Ben Fowlkes
Sunday September 20th, 2009

UFC 103 may not have been the type of blockbuster show that could overshadow a Floyd Mayweather fight, but there are still plenty of lessons we can take away from the UFC's venture into Dallas, Texas ,on Saturday night.

1. "The Phenom" still has some old magic ... and some new tricks

The question before UFC 103's main event was, which Vitor Belfort will show up? Will it be the terror of MMA's early years with the blazing hands, or the habitual underachiever who last set foot in the Octagon? The answer: neither. The Belfort we saw was patient, calculating and careful. He showed that he still had the power to put away even a tough veteran like Rich Franklin with a first-round TKO, but more importantly, he showed the maturity of a seasoned fighter.

One of Belfort's problems is that he's had a tendency to lose steam over the course of a fight if he can't put his man away early, and this win didn't give him a chance to rectify that. But make no mistake, he's definitely in the UFC middleweight title picture now, which means the fights will only get tougher from here on in.

2. The UFC welterweight title picture is as fuzzy as ever

The conventional wisdom on the Paul Daley-Martin Kampmann bout was that Daley's expertise on the feet would be negated by his ineffectiveness on the mat. That still might be the case, but as he reminded Kampmann, you can't exploit his lack of a ground game unless you can get the fight to the ground. Kampmann couldn't, and he paid dearly for it.

It made for a great UFC debut for Daley, but it sure didn't help the UFC find a new challenger for Georges St. Pierre. Chances are, the champ would not have similar problems putting Daley on his back, nor would he struggle with Josh Koscheck, the night's other welterweight winner, in a second meeting. The sensible thing to do now would be to put Daley against Mike Swick in a No. 1 contender bout, but even then it might be hard to convince fans that the winner can really threaten G.S.P. This division is in serious need of some new blood.

3. "Cro Cop" can't get by on nostalgia anymore

A part of me really wanted to see a resurgent Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic return to being the monster that he was in Japan. But a larger part of me knew it wouldn't happen. The closest he came was wearing a Pride T-shirt down to the Octagon, and while that was a nice touch it didn't keep him from looking old and slow against Junior Dos Santos. His famous head kicks missed badly; his aggressive, stalking style was completely absent; and by the second round, he had begun to look like a man who wanted to be anywhere else in the world than in the cage. Face it, Filipovic's glory days are behind him. It happens to everyone. It's just a question of whether they realize it without the help of a few too many beatings.

4. The UFC has a solid pool of lightweight prospects

When you think about how many great performances we saw from 155-pounders this week, it's hard to imagine that there was ever a time when the UFC got rid of the weight class altogether. Tyson Griffin and Jim Miller both looked excellent in their victories (and no one needed an impressive stoppage more than Griffin). Efrain Escudero looked surprisingly sharp on the feet in his TKO win over Cole Miller. And of course, there's Gray Maynard's win over Roger Huerta last Wednesday night to consider.

The UFC lightweight class may not have as many top-level veterans as the light heavyweight class , but there are a ton of young prospects at 155 pounds in the UFC right now, and a night like this makes me really excited to see how things will develop over the next five years or so.

5. Putting the prelims on SpikeTV is an idea worth revisiting

So maybe it was just an effort to siphon some of Floyd Mayweather's pay-per-view audience, but hopefully the UFC will see what can be gained by offering up free undercard fights on Spike. There seemed to be some production issues early on, and it can't really be called commercial-free if we have to sit through extended video game advertisements. But regardless, it's a great way to push the pay-per-view and expose some of the lesser-known talent to a wider audience. Let's just hope the UFC is willing to try it again when there's not a boxing event to compete with, and that it works out some of the kinks in the meantime.

AP: Belfort KOs Franklin in first round at UFC 103

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