Post fight notes: UFC 192 edition

From the illegible scratchings of my notebook to your computer, tablet or smartphone screen, post fight notes is an in depth analysis of some of the finest technical action from a weekend of combat sports action. The piece will take a look at 3 select fights from the card picked for no reason other than my own personal preference, if you saw anything you thought should have be included or have a suggestion for the next piece, feel free to leave a comment or get at me on Twitter – @Hugh_OD

So this Sage Northcutt dude, eh? – Sage Northcutt vs Francisco Trevino 

I would be doing myself a disservice as analyst by not throwing Sage Northcutt’s name into this article. As I outlined in the week leading up to the fight, Northcutt came into his UFC debut with a lot of hype, and in order to capitalise and continue to gain momentum, he needed to do something big.

Anyone keeping up with the MMA Twittersphere now knows that Northcutt delivered, stopping Trevino in under a minute and opening a lot of eyes to his potential as a mixed martial artist. But what did he give us to take away from his brief performance?

One thing thats apparent right off the bat is that Northcutt is unorthodox, he has a signature karate stance – a little more side on than a traditional Muay Thai/Kickboxing stance, doesn’t mind switching between orthodox and southpaw and likes to fight from a distance to work his counters. This desire to fight at a distance was made clear by his desire to throw a side kick from his lead leg, I liked watching the variance of his use of the technique, with his movement so refined that his opponent will find it hard to pick whether the kick is coming to the leg, body or head and thus finding it difficult to move past.

Once the action got going it was also clear that Northcutt works excellently in scrambles, the fight finishing flurry came courtesy not from a knockdown as such, but from Trevino slipping off of a kick, it shows a combination of speed and killer instinct to capitalise on an opponent from a situation like this, and once Nortcutt committed to hunting for the finish he would not be denied, starting with a lightning fast flurry of hands and moving seamlessly into a smooth double leg to gain control of Treveno rather than tiring himself out throwing punches on the feet.

If I had to knock on Northcutt’s performance anywhere, it would simply be due to the fact that his victory, while quick and impressive, relied on his opponent throwing a poorly thought out technique and paying for it, something he likely won’t find closer to the top of the division. In addition, committing to a barrage of punches the way he did works fine when your opponent is overwhelmed and content to stand with his back to the cage, but it will be interesting to see how Northcutt matches up with someone a little more savvy in the footwork department. My pick for Northcutt’s follow up? – Former Muay Thai champion Shane Campbell.

What does it take to get a little credit around here? – Ryan Bader vs Rashad Evans 

In the UFC 192 co-main event Ryan Bader notched the biggest win of his career and moved his current win streak to 5 with a unanimous decision victory over former champion and perennial contender Rashad Evans. The main question coming out of the bout was whether the in was due more to Bader’s development as an athlete or Evans’ ring rust. A debate that is essentially impossible to solve but I feel takes away from some of the incredible strides Bader has made in his Striking game in recent years.

The first instance of Bader really sparking my interest in the bout is when he landed a clean right cross as Evans attempted to close distance, snapping his head back and disrupting his movement, but rather than rushing in to land more, pacing himself and opting not to risk getting caught in a reckless exchange. This is a testament to how much Bader has matured, as patience in exchanges has not been his strong suit.

Rounds 2-3 showed Bader sticking to a logical game plan like glue, he knows that in past performances Rashad has liked to move in and string together combinations as he traps his opponents back to the cage, so Bader stayed right in the danger zone, willingly keeping close to the cage and catching Evans with well timed jabs and lead overhands, as well as wearing Evans down with some leg and body kicks, another aspect of Bader’s arsenal we have seen little of until recently, for a clear cut decision win.

In the past Bader has fallen short in pivotal contests but now he stands as a very real contender in the UFC light-heavyweight division, sadly for Bader a returning Jon Jones may derail his title hopes yet again, however he seems confident in his ability to continue his ascension and requested at the post fight presser that he be given the opportunity to avenge his last loss to Glover Teixeira, this is possibly the best fight to catapult Bader into title contention as his improvements will be on display if he can right his wrongs from the last time he and Teixeira were in the cage together.

If you sign on to fight Alexander Gustafsson, expect a tough nights work – Daniel Cormier vs Alexander Gustafsson 

Sadly for the men in the cage fighting for the light heavyweight title this weekend, the most talked about storyline in the lead up to the main event of UFC 192 was the potential return of Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson stole the show, however, and put on a fight that made sure they got the spotlight the deserved.

Cormier demonstrated in this fight just what an intelligent, high calibre fighter he is, an intricate control of range that included leaping hooks, and head-body-head level changing combinations that disrupted Gustafsson rhythm and made it difficult for him to engage his wrestle-boxer style that relies heavily on dictating distance. Cormier’s ability to keep the distance in the bout made it possible for him to mix in his wrestling attack and nullify the game of the Swede, and for the most part he managed to completely negate the height discrepancy between the two by utilising a strong single hand clinch to throw uppercuts.

I could go on about Cormier’s game plan execution but lets throw it over to Gustafsson, particularly the moment many thought he had finally snatched that elusive UFC championship in third round, it was evident at the point that Gustafsson was finding it hard to answer the clinch to uppercut that Cormier was using so effectively, but through sheer grit and determination,he finally found his opening  – as Cormier pressed his weight forward in the clinch, looking to advance his hand position and land yet another uppercut to Gustafsson’s already broken nose, Gustaffson widened his stance and steered Cormier toward the cage using his own forward momentum, slipping in a perfect straight knee to the head that sent Cormier to the mat.

From this point on the bout got considerably more difficult for the champion, who managed to execute his game plan to a lesser extent for the following two rounds, but still managed enough output to take the decision.

Cormier and Gustafsson out on a bout that injected some much needed excitement into the UFC’s light heavyweight division and I would not be at all surprised if this isn’t the last time we see them go at it, and with Jon Jones re-entering there are rematches aplenty ahead at 205.