Written by: B. Weinstock
Let’s face it– fans weren’t exactly dying to see Saturday’s UFC event from The Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Heck, even the venue name left little to be desired. Think about it, the event had the unfortunate pleasure of being sandwiched between two events: the return of Carlos Condit last week, and the return of heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez next week (finally!). And let’s not forget that two weeks ago we saw two belts defended on the same card. Needless to say, the UFC hasn’t been shy on booking out venues across the country.
But the real issue with this card was the main event. Sure, die hards (myself included) always love a Hendo scrap– he always comes to fight. But when his fight vs. Tim Boetsch got promoted to headliner thanks to Jon Jones (I’ll cover him in another article), many fans said “I’ll record it and watch later.” I thought about doing that myself, but I just couldn’t stomach missing a UFC event, especially a free one. Fast forward to fight night…
WHAT. A. CARD.
There’s something to be said about fighters “showing up” when they’re relegated to a FS1 event. They might think “I need to earn my spot on the next PPV”, when in reality, Joe Silva probably just needs to fill spots on the multitude of cards they have scheduled– we are in the middle of a stretch of 8 fights in 9 weeks– see, lots of fighters needed. Whatever the case, I love it. Fight Night 68 featured 10 stoppages out of 12 fights. TEN. From hook kicks to gogo chokes, this card had it all. While each fight was fantastic in its own right, lets a take a look at the three main fights:
Dustin Poirier vs. Yancy Medeiros
Poirier wins via TKO at 2:38, Round 1
Poirier looks almost unstoppable at 155. Fighting in front of a hometown crowd, he took on a very game Medeiros. From the opening bell, it seemed like this fight wouldn’t last long. Yancy never stops coming, and Poirier has a renewed power at lightweight. After catching Medeiros with an overhand early, Dustin continued to land bomb after bomb. He landed a combination against the cage that was reminiscent of Chuck vs. Tito I. Credit to Yancy for never going out, but it was too much for any mortal man to take. The ref jumped in, and the crowd went nuts, presumably with smoothies in hand. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)
Poirier has now finished two fights in a row in the first round, and just might be in the title picture sooner rather than later. Yes, he just barely cracked the top 15, but the power in his hands makes him a threat to almost anyone in the division.
Ben Rothwell vs. Matt Mitrione
Rothwell wins via gogo choke at 1:54, Round 1
Well, that happened quickly. There was some trash talk leading into this one, and both guys were coming off back-back knockout victories. As predicted, they stood in the center of the cage and traded shots. Both guys landed some clean punches and leg kicks, and we started to get the feeling that a highlight reel KO was in the works. Then Mitrione went for a shot. Rothwell shrugged him off and immediately went for the neck, grabbing a gogo choke. He took Meathead to the ground, and the tap was almost instant.
The only thing more notable than Mitrione tapping with both hands (don’t remember the last time I saw that) was the bizarre post fight interview. Rothwell has clearly lost it, and the WWE infused act came off as a bit cheesy. He said he wants to avenge his KO loss to Arlovski in his next fight, and then fight for a title. For nostalgic purposes alone I hope this doesn’t happen, as I would love to see Andrei get a crack at championship gold all these years later. Honestly, Rothwell is in a tough place– he can beat the Mitriones and Schaubs off the world, but his awkward striking makes him target practice for Cain, Werdum, or Dos Santos. Perhaps he should fight Mark Hunt next, because, why not??
Dan Henderon vs. Tim Boetsch
Henderson wins via KO at :28, Round 1
Yes, it happened. Dan Henderson, 1-5 since his “Fight of the Century” nominated clash vs. Shogun. Dan Henderson, 44 years old and without the trivial TRT he was taking for so many years. Dan Henderson, the ageless wonder? Admit it– you NEVER thought he could win this fight. Ok, maybe you thought he had a slight chance, but via first round knockout? In some ways, it seemed like a fight tailor made to his strength– Boetsch would come forward, where Hendo could plant his right leg and throw a bomb. Even though it seemed plausible, he is 10 years older than Timmy, and has had some WARS in his storied career. He hasn’t looked good in a fight in quite some time. No chance, right?
And then it happened. The bell rang, and the MMA world was stunned. Henderson did EXACTLY what he knows how to do– finish fights. After taking a body kick and an over hand right from Boetsch, he decided to let the fight come to him. He backed up to avoid a Boetsch combination, planted his right leg and threw a straight right with bad intentions. Boetsch dropped but recovered to meet a knee in the face. They scrambled against the cage, where a well timed right uppercut spelled the end. And then it was over: The fans in New Orleans were screaming. Jon Anik was screaming. I was screaming.
For 28 seconds, it was the Hendo of old. He looked fast, deadly, and precise. He didn’t get careless and rush into a power shot like he did against Vitor and Shogun. It was a spectacular finish, and one that no MMA fan will forget anytime soon. Has he turned back the clock and found the fountain of youth for the second time? Part of me wants to see him go out on top, and not take another fight. We all know that won’t happen, and he will be back soon if he is healthy. Who should he fight next? Some people are calling for a Bisping rematch, which neither fighter has shown any interest in. That might be a pointless fight, as a win for either guy doesn’t exactly catapult them into title contention. Regardless of what’s next, for 28 seconds last night, it seemed as though Henderson had beaten father time. Maybe it’s a Team Quest thing: first Randy, now Dan. Maybe.