UFC 73 was hyped by the promotion as the most stacked UFC card ever. There were at least four quality matchups and a number of interesting storylines. So, what did we learn from last night's event? Here are my takes:
Kenny Florian makes a good point
After Kenny Florian devastated Alvin Robinson with vicious ground-and-pound to win their UFC 73 lightweight fight, Florian made a very interesting statement to Joe Rogan is his post-fight interview. Florian essentially called out the rest of the division and said that he finishes his fights.
That statement came on a night when the division's titleholder, Sean Sherk, successfully defended his crown against Hermes Franca but could not finish Franca off. Although Franca lost, he was the more exciting fighter, landing four knees to Sherk's head that appeared to do little damage to Sherk and attempting a number of unsuccessful guillotine chokes that Sherk used his strength to pull out of.
Sherk controlled most of the fight with a tremendous work rate and fantastic wrestling and BJJ technique on the ground. However, when he had Franca on the ground, he appeared unable to find a way to finish Franca off. Some credit is due to Franca for being clever on the ground and being very good with his defense. But, Sherk was also unable to finish Florian last year in their title match.
This is a disturbing trend for Sherk because while MMA is a sport first and foremost, entertainment has always been a necessary component of combat athletics. That's why fake versions of combat sports, such as professional wrestling, have always found a home.
While Sherk has shown that he is the most dominant fighter in the division, he is beginning to follow in the footsteps of former heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia as a somewhat unappealing champion. Fans want to see dominant champions that remind them why they have the title. Winning by unanimous decision -- as convincing as those victories may be -- simply does not suffice for the titleholder.
It will be interesting to see whether Florian or lightweight contender BJ Penn can push Sherk to the next level. Or will Sherk suffer the same fate as Sylvia -- that of a champion that people would just as soon see replaced by a more exciting fighter?
Heath Herring misses out on a golden opportunity
Heath Herring had already lost twice to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira before last night and there was very little doubt in most people's minds (including I imagine the UFC's) that UFC 73 was going to be loss number three for "The Texas Crazy Horse" against "Minotauro".
However, Herring did the unthinkable and absolutely rocked Nogueira at the end of the first round with a left kick to Nogueira's jaw that sent the Brazilian straight to the canvas. But, then Herring did something even more unthinkable -- he let Nogueira off the hook.
After making an attempt to stop the fight by pouncing on Nogueira, Herring stepped back at the end of the first round and invited Nogueira to get back to his feet. Nogueira used that time to recover. He then used the one minute break between rounds to continue to clear the cobwebs. Still, Nogueira was on shaky ground when round two began.
So, what did Herring do to start round two? Nothing. For a minute and a half the two simply circled in the Octagon and Herring refused to push the action. By the time the two had re-engaged, Nogueira had found new life and controlled the rest of the match to secure the decision victory.
Herring has established himself as a formidable middle-tier UFC heavyweight, but he will look back on his tactical error at UFC 73 and ask himself if he missed out on an opportunity to be much more.
Anderson Silva is a beast
Anderson Silva proved at UFC 73 that the UFC middleweight division is divided into two groups: him and everyone else. Including last night's first-round TKO victory over Nate Marquardt, Silva has won his four UFC fights by stoppage in either the first or second round.
Undoubtedly, the division is weak and the next best fighter is probably former champion Rich Franklin, who lost the title in crushing fashion to Silva last year. What will Franklin -- who struggled against Yushin Okami in his last fight -- do differently in a rematch between the two?
What I would like to see is a matchup between Silva and two middleweight fighters who don't reside in UFC -- PRIDE middleweight champ Dan Henderson and Strikeforce middleweight champ (and former UFC middleweight champ) Frank Shamrock. Henderson is currently in training to fight Quinton Jackson for the UFC light heavyweight belt, but he is probably strongest at 185 pounds. Shamrock is a legend very familiar to old-school UFC fans and would be a very intriguing matchup for Silva because of Shamrock's all-around excellence. As a bonus for UFC, a Silva-Shamrock fight would be a marketing bonanza for the organization.
The light heavyweight division has many question marks
After Tito Ortiz's lackluster performance against Rashad Evans, the question in the UFC light heavyweight division is who can challenge the trio of titleholder Quinton Jackson, newcomer Mauricio Rua, and former champ Chuck Liddell? At this point, there aren't a lot of good answers.
While Ortiz did enough to win and probably deserved the draw because of his holding infraction in the second round, his performance last night was yet another indication that these days he may be no more than a middle-tier UFC light heavyweight. That statement may be difficult for him, his fans, or the UFC to swallow but he has done very little since returning to the Octagon over a year ago to say otherwise.
Ortiz has struggled against TUF-level competition in Forrest Griffin and now Rashad Evans. While they are no slouches, these two along with Michael Bisping are certainly not on the level of the top three in the division. Does this mean that age and the increased level of competition have caught up to Ortiz? It's very possible that this is the case.
The real question then becomes -- with his skills fading, how much longer will Ortiz be a top attraction and a bankable fighter for the UFC?
Stephan Bonnar returns with a victory
While his fight against Mike Nickels was not shown on the live portion of the pay-per-view telecast last night, I was interested to see that Bonnar returned from his drug suspension with a first-round rear naked choke victory over Nickels. It is difficult to draw any real conclusions from this result because neither fighter is in the top half of the UFC light heavyweight division. However, Bonnar is well-known to the fans and it's good to see that he is back on the right track.
For a full recap of all the UFC 73 results, visit ufc.com.