‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ the old saying goes, and so proved to be the case tonight with the much maligned UFC 138 event in Birmingham, England.

Despite being one of the weakest fight cards for a numbered UFC event in quite some time the UK fans were packed into the LG Arena from the opening bout of the evening and were rewarded in kind with some highly-competitive bouts, a number of memorable finishes and a main card that flew by after all five bouts ended in under two rounds.

While the card was criticized for a lack of star power there were some winners on the night who could yet develop into fan favorites.

The highly rated UK prospect Terry Etim for instance got the main card of to a cracking start when he took just 17 seconds to submit Edward Faaloloto and somehow managed to showcase both impressive striking and submission skills in that short time-frame.

Renan Barao also put himself firmly on the map with a terrific performance in a sizzling encounter with Brad Pickett.  He’s best known for his ground work, but his striking looked excellent here and at the age of just 24 and having already amassed a professional record of 27-1 (1nc) he could be en-route to becoming bantamweight’s next big star.

After missing out on a spot on TUF 9 Che Mills finally got another chance to prove himself tonight on the UFC 138 undercard and grabbed the opportunity with both hands, stopping Chris Cope with two powerful knees after just 40 seconds of action.

There were also good performances by some of the UFC’s more established stars.  Mark Munoz once again showcased what may be the best ground and pound in the UFC against Chris Leben in a bloody main event encounter that was only let down by the ending, an entirely justified doctor’s stoppage which came after Leben suffered a severe cut above his left eye.

Thiago Alves also delivered, practically finishing Papy Abedi on the feet before grabbing a rare submission win that should ensure that he goes back to more high profile fights next time out.

Throw in a somewhat surprising win for Anthony Perosh on the main card and a highly watchable back-and-forth grappling battle between John Maguire and Justin Edwards in the prelims and you’ve got yourself an event that far exceeded expectations and even outclassed a number of the recent pay-per-view offerings from the promotion.