UFC on FOX 21 brought us some great stories. Score one for jiu-jitsu in the main event. It could be the end of a great career, the arrival of another, and the re-emergence of a great former champion.
5. Paige VanZant is Made For Show AND Go
Who says “The Karate Kid” is just a movie? Paige VanZant knocked out Bec Rawlings with a movie-style kick, then followed it up with a great ground and pound.
VanZant is not championship material, but the strawweight fighter is a star, and this clearly was her big moment. The former “Dancing With The Stars” contestant is already turning heads with her girl next door looks and now she is showing that she can fight also. She’s committed to the sport. She turned down a spot in the movie “Kickboxer” so that she could train and fight Saturday night. Can VanZant win the title? Anything is possible, but if she is booked correctly she can be a TV star, winning matches against fighters on her level. With Ronda Rousey appearing less frequently, the UFC needs another breakout, mainstream women’s star and Paige VanZant could be the one.
4. Anthony Pettis Is Back
Anthony Pettis a few years ago was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He tapped out Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez, two of the best fighters in the UFC lightweight division at the time. But then he seemed to grow old really quickly. He lost three straight fights by decision and Pettis seemed to lose his flair. But he found it again.
Pettis returned to his old form by submitting Charles Oliveira with a guillotine choke in the third round, showing that he could rally and win a competitive and close fight. Pettis has now put himself back in the mix of the title shot picture or fight Conor McGregor. When Pettis is on — he’s one of the best in the world. Let’s hope we see more of the great Anthony Pettis going forward.
3. CM Punk Is Near
The former WWE champion will make his debut in the UFC on Sept. 10 and the UFC wants you to know that. The UFC spent a lot of time on Saturday’s show promoting CM Punk, including a short interview. Punk is still coming across as a shadow of his WWE self because he doesn’t want to shoot his mouth off and then get destroyed in his match. Punk is a realist and he knows that his chances of winning are slim. So he is going in humble, with low expectations, hoping to give a respectful performance and maybe even surprise some people. The UFC is fully behind Punk’s debut and right now his match against Mickey Gall is getting more promotion than the Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem main event.
2. Demian Maia is Title-Shot Bound
Or at least he should be. Demian Maia has won his past six fights and should have won 10 out of his past 11, except for a controversial split decision loss to Jake Shields. Maia is as dangerous on the ground as Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is in the stand-up. He tapped out Condit, a former world champion and guy who has not been submitted in nearly a decade. Without Georges St-Pierre as champion, any of the top guys can win the title. Maia could certainly be a championship contender against Tyron Woodley, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, or anyone else who has the title by the time he gets his shot. Maia is not the most exciting fighter in the world, but he wins and when he wins it’s in impressive fashion. He’s a throwback guy to the days when jiu-jitsu was king. When Maia is in the cage, jiu-jitsu is king.
1. Carlos Condit at the End of His Career
Sometimes a fighter just can’t win the big one. Carlos Condit did enjoy a run as the interim welterweight champion, but he wasn’t able to beat the top guys in the sport: Georges St-Pierre, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. He was competitive in all three fights, however. Now, Condit, after 40 fights, is possibly at the end of his career. He appeared to be mentally checked out against Maia and his heart didn’t look into it. Condit can come back and fight at a high level, particularly now that Woodley is the champion. Does he want it? That’s up to him. It may be the end of a great career, but it doesn’t have to be. Maia just happens to be on the tear and is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu master. If Condit wants it, he’s still a top-level fighter. Let’s hope he finds that desire to fight again.