UFC 146 brought us one of the fastest and most exciting cards of the year with nine finishes, six of which came by way of TKO/KO and three by submission. The card was stacked head to toe due to the all heavyweight main card, which forced fantastic fights such as Hardy vs. Ludwig or Varner vs. Barbosa farther down the list and onto the preliminary card.
Now that this historic event has concluded, where do the winners and losers go? Whats next for the men that put went out and left their hearts in the Octagon?
Lets work our way right up the card starting with Dan Hardy‘s successful return to the Octagon.
Dan Hardy showed tremendous skill in knocking out dangerous Muay Thai practitioner, Duane Ludwig, with a slick feint followed by a devastating left hook that dropped Ludwig. Hardy followed up with brutal elbows, bringing the fight to a halt in just under four minutes.
Hardy showed that he still has what it takes to be in the UFC and a fight with Josh Koscheck would be an incredible match up that would pit two dangerous strikers together while also giving Hardy a chance to show off the wrestling that he claims to be working on.
Next comes the most surprising fight of the night in Jamie Varner’s three minute destruction of top lightweight prospect, Edson Barboza. Varner has spent a lot of time outside of the UFC, fighting in local organizations just to keep his relevance alive. He came into this fight as a late replacement against a man who was coming off of the probable knockout of the year winner in Barboza. Varner brought the fight to Barboza and finished the fight with relative ease. He has reclaimed a definite spot back in the UFC.
For his next fight, why not keep the top competition coming Varner’s way and pit him against Jim Miller. The two brawling lightweights would put on a great fight and would undoubtedly pull a “Fight of the Night” bonus out of Dana White’s pocket.
In the last fight on the preliminary card, the latest winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Brandao, took on Darren Elkins. Brandao came out hard and took the fight right to Elkins, staggering him in the first round while landing knees and vicious ground and pound, unfortunately for Brandao, he ran out of gas in the second and was held down and beat up, giving away a unanimous decision victory to Elkins. Brandao needs to take a step back and break away from his hard charging attitude to develop on his wrestling and improve his cardio if he expects to attack his opponents from the opening bell. At 24-years-old Brandao can still fulfill his maximum potential over the next few years.
Now, for the historic main card.
Lavar Johnson and Stefan Struve started the night off with a brutal (and quick) war that left Lavar with an apparently broken arm. Struve caught him in an armbar and leaned backwards, forcing Johnson to tap before the move was fully locked in.
For Johnson, he is a knockout artist who came in against a dangerous opponent. This loss won’t set him back at all. He was a game opponent who stepped in during a time of need for the UFC. A fight between Lavar and Roy Nelson would be a fan’s delight. Two powerful heavyweights who know how to put on a show.
For Struve, why not match him up with Antonio Silva. Silva is clearly not worthy of upper-echelon opponents and Struve is working his way up. It seems like a perfect fit that could easily turn into a war.
Stipe Miocic and Shane del Rosario were up next. A battle between the two saw to it that both were bruised and bloodied. Miocic seemed to be on the ropes (or cage) in the first round but rebounded in the second and earned a TKO with elbows in the second.
Stipe is willing to go to war with anyone and I will always look forward to watching him fight in the future. Pit him against anyone and I’ll be happy.
For Shane del Rosario, an unwarranted step up to fight Mark Hunt may be in order. Both have extensive kickboxing experience and they would have an exciting striking match that could easily render one of them unconscious.
The next fight was Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman. This was Nelson’s third opponent for the card and the shuffling didn’t seem to affect him at all. Roy came out in typical form, looking to trade and brawl. The trading didn’t last long, however as Nelson came over the top with a huge shot the dropped Herman straight down to the mat, prompting a referee stoppage before Herman could absorb more damage.
As I stated earlier, I believe Nelson should fight Lavar Johnson. Many fans believe Nelson earned himself a title shot but going 2-3 in his last five fights doesn’t earn you a title shot.
For Herman, losses to Struve and then Nelson drops herman far down the ladder. Herman still has a good record and at 27-years-old, he has plenty of time to evaluate his career. A fight with UFC veteran Gabriel Gonzaga would test both men to ultimately determine which man belongs in the UFC.
In the co-main event, former UFC champion, Cain Velasquez took on promotional newcomer, Antonio Silva. Except, Silva never showed up for the fight, at least mentally, and paid the price. Velasquez absolutely ran through Silva, leaving him covered in blood.
For Velasquez, the next step is easy. A title shot with Junior dos Santos to try and avenge his only loss and reclaim his title.
For Silva, a fight with Struve would be entertaining and would make sense as both men stand near the middle of the division after UFC 146.
Now for the main event. I had high hopes for Frank Mir. Not to win necessarily, but at least to challenge Junior dos Santos on the ground or show improved stand up and at least make Junior hesitate to throw.
Instead, Mir came out with no real offense besides a failed takedown attempt, his only attempt of the fight. Besides that, Junior was able to just sit back and pick his shots, landing on most of them with relative ease. Frank was repeatedly wobbled and eventually couldn’t stand back up after being dropped straight backwards. Dos Santos followed up with a hammer-fist and the fight was stopped marking the first title defense of what could easily be a long title reign.
Junior already has another opponent in a new and improved Cain Velasquez.
For Mir, another title shot is most likely out of the question for Mir’s career, unfortunately. The division is getting too much talent and I think he will be swallowed by the new faces in a fortunately stacked division. For his next fight, a rubber match with Brock Lesnar would be phenomenal if the rumors are true about Brock’s return. If not, Mir will take his place as the gatekeeper in the division and live out his days testing up-and-comers.