It's really too bad that Fuel doesn't have a wider reach, because a lot of people missed a pretty good event tonight. Other than a couple of stinkers, the card delivered on every level - the grappling fans got to see some really nice subs, the standnbangers got to watch some titular fisticuffs, and the middleweight division finally has a prodigy that could challenge Anderson Silva soon. Let's look at the winners and losers from tonight's card.
Chris Weidman - I want to use something cheesy like A Star is Born, but nothing shines on Fuel TV. Hardcore UFC fans are sure going wild, and they have every right to. Weidman dominated Munoz so badly that Mark didn't even land a single strike in the fight. Takedowns, subs, striking, he was everywhere. That elbow was so picture-perfect. The stoppage was terrible, and Weidman landed 16 unanswered strikes on the ground, but he was just doing what he had to do. The "who's next" question is a complicated one, and I'll address it later today.
James Te Huna - I was wondering why Te Huna changed his game up in the second when he had the standup well in hand, but a broken hand and foot in the first round will do that to you. He showed that he can adapt and won the fight another way, which is a big improvement for him. He also couldn't resist throwing down before the final horn, which was awesome. He's been getting striker vs. striker matchups and his ground game is still a concern, but he is definitely a guy that can give any LHW fits on the feet. He's awesome.
Aaron Simpson - It was a successful cut to 170. It won't win any awards for beauty, but he beat up a tough wrestler and showed that he could go a hard 15 minutes and nearly finished the fight at the final bell. I think that original opponent Jon Fitch would have smoked the Aaron Simpson we saw tonight, but there's time to improve and I hope we can see that Fitch matchup in the fall.
Francis Carmont - 3-0 in the UFC. Not something I expected to be typing about the French fighter. Vemola had him in a bit of trouble with some guillotines, but he showed off some good grappling chops and escaped danger. The way he set up the finish was a thing of beauty, using that attempted kimura to fall right into a dream position. Vemola was completely defenseless in that crucifix. It was very unique. I admit that I was a guy that didn't see Carmont going far in the UFC, and I will freely admit I was wrong. He's turned me into a fan.
Andrew Craig - Wow. That's our first candidate for the 2012 second half comeback of the year. He was so close to getting finished, and then he comes back and just levels Sapo with a monster kick. He's got a lot of heart, I'll give him that. And his post-fight interview was really good. I still have my doubts about how far he'll go in the UFC, but that doesn't matter tonight. The only downside for him was not winning the knockout of the night.
Losers after the jump.
Mark Munoz - Who would have ever thought anyone could dominate Munoz like that? He never landed a strike, he got taken down repeatedly, and he got KTFO'd. He should be pretty mad at Josh Rosenthal right now. He'll regroup and come back and be a tough matchup for anyone, but this was a gigantic step back in his career. He's one of the nicest guys in the sport, and it's tough watching guys you respect get utterly destroyed like that. But as Dana White says, that's the fight game.
Joey Beltran - Yes, Beltran showed off his incredible chin once again, and fought a pretty good fight overall. But the bottom line is that he lost once again, and in a new weight division to boot. He was facing a monster as a late replacement, so he'll clearly get another shot. But his chin and heart aren't enough to stick around for very long. He desperately needs a win.
Rafael Natal - I'm going to blur the lines of fighter bashing here, but I'll try to be as respectful as possible. Is there anyone in the UFC with a lower fight IQ than Natal? He's a talented, well-rounded fighter with power and athleticism. But he came out in the first round showboating, smiling and goofing off. Dude, you're 2-1-1 in the UFC. You haven't earned the right to act like you're not taking this stuff seriously. Then, when he had Craig inches away from done, he inexplicably switched to grappling and basically helped Craig reverse him. He showed no urgency back on the feet, and paid the ultimate price. As a fan, he frustrates me to no end.
Damacio Page - I've always been a fan of The Angel of Death, but it looks like he'll be headed off to the Jackson's MMA Series after four straight submission losses. Caceres kept baiting him with the same stuff, and Page kept going with it. I know he was looking to inflict damage on the ground and he thought that was the best path to a win, but his submission defense just isn't good enough to be in that spot with a good grappler. Bye, Damacio. We'll always remember you for nearly killing Marcos Galvao in the WEC.