Pramit Mohapatra
Monday November 19th, 2007

On a night when the UFC returned to the East Coast with UFC 78, the promotion gave hardcore fight fans an opportunity to assess the talent of some of its up-and-coming fighters. While the main event matchup probably wasn't enough to capture the imagination of casual fans, the promotion did demonstrate convincingly that it has the world's best fighters.

So, how did the card play out? Seven of the nine fights didn't disappoint and the dark card may have actually served up the best action (which is unfortunate because most fans at home only saw the main card fights on the pay-per-view telecast.)

The main event fight between unbeaten TUF 2 champ Rashad Evans and unbeaten TUF 3 champ Michael Bisping looked eerily similar to Bisping's previous fight against Matt Hamill. Bisping started slowly, giving up takedown after takedown to Evans in the first round. In the second round, Bisping heated up, landing more punches, but also allowed a takedown. The third round followed the same pattern as the second round.

Evans impressed the judges with his takedowns and escaped with a split decision victory. But could there be another controversy brewing about this decision?

A close look at CompuStrike stats for the fight indicates that Bisping has a case for believing he won the fight. Evans won the first round standing and on the ground. The second round was much closer on the ground but Bisping had the clear advantage standing up, landing more strikes and more power strikes. That trend continued in the third round.

In the end, a familiar question reared its ugly head -- what should judges be looking for in scoring MMA fights? It's hard to tell right now and the simple answer is, finish the fight and a fighter won't have to worry about the judges' scorecards.

Either way, the fight probably didn't do much for either fighter's standing in the division. It's hard to believe that Evans separated himself from others in the TUF pack (Forrest Griffin and Keith Jardine) to move into the elite of the division. As for Bisping, the question remains: Will he move down to the middleweight division soon? He wasn't dominated by Evans but he also didn't do enough to make one think he can earn a title shot as a light heavyweight anytime soon.

Houston Alexander came into UFC 78 on a tremendous roll. With two impressive victories and an equally impressive personal story, Alexander was hoping to catapult into the upper echelons of UFC's stacked light heavyweight division. Instead, Alexander met a more talented opponent in Thiago Silva. Silva neutralized Alexander standing up and showed fans his tremendous ground skills in easily achieving full mount and grounding-and-pounding his way to a decisive first round TKO victory.

With the win, the young Silva (he's only 25) appears to be a rising star in the division -- he brings an exciting style to the Octagon and finishes fights. Hope is not lost for Alexander, however. He must clearly work on his ground game but with his standup skills, strength, frenetic style, and riveting personal story, he will be given more opportunities to make an impact in the division.

Karo Parisyan, known to hardcore fans for years as an exciting judo master and a top welterweight fighter had a golden opportunity to shine at UFC 78. Unfortunately, he didn't capitalize on that opportunity against Ryo Chonan and while he was dominant, he didn't show the same spark fans are used to seeing from him. Parisyan appeared out of shape and tired during the late stages of the fight and he admitted at the post-fight press conference that he didn't train as he should have (only spending three weeks at Xtreme Couture.)

Parisyan is an elite fighter who consistently takes on the best the welterweight division has to offer. While he has shown a disturbing inability to stop fights, this can easily be attributed to the talent level of his opponents, including the very game Chonan. This victory may not have been all Parisyan was hoping for, but it shouldn't hurt his standing in the division. It would be nice to see Parisyan fight Jon Fitch for the opportunity at a title shot after Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre have had their turns at acquiring the belt.

The other two main card fights provided fans with outstanding performances. Frankie Edgar proved that he is a rising star in the lightweight division by controlling the far more experienced Spencer Fisher with superior wrestling ability.

Ed Herman continued to show increasing maturity in his game by avenging an earlier loss to Joe Doerksen. Herman showed all-around skill, eventually finishing the fight with a third-round knockout. In a weak middleweight division, Herman continues to improve and is now on a three-match winning streak.

Doerksen shouldn't be counted out either. He took the fight on very short notice and acquitted himself well. He almost finished the fight twice in the second round with a failed rear naked choke attempt and then a triangle choke and a tight armbar as the round ended.

In the dark portion of the card, notable performances were turned in by TUF 5's Joe Lauzon and former PRIDE star Marcus Aurelio. Lauzon slapped on a quick rear naked choke to earn a victory over outclassed Jason Reinhardt. Aurelio, the PRIDE lightweight sensation whose UFC debut was a UFC 74 split decision loss to Clay Guida, came back with a dominant ground-and-pound victory over Luke Caudillo at UFC 78. With the victory, Aurelio showed that he is a force to be reckoned with in the lightweight division and UFC fans should be seeing him on the main card soon enough.

The dark card also gave fans two notable welterweight wars. Akihiro Gono, another former PRIDE fighter, won his UFC debut with a victory by submission due to armbar over young but talented Tamden McCrory. The aggressive and much longer McCrory dominated most of the first round standing up before Gono wised up and took the fight to the ground, where he eventually won.

In the other 170-pound battle, Thiago Alves nabbed a controversial win in a slugfest over Chris Lytle when the doctor stopped the fight after the second round due to two gashes around Lytle's left eye.

Send questions/comments to Pramit.Mohapatra@gmail.com

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