Who’s stock rose or fell following their performances at UFC 133 last night? We rank the biggest winners and losers on the fight card below.
1. Rashad Evans
After a fourteen month layoff Rashad Evans had a lot to prove on his return to the big stage, and he did just that against Tito Ortiz.
As Dana White would later note, Evans didn’t show any sign of ring-rust, and in fact put on one of the best performances of his career. He showed speed and power in his punches, produced a picture-perfect slam takedown at one stage, and simply dominated Ortiz in the grappling, even pinning his hands at times and even catching him in a crucafix while reigning down blows. The smart choice to deliver a powerful knee to the kneeling Ortiz which all-but ended the fight was the icing on the cake.
And so Evans not only retains his No.1 contender status as he was promised he would if he emerged victorious, but he put on a performance that shows he has the all-around skills that could pose a genuine threat to his ex-teammate Jon Jones hould they meet next.
Whether it’s Jones or ‘Rampage’ that he fights next there’s going to be plenty of buzz behind their title fight, and that makes Evans one of the hottest properties in the sport right now.
2. Rory MacDonald
Essentially since he first joined the UFC there’s been talk of Rory MacDonald’s precocious talent, and a big first round win over Mike Pyle last night confirmed that this 22 year-old is indeed the real deal.
Coming off of a dominating win over Nate Diaz, MacDonald essentially picked up where he left off and made short work of Pyle who had himself been gathering a head of steam lately on a three-fight winning run.
In the nearly four minutes that this fight lasted we were treated to a range of skills from the Canadian fighter who’s now nicknamed ‘Ares’ (God Of War). In the early stages he showed good composure and well versed technique from his back when Pyle took him down a couple of times, methodically working his way back to his feet without taking damage.
On his feet he was equally comfortable and even briefly showed off his submission skills when Pyle left his neck out and found himself caught in a standing guillotine choke. His best work came when he was on top on the mat though, showing off some vicious ground and pound as he blasted away, forcing Pyle to turtle up.
UFC Commentator Joe Rogan declared afterwards that MacDonald was the second coming of GSP, and later Dana White noted that even GSP himself believes that this young man is the future of the welterweight division. So big things are ahead for him, and the rest of the division better get ready.
3. Vitor Belfort
After being KO’d by Anderson Silva last time out Vitor Belfort needed a big win to banish that memory and get him back on track. He did just that by quickly defeating Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Akiyama is known to be able to absorb a great deal of punishment, but he simply wilted under Belfort’s blazing speed and devastating power and ended the fight KO’d with his face flat down on the canvas.
This was the best Belfort’s looked in his three fights since his UFC return, and at the age of 34 this even evoked memories of a young 19 year-old version of ‘The Phenom’ who made an immediate impact in the promotion.
This kind of performance reminds everyone that the Brazilian is still one of the division’s best, and though Dana White has confirmed he’s not ready for another title shot he’s calling for just yet, he is back in the mix once again.
4. Brian Ebersole
Veteran campaigner Brian Ebersole didn’t exactly create a big stir when he first signed with the UFC, but he’s now slowly but surely putting his name on the map.
His fight with Dennis Hallman seemed a strange choice for a main card slot, but Ebersole made the most of the opportunity (as he also did against Chris Lytle last time out) and is proving to be an entertaining fighter who goes for the finish.
Dana White helped Ebersole’s recognition grow even further when he awarded him a special $70,000 ‘Thanks for getting those horrifying shorts off of TV” bonus after Hallman turned up in a pair of tiny fight trunks.
While it’s unlikely that Ebersole is going to get thrust into the title mix any time soon, he’s now made a name for himself and solidified his place in the division for the time being.
5. Alexander Gustafsson
The final fighter who’s stock rose the most on Saturday night is Alexander Gustafsson. So far the Swedish light-heavyweight been going about his business under the radar in the prelims, notching up a 3-1 record, but last night gave him a chance to showcase his skills against a known quantity in Matt Hamill in front of the Spike TV audience.
Despite Hamill being a much better known and more seasoned fighter, Gustaffson had little trouble with him and after a slow start he turned the heat up in the second round and produced a combination on the feet that hurt the normally hard-headed Hamill, and then finished him on the ground for the TKO victory.
It was a win that had even current 206lb champion Jon Jones sit up and take notice, noting on Twitter, “He’s 24? Yeah, we’re fighting one day.”
1. Dennis Hallman
Nobody crashed and burned at UFC 133 quite like Dennis Hallman. Even before he stepped into the Octagon he was already having a bad night when he made the decision to wear a pair of tiny fight trunks. It was obviously a ploy to gain some attention and play up to the cameras, but it backfired badly.
For one thing it genuinely infuriated UFC president Dana White who’s now banned the shorts from being worn by anyone in future. He also got pretty much the entire audience, live and at home, rooting against him, and to make matters worse, his junk was actually exposed briefly half-way through the first round.
As if his day wasn’t going bad enough Hallman also ended up getting beaten by Ebersole despite having appeared to be in a strong position early in the fight when he took his opponents back. He couldn’t find the finish however and Ebersole reversed him and then finished by TKO, appearing to knock him out for a brief second.
To be fair Hallman’s stock wasn’t high to begin with despite a couple of solid wins under his belt, but he’s now gained noteriety for all the wrong reasons and now sporting a 2-2 record in the UFC, White may well be considering cutting him, or at the very least banishing him to the prelims.
2. Matt Hamill
Frankly speaking Matt Hamill just looked bad last night, appearing to be slow, lethargic, devoid of ideas and lacking any sense of urgency.
The worrying thing is that it’s not the first time we’ve seen him do this. In fact he did pretty much the same thing in his headline bout with ‘Rampage’ Jackson at UFC 130 back in May.
Perhaps he’s just lacking the interest or motivation, or it may be that he’s just not developed his game well over the years. For some time now he’s essentially ditched his wrestling base in favor of striking, but he’s never evolved past being a slugger and when he does go for a takedown now it looks slow and cumbersome.
Whatever the real reason even Dana white admitted post-event that Hamill’s recent form is a concern and so the 34 year-old needs to address this situation quickly or he’s going to find himself at risk of being cut.
3. Mike Pyle
Leading up to this fight Mike Pyle had been full of confidence, and rightly so coming off the back of a solid three fight winning streak that included another promising prospect in John Hathaway and veteran Ricardo Almeida.
At the age of 35 Pyle was beginning to cultivate a reputation as a late bloomer with this kind of form, but last night’s TKO loss a the hands of the 22 year-old Rory MacDonald undoes much of his good work.
In truth the young up-and-coming star made Pyle look ordinary and blasted through him in under four minutes.
4. Tito Ortiz
It was always going to be a tall order for Tito Ortiz to seize another shock win against Rashad Evans less than four weeks after doing so against Ryan Bader.
The fact that he stepped up at short notice against the division’s No.1 contender ensures that Ortiz stock won’t take a significant hit from this TKO defeat, but it certainly stops the talk of a potential rise back to the top for the former champion dead in it’s tracks.
There are positives for Ortiz to take out of this, The fans were chanting his name for the first time in years for instance, and he had a couple of decent moments in the fight – in particular a guillotine choke which just for a moment made it look as if he was about to do the unthinkable and pull off another unlikely victory.
He also appears to have fended off talk of him being cut from the promotion for now which will be a relief, but in the cold light of day the fact’s are that he’s now won just once in his last seven fights and so after a brief period of respite the pressure to get a victory will once again be weighing heavily upon his shoulders.