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UFC 161: A new beginning for six fighters

 

Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports Images

Ron Chenoy – USA TODAY Sports Images

Victory isn’t easy to come by inside the Octagon, especially when coming off of consecutive losses. For six of this past Saturday evening’s event winners, a new chapter in their mixed martial arts careers has begun. Not many believe in new beginnings, but for the Canadian Mitch Clarke, UFC newcomer James Krause, the re-surging Jake Shields, Shawn Jordan, Stipe Miocic, and Rashad Evans, you can’t deny them a fresh start in their respective divisions.

 Mitch Clarke (10-2) entered the Octagon at UFC 161 having lost his only two UFC fights. His opponent John Maguire was cutting down a weight class, making Clarke the underdog. The Canadian wouldn’t succumb to the pressure of performing in front of his home crowd and fighting against the odds.

It was clear early on that Clarke had been working on his kicking game, as the constant pressure he put forward had his opponent off-set. When Maguire would manage to get good position on him, Clarke wouldn’t let it be, and maintained his activity until the final bell.

Clarke now has his first win in the UFC, after going 0-2 in the Octagon.

James Krause (20-4) first appeared under the Zuffa banner in a battle with “Cowboy” Cerrone back in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). Krause was only 24-years old and stepping up late notice, he was overwhelmed early on and Cowboy submitted him in one round. He would return a few months later, only to lose a unanimous decision to Ricardo Lamas.

Now Krause re-debuted in the big show four years later. He didn’t disappoint.

From the word “go”, Krause began to use his big reach advantage to take control of the striking exchanges and dictate the pace of the fight. It wasn’t that Stout was outmatched, but his reach disadvantage was so ridiculous that Stout couldn’t get anything going, even while putting himself in harms way in order to land something. Krause’s reach and stand-up were taking their toll.

By round three, it was clear that Krause was the more polished striker. Stout would go for take downs, only to get tangled up in the guillotine choke of his taller opponent.

That was all it took for Stout to tap out. Krause became the second man to finish him in fifteen UFC fights at lightweight.

Krause is on an eight-fight winning streak, number eight being a big upset win in his UFC debut against the hometown kid. That’s 100k in the bank for Krause after he was awarded both fight of the night and submission of the night.

Jake Shields (28-6) has such an odd approach to an MMA fight. The guy has no power standing, and his takedowns don’t seem to work in the UFC. Somehow he finds a way to win. It’s incredible that this guy had a unanimous decision win over the headliner Dan Henderson, and was still looked past by so many fight fans.

Against Woodley, Shields lacked no confidence on the feet. Even though Woodley had more power in his punches, he couldn’t get them going when worrying about Shields’ clinch-work the entire time.

It made for some dull action. No doubt. But, Woodley is an NCAA D1 wrestler with knockout power. If he wanted to get something done, he could have tried harder. Instead, Woodley was constantly concerned about getting the upper hand in a clinch battle.

Though Shields has been in there with some of the most highly-respected MMA fighters, he never wins in the UFC without having an added damper on each one of his wins.

A brief stint at middleweight had Shields failing his post-fight drug test and his win over Ed Herman was overturned. Now back at welterweight. Shields says he’s ready to take on better competition, namely Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger.

Could this be the opening of a new chapter in Shields’ career, or the beginning of the end?

Stipe Miocic faced the immense size of Stefan Struve in his first and only loss in his pro career. Roy Nelson had knocked Struve out, but that didn’t mean anything to Miocic going in to his fight on Saturday. Miocic would hit Nelson with punches that came from all angles that had Nelson wobbled early. “Big Country” wouldn’t go down, and the Croatian striker took over from there.

It wasn’t really the most fascinating display of technique, nothing overly impressive, just Miocic dominating throughout the fight. When he realized Big Country could take his best punch, he steadily worked his craft until the final bell.

Miocic has himself a win over a top-ten opponent after suffering his first loss. The UFC 161 win was a clean slate for the Croatian-American.

Rashad Evans was coming off two-straight losses to champion Jon Jones and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. His back was against the wall heading in to his fight with “Hendo”.

Henderson blasted him in Round 1, forcing “Suga” against the fence and more bombs were on their way. But Evans wouldn’t retreat.

Evans would overcome, keeping Hendo off balance with forward pressure and the threat of the takedown. Henderson said if he committed to setting up his right hand, like in the Bisping fight, he would be more vulnerable to be taken down.

The TUF 2 winner would come out on top when he turned it up in Round 3 and stunned Henderson with multiple right hands that likely got him the judges’ decision.

His win at UFC 161 could spark a fresh start for Evans in the light-heavyweight division. You can never assume a fighter isn’t worthy of a title opportunity nowadays.

For full fight results for UFC 161: Evans vs. Henderson, click here

 

 

 

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