UFC On Fox 7 will long be know as one of the most exciting events in UFC history. The Lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez in the main event was one of the closest title fights in recent memory. On top of that, there was a matchup of two top-10 Heavyweights in the co-main between Frank Mir and Daniel Cormier. Now, with the dust settled, take a look at what the wins and losses means for last night's combatant's.
Ben Henderson - It wasn't a decisive win, and many will even argue that he shouldn't have gotten the decision. But, the reality is that Henderson will wake up tomorrow with a UFC belt, and any time you can say that, you've won. Add to it a successful marriage proposal and a share of the record for most consecutive title defenses and that makes for a very good night for Benson Henderson. Dana White has announced that the winner of T.J. Grant and Gray Maynard will likely get the next shot at his belt, and with a potential fight with Jose Aldo looming as well, 2013 looks to be a very busy year for the champ.
Josh Thomson - Let's face it, few gave Thomson a chance against Diaz. While Nate was coming off a poor showing in his title fight against Henderson, he was widely considered a legit top five lightweight. Add to that, that he'd never been finished in his UFC career (and never been KO'd ever) and Josh Thomson's headkick TKO victory feels like the least likely thing ever. An additional $50,000 bonus for knockout of the night makes it an especially sweet UFC debut, and one that may quickly put him "in the mix" at 155.
Matt Brown - Bloody Elbow Fighter of the Year, Matt Brown, is looking to retain his title for 2013. His fight against Jordan Mein was a firefight, plain and simple, and one that cements Brown as a force in the welterweight . He may never be title material, but he's firmly ensconced himself as the fighter to watch on any card he's on. Apparently his fight of the night bonus tonight was his first ever in the UFC, which feels like a crime. Hopefully he gets back in the cage quick, if not for his sake then for mine.
Tim Means - I know Tim Means lost, but if I'm really looking at who made the biggest gains in their career tonight Means has to be on the list. Jorge Masvidal may be criminally underrated, but he's a top lightweight. Many feel he beat Gilbert Melendez when they fought in Strikeforce, and most expected him to blow by Means on his way to bigger things. But Means gave him a hell of a fight, and established that he has the tools to challenge all but the very best at 155. While tonight's loss has slowed his climb, it's raised his visibility too. I expect his next fight wont be a big step down.
T.J. Dillashaw - When Dillashaw lost to John Dodson in the TUF 14 finale many wrote him off as another, more-hype-than-talent, reality show victim. He appeared to have a wrestling heavy game that would eventually give him a very limited ceiling at 135, where fighters are often incredibly difficult to hold down. However, he's come on strong since that first loss, reeling off four straight dominant victories. The last two have been brutal KO's, and are quickly establishing him as a future title contender in the relatively thin bantamweight division.
Gilbert Melendez - I don't want to put Melendez here. He was making his UFC debut in the biggest fight of his career. On paper Henderson had all the tools to beat him; he wasn't expected to win. After all that, he fought the best fight he possible could have. He hit Henderson hard and often, was the aggressor throughout the fight, and when the fifth round ended was totally confident that he'd done enough to win. That's where the losing comes in. When the decision was announced Melendez looked crushed, dropping to one knee and burying his face in his hands. No doubt he'll come back from this loss, but it may not be without some serious soul searching.
Nate Diaz - If we're being honest, this was a big loss for the Diaz camp as a whole. With Nick in a state of semi-retirement, Nate's position at the top of the lightweight division was expected to keep the brand alive. Part of that brand was an incredible toughness, Nick and Nate had only been stopped twice in a combined 50 fights. Now, it's hard not to look at the Diaz brothers as flawed fighters, slowly slipping behind the curve of MMA development. And it's not just tonight's KO, but Nick's decision loss, and the way they've fought of late. Tonight Nate got beaten pillar to post, and it started to look like something we'd seen before.
Darren Elkins - Elkins was on a hot streak, quietly working his way into the top ten of the featherweight division. A win over Chad Mendes would have been his announcement to the divisional elite, that he had arrived. Getting knocked out in just over a minute essentially undoes his work of the last two years. He won't get cut, a five fight winning streak should see to that, but I wouldn't be surprised if his next fight takes place on Facebook.
Francis Carmont - Much like Tim Mean's loss isn't necessarily a loss, Francis Carmont's win isn't necessarily a win. One boring win, that fans feel was undeserved, is excusable; everyone has a bad night (judges have quite a few). But Carmont has turned into some sort of fun absorbing vortex, a judge-blinding anti-matter that can destroy a card just by its very appearance. Fortunately this card was way too awesome to be drug down by Carmont's victory over Larkin, but I doubt anyone, even the UFC brass, are eager to reward him after the way he fought tonight.
Ramsey Nijem - On a night when so many fighters were the victims of soul-stealing KO's, Myles Jury's KO of Ramsey Nijem stole more than most. Nijem entered the octagon on a three fight win streak following his fairly successful season on TUF 13. He was quietly building himself into an interesting prospect with his mix of solid wrestling and unorthodox, free-form, striking. Unfortunately, there's a reason that technique is examined so rigorously by analysts and fight junkies, and that reason was on full display when Nijem flung himself headlong onto a fist and got put out cold. He'll be around in the UFC for a while, but it will take a lot more work before he's considered a prospect again.