What this event lacked in name value it more than made up with excitement. With seven knockouts and eight victorious underdogs, including several enormous upsets, this was a hell of a card from top to bottom. Without further ado, let's take a look at the winners and losers.
Albert Tumenov: After a rough performance against the underrated and tough Ildemar Alcantara, Tumenov needed to do something dramatic to regain some of the considerable hype he'd enjoyed prior to his debut. His performance against Lapsley surely fits that description. He patiently stalked Lapsley for the first several minutes, landing clean shots and avoiding a few takedown attempts, before cracking his overmatched opponent with a gorgeous check hook. Lapsley isn't exactly a top-10 fighter, but for a 22-year old in his second UFC appearance, this was exactly what Tumenov needed to do to remind people of just why he could become truly special with a little more seasoning.
Justin Salas: It seems like a long time ago now, but Salas once had quite a bit of hype behind him. Getting brutalized in the first round by both Thiago Tavares and Tim Means removed quite a bit of the shiny new-prospect smell, but that shouldn't hide the fact that Salas has made real and noticeable improvements to his game under the tutelage of the drastically underrated Trevor Wittman. While Salas doesn't have the physical tools to challenge for a top slot in the lightweight division, he can stick around for a long time as an entertaining, durable, and seriously challenging gatekeeper, especially if he keeps improving. There's every reason to think that he will.
Nik Lentz: I've never really had a problem with Lentz's style - unlike a few other guys with that rep, he actually stays active whilst grinding - but if he continues to show off the kind of improvement in his striking that he did against Gamburyan, he can count me as a legitimate fan. He constructed his combinations on the threat of his level changes and feints, throwing a wide variety of uppercuts and knees as Manny ducked down, and then built off the threat of his combinations to land his takedowns against the fence. It was a gorgeous development in Lentz's game, and it's great to see him still improving at this stage in his career.
Johnny Eduardo: I said in my pre-fight prediction that Wineland needed to mix up his approach and wrestle a little bit. We knew coming in that Eduardo was at least as good a striker as the former top contender - he is, after all, the coach of a couple of slouches named Jose Aldo and Renan Barao - but I didn't expect the aged, venerable Brazilian to come out and sleep him like that. Eduardo's been in the MMA game forever, debuting in 1996 at an old-school Vale Tudo event. To put that in perspective, here are a few points of comparison:
1. Bill Clinton was the president, and nobody had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky. George W. Bush was governor of Texas. Barack Obama was a working attorney.
2. "The Macarena" was the top song on the charts, having succeeded 2Pac's "California Love" several months earlier; that's Urijah Faber's walkout song, for the youthful cretins out there.
3. Osama bin Laden was just some guy the US had worked with during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
4. Eddie Wineland was in sixth grade at the time.
This was a huge upset (according to one book, the biggest in UFC history) against a really, really good fighter, and we should be celebrating it as a totally awesome, freakish, random, fantastic event.
Kyoji Horiguchi: There's no two ways about it: Horiguchi beat ten shades of shit out of Darrell Montague. He's a truly fantastic young fighter in a division that's badly in need of new blood, and the sky's the limit. To expand on that a bit, if he were purely a one-dimensional striker, he'd still be awesome; when you add in the offensive wrestling and punishing top game, he becomes a legitimate future contender. Montague is hardly a joke of a fighter, and Horiguchi manhandled him in every phase.
Soa Palelei: No point in overselling this - Potts isn't very good - but Soa's now won three in a row, and at heavyweight, that practically makes him a top contender. He probably won't beat a top-10ish guy, but he's earned the shot at one.
Daron Cruickshank: Very few people were giving Cruickshank a shot in this fight, given the perception that Koch was faster, more technical, more powerful, and just flat-out more talented. One huge high kick changed that. The set-up was beautiful: high kick, straight right, and then a faked left hand that disguised the second high kick as it came up and over Koch's shoulder. That's high-level stuff, and it should be clear at this point that Cruickshank is steadily improving. I'm not sure what his future really holds - it's hard for a fighter to hit his ceiling training at small gyms in Michigan - but at the very least he's an awesome action fighter.
Costas Philippou: Whelp, that wasn't what I (or most people) thought would happen there. For all of his flaws, Costas has always been willing to exchange, and when he forced Larkin to the fence he made the most of his opportunities. After the whuppings he received at the hands (and shin) of Francis Carmont and Luke Rockhold, we know that Costas' ceiling is the fringe of the top 10. He's still a pretty fantastic action fighter, though, and we shouldn't allow his recent struggles to overshadow that fact. He can crack with anybody and look great doing it.
Matt Brown: What can you say about a performance like that? He beat Erick Silva in every single phase of the fight, from the clinch to range to the ground, and landed an unholy number of strikes before the Brazilian finally gave up the ghost in the third. He's a special fighter on a special run, and we should cherish every ridiculous moment of this.
A brief aside before we begin anointing Brown, though. The Mein and Silva fights showed that there's a hole in his game right where he's supposed to be at his strongest. When you throw at Brown, he doesn't just continue to walk you down; instead, he backs straight up, and then takes a few moments to reset before resuming his pressure. If you exploit this moment and move forward with subtle angles, feints, and strikes, you can stuff his stalking game before it ever gets going. In other words, he's not really a stand-his-ground kind of guy who wants to fight his opponent in exchanges, but one who wants you moving backwards on your heels. Exploiting this flaw is how Mein set up his knockdown left hook to the body and dominated the first round of their fight, and that's precisely how Silva landed the lethal body kicks that nearly finished him. Basically, it's less work to spam light strikes at Brown and consistently force him backward than it is to try and run and hope that he'll eventually give you space. He won't, and it's a waste of time and energy to try.
This is a pretty minor flaw in a guy who's really grown into an outstanding fighter. His work in the clinch was better than it's ever been, the Thai-style dumps were amazing, the range striking and pressure were just as good, and he's obviously shored up his weaknesses on the ground. I don't know where he goes next - bouts with Hector Lombard, or better yet, Nick Diaz might loom on the horizon - but if you aren't stoked to see the Immortal do his thing, I frankly don't know what to tell you. This was an amazing fight, one of the best we'll see this year, and we should appreciate the hell out of it.
Ben Wall: There's no getting around the fact that Wall has been viciously KO'd twice inside the first round in his only two UFC bouts. In point of fact, he's actually failed to make it into the second half of the first round in both outings. Garcia's a talented guy, and Salas is solid, but that's not a good look. I doubt Wall will be sticking around for much longer.
Manny Gamburyan: He didn't look bad, exactly, but the loss to Lentz dropped Gamburyan to 2-4 (1 NC) in his last seven fights. Without Siver's failed drug test and the highly questionable decision against Cole Miller, he'd be 1-6 since getting destroyed by Jose Aldo. This isn't some random mid-career slump. Gamburyan had his first fight in 1999 at the tender age of 17, and while he hasn't been incredibly active over the last 15+ years, it's hard not to see Gamburyan's decline as the direct result of time in the game and the aging process. If the UFC doesn't cut him, I'm not sure there are many featherweights on the roster whom he'd have a good shot at beating these days.
Eddie Wineland: I mentioned this above, but I really thought that Wineland coming out and engaging in a pure striking match with Nova Uniao's kickboxing coach would turn this fight into more of a coin-flip than it needed to be. I didn't expect this outcome, though, and it's hard to overstate what a massive blow this is to Wineland's future standing in the bantamweight division. There are very, very few fighters who can succeed in the top 10, much less the top 5, of any division by being completely one-dimensional, and for now that's what Wineland is.
Darrell Montague: The Mongoose has always been crackable, dating back to before his time in Tachi Palace, and it's unfortunate that he was matched up with a pair of dynamite-fisted opponents in his first two UFC bouts. Frankly, Montague shouldn't have been allowed to continue when he stumbled back to his corner after the second round, and it was dangerous to allow a guy in that kind of shape to go back out there. I sincerely hope they don't cut him: he's a talented fighter with a diverse game, and he deserves another chance to show what he's capable of.
Erik Koch: I thought Koch looked good, showcasing improved volume and aggressive forward movement, right up until the moment he ate a monstrous high kick from Cruickshank. While Koch is still young (25), he has more than seven years of experience, and he should be entering his prime right now. Unfortunately, he's been hurt badly by strikes in three of his last four fights. Whether that's due to the fact that his chin isn't particularly durable or there are more-or-less fixable issues with his defensive approach, it's proving to be a serious problem. Either way, I'm not quite ready to pass judgment on him.
Lorenz Larkin: Whatever you think about Larkin's performance in that fight, don't give up on him just yet. He's been fighting professionally for less than five years and he's still only 27. Losing a close decision on volume to Brad Tavares and getting caught with one vicious punch against the fence by Philippou doesn't make him a bad fighter who's unworthy of time and investment on the UFC's part. It also doesn't mean that he's stalled out and incapable of improving further. A change in camp, or possibly just more time, will probably be enough to push him toward his ceiling.
Otherwise, Yan Cabral and Zak Cummings put on a solid scrap, but nothing that you need to rush off to watch; it was a pretty big upset win for Cummings, though, and he might turn into a solid gatekeeper at welterweight. Natal-Herman was decent, I guess, if you look at it in just the right light or if you're into that sort of thing. Cariaso and Smolka put on a fight that I'm not interested enough to recap in any meaningful sense; the outcome doesn't really do all that much for either guy. Ruan Potts didn't belong in the UFC in the first place, and I'm not going to waste any time talking about him. Means-Magny had the potential to be fun, though it was anything but: once again, Means showed his complete willingness to fight at his opponent's pace instead of pushing his own, and Magny was...not great.
I couldn't put Silva in the Losers column, not after the kind of heart he showed in a strong contender for fight of the year, and especially not after hearing that he had to be stretchered out of the cage in the aftermath of the fight. Send good vibes his way and hope that it was just a precaution.
I'll see you all back here for another edition of Winners and Losers in a few weeks. Someone will fill in for me after UFC 173, which I'll be attending for my bachelor party; I anticipate an exquisite debauch, and if I'm in any condition to be writing this column then I'll count it as a failed venture.