Welcome, gentle readers, to the Winners/Losers column, Substitute Teacher Edition. Let's jump in.
Mark Hunt - Hunt has been 0-1-1 for the past twelve months, implications of rocky contract negotiations cropped up during his training camp, and there were concerns about his fighting shape after it was revealed that he had to sweat out some twenty pounds the day before weigh-ins--one uppercut later, and all that static is cleared away. Hunt, who, along with his infamous power displayed solid grappling defense in his eight minutes of cage time, flattened a focused-looking Roy Nelson for another walk-off KO and reintroduced himself into the upper end of the division.
Roy Nelson - The loss puts him at a recent 1-3, but before the ultimate shot landed, Nelson appeared sharper than he has in a long time. His striking was varied, and he smartly sought the takedown rather than spamming his overhand right. He looked like a mixed martial artist this weekend. I hope he continues to fight like one.
Myles Jury - A 6-0 start in the UFC, an unblemished overall record, a tidy KO of an MMA legend--what's not to like? Jury delivered in his first role as a co-main event fighter, and while he may have yet to capture the fans' collective imagination, wins over two big-name opponents in Sanchez and Gomi should bring him a fair bit of heat.
Miesha Tate - With a much-needed win, Tate finds herself on a win streak for the first time in three years and validates to some degree the push she's received from the UFC.
Yoshihiro Akiyama - It wasn't a showing likely to strike fear into the division but, with his methodical performance, Akiyama came back from a lengthy layoff and four straight losses to earn his first victory in over five (!) years.
Masanori Kanehara - There've been a lot of questions (from me just as much as anyone) surrounding the Japanese circuit, about level of competition and the strength of its products. With his upset victory over a talented UFC veteran, However, former Sengoku champion Kanehara showed that there's still life among the ruins of PRIDE FC.
Fight Pass subscribers - The Fight Pass cards have been pretty spotty overall, I think, but the latest event was heavy on star quality and delivered in entertainment. Well worth the ten buck entry fee.
Korean MMA - The Korean fighters on Saturday's card went 2-0 and looked pretty damn good doing it. That circuit seems to have quietly developed into a shark tank that turns out a rugged, offensively potent brand of fighter that make for must-see TV.
Takanori Gomi - Once again, and days ahead of his 36th birthday, Gomi's UFC record drops below the .500 mark. There's little shame, after a sixteen-year long career that saw him reign as the number-one lightweight in the world, to drop a fight to a prospect like Jury. It must sting especially hard, though, for the loss to come in the form of a quick TKO (the first such loss of his entire career), on native soil, and without the cold comfort of that loss coming against someone with the name value of a Florian or Sanchez. Gomi's days as a contender were already long gone, but who knows what the unprecedented TKO will mean for him going forward.
Amir Sadollah - A rough return to action for the TUF 7 tournament winner, whose UFC record now stands at 1-3 since 2011. Here's hoping the injury-prone Sadollah can stay healthy and start building some momentum before he enters his late 30s.
Rin Nakai - I've gone back and forth on where on this list Nakai really belongs. On the one hand, after a demoralizing first round, she was able to come back, adjust and refine her timing, and make for a fairly competitive latter half against a former contender. On the other hand, I don't think that not getting blown out of the water exactly qualifies you as a "winner," and there are some serious issues with her long-term prospects in the division Her stand-up was nonexistent, she appeared to be at a total disadvantage strength-wise, and, supposedly, she and her camp are uninterested in a move down to a more suitable weight class. It's hard to imagine a lengthy UFC career for her if she can't make big moves in one or two of these respects.
Alex Caceres - He took a risk accepting a short-notice fight against a well-established opponent and, unfortunately, things didn't quite pan out. The extenuating circumstances surrounding the fight, combined with his reputation as an action-fighter with decent on-screen presence, will keep him in the UFC, but the fact remains that Caceres tumbles further down the rankings and finds himself on a losing streak for the first time in three years.
Officiating - Score-keeping and refereeing continue to be a problem, with Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Richard Walsh acting as a microcosm of practically everything wrong with MMA officiating. Frequent fouls by Walsh--repeated fence-grabbing, low blows, and holding of the gloves--should have probably resulted in a deducted point, or at least the explicit threat of one. Yet, dubious in-cage tactics aside, Walsh did seem to pretty clearly win the fight 29-28. Enter the judges, who wound up giving the nod to Kunimoto. It's a combination that leaves a pretty bad taste in one's mouth.