Welcome back to everyone's favorite post-fight analysis piece where I, Matthew G. Roth, tell you who were the biggest winners and losers on the night. Last night was my first stone cold sober UFC in recent memory but I felt I didn't need it since I was already awake for 40 hours by the end of the fights and hopped up on Red Bulls to stay conscious long enough to complete the instant results posts as the fights completed. That is neither here nor there, so let's talk about the fights.
Jon Jones - The big winner on the night. Jones has a ton of detractors because of his humble persona that many feel is not the true "Jon Jones". Those detractors see a fighter who has been crowned as the future of the division after only one really big win over a legitimate opponent. Last night Jones proved everyone wrong. He put on an absolute clinic against an extremely tough and in shape Rampage Jackson. If there is one complaint to be made it is that Jones had trouble getting the fight to the ground at times. But that also is because Jackson is extremely difficult to take down.
Josh Koscheck - It's gotta be difficult coming back from an injury to the orbital. Even after having surgery Kos still had nerve damage and didn't have feeling around the area that was injured. Last night he seemed uneasy when Hughes was targeting the area and visibly uncomfortable. However, he showed mental toughness and finished Hughes in the first. It wasn't a flawless performance, but it was good enough that there is no reason to question Koscheck going forward.
Mark Hunt - Mark Hunt's way into the UFC could be criticized the same way that people complain about contestants on The Ultimate Fighter. He was only given a contract because he had fights remaining from his time in PRIDE and refused a buy out. There were absolutely ZERO expectations for him. He was just promised fights and Zuffa needed to fulfill the contract. Last night he didn't look good but he looked better than Ben Rothwell. Joining American Top Team has definitely improved his game and he showcased some abilities he never had. Nice win and even better winning streak!
Nate Diaz - The Diaz brothers are now 2-0 against Takanori Gomi (I choose to ignore a NC for testing positive for THC). While the Gomi that Nate fought last night was a shell of his former self, he still possessed the ability to end the fight in devastating fashion. Diaz's boxing looked better last night than it's ever been and there were some punches that landed with surprising power. Lightweight is the best class for Diaz, especially after the S&C program he used to get to 170. I'm excited to see what he can do in the future.
Anthony Ferguson - I had legitimate doubts about Ferguson. The latest seasons of The Ultimate Fighter haven't exactly been talent rich and full of prospects. He took on a dangerous Aaron Riley and broke his jaw in the first round. Riley may not be a household name but he is one of the better mid-tiered lightweights. Ferguson showed he has the abilities to compete in the shark tank that is the UFC's lightweight division.
The UFC - Jon Jones' win sets up a massive PPV between the champion and former teammate Rashad Evans. Both fighters will take home a considerable pay day and the promotion now has a main event that provides a huge amount of intrigue. Should Jones defeat Rashad, the UFC then has a massively marketable champion and the Jackson/Evans rematch as well. It really was the best possible outcome.
Losers and Additional thoughts after the jump...
Quinton Jackson - Jackson came in saying he was going to destroy Jones. The UFC's marketing machine played up his punching power and ability to take one to give one. Instead, he was unable to find his range and got beat from the outside by Jones. The positive takeaway is that Jackson's takedown defense looked as good as it has ever been and he scrambled well off his back. It was also refreshing that he didn't give any excuses in the post-fight. His days as a title contender are well behind him and it really comes down to the fact that he never evolved as a fighter.
Takanori Gomi - This may be the worst fall from grace in MMA history outside of Mark Kerr. There was a time when Gomi was viewed by everyone as the best lightweight in the world and a pound-for-pound great. Those days are long behind him. Last night his entire strategy was throw haymakers. He found very little success. I have doubts that he's been putting the time in at the gym and if the UFC wasn't planning a big show in Japan in 2012, I'd expect to see he received his walking papers.
UFC Heavyweights - Booking heavyweights at high altitude is a terrible idea. The elevation played an obvious role in the performances of Ben Rothwell, Travis Browne, Rob Broughton, and Mark Hunt. If it wasn't for Hunt's feel good story of winning when the odds were against him, it would be easy to say that last night was the most embarrassing display since The Ultimate Fighter 10. Hopefully Joe Silva doesn't make this mistake again in the future. At least we can be happy that didn't happen on Fox or FX right?
UFC Bantamweights - No respect from the bosses. The Takeya Mizugaki/Cole Escovedo fight promised to be a barn burner and instead it was relegated to the Facebook prelims. Fans are unfairly being told that the lighter weights don't draw when they haven't been given the opportunity to prove otherwise. Hopefully this changes in the future.
Junior Assuncao - It takes a very special perfomance for a fighter to lose steam in a win. Junior Assuncao put on that type of performance last night. From his taunts to the finger waving, he showed disrespect to his opponent and to the UFC. I hope he understands that he'll need to change his attitude in the future because there is no reason to everdo that in the cage.
- Last night could very well be the final time fans see Matt Hughes compete in the UFC. He didn't use the word retire but he sure didn't seem excited to continue fighting. Leading up to the fight he was talking about spending more time with his family and that his wife doesn't want him fighting anymore. If he does return it will be for a hand-picked opponent. He's had a storied career and looked good in his boxing. If there was ever a thing as a good way to go out on a loss, that was it.
- Aaron Riley is a tough son of a gun. Breaking your jaw is perhaps the most painful injury and he had the wherewithal to finish the round before throwing in the towel. He's still young at 30 years old but he's had over 44 fights and it seems that kind of fight schedule is finally catching up with his body. Hopefully he'll make a final return to the cage. He just needs to let his body rest and heal up before doing so.
- The referee in the Mark Hunt vs Ben Rothwell fight was absolutely terrible. Standing up a fighter from side control, no matter how inactive, is inexcusable.. Allowing a coach to physically carry his fighter across the cage is a joke. I can only hope that he isn't given another shot at being inside a UFC cage unless he has improved as a referee.