The UFC’s return to pay-per-view was far from desirable for the promotion. The card broke the record for most decisions on a card (10), featured a few instances of bad judging and refereeing, and largely lacked action packed fights. Even with all of these negatives, the card still featured fighters that put on career performances. Take a look at the top performers from UFC 169:
1. Renan Barao
There is no denying that Renan Barao is the best fighter at 135 pounds. Barao put an absolute beating on top contender Urijah Faber before ending the fight with hammerfists in the first round. Whether you agree with the stoppage or not, there is no denying that Barao was well on his way to winning. What made Barao’s performance so impressive was the fact that he destroyed the best Urijah Faber we have ever seen. Coming into the fight, fans and media were focusing on the improvements Faber had made since his first fight with Barao. Almost nobody focused on the improvements in Barao’s game. Most were expecting a competitive bout, but were instead treated to a mauling. Don’t look now but Renan Barao is well on his way to becoming the Fedor Emelianenko of lighter weight fighters.
2. Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner
What UFC 169 lacked in action was more than made up for with the violence that came from Jamie Varner versus Abel Trujillo. Varner largely controlled the first round with crisp, technical striking but Trujillo never seemed to be out of the fight. Varner would hit Trujillo with slick combinations but “Killa” would fire back with huge right and left hands. The second round was more of the same with Varner landing the more technical strikes while Trujillo would hit air with his haymakers. Then, it happened. Trujillo uncorked a huge right hand that made Varner faceplant into the canvas. The finish was one of the most brutal in recent history.
Yes, Varner lost but both Trujillo and himself are in better positions because of the quality of their fight. On a card where most of the fights were lackluster, Varner and Trujillo provided one of the very few bright spots. Their efforts will not go unnoticed by Dana White and the rest of the UFC brass. Look for each man to be in a featured fight for their next outing.
3. Ultimate Fighter Veterans
The Ultimate Fighter has received a lot of slack in recent years for featuring fighters with personality over fighters with true skill. Al Iaquinta, Clint Hester, and Neil Magny all took significant steps towards shedding the TUF stereotype with impressive wins at UFC 169. Iaqunita took on debuting Kevin Lee in a bout that was an early favorite for fight of the night. Iaqunita was dominant in the first round but nearly submitted in the second round. With the fight tied at one round a piece, Iaqunita came out in the third round and took the fight to Lee. The third round was close, but all three judges scored it for Iaquinta. Iaquinta showed improvements to his submission defense and that he has the ability to come back from grim situations.
Clint Hester battered Andy Enz for fifteen minutes en-route to a unanimous decision victory. Two of the largest critiques of Hester have been his grappling and conditioning. Hester was able to defend a takedown against Enz which was a vast improvement from his days on the Ultimate Fighter. Hester also showed much improved conditioning. Hester had Enz badly hurt in the first round but paced himself instead of going for the finish and gassing out. If Hester keeps improving, he could find himself as a top ten middleweight in the next two years.
Neil Magny lost in the semi-finals of TUF 16, one of the most boring and talentless seasons in the history of the show. His performance against Gasan Umalatov made his stint on the Ultimate Fighter a distant memory. Magny has always been known as a fighter who had all of the physical tools to be successful but was never able to put it all together. Magny’s dominant performance against Umalatov could mean that he has made the necessary adjustments to his game and will be a formidable foe for anyone in the welterweight division.
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