Title races Finally get Moving in Vegas (UFC 181 Review)

ufc_181There has been a backlog in the UFC for the last year as top talent in big divisions continue to win and go nowhere for their efforts. No matter how impressive their win or how many wins they put together they have been unable to find their way to the title. It has been one of the most frustrating periods for fans and for the UFC in general as fight after fight goes by with less and less titles on the line. For everyone watching and everyone involved in the UFC it is a challenge as they love to put on and watch championship fights. The issue has been the fact that champions have been out of commission for the majority of 2014. Whether it was Jon jones and the rotating injuries that have put his opponents and himself out of fights or Chris Weidman wanting to take some time to heal up after a busy 2013. Whatever the reason it has been a tough period for the titles in the UFC and fighters continue struggle to find their way in the pursuit of a title. It can be a very tough thing too as a fighter can do everything in his power to get to the title only to see his chance fade away after an injury takes the champion out. To stay active they take other fights and wait longer for another title shot. No matter what they do or anyone else around them does they are simply biding time until the champion is ready to return. That creates many problems in the UFC divisions as fighters continue to win and continue to move to within striking distance of a title shot but can never get there. It creates divisions full of potential title challengers with nobody able to get the title shot. Two of these divisions have been the lightweight and welterweight divisions. Both of these weight classes have seen few title fights in the past year with only one in the welterweight division and none in the lightweight division. With only one title fight in 2014 between these two divisions it was finally time to see the streak of inactivity end and it happened just in time to end the year with one of the biggest fight cards of the year. UFC 181 would see two title fights and would mark the beginning of what promises to be a whirlwind three months where a total of six titles will be on the line in four fight cards. The excitement built for a fight card with plenty on the line and taking the focus was the new welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. After years of Georges St. Pierre ruling the division Hendricks became the first new title holder in seven years when he beat Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 earlier in the year. After that fight Hendricks took time off to repair a torn bicep and has been on the shelf along with the belt since then. Lawler, on the other hand, has been only getting better in a very busy year. After losing a close fight for the title, Lawler won his next two fights and looked to only be getting better within the span of a few months. His efforts earned him another shot at the title when Hendricks returned to the octagon which came at UFC 181. It was an extremely close fight the first time around with Hendricks barely taking the win and the rematch was set to be much of the same. Two brawlers with slightly different backgrounds were ready to go again as another stand-up war seemed inevitable. It wasn’t necessarily the same as their first fight though and the stand-up war that was expected was not nearly as all-out as it had been before. The fight started with a very close first round but Hendricks began to take over the fight in the second. With a controlled striking game Hendricks began to take the fight and turn it to his favour. He had Lawler rocked a few times but never seemed too close to finishing it. Then Lawler began to show some urgency and in the fourth round started to get more aggressive. He ended the round on top of Hendricks using ground and pound to punish the champion. The fifth round ended the same way as it seemed like Hendricks was fine with taking the damage believing he was ahead enough to lose the last two and still win the fight. That wasn’t the case though as Lawler’s last two rounds pushed him to the win via split decision. The loss for Hendricks was so close that he will likely get another shot and this time will probably look to finish the fight. He will have to wait for that shot though as Rory MacDonald is next in line with a title fight promised to the Canadian after his last win. That will match Lawler and MacDonald against each other as MacDonald gets a chance to avenge one of his two losses against Lawler to win the title while Lawler looks to begin his reign.

Before Lawler was crowned as the new welterweight champion the lightweight division finally saw a title fight. With no title fights all throughout 2014 there were a lot of people waiting for this fight to happen in order to start to eliminate the title contenders. In one of the most talented divisions there are no shortage of potential opponents for the new champion Anthony Pettis. After injuries kept him out of the octagon for all of 2014 he finally got a chance to take on one of these contenders. The man opposite Pettis for his return to the octagon and his first ever title defence was Gilbert Melendez. A champion in almost any other promotion you can think of the one thing that Melendez couldn’t get was the UFC title. A loss to Benson Henderson was his first failed attempt at getting a UFC title and he was looking to make sure he didn’t fail for a second time. The two faced-off to finally get the lightweight division moving again and it looked like it could be a classic wrestler versus striker matchup. Pettis is extremely creative and throws anything from anywhere at anytime making him hard to prepare for. Going in to the fight it seemed like the best bet for Melendez was to use his wrestling background to take the creativity away from Pettis. Then again Melendez had stood and traded with some of the toughest and most powerful lightweight fighters in the world. It was possible that he would try to do the same thing against Pettis in hopes that he could catch him and end his reign as lightweight champion before it truly began. The plan seemed to be the former though as Melendez immediately looked for the takedown in the first round. Pettis was able to limit any damage from the takedowns as he continued to get back up and separate with his creative strikes. The second round opened again with Melendez trying to get the takedown but this time being much more unsuccessful. Pettis began to make him pay more and more for the takedown attempts with big shots that rocked Melendez. The takedowns were still the goal though and eventually Melendez got caught. While going for a takedown Melendez found himself in a guillotine that Pettis sunk in tight. There was no escape for Melendez and eventually he was forced to tap giving Pettis the win. It was the second title shot lost for Melendez which does not bode well for a return to the title any time soon. Instead he gets thrown to the sharks in what has been called the shark tank division of the UFC. If Melendez gives the UFC no choice he will get another title shot but he will need to put together a number of wins. For Pettis it is the beginning of his reign as champion and there is no shortage of contenders for him to face. With Khabib Nurmagomedov at the #2 spot right now and Donald Cerrone fighting next month expect one of those two names to be mentioned alongside Pettis. It was a fight card that finally got things moving and only started a big three months for the UFC as titles are on the line once again in the UFC.

Fight Bonuses

Performance of the Night
Anthony Pettis defending his belt for the first time and did it in style as he has become used to doing in earning a fight bonus for the Submission of Gilbert Melendez in the second round of their co-main event of the night

Performance of the Night
There was an explosive knockout that not a lot of people saw as it was in the prelims but that didn’t stop Dana White from handing Josh Samman the Performance of the Night bonus for his roundhouse kick KO

Fight of the Night
The Pettis brothers had a great night at UFC 181 both picking up wins and both picking up bonuses with Sergio taking home the Fight of the Night along with Matt Hobar for their preliminary fight

 

Fight Results

Main Event:
“Ruthless” Robbie Lawler def. Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks [Welterweight Title]
(Split Decision)

Main Card:
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis def. Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez [Lightweight Title]
(Submission; Guillotine Choke, Rd. 2)

Travis “Hapa” Browne def. Brendan “Big Brown” Schaub
(TKO; Rd. 1)

Todd Duffee def. Anthony Hamilton
(KO; Rd. 1)

Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson def. Abel “Killa” Trujillo
(Submission; Rear Naked Choke, Rd. 2)

Undercard:
“The California Kid” Urijah Faber def. Francisco “Cisco” River Jr.
(Submission; Bulldog Choke, Rd. 2)

Josh “Anqa” Samman def. Eddie “Truck” Gordon
(KO; Rd. 2)

Corey “Beastin 25/8” Anderson def. Justin “Lazy Bones” Jones
(Unanimous Decision)

“Rocky” Raquel Pennington def. Ashlee Evans-Smith
(Submission; Bulldog Choke, Rd. 1)

Sergio “The Phenom” Pettis def. Matt “The Crowbar” Hobar
(Unanimous Decision)

“Cassius” Clay Collard def. Alex “The Spartan” White
(Unanimous Decision)

 

Upcoming Events
The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale (Friday December 12th; 9:00 pm ET)
Las Vegas, Nevada (The Pearl at the Palms Casino)
Main Event: Matchup TBD [Women’s Strawweight Title]
Notable: Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephen vs. Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira
Notable: Joe Proctor vs. Yancy “The Kid” Medeiros

UFC on FOX 13: Dos Santos vs. Miocic (Saturday December 13th; 8:00 pm ET)
Phoenix, Arizona (U.S. Airways Arena)
Main Event: Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic
Notable: Nate Diaz vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
Notable: Alistair “The Reem” Overeem vs. Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve

UFC Fight Night 58: Machida vs. Dollaway (Saturday December 20th; 10:00 pm ET)
Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil (Jose Correa Gymnasium)
Main Event: Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida vs. C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway
Notable: Renan “The Baron” Barão vs. Mitch “The Machine” Gagnon
Notable: Patrick “Durkin” Cummins vs. Antônio Carlos “Cara de Sapato” Júnior

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