After six long weeks without a UFC event, they returned in style tonight. UFC 152 delivered pretty much all the way though, with only one dull fight bringing the momentum to a standstill temporarily. The undercard was excellent, with four finishes and three other bouts that were full of entertainment. I think the main card delivered as well, and I've certainly spent 50 bucks on worse things than this (like two nights ago, when I forgot that I stole my friends keys as a joke until I got home, and had to spend 50 bones on cabs to return them). Enough about me though, let's get onto the winners and losers from tonight's event in Toronto.
Jon Jones: He got his arm messed up, but Bones went out there and did what he had to - finish Belfort impressively. He'll definitely learn something from the armbar scare in the first round, and even though it was a bout that Jones was expected to win, he'll grow as a fighter from the experience. He also handled himself well in the post-fight interview and at the press conference, showing Belfort a ton of respect but not trying too hard like he did after the Rashad Evans fight at UFC 145. It's scary to think that Jones can actually get even better, but that is exactly what is going to happen.
Vitor Belfort: Belfort did something no one expected last night - he made Jon Jones look human. Anyone that was picking Vitor was doing it based on his hands, not his submission game. Combine that armbar with the fact that he went into the fourth round, and it's easy to see how Belfort elevated his stock even though he lost. His decision making was a bit odd (why pull guard 62 times?), but the middleweight stepped up and did an admirable job of fighting the seemingly-invincible light heavyweight champ. And if he really did come into the fight with an injury as has been reported (either a broken hand or rib), I have even more respect for him considering how many times he's pulled out of fights in the past. Vitor showed something not many people have given him credit for lately - heart. He deserves props for that.
Demetrious Johnson: Champion. Mighty Mouse now stands right beside the likes of Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre as the absolute best his weight class has to offer. He fought his ass off and deserved the W, despite the rocky fourth round. Not everyone is going to be into the smaller fighters, but his bout with Benavidez absolutely didn't deserve to be booed. At the press conference last night, Dana White said that anyone who booed that fight should never order another UFC pay per view. I'd have to agree. If you can't get into the little guys, cool. But booing a fight full of action and entertainment? I'm disappointed in my Canadian brethren.
Michael Bisping: Is a title shot against Anderson Silva in Bisping's near future? Probably not. Dana White dodged the question when asked at the press conference, and it's not hard to figure out why. But Bisping looked very, very good tonight against Stann. He recovered well from getting rocked late in the first, and showed off his versatility by having Stann confused for the rest of the fight while he mixed up his wrestling and striking. Bisping is also gradually getting fans back in his corner, which is something I never expected (and even he seems a bit surprised about). It's good to see, because he truly is one of the more entertaining guys in the organization, both in and out of the cage.
Cub Swanson: I picked Oliveira to win the fight with Cub. I picked wrong. I tend to forget that Swanson is actually pretty good on the ground because the Lil Evil sub from his WEC days is burned into my brain. For some reason I thought that if Oliveira got him down, it was lights out. Well he did get him down. And it wasn't lights out. Instead, he got up and slept Do Bronx with one of the weirder knockouts you'll ever see. Swanson has now won three in a row over increasingly strong competition and he's right in the mix in the featherweight division. All Hail The WEC.
Check out the losers after the jump.
Joseph Benavidez: This is the second title shot Benavidez has received (the first came in the WEC), and he has lost by split decision both times. Ouch. It was an extremely close fight and he was the one that nearly finished it in the fourth, but he came up a hair short once again. In such a new division, you have to think that he'll be back in there against Johnson (or whomever the champ is at that time) in the near future. He's good enough to be the best in the world at 125. He just needs to prove it in the octagon.
Brian Stann: While Stann stood in there with Bisping and nearly finished him early, to say that the loss wasn't a setback for his career would be a lie. He'll have to work his way back up to a bout of this magnitude after being given two shots at it (against Bisping, and Chael Sonnen at UFC 136), and it's going to be a harder mountain to climb the third time around. He has improved immensely in the last few years though, and I think he still has the potential to be a force in the division if he can continue to get better.
Matt Hamill: That was not the bout Hamill needed to re-establish himself in the light heavyweight division after coming out of retirement. Roger Hollett stood in front of him all night, basically begging to be punched. And Hamill did not oblige him. He did almost finish the fight in the first, but he followed that up with two rounds of relative inactivity. Takedowns and pitter patter punches aren't worthy of main card fights, and if that's the best Hamill has at this point, maybe he should reconsider his return to the sport. That might be harsh, but it's the truth.
Charles Oliveira: The good news - he's still only 22. The bad news - he gets punched a lot, and that hurts. A promising start in the featherweight division came to a screeching halt tonight at the hands (literally) of Swanson. Oliveira got the fight to the ground but couldn't get anything going and once he got back up, a couple of brutal body shots set up the weird finish. He ate a big right to the jaw, took a step back, then...collapsed to the mat like his legs got turned off. I'm not sure what caused it, but it's not something that fans are going to forget anytime soon. That's not a good thing for Oliveira's career.
Jimy Hettes: What the hell, Jimy? That was an absolutely dismal performance from a guy that seemed like he was destined for big things in the UFC featherweight division. After completely owning Nam Phan in his last bout, Hettes came out and tried to be Nick Diaz against Brimage. Except he doesn't have the boxing skills that Stockton's Finest does, so he just got punched in the face a lot. The second round looked like the real Hettes, but the first and third were just terrible. The only thing that was worse than Hettes' fight IQ tonight was Joe Rogan's announcing during the fight, since he was all over Hettes' jock to the point that he wouldn't even acknowledge half of Brimage's strikes. Either way, Hettes needs to get back to his bread and butter if he wants move up the ladder at 145.