for Torres at this stage of his attempt to get back into contention for the title.
Next for Banuelos: Whether it was the jab that kept stunning him or fear of being knocked out, Antonio Banuelos looked bad in his loss to Torres. He should face another fighter coming off a loss, like Will Campuzano. Maybe both guys in their desperation to not lose another fight will be motivated enough to put on a good fight performance.
Quick thoughts on some Preliminary Card Fights
Donald Cerrone vs. Paul Kelly: Donald Cerrone has been in many big fights during his time in the WEC. He rose to the occasion in this fight against Kelly. Cerrone has a future in the UFC if for no other reason except that he is always involved in interesting fights that usually do not go the distance. Cerrone needs to rack up a couple more UFC wins before he gets next level competition, so him getting to fight the winner of the Spencer Fisher/Ross Pearson fight later this month makes sense.
Chad Mendes vs. Michihiro Omigawa: Chad Mendes is making a great case for himself to get a shot at the Featherweight title sooner then later. Mendes seems to get better with each fight. A matchup with Diego Nunes would clear up which one of those two fighters is ready to make a run at the title and who still has work to do. On the other hand, Omigawa showed a lot of resilince but came up short against the talented Mendes. Omigawa isn't washed up or done just yet as an MMA fighter. Look for him to maybe get a shot at fighting Chan Sung Jung ("The Korean Zombie") as a chance for Omigawa to show he can hang with these younger Featherweights.