Mac Danzig’s moment in the sun has been a long time coming, but he proved why he deserved it last night in his dominating victory over Tommy Speer. Forget the hype about the country-strong farm boy against the Hollywood vegan. This fight was about experience and technique. Danzig had both and Speer had neither.
It took only two minutes for Danzig to get Speer to the mat, gain the mount, and secure a rear naked choke. Judging by Speer’s face afterward you might have thought it was a three-round war, but that just goes to show that Danzig truly was head and shoulders above the competition on this season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Danzig said even before the fight that he plans to move down to lightweight, where he belongs, so it should be interesting to see who the UFC puts him against now that he’s won the “six-figure contract”. They’ve shown a penchant for protecting their reality show winners for the first year or so after their victory, but I can’t help but wonder if Danzig’s dominating run through the competition on the show will mandate that he be tested right away against a legitimate 155-pound contender.
One such contender — now that Sean Sherk has reportedly been stripped of the title following his failed steroid suspension appeal — has to be Roger Huerta. He showed all the poise and skill of a champion in his exciting win over Clay Guida last night, weathering early pressure from the Cro-Magnon-like ball of energy that is Guida, eventually locking in a rear naked choke in the third round.
Guida looked good early on, taking Huerta down at will and remaining unphased no matter how many punches and kicks he had to eat on the way in. But Huerta never got frustrated and kept a steady pressure on Guida, wearing him down before eventually submitting him.
Huerta’s calm under extreme duress seemed particularly impressive last night. Immediately after being taken down he looked slightly annoyed, if anything, and would then begin working back to his feet as if it was already a foregone conclusion that he would get there. I was a little surprised that his takedown defense wasn’t better than it was, but if that’s the biggest hole in his game it’s a relatively easy one to fix.
As Kenny Florian pointed out, however, one thing Huerta will have to learn as he faces tougher competition is that sometimes he should settle for gaining a superior position on the mat instead of always looking for the quick submission. Several times Huerta attempted to roll right into an armbar or kneebar instead of just moving into a better position to strike from, and Guida was wily enough to escape and maintain control at the same time.
This is the kind of thing that “El Matador” will surely learn with more experience against top-tier opponents. The UFC should give him all serious contenders from here on out and see if he really has what it takes to be a champion. They’ve groomed him enough and we should see his next fight come against someone like Florian, which ought to give us an idea of exactly where he stands in the division.
In the other fights of the night, Jared Rollins and John Koppenhaver put on an exhilarating show in their back-and-forth match, and in the process Koppenhaver proved he’s not the fragile-minded fighter he looked like on the show. Rollins missed several good opportunities to end the fight and saw it all come unglued when he got swept with a move straight out of Jiu-Jitsu 101, giving “War Machine” the mount and the chance to pound him into unconsciousness.
Matt Arroyo also looked good in his submission over John Kolosci, proving that his ground game might really be as good as advertised.
Ben Saunders and Dan Barrera fought to another decision, though this one more decisive in Saunders’ favor.
Troy “Rude Boy” Mandaloniz continued to prove his toughness and punching power with a TKO victory over Richie Hightower, despite letting his inexperience show when he failed to go after Hightower after hurting him several times early on.
All in all, a very successful event for a free TV UFC card, and one that provided more top-to-bottom entertainment value than some of the recent pay-per-views.