After fourteen months of leadup to the showdown between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Rashad Evans at UFC 145, it was going to be tough to live up to the hype. So it's not really surprising that it didn't. The bout was fine for what it was, but it certainly didn't deliver the kind of closure that a finish would have. And while the rest of the card was decent, eight fights going to decision (including the first five in a row) definitely muted fan excitement to a degree. It will be interesting to see how well the pay-per-view does, and if it affects the UFC's promotion of one-fight cards. Anyway, let's get onto the fighters.
Jon Jones: It wasn't the home run that Jones was looking for, but it was enough for people to immediately start crowning him as the best light heavyweight in UFC history. Evans got to him more than anyone else has and made him look human at times, but it's clear that Bones was just on another level. The elbows were beautiful, and he showed off some other new facets of his game last night. This was the biggest victory of his career on both a personal and professional level. A lot of eyes were on him tonight, and he delivered. It will definitely aid his goal to be a mainstream star and get bigger endorsement deals.
Rory MacDonald: Rory Mac wasn't in an enviable position in Atlanta last night. If he won (and he did), people will just say he beat a nobody and he needs to fight stronger contenders. If he had lost or was ever in trouble against the relative unknown, his stock would have plummeted. Fortunately for him, he shook off 30 seconds of offense from Che Mills to start the bout and just mauled him the rest of the way. The UFC is grooming his as a star by using him in the co-main event, and he's holding up his end. "The next GSP" is premature, but he's definitely a contender.
Ben Rothwell: The expression "hard work pays off" is very fitting here. Rothwell transformed himself from a blob of a man into a svelte, athletic-looking heavyweight (okay, that might be a little bit over the top), then stepped into the octagon and had Brendan Schaub asking the heavens what the hell just happened to him in seventy seconds. He effectively resurrected his career with one left hook, and left fight fans with a moment that will live in infamy. Oh, and he picked up a knockout of the night check for $65,000 dollars too. I respect people that have the inexhaustible will to succeed, and Ben Rothwell proved he has just that.
Michael McDonald: Mayday made the leap from prospect to contender with his knockout of Miguel Torres. All the questions about his lack of killer instinct in the octagon should be silenced now. The UFC bantamweight division had just one real contender that might face the winner of the third bout between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, and his name is Renan Barao. Now there are two. Should the UFC match up Mayday and Barao? Or allow them to take separate paths to a title shot? The 135 pound division got a lot more interesting tonight.
Travis Browne: Hapa's double flying knee on Chad Griggs had me in awe. That's a big, big man, and that type of athleticism is great to see from a heavyweight. He walked right though Griggs, and deserves a shot at a name opponent. There aren't many guys the UFC can throw in there with him that can match his length and explosiveness, and it's time for him to move up the card.
Dan Henderson: I know he didn't even fight on the card, but he got two big presents tonight - a confirmed shot at the UFC light heavyweight title, and a champion that looked somewhat vulnerable for the first time in the octagon. Fan support for Hendo will be through the roof, and many people think the ageless wonder is now the man that can knock Jones off his perch. Is that realistic? I'm not sure, but I can't wait to see him try.
Losers after the jump!
Rashad Evans: It's tough to see where Rashad goes from here. He has already fought everyone near the top of the UFC light heavyweight division except for Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. He confirmed at the post-fight press conference that he has no interest in moving to middleweight, and he's probably not going to be getting a rematch anytime soon. Evans is clearly an excellent fighter that can take out just about any light heavyweight on any given night. But sitting one step below his former friend Jones in the UFC pecking order is going to be tough for Evans.
Che Mills: I almost left him out of this category. Yes he lost a bout co-main event bout, but he wasn't expected to win it anyway. His lack of a ground game was exposed, but it's not like he's going to fall way down the welterweight rankings or anything. He wasn't on them to begin with. He'll just settle in as a mid-level 170-pound fighter, and will probably engage in some good undercard fights in the future. It wasn't a major setback, it was a lost opportunity. That's how I look at it.
Brendan Schaub: From top prospect to goofy gif fodder in no time. Schaub is a skilled fighter, but his chin is continually failing him. Ben Rothwell is a big boy and he hits hard, but he's not exactly known for one-punch KO's. Neither was Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He's turning into the new Andrei Arlovski, which is really not a good thing. I'm not sure where Schaub goes from here, but I think he's going to be hearing about his post-knockout crazy arm thing for quite a while.
Miguel Torres: I thought Torres beat Demetrious Johnson in their UFC 130 bout. He was clearly still a contender, and his new fighting style had suited him well until he ran into Mayday. That was just the second knockout of Torres' career, but he's been in a lot of wars and the former WEC bantamweight champion suffered a huge, huge setback tonight. The division is still fairly thin and he's only 31, so there's plenty of time for him to climb back up the ladder. But it's going to take a while.
Mark Hominick: Hominick was probably the first guy that was still a 6-1 favorite in his next bout despite getting knocked out in seven seconds. Eddie Yagin was no Korean Zombie though, that's what people thought. It turns out that the problem wasn't the opponent, it's Hominick's chin. With 31 MMA bouts and 21 kickboxing bouts under his belt, maybe Hominick just can't hang with the heavy hitters anymore. It's heartbreaking to see many of Shawn Tompkin's former fighters struggling since he suddenly passed away last year. Mark will be back, but he'll likely never be in the title picture ever again.
Stephen Thompson: Wonderboy was a victim of hype. His sick knockout of Dan Stittgen had fans clamoring for more, but the man had just six MMA bouts coming in to a fight with the tough-as-nails Matt Brown. It's clear that he has some major work to do on his takedown defense and cardio, but all is not lost. The fans might move onto the next flavor of the month, but that will give Thompson time to balance his game out and come back stronger without the magnifying glass on him. Thompson will most definitely be winning more bouts in the UFC..