UFC 173 will forever be remembered for the main event, one of the most shocking title fight upsets in UFC history. T.J. Dillashaw's performance in wresting the title away from Renan Barao was one of the performances of the decade, making for an easy first entrant as we run down the event's winners and losers.
T.J. Dillashaw - Dillashaw was counted out by almost all media, and certainly by the oddsmakers. The UFC sell-job of Barao as the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet wasn't based on some warped version of reality, there was a very legitimate case to be made.
Dillashaw's chances were thought to require being better than he had ever been, including needing to get inside and work a safe takedown and top game. Instead, he beat Barao up on the feet. From the first round, where he dropped and came close to finishing Barao, to the final round when he did get the finish. It was an honest-to-god asskicking, which is what made it more than simply an upset.
Daniel Cormier - Cormier demolished Dan Henderson. That part was predictable enough. But he did a good job of selling himself as a contender for Jon Jones. Cormier was so dominant in throwing Henderson around and beating on him, that he appeared to choke Henderson unconscious out of frustration with the ref more than anything. After landing a series of punches to a turtled Henderson, Cormier looked at the ref, seemingly annoyed, and locked in the choke.
The post-fight interview where Cormier said "If I decide to take Jon Jones down 100 times, I'll take him down 100 times" was a good soundbyte for the UFC to use if the two do meet in the future (should Jones get past Alexander Gustafsson - more on that later).
Robbie Lawler - Obviously I'm just naming the guys who won the night's big fights at this point, but Lawler made a very big point against Jake Ellenberger. Lawler dominated an extremely tough fighter, seeming to have fun in winning rounds before getting the third round finish. Lawler's ascension to legitimate title level fighter remains one of the best stories in MMA.
The UFC - Cormier vs. Jones could be a huge fight if promoted correctly. So getting the Cormier win and a good post-fight moment to focus on was good for the UFC.
But Dillashaw's win was likely good for the UFC also. Look, the reality is that the 135 pound division might never be a big seller for the UFC. Still, having a "good looking" guy who can speak English and help sell future fights is good for the promotion compared to having to have Dana White yell out statistics while trying to turn fans on to Barao.
Renan Barao - Barao didn't jsut lose, he got dominated. By the point that he was on the stool before the fifth round it was clear that Barao was mentally broken. He looked badly distressed while sitting in the corner.
The question is if this affects him longterm. A fighter can be broken for good if his confidence is shattered. Some guys bounce back from a loss, some guys don't. And the worse the loss, the more it can affect someone.
Dan Henderson - Henderson is not young, he's taken a ton of punishment in recent years and he no longer can use the TRT that extended his career. He may have said after the fight that his career isn't over, but we're getting very close to the day that decision has to be made.
Anthony Njokuani - Njokuani is 34 and he isn't getting better. He's stalled out in his development and hasn't made any strides in defending against any aspect of grappling. I thought that might not have been the case, but it clearly was tonight.
Jon Jones - Jones was put in a bad position tonight by the UFC. They announced a date and location for his title defense rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, except that Jones hadn't agreed to the fight. That kind of thing shouldn't happen with the best fighter on the planet, he's been backed into a situation almost a year to the date of UFC 151 where he almost has to accept the fight.
Also, and this is just me speaking personally, Jones should be worried about Daniel Cormier being on deck. Gustafsson was a very hard fight the first time around. He'll have to clear that hurdle first, and then he has an Olympic wrestling captain waiting for him. And that wrestling champ has learned a hell of a lot about the MMA game.
Jones' life is getting very difficult.