UFC on FX 7 is in the books and all I can say is - thanks the heavens for the main card. All four of the FX fights helped to erase the memory of the Fuel undercard, which was pretty horrid. While Nik Lentz and Ronny Markes did their jobs and took home wins on the prelims, their fights were incredibly boring and probably made a bunch of folks change the channel. But the tide turned a bit with a good grappling battle between Godofredo Castro and Milton Vieira in the featured prelims bout, and it only went uphill from there. Anyway, onto the winners and losers.
Vitor Belfort: The Phenom fought a smart fight against a very solid opponent. He didn't rush things, and he found something that worked and exploited it. I thought it was a bit odd that he was making his counterfighting strategy so obvious, but it really messed Bisping up. The head kick in the first was something Bisping wasn't prepared to take, and he was completely confused when the one in the second got thrown. That's why it landed, and it's why Belfort got the TKO. I've been watching Vitor scrap forever, and I've never really sat there and thought "wow, this guy's a really smart fighter." But I did that tonight. Belfort's just an awesome fighter, period. He gets a lot of credit for his physical gifts, but he deserves credit for his smarts too.
C.B. Dollaway: Dollaway's never going to win any popularity contests, but I was impressed with the way he adapted to what he had to face in the cage with Sarafian. After getting his bell rung a couple of times, he finally got his counter timing down well and made the most of it. I didn't like that he was super surprised by Sarafian's strength, since that was obvious on TUF Brazil and anyone with tape of his fights could figure that out. That just shows a lack of good preparation. But he got the job done (barely) against a touted prospect, and cemented his place in the company for a while. That's good enough to make this list.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: The Eagle's for real. That uppercut was far from awesome technically, but it damn sure got the job done. I thought he'd have to grapple to win against a tough Thiago Tavares, but that wasn't the case at all. He's 3-0 in the UFC now, with wins over solid fighters in Gleison Tibau and Tavares. He deserves to be fast-tracked into a fight with a top 10 guy.
Edson Barboza: A lot of guys are never the same after their first loss, especially when that loss involves getting your ass kicked all over the cage. But Barboza showed poise against a striker last night, and finished the fight in convincing fashion. I'm still really interested in his career path, and can't wait for his next fight.
Michael Bisping: It's easy to crap all over Bisping because he talks a mean game and can't back it up in top contender fights. But I liked his gameplan early. He was doing a great job of touching up Belfort while staying out of danger. It had all the makings of a decision win, especially since Belfort is known to fade quickly. Unfortunately for the Brit, he got outmaneuvered by a veteran who obviously scouted him well. Will he ever get his title shot? Probably not. But he's not just going to fade away into the darkness. He's a tough matchup for any middleweight on any given night. And we're not done hearing from The Count just yet.
Ben Rothwell: I'm sick of hearing about how Rothwell has "reinvented himself" every time he steps into the octagon, because it's always the same dude fighting the same way. Losing weight doesn't magically make you a great fighter. Big Ben has great takedown D, I'll give him that. But he had zero offense against a guy that doesn't like to get hit, and his striking defense was just plain bad. Is getting submitted by a Mundials winner the end of the world? No. But when you're given plenty of time to hit a dude that folds under pressure and you don't even try to punch him in the grill, you have no one to blame but yourself when your win bonus doesn't show up in the mail.
Ronny Markes: There's a lot to like about Markes on paper, but his performance against Andrew Craig can be summed up in one word - boring. When Nik Lentz grapples, at least you get the impression that he's trying to be aggressive and end the fight. Markes? Not so much. He hurt his stock badly by showing approximately zero urgency or killer instinct. He just held Craig down. It was enough for the W, but he won't be gracing main cards anytime soon despite a 3-0 record in the UFC. And, like Rothwell, it's his own damn fault.
Diego Nunes: Did he suddenly forget how to grapple after he left Nova Uniao? It was weird to watch Lentz just dominate him, because Nunes is better than that. I don't know if he was hurt or what, but it was really, really disappointing. He didn't even show up.
Pedro Nobre: I'm with Dana White on this one - that was an award-worthy performance. Escaping the kimura was extremely impressive. But there's no way in hell that those punches hurt him that bad, regardless of where they landed. Nobre stayed down because he knew he'd get another shot in the octagon if he did, and it would probably be at his natural weight in a more competitive fight. The moaning was ridiculous too. I feel really bad for Yuri Alcantara. The UFC paid him his win bonus, but that should have been a W on his record. The whole thing was a joke.
Wagner Prado: Nobre is undoubtedly my number one loser on the night, but Prado's not that far behind him. Wagner was dominating the fight on the feet, as he should have against a natural middleweight. On the ground though, he handed Ildemar Alcantara a submission attempt on a silver platter. And once he got stuck in it, his defense was absolutely atrocious. Seriously - if your sub D is that bad, you deserve to get tapped. And you shouldn't be surprised when you get your pink slip. Brutal.