mma

UFC 152: Expectations vs. reality

A good, strong pay-per-view card was exactly what the UFC needed after a summer of injuries, other bad news and the first major cancellation in the promotion’s history. Attendance in Toronto was a puzzler — a couple thousand and a couple million less than the UFC’s December visit to the same venue. But it likely did good business on TV, and it didn’t disappoint.

Here’s what happened and how it compared to the fight odds and various gut feelings:

Kyle Noke vs. Charlie Brenneman (welterweight)

What we expected: Former contender Brenneman working his way back up against TUF alum Noke, who was dropping a weight class in either a shrewd move of a bit of desperation.

What we got: A 45-second demolition by Noke.

Mitch Gagnon vs. Walel Watson (bantamweight)

What we expected: A tough bout for the long-limbed Watson, trying to maintain his UFC status after two losses, against Ontario’s own Gagnon.

What we got: Watson leaped in for the ever-risky Superman punch, and Gagnon countered perfectly with a powerful left hand. Gagnon cleaned up with a rear naked choke for his first UFC win, needing just 69 seconds to do it.

Simeon Thoreson vs. Seth Baczynski (welterweight)

What we expected: A toss-up bout between an intriguing Norwegian prospect and a gritty TUF alum. (Thoreson is the Norwegian, in case you couldn’t guess.) Bloody Elbow thought this would be a ground-fighting battle.

What we got: Thoreson was picking Baczynski apart on the feet until … bam. One good left from Baczynski sent Thoreson toppling face-first, and referee Big John McCarthy raced in to pull Baczynski away and stop the fight.

(Total time of the three Facebook fights: 6:04.)

Jimy Hettes vs. Marcus Brimage (featherweight)

What we expected: Another step up the ladder for Hettes, who was so impressive in wiping out Nam Phan. The oddsmakers had this one as the second-widest gap between favorite and underdog on this card. (Jones over Belfort was No. 1.)

What we got: Sharp striking from Brimage and a well-deserved unanimous decision for the TUF alum, who looks much better now than he did on the show.

Sean Pierson vs. Lance Benoist (welterweight)

What we expected: Hard to say. The odds favored the far younger Benoist, but Pierson had the experience edge and the home crowd. And Benoist was fighting on relatively short notice.

What we got: A good one. Pierson had the better of it until the end, when he got tagged and had to survive a late onslaught. Pierson got the decision.

Evan Dunham vs. T.J. Grant (lightweight)

What we expected: A Fight of the Night contender. Dunham was on the rise until “losing” a ridiculous decision to Sean Sherk, though he  was set back a bit more with his loss to Melvin Guillard. Grant was OK at welterweight but has looked good at lightweight.

What we got: Fight of the Night. Grant bloodied Dunham badly but had to work to eke out a close decision. Dunham disagreed.

Igor Pokrajac vs. Vinny Magalhaes (light heavyweight)

What we expected: A classic striker-vs.-grappler matchup, with the underrated Pokrajac likely to take the win if he could stay out of the grappling specialist’s armbar.

What we got: He didn’t stay out of the armbar.

Cub Swanson vs. Charles Oliveira (featherweight)

What we expected: Another grappling showcase for Oliveira.

What we got: A stunning knockout, with Oliveira falling in slow motion. On a night of big knockouts, Swanson won the bonus. After after being merely above-average in WEC competition, he looks like a powerful force in the UFC.

Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett (light heavyweight)

What we expected: An easy tune-up for Hamill in his return from retirement.

What we got: A boring tune-up for Hamill in his return from retirement. Formerly a dominating wrestler, Hamill looked like a slow kickboxer. Two takedowns and the ensuing ground-and-pound — effective in subduing both his opponent and the crowd — were enough to earn an easy decision.

Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann (middleweight)

What we expected: The hype rang hollow — did anyone think Bisping was doing anything other than playing the “heel” role in his taunts of one of the sport’s all-time good guys? But it was still an intriguing matchup, with the ever-dangerous Bisping sure to test Stann.

What we got: Bisping looked fantastic. Stick, move, stick again, takedown. Stann simply had no answers. And yes, Bisping showed a ton of respect for Stann in the postfight interview, which should shock absolutely no one. This was never a genuine feud.

Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez (flyweight title fight)

What we expected: A barnburner between two perfect examples of the fast pace and superb technique in the new flyweight class.

What we got: A barnburner that mysteriously drew boos from some in the crowd. Dana White rightly questioned their intelligence. Great fight, good decision win for the sharp Johnson despite a powerful  fourth round for Benavidez.

Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort (light heavyweight title fight)

What we expected: No more than a puncher’s chance for the accomplished but aging Belfort against the supremely talented Jones.

What we got: Puncher’s chance? We meant submission chance. Belfort pulled guard several times and had Jones in serious trouble with an armbar in the first round that may have damaged Jones’ arm. Yet Jones, to me at least, never looked like he was going to tap. Jones maneuvered his way out, then went to work with his elbow-heavy ground-and-pound attack. In the next couple of rounds, he put on a kicking clinic, dropping Belfort with a strong body kick. By the fourth, Belfort had little left to offer, and Jones landed on top of him in side control. Only a few seconds later, Belfort tapped to a keylock.

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