Saturday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship event at the HP Pavilion in San Jose — the long time home of defunct promotion Strikeforce — provided us with some realities, while also giving us what appear to be some mirages.
Gilbert Melendez is for real
In fact, “El Nino” has always been for real. Many of us have been saying it for years, but there was always that caveat: how would he do against the UFC’s best. Even Gilbert would admit to always wondering, even though staunchly believing he was the world’s best 155-pounder.
On Saturday night, against UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson, he proved it. On my unofficial scorecard, he won three of the five rounds, proving he’s the best lightweight mixed martial artist on the planet. Unfortunately for the California native, two of the three judges saw it differently.
The Punk is back home
Josh Thomson was forced to leave the UFC in 2004. The lightweight division was abandoned, and he was forced to take his career elsewhere. After nearly nine long years competing everywhere but the big show, he returned with a bang, defeating fellow Bay Area native Nate Diaz, in a manner that has never been done before.
Thomson finished off Diaz in brutal fashion, sending a loud statement to those within his division. Hopefully he and Melendez will never meet again (unless it's for a UFC title), and that the UFC will give Josh is due. A fight versus a top contender, preferably named Donald Cerrone or perhaps Jim Miller should he emerge victorious over Pat Healy at UFC 159 this Saturday night.
Smoke and Mirrors?
Watching Matt Brown defeat Jordan Mein was a sight to behold. I am thoroughly impressed with "The Immortal's" resurgence. This guy is for real, but does he deserve a title shot? Not yet. His five fight win streak includes Mein, Mike Swick, Luis Ramos, Stephen Thompson and Chris Cope. None of these athletes were in the top 10 (perhaps even top 15-20) when Matt defeated them.
On the flipside, Johny Hendricks' current six fight win streak sees victims named TJ Waldburger, Mike Pierce, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit. Three of those fights were close, and could have gone either way, but five of those six names were (and some still are) top 10 guys. Hendricks is well deserving of a title shot, while Brown is deserving of a top ten fighter. Perhaps someone like Kampmann could be the next person he stares at across the Octagon.
Mendes impressive, but...
I maintain Chad (Money) Mendes is the No. 1 contender in the featherweight division, but his last three victories, which were all exceptional, should be examined a little further.
While the combined time of these victories is an astounding 3:34, they are victories over Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza and Darren Elkins. See my theory above, regarding Brown.
I believe "Money" should take on and take out a fellow top-ten fighter and while he has only been offered one top ten guy (Clay Guida), the bout has fallen through due to "The Carpenter" getting injured. Hopefully, Chad can face a top guy after his well deserved vacation and move one step closer to that rematch with featherweight champion Jose Aldo Jr.
The ‘Bang’ Theory
Since joining Team Alpha Male as one if its head coaches, UFC veteran Duane Ludwig has done wonders for the team.
I first met "Bang" in January of 2003, while I helped co-promote UCC 12, an event in Montreal that saw Ludwig need just sixty-three seconds to TKO Jens Pulver, who was also the reigning UFC lightweight champion at the time.
In 2005, one of my business partners with APEX Championship Fighting, Alex Caporicci (currently one of the best matchmakers still in the business today) decided to have tryouts for would be competitors that we could add to our roster of talent. We brought in a variety of coaches, one of which was Ludwig. I will never forget how immaculate his teaching style was. In fact, while my job that day was to recruit, I wanted to grab my gear and get on the mats to learn from Duane. Unfortunately I did not, and to this day, I regret it.
To see what he is doing with the likes of Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and TJ Dillashaw is more than just impressive; it's proof positive that good things happen to good people. Especially a master of the Muay Thai game who knows how to share that knowledge with his pupils in MMA.