I'd like to start by deducting two points from Mario Yamasaki for that absolutely awful decision to take a point from Maximo Blanco on an unintentional groin kick. Ah, now we can move on. I'm filling in this week for Tim Burke, who's gallivanting around Japan and South Korea whilst (presumably) introducing people of various nationalities to the Beer Monster.
Nobody's going to call this the card of the year, especially after the ridiculous run of decisions (more on that below) that marred the prelims, but even in the midst of that mess there was still some excitement to be found. The main card delivered: Charles Oliveira locked in a tight triangle on Andy Ogle in seconds, Musoke and Andrade put on a solid bout between B-level prospects, Silva delivered some good old-fashioned ultra-violence, Jacare spent enough time as a human backpack that he should be sponsored by Jansport, and Machida and Mousasi put on one of the most technical tactical battles we'll ever see.
Let's move on to the night's real winners and losers.
Charles Oliveira: Nobody's going to confuse Andy Ogle for his much more talented doppleganger (and idol) Ross Pearson, but he's a game and skilled fighter. He had some moments, but that slick triangle finish reminded us all of why we were so high on Oliveira when he debuted in the UFC ages ago. Despite facing the most brutal schedule of any prospect I can recall - all four of his losses came to opponents ranked in the top 10 at the time he fought them - he's continued to build on his crisp BJJ with some solid striking and vastly improving wrestling. He's still only 24 years old, and at six years into his career, he should just now be entering his prime. At the very least, tonight's win should help him shed the "bust" label with which he's unfairly been stuck.
Erick Silva: Yes, that was a mismatch of nearly epic proportions, but that's exactly what a really good fighter (which Silva is) is supposed to do against overmatched competition. As community member discoandherpes pointed out to me on Twitter before the fight, that kind of performance is the difference between seeing Silva as a potential contender - let's not forget that his losses are to some of the best pressure fighters in the division - and simply a hellaciously exciting action fighter. There's nothing wrong with being the latter, but if Silva can keep his head in the game, improve his cardio, and continue to deliver the ultra-violence in the fashion he did tonight, he could make a nice run in an absolutely stacked weight class. He does a better job of delivering vicious offense in transition than just about any fighter at 170, and in a division that's well stocked with guys who are going to try to take him down, that's a precious skill indeed.
Jacare Souza: Carmont did his best to make a fight of it, but Jacare utterly dominated him on the ground and kept it close enough on the feet to take a clear decision. It's worth noting that the betting lines drastically undersold Carmont - he was at least a 4:1 underdog - despite the fact that his sterling takedown defense and length made him a difficult matchup for Jacare. That the Brazilian was still able to enforce his predatory grappling and limited striking game is a credit to both his stunning athleticism and underrated fight IQ. I doubt he'd be able to do the same against Weidman, but who doesn't want to see him try?
Lyoto Machida: There were a lot of people, myself among them, who thought that Mousasi's pressure game would be enough to walk down Machida and snag a close decision. We were wrong. Every single facet of Machida's game, from his takedown defense to his timing to his grappling, was absolutely on point. Moreover, he firmly refused to display any sign that he's losing his athleticism or that his reactions are slowing down. If anything, he looks better physically than he has at any point in his career, perhaps because he's no longer trying to keep on size that he doesn't need at 185. As if all of that weren't enough, he and his coaches had clearly done their homework: they obviously noticed Mousasi's tendency to pull his head to the right on feints, and responded by gameplanning for left high kick after left high kick to exploit the opening. Nobody's going to beat a guy like Weidman if they can't game plan, and Machida's camp proved that they can do precisely that.
Everyone who watched the Fight Pass Prelims: Don't get me wrong, there were some decent moments. The grappling in Alcantara-Reis was fantastic despite the referee's inexplicable standup from half guard, Tukhugov-de Andrade wasn't a total bust, and Arantes-Blanco was actually a pretty great fight aside from Blanco doing his best to make sure that Felipe Arantes never reproduces. On the whole, however, we saw a lot of fighters who frankly either aren't that good - Jesse Ronson, Cristiano Marcello, and Joe Proctor come to mind - or legitimate prospects who are going through a serious adjustment to a level of competition they haven't faced before, like Tumenov, de Andrade, and Tukhugov. The hardest of hardcore fight fans are still going to watch for the foreseeable future, but it isn't a given that they'll continue to do so if this becomes a trend.
The UFC's new approach to talent development: This point follows directly from the last. By "new approach," I mean, "sign a bunch of fighters, throw them in there, and see how it plays out." They're going to find some good fighters this way, but prospect development doesn't happen overnight, and you're going to end up with a lot of tepid performances while even extremely promising young fighters are adjusting to a bigger stage, a higher level of competition, and in general, greater pressure to perform. They're also going to miss entirely on a few fighters who turn in horrendous performances.
Viscardi Andrade: This isn't the first time a fighter has celebrated a presumed knockout punch before the referee called it off - Tyrone Spong did it in his MMA debut, Rousimar Palhares did it against Dan Miller, and Luke Barnatt did it against Andrew Craig not too long ago - but none of those guys went on to lose their fights, and none of them got shut down in what was supposed to be their area of strength. That was, quite literally, an epic fail.
Francis Carmont: There wasn't a better matchup for Carmont's skills at the top of the middleweight division than Jacare, and he was almost completely shut down. Because of his propensity for both boring fights and inexplicably winning decisions, he's unlikely to get another shot at the best without a long winning streak, and that's probably not going to happen given his age (32) and decade of experience in the sport. His time was now, and it's passed him by.
I refuse to put Mousasi in the losers' category. Did he miss some opportunities, especially in transition? Yes, absolutely, but he never seemed like he didn't belong in the cage with Machida. He's only 28 and has boatloads of experience against top-end competition, and there's every reason to think that he'll rebound from this.