The soldiers at Fort Hood got a pretty good show in chilly Killeen, Tex. at Saturday's UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2. After some initial snoozers, the action picked up and concluded with a bang when the event's final three fights ended in first-round finishes. Mark Hominick earned a title shot against featherweight champion Jose Aldo and Melvin Guillard inched closer to Frankie Edgar's lightweight belt. But, far and away, the biggest winner of the night was the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which by early estimates raised more than $600,000 during the Spike TV broadcast of the event. That money will provide badly needed funds for the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a research and treatment center that's committed to helping soldiers who suffer traumatic brain injuries.
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Moving forward, here's the issue: The Dunhams and Lowes and the Torres' of the world -- all victims of Guillard's takedown defense and kinetic striking -- are a football field away from the seasoned grappling of the current Olympians. Guys like George Sotiropoulos and Kenny Florian have the submission acumen to tap him out, and guys like Gray Maynard and champ Frankie Edgar could neuter "The Young Assassin" with wrestling. The mat has not been friendly to Guillard in 13 octagon appearances -- all of his losses come by way of submission -- and good training and revitalized outlook aside, the opponent that takes away those deadly knees and punches is likely to send him back down the mountain.
Whatever it is that's fueling the former NFL defensive tackle, it's working. With a fourth consecutive win inside the octagon, this time against Tim Hague, he looks like a serious prospect in the heavyweight division. He throws straight punches. His hips hang loose for nasty kicks. (That's really an accomplishment in itself for a guy with less than two years experience, and yet another testimonial for the wizardry of coach Duke Roufus.) Best of all, he's not afraid to get in there and let his hands go.
You could say his courage stems from a few screws jarred loose from years of charging headlong at the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line. But hey, whatever works.
Missing from Mitrione's picture, though, is a fight against a guy with a semblance of a wrestling pedigree. Sure, he can bang with guys who are willing to stand in front of him. But what happens when he gets put on his back? He's still in the dark about that himself.
"I need to test my ground game," he told UFC.com after Saturday's fight. "I still don't know how well I do in a fight versus how well I do in practice. I need to get into a fight where I have to test my ground game, to see how good it is and how well I can handle myself."
Quite clearly, he's on his way to a reckoning in that department. It's a short leap these days from the middle of the pack to the top of the heavyweight division, and he doesn't have too many more fights before he gets in there with a guy who's just as big and has a lot more experience on the ground. Even up-and-comers such as Jon Madsen, Mike Russow and Christian Morecroft could give him big trouble, to say nothing of top-tier guys such as Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, and, god forbid, Cain Velasquez.
Hominick, truly one of the nice guys in a business full of lugs, has been fighting professionally for 10 years and has all the career ups and downs of a veteran. But he appears to have turned a corner in the way he approaches fights, and that could be the difference in matching the fearsome striking of Aldo.
"It's never been training," Hominick told MMAjunkie.com after the fight. "I've always trained hard, and I'm improving everywhere. I think it's the mental state. When I kind of had that rough patch of win, loss, win, loss, I was going into the fight so concerned about what my opponent was doing and what they were going to do to me as opposed to what I was going to do to them.
"I haven't lost for two-and-a-half years. I'm more confident in what I can do and what I'm capable of."
Assuming both are healthy to fight, Hominick is now targeted to meet Aldo at UFC 129.
Wiman now enjoys a three-fight win streak inside the octagon and is due for a big fight. Does Danzig want to dance a second time?
Rogan kept calling Wiman's double-fisted chops to the downed Miller an ode to Kazushi Sakuraba, but I saw faint shades of Fedor Emelianenko, as well, in the hammerfists and looping punches he used to hurt the American Top Team fighter. Great stuff.
As my astute colleague Jeff Wagenheim also noted, Wiman left the TV on at home so his pets could watch the fight. How nice. He's probably one of those who have Facebook pages for each of them. Here's hoping they stopped chewing on his shoes long enough to catch the great performance and check out the social network's free webcast of four preliminary card fights. It could happen. There are a few MMA fans out there with a similar attention span.