Top 5 Takeaways From UFC Fight Night 81: Comebacks, Eye-Pokes & Giant Hearts

January 18, 2016

Eddie Alvarez does it again. And sorry, Bjorn Rebney, you just can’t stop that guy. And Dominick Cruz, well, he’s Superman. He might even be better than Superman because I don’t know if Superman can work hurt in the 5th round like that. And Matt Mitrione, meet the late-great Davey Moore. More on the eye-poke of doom later.

UFC Fight Night 81 is in the books, and decision-mania is running wild in the UFC. In the aftermath, here’s what we know:

5. Eddie Alvarez Has Heart & Title Aspirations

If you were one of the 900,000 people or so who regularly watches Bellator, you already knew that Eddie Alvarez was a man with a giant heart. If you have never seen Bellator and you are one of those UFC fanboys who considers watching other brands of MMA tantamount to cheating on your girlfriend (uh wait, let’s say tantamount to using XBox One instead of a PlayStation 4) then you have a lot to learn. Go find Alvarez’s two fights against Michael Chandler (spare me the, “but that was Bellator” BS) and you will learn right away why Alvarez is perhaps the No. 1 lightweight contender. Alvarez only fights his best when he is getting has backside kicked. He comes through in close fights. He shines during moments of adversity. He is the real-life character in Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” He’s a tough guy and during close fights he typically prevails. He beat Anthony Pettis, the guy who seems to have grown old very quickly, and positioned himself as a man with a date with UFC gold. Now we know why Dana White and Bjorn Rebney were fighting so hard over this guy a couple years ago.

4. The Rise & Fall of Anthony Pettis

What happened to this guy? Now this is MMA, of course, and Robbie Lawler proved that you can live on the corner of washed-up and has-been, but still save your money and move out of the MMA ghetto and into the Las Vegas penthouse. Pettis can come back. But he doesn’t look anything like his former self right now. Here’s a guy who dethroned Benson Henderson, who was believed at the time to be one of the best fighters in the world. He then went on to destroy Giblert Gilbert Melendez in a submission no one saw coming. Then he gave it all away to Rafael dos Anjos and now Alvarez. The good news: dos Anjos and Alvarez are obviously top fighters. There’s no shame in losing to them, particularly in a close decision. But the UFC’s lightweight division is stacked and Pettis will have to dig deep and search for some of that Alvarez hunger to orchestrate a comeback.

3. Eyepokes kill

Matt Mitrione got thumbed out of his shoes last night. Travis Browne walked away the victor to a chorus of boos. That’s life, or at least how you roll when you are prize fighter. But it’s not the first time it happened. Let me tell you about Robert Duran and Davey Moore. Now before Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and some show called “The Ultimate Fighter,” there was this really cool thing that existed called BOXING. It involved super well-trained athletes competing in stand-up combat. It still exists today, and you may have heard of a guy named Floyd Mayweather Jr. If MMA is the equivalent to today’s smart phone — fast-paced, exciting, lots of options — boxing is like the good old fashioned book. Millennials, you may have heard of one.

Thumbs up, guys.

Duran inadvertently thumbed the younger, taller, faster Moore in a moment that was the beginning of the end. Duran proceeded to outbox Moore the rest of the fight before knocking him out in the 10th round. It stands as one of the most brutal knockouts in boxing history. For Mitrione, it’s just one of those things. He’ll be back.  A rematch is in order.

2. Journalism is Dead, but Comedy Is Alive

We got Sean Penn writing “investigative” puff pieces and Kenny Florian plagiarizing articles on MMA. That’s like the fat kid in junior high school only doing six push-ups instead of 10, but claiming he “really did 10.” What’s the point? It’s MMA journalism, Kenny, and the only reason you have a job in MMA writing is for your “expertise” on the fight game. If you can’t write about the sport from your head … well, what can you say? Leave it to Dominick Cruz, though. In his post-fight interview he called out his fellow fighter: “Quit copying and pasting, man.” Right on. We need preserve the art of journalism and we can’t have anyone with a big name and title just walking into our industry and writing articles. Did Florian even write for his high school newspaper? What a disgrace to the industry. Allowing celebrities with big names to write articles on the high-profile stage would be like the UFC allowing professional wrestlers with no “real-fight” experience to step into the cage. They would never do that.

1. Dominick Cruz the BITW?

Where would this guy be if he were fighting more than once every four years? It’s amazing to think Dominick Cruz could fight at that level coming back from two torn ACLs. Time and age conquers all fighters, but not Cruz. He fought crazy quick and wildly slick. And now, once again, he’s the champ. This comeback rivals that of the great Sugar Ray Leonard, coming back to defeat Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Cruz is good, really good and we’re all lucky to have seen him fight. Let’s hope his busted up foot won’t keep him out of the cage for another extended period of time. If he can stay healthy, Cruz, at 30, is the future of MMA.

Follow Joshua Molina on Twitter: @JECMolina

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