Stann, Silva make gains at UFC 125
There were many satisfying finishes at UFC 125 before the underwhelming draw
Brian Stann logged the biggest upset of the night, knocking out Chris Leben in one
Other risers from Saturday include Thiago Silva, Clay Guida, Jeremy Stephens
So UFC 125 didn't exactly end with a "Resolution" as promised. Lightweight champ Frankie Edgar fought five hard rounds with Gray Maynard only to draw on final scorecards in the event's headliner. No matter, there were still plenty of good finishes this past Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and with a third match between Edgar and Maynard now in the works, let's take a look at some of the winners and losers from the supporting cast.
Brian Stann (10-3): In the biggest upset on the card, "All-American" Stann leapfrogged Chris Leben for a marquee middleweight fight with a first-round knockout. It was a nice slap to the face of oddsmakers who had him as a dog, and he in turn fought like he had nothing to lose, matching Leben's reckless aggression punch-for-punch. He now joins middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva as one of only two to stop "The Crippler" with strikes. It may be a while before Stann is ready to face division contenders, but he wants and certainly deserves a shot at a top-10 guy. He got cracking on that wish following his triumph by requesting a meeting with Wanderlei Silva, the man Leben called out five months prior. He's got a shot to win that, too, if he doesn't get caught up in Silva's fury.
Thiago Silva (15-2): It's always great to see a tribute to legendary percussionist Gene Krupa, especially when it's inside a cage and a Brazilian is using an American as a snare drum. Spurred by some dismissive in-fight chatter, Silva got all medieval on Brandon Vera in the fight's final round and broke Vera's nose with some hard slaps from up top on the mat. He didn't fare nearly as well when the action stayed on its feet, but after spending a year on the sidelines with a back injury, he probably didn't want to jeopardize his place on the light heavyweight ladder by providing a target for Vera's sick Muay Thai.
Now that Silva is back on the horse, give him a fight with the resurgent Stephan Bonnar or Matt Hamill. And Thiago? Let em' fly.
Clay Guida (28-11): Otherwise known as "The Carpenter," or simply, "The Dude," Guida did a little Dance Dance Revolution before submitting former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi with a slick guillotine. Guida, owner of the best between-round belch in the UFC -- check out the promo video for this past Saturday's event as proof -- had a post-fight thank-you list of War and Peace duration and invoked The Big Lebowski before getting the cane. He'll console himself with a "Submission of the Night" bonus that put an extra $60,000 in his pocket. (Maybe now he'll stop paying for milk with checks.)
Anyway, it's the third consecutive win for Guida, and he deserves another go at the top rung of lightweight competition -- but he'll likely get a few buildup fights before that happens. He's still due for a fight with Sean Sherk -- they were scheduled to meet this past March before the former champion bowed out with an injury -- and if "The Muscle Shark" comes out of the wading pool, that sounds like a good fit. Jeremy Stephens is also a fun fight. And there's submission ace Mark Bocek, who's a few weeks removed from a slick sub of Dustin Hazelett.
Jeremy Stephens (19-6): "Lil' Heathen" and his trainers were furious about the result of his previous fight, a split-decision loss to Melvin Guillard at UFC 119, so this past Saturday's win was an important morale booster for the team. Veteran Marcus Davis was game to stand and trade, and that's all Stephens wanted after Guillard's hit-and-run plan. Eventually, it paid off big when he laid Davis out cold with a sneaky but powerful right hand.
Still, there are lessons to be learned. He took a lot of punches en route to victory and was almost knocked out on two separate occasions. Always aggressive, he'll need to find a happy medium between swinging for that home run and keeping his technique intact. A fight with recent winner Mac Danzig could be just the ticket for that, with Danzig's ground prowess keeping him honest in striking exchanges.
Dustin Poirer (9-1): The 21-year-old Louisiana resident shattered WEC standout Josh Grispi's momentum on the televised prelims with a dominant display of kickboxing that left Grispi playing duck and cover for half of the fight. Grispi had perviously earned all 14 of his victories in the first round with just one professional setback, and Poirer just made him look like an amateur. He's one to look out for in the post-merger world of featherweights, and with the performance he put on, it's not a stretch to give him the slot Grispi had for a meeting with current titleholder Jose Aldo, who's back in the gym training in recent weeks.
Chris Leben (25-7): The Ultimate Fighter 1 veteran's days as a gunslinger who takes three to land one are numbered. His lumbering movement proved an easy target to Stann and ultimately set up his demise when Stann met his winging shots with tighter, mechanically balanced punches. It's back to the drawing board once again, perhaps against preliminary-card victor Brad Tavares.
Brandon Vera (11-6): With a third consecutive loss to Thiago Silva and an overall octagon record of 7-6, Vera is likely to be looking for work soon. Sadly, it's on the heels of a performance in which he finally was able to pull the trigger and use the striking weapons that brought him great acclaim early in his career. But Silva wisely kept those exchanges few and far between, and a lack of takedown defense meant Silva could beat Vera like a drum during the three-round fight. Expect to see Vera turn up on the regional circuit in an attempt to put together a few wins before another shot in the UFC.
Takanori Gomi (32-7): Gomi got derailed by Guida's flashdance and failed to protect his neck when Guida moved toward a guillotine choke, which put some method to Guida's happy-footed madness. Once one of the most feared men in the planet at lightweight, Gomi is now 1-2 inside the octagon with both losses coming by way of submission. The setback erases much of the good standing brought to his stock after a surprise KO of Tyson Griffin in August, so it's back to basics for "The Fireball Kid." He'll get a mid to low-tier lightweight in his next outing, and if he doesn't pull it together, it's bye-bye.
Marcus Davis (17-8): "The Irish Hand Grenade" had outfoxed Stephens for two rounds and was well on his way to a decision victory when Stephens caught him midway through the third. It was not at all how Davis envisioned his first fight in the lightweight division, which came after going 1-3 in his four most recent appearances at welterweight. He has one fight left on his contract, and while his longstanding ties with Dana White ensure he'll stay in good standing with the UFC, he may not elect to fulfill his final obligation. He was sitting on the fence about retirement with the announcement of his move to 155 pounds, and another bad knockout could ratchet up retirement pressure from his inner circle.
Phil Baroni (13-13): "The New York Badass" suffered his seventh loss inside the octagon against The Ultimate Fighter 11 alum Brad Tavares on the Ion-televised prelims, and its a forgone conclusion that he's on the cut list after back-to-back losses. There are few guys with his resume that are as beloved -- his rant to Frank Shamrock is still one of my favorite opuses in trash talk -- but character and career only work in tandem for so long in this business. The UFC could give him one last fight, for old time's sake, and legions of fight-nerd fans would love that. But Christmas is over, and it's time for the promotion to start shedding weight. Sad to see you go, Phil.