Hometown Heroes Face-Off in Denver (UFC Fight Night 60 Review)

ufc_fn60Fighting is one of the toughest sports that an athlete can be in as it takes a special type of person to step into an octagon where their opponent is looking to hurt them. They go through hell in the octagon but the worst part is often leading up to the fight were these fighters have to go through months of rigorous training just to prepare for a fight and there is often an extra component that can make it tougher. Cutting weight is something that is unique to combat sports as weight classes create a need to get to the right weight for every person. That is a lot easier said than done as fighters look to have the biggest advantage that they can get by cutting enough weight that allows them to be the biggest and strongest in a division without losing too much weight to the point where they lose their energy. It is a balancing act and for some it is something that they continue to struggle to achieve. That was the case for the now #1 contender in the light heavyweight division, Anthony Johnson. For years he tried to fight in the middleweight division but often missed weight cuts that lost him big parts of his purse and lost the respect of the brass at the UFC. Kelvin Gastelum is going through that issue right now as he missed his last weight cut and now has moved up to the middleweight division to give him a better cut. Not every fighter struggles with the cut though and although they are not thrilled to be cutting they have got it down to a science. Benson Henderson has always been one of those fighters as he has fought and won in the lightweight division for the last few years. He has always been the biggest lightweight in the division and that has often been to his advantage. He is bigger and stronger than many lightweights but as his career progresses the cut will always get tougher. So when the UFC called up to offer him a fight at welterweight only weeks after a loss to Donald Cerrone in the lightweight division he jumped at the chance to enter a new weight class. It is by no means a declaration that he is leaving the lightweight division but as h ages lightweight will be tougher to compete in and so he is preparing now. He would not have to go through another big cut to take another fight just over a month after his last fight. It not only gave him the chance to get into a new weight class but let him take a chance to get back to winning. After dropping two straight in the lightweight division Henderson is caught in no-man’s land in that weight class as there are too many fighters ahead of him now for a title shot. In the welterweight division he enters as a former UFC champion and if he can win a few fights he may be fast tracked to the title once the clutter at the top is solved. In his way to making an impression in his first welterweight fight will be Brandon Thatch who is riding a 10-fight win streak into his first UFC main event. After entering the UFC in 2013 Thatch has not been very active due to a broken toe suffered in 2014 but he is back and looking to make an impression against a former UFC champion. Both Colorado fighters were also getting their chance to make that impression in a home crowd as the Colorado Springs native, Henderson, took on the Denver native, Thatch, in a matchup of striker versus wrestler. With Henderson no longer the most powerful fighter he was looking to lean on his wrestling ability to take out the striking Thatch in an exciting main event. Henderson went into the fight believing that he could stand or wrestle with Thatch but early got a lesson in what it is like to be the small man in the octagon. Thatch took over the striking game quickly as Henderson was forced to use his speed to avoid the big shots that were coming his way. Through two rounds the stand-up game was leaning heavily to one side of the octagon. Henderson got used to his new role though and with Thatch in the longest fight of his career after just the first round Henderson’s experience shone through. He began working his way back into the fight through his wrestling and in the fourth sunk in a tight Rear Naked Choke that handed Thatch only his second loss throughout his entire career. The loss will likely be taken as a learning opportunity for the young fighter as he is sure to be back and beginning another title run. The win for Henderson is a big one as he proved that he can hang in the welterweight division and with a call out to Rory MacDonald after the fight he may be staying for a little longer.

As Thatch stepped into the octagon for the first time in over a year another fighter was trying to get back on the right track. Cole Miller has often been one of the more frustrating fighters to watch as he seems like a great fighter but can’t put together enough wins. As a lightweight he was up and down constantly winning two fights only to lose his third. When he won it seemed like he was on his way to a title run but then he would lose and end any momentum. After entering the featherweight division in 2012 it got worse as he lost his first two fights before winning his first against Bart Palaszewski. Then he seemed to be back to his old ways after beating Andy Ogle and Sam Sicilia which set up a big fight against one of the most exciting featherweights in the division. Miller was set to be another opponent for Conor McGregor on his way to the title shot but a hand injury ended that fight and kept Miller out for just over a year. Whether he would have been successful against McGregor is not really worth talking about but just as Miller was getting something going he was put on the sidelines. He took his chance to earn his first three-fight win streak in the UFC against Max Holloway. Holloway has built up a great win streak for himself winning four fights in a row and slowly moving up the division. He was hoping that Miller continued his pattern and lost this fight to move him further into the title conversation. The fight matched the striking and endless cardio of Holloway to the BJJ and relentless submissions of Miller in another striker versus grappler on the night. Miller chose not to go after the takedown immediately though as he looked to out strike the striker and for a while that worked well but a two head butts in the second round seemed to end any hope that Miller had. The first occurred when Miller pulled Holloway towards him while the second was simply Holloway going in on Miller too aggressively. The two head butts opened a cut above Miller’s eye and set a distraction for the final frame. The distraction proved to be the difference as Holloway went into the third round and simply outdid Miller in the stand-up game. Miller tried to get the fight to the ground in the final frame but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lopsided round. When the bell rang it was Holloway who took the win while Miller took another loss. For Miller the pattern continued as his two wins led to a loss as he continued to struggle to get anything going although he is sure t be back. Holloway on the other hand owns one of the longest winning streaks in the division at five straight fights. He is sure to be back and ready to take on better competition as he looks to move into title conversation with a few more wins.

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