Last night was a phenomenal night for fight fans. The UFC returned to Fox with an exciting effort that, while lacking starpower to bring big ratings, certainly brought enough action to reward those that did choose to tune in. Boxing had a great night as well with some big fights that actually delivered.
Let's take a look at the five best performances from the evening's action (in no particular order). Remember, this isn't about winning or losing, it's about coming out of the night in a better place than you entered. So yes, it's similar to the earlier winners and losers post, but covering all weekend and a bit different in scope:
- Nate Diaz - I thought Miller was a horrible match-up for him, representing someone who did the things that a better fighter can do to beat Nate. Instead, Diaz dominated the clinch and did whatever he wanted at range. I don't exactly see Nate as a guy who beats Frankie Edgar or Ben Henderson, but it's going to be fun to watch him try.
- Floyd Mayweather - Yeah, obviously the two guys who won main event fights go on the list, but Floyd actually put on a deeply crowd pleasing fight, remained undefeated and will probably pocket close to $50 million when he gets his cut of everything. He's off to jail for a short stint (which will be reduced to six months most likely), but he's turned the PR battle against Manny Pacquiao in his way with smart media plays and now by taking on a game Cotto and coming out on top.
- Saul "Canelo" Alvarez - Alvarez came out and did what was expected, landing huge shots on Shane Mosley for twelve rounds. It may have been predictable, but he continues to carry the aura of a true superstar and he fought a Mosley that was actually punching back. Canelo also suffered the first cut of his career and didn't seem to care, continuing to fire away with huge bombs.
- "Sugar" Shane Mosley - Since we're on the topic, Mosley may have gotten thoroughly roughed up against Canelo, but he at least did it in a way he can be proud of. After looking absolutely awful against Mayweather, Pacquiao and Mora and never pulling the trigger, he fought every second of the twelve rounds against Alvarez, never backing down and landing as many punches as he could. He stood in there and fought like hell, even as the fight slipped away from him. He didn't shoot down the idea of retiring after the bout and it certainly wouldn't be the worst thing for him to hang up his gloves.
- Lavar Johnson - Johnson is awesome. He's plenty flawed but he comes to engage in crowd pleasing slugfests and color me shocked that he's managed to win his first two fights in the UFC. This was a fight where all logic suggested that he'd get busted up by a better, more "technical" striker. Instead, he survived exchanges and a few bad positions before just getting too rough for Barry in the clinch and knocking him out in a spectacular moment.
- Alan Belcher - I expected him to win, but I didn't expect him to win after going to the ground and have Palhares latch onto a leg. Belcher remained calm on the ground, waited until he could safely adjust position, rather than freaking out and leaving something exposed, and then punished Palhares. That's a pro level performance and one that moves Belcher in the direction of possibly contending for a title.
- Marco Huck and Ola Afolabi - Neither man got their hand raised yesterday afternoon in Germany, but both made a case that they deserved it after an unbelievable cruiserweight fight. American audiences never really embraced the cruiserweight (200 lb.) division for boxing but it's big internationally and very strong at the moment with a lot of very good fighters. Huck is the #1 cruiserweight on the planet and Afolabi ranks #7 over at Bad Left Hook. The two went back and forth in their battle, as the nature of the fight wore on both men, neither backed down, continuing to fire heavy leather until the final bell. You can read Bad Left Hook's recap of that fight here.
- Michael Johnson - Johnson has improved so much over his last two fights, it's truly remarkable. His expected role was to "play opponent" to Tony Ferguson, Instead he used a really nice striking game. Joe Rogan nailed it during the broadcast, pointing out that Johnson's success was coming from not just throwing the strikes (leg kicks and left hands) that were working over and over, but mixing up his attack, making Ferguson unsure of what was coming next and creating openings.
- Louis Gaudinot - Yeah, Dodson probably got the "bigger" flyweight win, but Gaudinot won the better fight. I thought Gaudinot vs. John Lineker was the more exciting fight (not that there was anything wrong with the Dodson fight, mind you). The two men absolutely threw down in a fun fight and deserved the fight of the night bonus.