'Big Country' delivers, more lessons from intriguing UFC Fight Night
A win moves Kenny Florian closer to a rematch with lightweight champ B.J. Penn
Roy Nelson injects some much-needed fun into the stoic heavyweight division
Veteran Jorge Rivera, who defeated Nate Quarry, is better than ever at age 38
In terms of sheer fight-finishing excitement, Wednesday's UFC Fight Night on Spike TV delivered in a way that last weekend's pay-per-view outing didn't. Maybe you have to sit through a ton of commercials to get to it, but who says you never get anything good for free? Here are some of the things we learned from Wednesday's action:
1. Kenny Florian may be the second-best lightweight in the UFC.
A win over Takanori Gomi doesn't mean as much now as it did five years ago, but once again Florian showed off his ability to patiently stick with a game plan, avoid mistakes and win a fight in increments. Does the victory mean he'd fare any better in a rematch with lightweight champ B.J. Penn? Probably not, but if he knocks down a few more up-and-comers, he can probably look forward to another chance to find out. His best chance to wear UFC gold, however, is to hope that Penn heads up to welterweight. Or there's always the possibility that "The Prodigy" will get bored and retire.
2. "Big Country" is just what the heavyweight division needs.
Despite the concerns that Stefan Struve's 11-inch height advantage would prove to be an insurmountable obstacle for the TUF 10 winner, Roy Nelson showed us that his opponent's jaw was actually conveniently located right where his own looping right hand could find it. He may have the build of a plumber, but "Big Country" has the punching power of a top-10 heavyweight.
What's more, he injects some much-needed fun into the big-man division. Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez are all fearsome characters, but none of them are known for their good humor. Except for when the fists start flying, Nelson doesn't take himself too seriously. The heavyweight class could really use a guy like that. With Wednesday's blistering knockout victory, maybe even Dana White is coming around to that realization now.
3. If you want to be remembered as an MMA legend, it helps to sign with the UFC.
I lost count of how many times the Spike TV broadcast referred to Gomi as an MMA legend. Not that I disagree with the assessment, but it's always funny how meaningful a fighter's accomplishments become to the UFC once he's on the payroll. It was the same with other Pride imports such as Wanderlei Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. As soon as a fighter from another organization signs with the UFC, he goes from an inconsequential also-ran to a titan of the sport.
It makes sense from a business perspective, and the UFC definitely knows the promotional value of a little revisionist history. But if current Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz signed with UFC tomorrow, you can bet his gogoplata finish of Gomi would be dug out of the archives and played on a running loop rather than glossed over as if it never really happened.
4. Age is nothing but a number.
In most pro sports, your late 30s is when you take an honest look at your savings and start planning your retirement party. Not Jorge Rivera. At 38, he seems better than ever, and with a TKO win over Nate Quarry (also 38), he clocked his third consecutive victory. That doesn't necessarily mean that Rivera will be the middleweight champ by the time he's 40, but it is encouraging to see MMA fighters not just maintaining but actually improving this late into their careers. It gives one hope that maybe MMA won't grind up and spit out all of its young stars like many other pro sports do. And just imagine how good Georges St. Pierre might be with 10 more years of practice.
5. The Brits can make waves at 155 pounds.
At the time, the UFC's "USA vs. UK" season of The Ultimate Fighter seemed like a gimmick. But the two lightweight finalists from that iteration -- Ross Pearson and Andre Winner, both from the British squad -- are looking like they could be legitimate contenders. Pearson used his sharp striking skills to pick apart the gutsy Dennis Siver on the main card, while Winner took a decision over Rafaello Oliveira in the prelims. Pearson is just 25 with a lot of developing still to do, and he's 3-0 in the UFC. It may be difficult to make out more than every other word in his postfight interview, but keep an eye on this bloke.