Although Friday night's UFC event was mainly dedicated to introducing a new division to the UFC and anointing its first champion, Saturday show appealed to a wider audience salivating at the prospect of heavyweight violence. The card delivered in a variety of ways, as is typical for most FOX cards, and left fans and pundits with much to discuss in its aftermath.
Here are the real winners and losers from Saturday night's card:
Rafael dos Anjos put a beating on Nate Diaz during their co-main event match-up on the FOX broadcast. It was a lopsided affair that saw the Brazilian batter the former title challenger and TUF winner with damaging shots that left the Stockton native a bloody mess by the end. The win cements dos Anjos as one of the top competitors in the lightweight division and a likely title challenger in 2015.
Alistair Overeem avoided another dreaded losing streak during his UFC tenure when he stopped Stefan Struve with vicious ground and pound in the opening round of their main card encounter. It was a predictable performance from the Dutchman, as few doubted that he would suffer another upset loss to a fighter returning from a spell on the sidelines with a heart condition. The question now is: can Overeem string together a few more wins and finally make that push for a title shot?
Matt Mitrione picked up his third consecutive win via T/KO and has officially moved into the upper echelon of the (abhorrently shallow) heavyweight division. Mitrione unloaded on Gonzaga and was forced to deliver even more damage than necessary since referee Herb Dean decided to allow the fight to go on longer than needed. The win undoubtedly sets him up for big fights in the coming months.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk dispatched the top contender in the women's strawweight division with a remarkable showing on the preliminary portion of the card. She gave Gadelha the toughest fight of her career to date and managed to convince two of the three judges that she deserved the victory; even if it was a questionable decision. With that, she will likely move into a title elimination fight or even straight into contention.
John Moraga survived some unexpected adversity in his short-notice replacement fight against Gates before eventually finding the fight-ending submission with a few minutes to go in the fight. With the scorecards likely even heading into the third round, Moraga's aggression and relentless pursuit of the finish was exactly what one expects from a fighter interested in securing the victory.
Henry Cejudo looked fantastic in his UFC debut on Saturday night against Dustin Kimura. Although he is a renowned wrestler with Olympic gold medal credentials, Cejudo displayed some solid boxing and remained aggressive for the majority of the fight. He also proved to have decent mix skills, which could help raise his stock as he continues to work his way up the ranks.
Ian Entwistle made quick work of his opponent in the curtain jerker fight of the evening to move to 9-2 in his professional career. He ended the fight with a well-timed heel hook that was completed with noticeable technique. Entwistle continuously readjusted the submission until he was able to lock on the final touches.
Nathan Diaz is easily the biggest loser in this list following an absolutely devastating beatdown at the hands of Rafael dos Anjos. After skipping the open workouts and coming in overweight by nearly five pounds, Diaz may be granted the release he so clearly desires. UFC President Dana White has already revealed that there is a "whole laundry list of issues" with Diaz and this will likely diminish any bargaining power he thought he had.
Stefan Struve was placed in a fight that certainly did not favour him and he paid the price for it dearly. After dealing with a heart condition and a bout with anxiety before his last scheduled fight against Matt Mitrione, Struve was unable to last a single round against former Strikeforce and K-1 champion Alistair Overeem. The towering Dutchman has now suffered five frightening knockouts during his tenure with the UFC and one wonders how many more he is prepared to take.
Gabriel Gonzaga suffered yet another crushing first round stoppage in the opening fight on the main card when Matt Mitrione knocked him out in vicious fashion. Gonzaga appeared to have checked out of the fight following the first flurry from Mitrione, but since Herb Dean decided it was not enough damage, Gonzaga was subjected to another violent blow that separated him from his consciousness. This is his second consecutive loss in the UFC and does not bode well for his future in the organization. Retirement may be around the corner for the Brazilian.
Claudia Gadelha is undoubtedly one of the biggest losers on Saturday night's card, as she watched her title shot evaporate into thin air when the split decision was announced in Jedrzejczyk's favour. She appeared gassed in various portions of the fight and did not pull off a contention-worthy performance, even though most would argue that the she deserved to win the fight. Nevertheless, she will get little sympathy from fans and pundits, particularly following her blatant strike several moments following the final bell.
Joe Riggs capped off a cursed year with an anti-climatic loss in his long anticipated UFC return after he injured himself on a takedown attempt against Ben Saunders. After spending the majority of the year on the sidelines nursing an injury that was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, this was hardly an ideal way to return to fighting.
Jamie Varner lasted less than two minutes in his preliminary fight against Drew Dober. The WEC veteran came out to an audible ovation from the fans but failed to use that as added motivation as he tapped to a rear-naked choke shorty thereafter. The former champion retired from MMA following his fourth consecutive UFC loss.
Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic produced an enthralling 25-minute battle of attrition in the main event of the evening, and received a standing ovation for an ecstatic crowd for their efforts. While dos Santos ultimately convinced the judges that he deserved the decision, it was not a performance that warranted a spot in the winner column. The Brazilian appeared to be a shadow of his former self and was clearly rusty following a long layoff. In fact, I'd argue that this fight did more for Miocic's stock than it did for JDS. The Ohio native proved that he can hang with the elite fighters in the division and will continue to face competition of that level. Dos Santos, however, did little to convince others that he is worthy of another title shot.
Willie Gates put forth a fantastic effort against one of the division's finest in John Moraga before getting submitted in the third and final round of action. He had the former title challenger in all sorts of trouble in the opening round and kept it competitive throughout even though he came in on just three-weeks notice. However, there was an interesting moment in the fight when the referee refused to give Moraga a break following a low blow, and Gates pounced on the opportunity to land a shot that sent Moraga tumbling to the canvas. While some may consider it a cheap shot, it was certainly a legal one.
Ben Saunders may not have earned a spot in the winner column for his injury TKO win over Joe Riggs, but he does deserve a mention for giving a shout out to BloodyElbow.com and Super Calo.