As the dust begins to settle on the weekend’s UFC 136 event we rate the biggest winners and losers on the night.
1. Frankie Edgar
This was the fight Edgar needed to really breakthough and become a genuine star in the UFC.
The fact that he was able to endure an almost carbon-copy of the first round beating he received back in January and yet once again go on to produce the come-from-behind victory truly was like something out of a Rocky movie.
One thing that’s held Edgar back has been the lack of finishes on his record, but dropping the much bigger Maynard, who’s never been hurt like that before, and then putting him away with further strikes really was the icing on the cake.
Dana White then boosted Edgar’s profile yet further by claiming post-fight that Edgar is now the No.2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and has the best boxing ability in the sport.
With big fights against the likes of Gilbert Melendez, the winner of Ben Henderson vs Clay Guida and even a move down to 145lbs to fight Jose Aldo on the horizon his star is only set to shine even brighter in 2012.
2. Chael Sonnen
On any other night Sonnen would have been the star of the show. He dominated Stann from start to finish and never showed any evidence of ring rust despite having been on the sidelines for 14 months.
The fact that he finished with a well executed arm triangle was also a further string to his bow as it’s not something he’s known for and is in fact his first finish iniside the distance under the Zuffa banner.
Of course what really made Sonnen stand out on the night was his post-fight speech in which he called out Anderson Silva and offered him a ‘loser leaves town’ ultimatum.
It was a clever ploy from Sonnen, ensuring that he continues to be a major talking point in the promotion and leaving the UFC with little choice but to cash in on the buzz surrounding this rematch. The ultimatum only adds further spice to a contest that will surely generate big PPV numbers for the promtion in 2012.
3. Joe Lauzon
Lauzon wasn’t given much chance of pulling off an upset against the in-form Guillard, but his impressive performance and quick finish will have turned a lot of heads and propels him up the lightweight ladder.
Of course it wasn’t overly surprising that J-Lau was able to submit his opponent given the big skill gap between them in that regard, but what really raises his stock is the fact that he hurt him on the feet first – an impressive feat given that Guillard has rarely been caught like that in his 41 fight career.
Along with the win Lauzon also added another ‘Submission Of The Night’ bonus to his resume – the fourth of his career to go along with a further three ‘Fight Of The Night’ awards. Only the recently retired Chris Lytle can boast more post-fight bonuses than that.
4. Nam Phan
Phan came out on top in his rematch against Garcia to gain revenge for being cheated out of a win by the judges last time out.
This marked Phan’s first win in the Octagon and he also picked up ‘Fight Of The Night’ honors and broke a UFC record along the way, landing 174 significant shots during the fight – the most in UFC history according to FightMetric.
While Phan is unlikely to be a major force at 145lbs his technical striking is fun to watch and if he continues to put on exciting fights like this he’ll be able to stick around for some time to come.
5. Stipe Miocic
Miocic’s UFC debut was far from perfect, but he did enough against Beltran to establish that he is an interesting new addition to a heavyweight roster that’s crying out for some fresh new faces.
His first round display was excellent, showing no signs of Octagon jitters and showing some good technical stand-up skills, picking his shots well and mixing up his combinations of punches and kicks fluidly.
In the later rounds when Beltran began to turn the fight into a brawl he struggled a little more, noticeably tiring, but he maintained his composure, fought smart, and showed some solid wrestling skills to emerge with his hand raised.
1. Melvin Guillard
Attitude has always been a major issue for Melvin Guillard and it was brought into question again at the weekend after being stopped quickly by Joe Lauzon.
Guillard crossed the line between being confidence and overconfidence when he entered the arena jumping around, engaging with the fans and grinning like he had just KO’d Cain Velasquez. Even when the opening bell sounded he still looked like he was having too much fun and wasn’t focused on the task at hand and paid the price for it when Lauzon rocked him and then dropped down for the swift submission.
Lauzon later confirmed suspicions that Guillard was overlooking him by noting that the lightweight contender had been enjoying himself at the UFC fan expo in Texas on the day of the fight.
It’s unfortunate as Guillard had appeared to have his act together for a while and had put together a strong winning run, but UFC 136 showed that his old weaknesses still exist.
2. Kenny Florian
Florian tried his best against Aldo, but again he came up short in his bid to become a UFC champion.
What it shows us that Florian is a very good fighter who’s done well over the years to intelligently develop his skills and make the most of his abilities, but just hasn’t been able to take it to the point that can really provide a strong challenge at the very highest level of competition.
When going up against elite fighters like Aldo and BJ Penn he’s had to alter his usual style of fighting and resort to unfamiliar tactics like stalling against the cage because otherwise he’s liable to come up short – particularly in the striking department.
There’s no shame in it, his UFC resume is still impressive and I’d like to see him continue to fight in the promotion, but move back up to a healthier weight of 155lbs where he can still produce entertaining fights in the upper half of the division.
3. Damien Maia
It may seem unfair to include Maia here considering that he picked up a victory, but it’s hard to take many positives away from this underwhelming display.
His striking continues to be somewhat pedestrian, and worse than that his famed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills no longer seem as potent as they once were – still good enough to outpoint the likes of Santiago, but there’s no longer the sense that if Maia gets an opponent to the mat then you’d be as well to write him the ‘Submission Of The Night’ cheque there and then.
From being a fighter who won his first eleven professional fights, going to the a decision only once and finishing eight by submission, he’s regressed to a fighter who’s since been KO’d once and then gone on to record six decisions in a row.
Saturday’s performance was somewhat dull and uninspiring – something we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Maia, and it’s hard to imagine him getting even a glimpse at another title shot or a high profile PPV fight on this kind of form. At 33 years of age there’s now a risk that his best days are behind him.
4. Gray Maynard
Again it’s maybe a little harsh to include Maynard here, but it really does feel like he blew his golden opportunity to become a champion here.
It remains a mystery to me why he didn’t turn up the heat in the second round after again having Edgar almost down and out in the first. He seemed to have learned his lesson about not gassing himself out trying to finish him early, but still managed to fade into complete obscurity from then on and his rate of striking decreased dramatically. I also question why he didn’t at least attempt a few more takedowns during the fight.
In some respects this trilogy of fights, and the last two in particular, have been good for Maynard – appearing in two of the most exciting fights of 2011 has helped shed his ‘boring wrestler’ image, and he’s shown that he has developed power in his strikes.
Having said that, all the attention is now on Edgar and it really feels like the UFC are delighted to move on with him as their champion, and I don’t see them rushing Maynard back into title contention any time soon.