The UFC’s Cowboy vs Cowboy card delivered some great action which helped to wash the poor taste out of the mouths of fans who suffered through Bellator’s circus Friday night. Let’s take a shot filling matchmaker Joe Silva’s shoes and look down the road for some of the Sunday night’s combatants.
“Cowboy” Donald Cerrone looked quick and comfortable in his debut fight at welterweight. He outclassed the late fill-in opponent Alex Oliveira using his slick submission game. A long time contender in the lightweight division, Cerrone has a plethora of new intriguing dance partners for the UFC brass to choose from at welterweight. I’d love to see Cerrone’s ground attack tested against Gunnar Nelson, or trade blows with decorated striker Albert Tumenov. A win over either should allow the popular Cerrone to crack the WW top 15.
Lightweight James Krause’s relentless submission attack repeatedly tested Shane Campbell’s mettle, who proved very adept at protecting his neck. As usual Krause’s aggression and skill still provided an entertaining show despite not getting the finish. There are many potential fights to make for Krause in the ridiculously stacked LW division. I’d love to see him take on Joe Duffy. Their skill sets are similar in some ways, and I feel we’d learn a lot about both guys.
13th ranked Derek Brunson is currently cutting a path of destruction through the middleweight division, finishing his last three opponents in the first round. His two fights prior to this streak were a win over a very tough Lorenz Larkin and one of the best fights of 2014 vs Yoel Romero. It’s time to get this man up into the single digit rankings in a somewhat stagnant top ten. A match against Tim Kennedy should be outstanding and could headline a Fox Sports 1 card. If Kennedy is busy with his military obligations than a fight with Machida (as much as I’d hate to do that to Lyoto) or the loser of Belfort v Souza would serve.
Bantamweight Cody Garbrandt’s hands, confidence, and ability to choose where the fight takes place due to his underrated wrestling are going to pose problems for most fighters. The Lineker matchup was definitely intriguing, and I expected “No Love”’s footwork and range to be the difference. They could turn Cody around quickly and still put on that fight, but personally I’d LOVE to see a Garbrandt/Thomas Almeida fight in a “one 0 must go” contest. If it lasts 20 seconds or 15 minutes there’s no way that’s not an awesome fight. With the return of the king, Dominick Cruz, and the emergence of guys like Cody and Almeida, and adding Dodson and Lineker from the strawweight division, the UFC bantamweight picture is developing nicely.
Women’s bantamweights Ashlee Evans-Smith/#13 Marion Reneau, Lauren Murphy/Kelly Faszholz
Two of the best fights on last night’s card were buried on the Fightpass prelims and showcased the women’s bantamweight division. Former Invicta champion Lauren Murphy had her hands full dealing with the smooth combinations of late fill in Faszholz in round 1. Murphy’s power punching took it’s toll on Faszholz in the 2nd, and Murphy polished her off in the 3rd, bludgeoning Kelly from the top position. The Evans-Smith/Reneau fight featured a lot of high level MMA and impressive adjustments made by the ladies on the fly.
Even in defeat Faszholz showed well for herself considering her late fill in status. I’d like to watch her throw hands with #8 Bethe Correia. Murphy’s game appeared to have progressed, and I’d like to test that theory against the always tough Sarah Kaufman. The Evans-Smith/Reneau fight ended with a controversial decision win for Evans-Smith. The only round in my opinion that either fighter clearly won was round 1 for Reneau, and two judges gave it to Smith. I wouldn’t complain about them running it back, and feel both fighters should be scheduled ‘up’ the rankings in any event.