UFC returned to New Jersey for its 15th installment on FOX, and we’ve come a long way from their first broadcast on the network, an hour long advertising affair that yielded one first round knockout. The UFC is now fully able to leverage its FOX cards to put on some free, highly marketable matches, and last night they more or less nailed the formula.
The best fights are the ones that have stories, and UFC on FOX 15 wrote numerous chapters for its competitors. It was a night for the underdogs, and a night full of some of the best fighting we’ve seen from several fighters. Beneil Dariush, Max Holloway, and Paige VanZant looked great as they thoroughly dismantled some of their best opponents to date. Ovince Saint Preux returned to the win column, Takeya Mizugaki continued his decline, and Diego Brandao separated Jimy Hettes from most of his left ear.
Paige VanZant’s training with Team Alpha Male is becoming more and more apparent, as she was almost Faberesque in her stifling of Felice Herrig. VanZant stayed in Herrig’s face and was repeatedly able to take Felice off of her feet en route two a three round decision that saw two of the judges giving VanZant a 10-8 round. At 21, VanZant is now 2-0 in the UFC. Herrig drops to 10-6 overall.
Max Holloway put on a performance that’s sure to launch him further up he featherweight ladder as a beat a surprisingly slower, more flat-footed Cub Swanson than we’re used to seeing. Despite having similar reach, Holloway’s height enabled him to keep the smaller Swanson just within his punching range while staying out of his opponent’s. His creative striking was the key, though. Whereas Swanson was looking for the knockout counter-punch, Holloway routinely switched stances and targeted multiple areas of Swanson’s body. By comparison, Swanson seemed much slower and more flat-footed than he did in previous fights.
The co-main was fairly unremarkable in a ‘why are we even doing this again?’ kind of way. Dana White furiously expressed how difficult it is to find someone to fight Jacare on six days notice earlier in the week, but that doesn’t mean we needed to see this for any reason other than allowing Souza to compete for his paycheck. Chris Camozzi earned a new UFC contract by agreeing to play blood sacrifice to the Brazilian alligator god of jiu-jitsu. It played out in a similar manner as their first fight. Unfortunately, a fight that just a week ago had the potential to serve as a precursor to a title shot for Jacare became little more than a risky spectacle. Defeating Camozzi soundly could have solidified Souza’s shot at the belt, but that left too much hinging on the performances of the main eventers.
And that’s exactly the problem. Souza made a statement, but Rockhold made a declaration. The former Strikeforce middleweight champ put on the performance of a lifetime by completely manhandling an opponent that nobody manhandles. From bell to bell of the first, it was all Rockhold. Machida’s eye was swollen shut and he was visibly staggering on his way to the corner. Rockhold quickly flattened out Machida in the second and tapped him. Machida was rumored to be injured going into the fight, and that may be a huge factor in the loss, but Machida’s spirit was clearly broken as he tapped. Numerous foes have beaten the dragon, some convincingly, but nobody has ever SLAYED Machida in such fashion. And the worst part? Rockhold came out to the Karate Kid song. :(