UFC 159 went down last night with Jon Jones retaining his title with a brutal beatdown of Chael Sonnen in the main event. The champ suffered a disgusting broken big toe while defending a takedown, but persevered to finish his challenger in the first round. Jones' toe is probably the biggest loser of the night, but let's take a look at the other winners and losers of the night.
Jon Jones: The 205 lb. champ should probably be the most popular fighter on the UFC roster right now. Considering only his Octagon performances, he's one of the most accomplished fighters to step foot inside the cage. However, he has a history of shooting himself in the foot when he gets behind the microphone and that has hurt him with UFC fans. Tonight, he finished a fan favorite in spectacular fashion and he did while his big toe was split in two. Regardless of your opinion of Jones as a character, he showed tonight that he has the heart, grit, and talent to be one of the best of all time.
Michael Bisping: Bisping has always been a "we love to hate you" fighter. MMA fans rejoice in his failures as evidenced by the repeated posting of the GIFs of his knockout losses to Belfort and Henderson. But last night he showed why he deserves his spot as a top UFC Middleweight. Both he and Belcher had proven that they're past the mid-tier of the division, but Bisping outclassed Belcher throughout their fight. He's not the most exciting fighter, but he's clearly a top talent and should be appreciated as one.
Pat Healy: Very few fans gave Healy an chance going into his fight against Jim Miller. The UFC veteran was supposed to outclass the Strikeforce transplant in every phase of the fight. Despite having some trouble early, Healy turned that theory on it's head and battered MIller into submission - literally. This was a huge win for Bam Bam that should gain him the respect of MMA analysts throughout the sport.
Sara McMann: McMann has been not-so-quietly working her way up the Women's Bantamweight ladder. The former Olympic silver medalist remains undefeated in MMA despite an increasing level of competition. Last night she dominated her opponent Sheila Gaff in a first round TKO performance. Between that and a decision win over Shayna Baszler, McMann has solidified herself as a top talent in the division.
Cody McKenzie: McKenzie's Facebook fight against Leonard Garcia was repeatedly joked about as a battle of the worst in the UFC's Featherweight division. That assesment may have been accurate, but Mcknezie proved Saturday that he stands above the regional brawling his opponent had become famous for. McKenzie worked to enforce a a ground battle that he clearly won and demonstrated that he was more than good enough on the mat to overwhelm Garcia. The performance undoubtedly won him another fight in the Octagon that he wouldn't have had in defeat.
Alan Belcher: Following Alan's disappointing and frustrating performance against Yushin Okami, this was Belcher's chance to redeem himself. Instead, his striking was shown to be a step behind the consistently underrated Bisping's. He looked slow and ineffective by the end of a fight that took place entirely where his greatest strength lies. Belcher is still one of the better fighters in the Middleweight division, but this fight proved that he'll remain a full step below the elite at 185 lbs.
Cheick Kongo: The French combatant has long been known as the stepping stone to the very top of the division. However, he's shown repeatedly in his last several fights that the holes in his striking defense are starting to catch up to him. He was almost finished by Barry, knocked out by Mark Hunt, and last night KO'd by Roy Nelson. He's probably still got the talent to frustrate the lower level HW fighters of the UFC, but it's clear that his 37 years are catching up to him.
Jim Miller: For a long time Miller has held the spot as one of the most underrated in the UFC Lightweight division. His tenacity and ground skills have gotten him through many fights and had him sniffing a title shot before running into Nate Diaz. Now, after giving up a late submission to Strikeforce's Pat Healy, Miller is as far away from a UFC title as he's ever been. He's suffered both of his only two finishes in his MMA career in his last three fights and it doesn't look like he'll be coming near the gold against any time soon.
UFC 159: There have been events worse than 159, but few with quite so many odd occurrences. It started with the St. Preux/Villante eyepoke stoppage and continued through the main event. The whole thing took "anything can happen in MMA" to a new level and put a damper on the entire show.
Eyepokes: Once again the controversy with accidental eyepokes has been highlighted in a major event. It started when Ovince St. Preux landed an accidental illegal blow on Gian Villante. Referee Kevin Mulhall was the beast of burden for the majority of criticism, but that ignored the legitimate problem with the ruleset. Mulhall was a told a fighter couldn't see and he stopped the fight as directed by the Unified Rules. The ridiculous incident just highlighted why there's a need for more clear rules on how referees should treat eyepokes during a fight.
Chael Sonnen: I refuse to call Sonnen a loser following this fight. Yeah, he was brutally stopped by the champ, but that was considered a foregone conclusion by most. Sonnen's real accomplishment was ending up as Saturday's main event at all. He employed his fight persona to full effect in order to make this fight happen. Even if he reitires as he implied in his post-fight interview, he'll be going out following an absolutely incredible run of competition.
Weight cutting: During the live event, few noted the absence of one of the scheduled bouts. James head and Nick Catone were scheduled to duel tonight on the FB prelims, but the fight was cancelled this morning after Catone was admitted to the hospital for dehydration. As fans we take for granted the weight changes and drastic cuts these fighters suffer through in order to perform. The loss of that fight is a perfect illustration of the many dangers of this sport.