For the first time in the history of the UFC a main event card consisted entirely of heavyweight bouts. Having heard this months ago I was a bit weary as heavyweights tend to have matches that if having gone the distance to a judges decision gradually lose their energy and can be pretty boring. Given the opposite end each fight could end in devastating fashion via the typical kind of knockout power that is so prevalent within the heavyweight class. Luckily for fans each fight was relatively short and exciting with what I would deem a pretty incredible success given how it could have ended.
In the first fight of the night is Stefan Struve taking on Lavar Johnson. Standing at 6 foot and 11 inches Struve is the tallest fighter in the UFC roster. Being so tall he doesn't resemble the typical heavyweight fighter as he appears more like a middleweight but it's pretty evident how deserved of his size how he should be a heavyweight when he's placed next to his opponent (Just look at the stare-down between Struve and Pat Barry to prove my point). Struve has proved to be the uncommon Jiu-Jitsu specialist and has ended a number of his fights by submission. Also worth mentioning is the fact that only one of his fights has ever gone the distance in his 29 career bouts. Johnson, like Struve, also has a pension for ending his fights early with his own career never having seen the judges card. He's a rather dangerous striker having earned two knockout of the nights since entering the UFC. While I won't say it was a battle of styles, as Struve is perfectly content with striking on the standup, this fight ends early with one fighter's strength catching an early finish to start the evening with a resounding tempo that would set the pace for the night.
Up to this point both Stipe Miocic and Shane del Rosario weren't very well known but both had kept undefeated records and when two undefeated fighters come face to face I think the fight always plays out more interesting than not. Miocic is a wrestler with a striking style for boxing and has utilized both within his UFC career, having successfully controlled his debut match as well as earning Knockout of the Night honors in his last fight. Del Rosario is a muay thai striker entering the UFC with a record that boasts finishes that have all occurred within the first two rounds of any of his fights. This fight didn't start off with the same kind of bang the last fight did but once each fighter found their groove things started getting interesting. It's in the second round that someone finally gets a clear cut advantage before finishing the other with some really nasty ground and pound.
Roy Nelson is best known as having won the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then he's had a run of good and bad luck. From the point in which he won The Ultimate Fighter he went on to win his next fight by KO within the first round. It was looking like he would enter the upper echelon of fighters in the heavyweight division until he fought against current champ Junior dos Santos. From there he's only won a single fight of his last three, losing the likes of Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum, so this next fight would hold some very interesting questions in regards to his future within the UFC. Nelson's opponent, Dave Herman, was in a similar situation. He's built a lot like a light heavyweight in the way he looks and moves but still contains the power of a heavyweight fighter. He won his debut match and earned a fight of the night in the process before fighting Stefan Struve and getting stopped from building any momentum. So with a run in the UFC already split down the middle so short after his debut he was looking to prove himself in a big way. The fight itself is short and by short I mean this is literally the fastest fight on the entire main card lasting little under a minute. The best way I can put it is think of the "one-punch-can-end-it-at-any-time" philosophy. The ending really doesn't have much of a buildup and when it hits, boy does it hit hard and fast. Easily one of my favorite knockouts in quite some time.
Antonio Silva is a heavyweight who was previously fighting in the Strikeforce organization. Silva is a decent striker with notable power and nasty ground and pound while also holding a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. He also holds notable victories over Andrei Arlovski and Fedor Emelianenko. He was looking to make a big name for himself in his debut in the UFC and what better way to do that than by taking on former champion Cain Velasquez. Velasquez became champion after dethroning Brock Lesnar in arguably the biggest match of 2010. He was undefeated and looked damn near unstoppable but was sidelined by a shoulder injury which kept him out of competition for little over a year. When he returned he was once again in one of the most pivotal matches of the year but unfortunately for him the results were very different. Junior dos Santos claimed the throne of top dog in the heavyweight division with one right hand and so ended the reign of Velasquez. With this being the first fight for Velasquez since losing his title he was looking to make claim to number one contendership with an impressive performance. It's really unfortunate for the loser of this fight because he certainly didn't have much in the way of showing for himself the kind of strengths he has because the victor pretty much took it away from him. This starts off fast and within seconds of the first round there is an absolute blitz of strikes thrown until blood was literally pouring everywhere. Fans can best compare the fight between BJ Penn and Joe Stevenson where a one-sided beating created one of the most visual bloodbaths in the history of the UFC. This was the same thing. The victor looked downright scary by taking his opponent and not giving him a second to shine on almost any level beyond surviving for as long as he did. This is the fight that came across to me as the biggest message of the evening.
In the main event Junior dos Santos looked to defend his title against Frank Mir. Dos Santos has looked pretty unstoppable in his UFC career. Having yet to loss once in his UFC run he has thrown big name after big name down and with devastating fashion by showcasing what is arguably the best boxing in the heavyweight division. His latest victim earned him the heavyweight title and now he was looking to claim the honor of being a considered a "true" champion by defending his title. Originally it was supposed to be Alistair Overeem but Overeem failed his drug test following his victory over Brock Lesnar last December and was unable to secure a proper license to complete so Frank Mir was pulled from his original fight with Cain Velasquez and given a shot at dos Santos' title. Mir is himself an extremely decorated heavyweight. He's a two time champion and also holds the distinction of holding the most victories of any heavyweight with a UFC career. His most notable skill is his absolutely destructive Jiu-Jitsu skills which was shown in pretty vividly in his submission of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira where Mir broke Nogueira's right humerus. While Mir has demonstrated some very impressive striking it was agreed by most that Mir's striking wouldn't be able to compete with dos Santos' so most people assumed this would be a battle of styles with Mir attempting to take this fight to the ground and dos Santos keeping the fight on the feet. What occurred was kind of how it was thought it would play out. With two different game plans each being played out it eventually came down to who could put his best to use and the answer came pretty quickly following the first minute of the opening round. What followed was something closer to someone being toyed with as opposed to a fight. Thankfully this ends in the second round before two much damage is done. While I remain a fan of both fighters I was relieved to see this fight come to an end when it did.
It's kinda funny that the one fight that didn't exactly live up to the rest of the card was the main event itself I still consider this event an incredible success. Like I said before, given an all heavyweight card this could have gone in all kinds of wrong ways but all the matches on the main card played out well. In what may possibly be the quickest main event I can recall there were a number of prelims shown throughout the live broadcast, many of which were very impressive as well filled with some devastating knockouts and finishes. So far, while it may not have the all around kind of classic that was seen between Edgar/Henderson on UFC 144 this card definitely delivered.