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UFC 178 Results: Winners and Losers

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Patrick Wyman takes a look at the real winners and losers from last night's awesome UFC 178 card, bringing you the most detailed recap and analysis you'll find anywhere.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

UFC 178 lived up to the expectations and delivered a smorgasbord of entertaining violence. This is a prime example of the axiom that better fighters - all ten fighters on the main card and three on the undercard were ranked - put on better fights, contrary to that old and hackneyed line, "Don't judge a card before it happens." The lineup looked fantastic on paper, and it delivered in a big way. We saw ridiculous knockouts, high-level striking technique, high-amplitude throws, crazy athleticism, and come-from-behind victories.

It was a special card and a special night of fights, the kind of event that reminds jaded viewers of how great this sport can be when it all comes together right. Let's take a look at the real winners and losers.

Winners

Jorge Masvidal: The American Top Team product has developed into one of the UFC's most reliably entertaining action fighters, as most predicted he would after entering the promotion from Strikeforce. He's hittable enough to be fun, but not so much that it actively hinders his offensive game. He's effectively installed himself as a gatekeeper to the lightweight division's top 10, and that's no mean feat in a weight class this stacked.

Dominick Cruz: Well, that was certainly an emphatic way for the former bantamweight champion to announce his return to the division. Prior to the litany of injuries that robbed Cruz of the last three years, few doubted his skill or his ability to outmove and outwork anybody at 135, but few would have called him a particularly scary fighter. That changed tonight. Cruz came out and, for lack of a better term, destroyed Takeya Mizugaki, blasting him with ground strikes and tossing the normally sturdy Japanese fighter around like a sack of potatoes. I was prepared to watch a clear if not dominating decision and declare that TJ Dillashaw would eat the former champion alive, while lamenting the deleterious effets of his repeated injuries. After that performance, however, there are few fights by which I'd be more intrigued. Good for Cruz, and good for the bantamweight division. All hail the return of the king.

Cat Zingano: No victory on the card outstrips Cat Zingano's in terms of emotional significance, following not only the devastating knee injury that left her out of action for more than a year but also the loss of her husband. It's impossible to imagine the kind of turmoil she's faced in the last year, and surviving a first-round beating to come back and beat the hell out of Amanda Nunes represents an unfathomable triumph of will. Not only did she soundly trounce Nunes, Zingano did so in exceptionally entertaining fashion, with a profusion of high-amplitude throws, vicious shots from top control, and an unreal killer instinct. Zingano is a fine practitioner of violent mayhem and a worthy challenger to Ronda Rousey's lofty throne.

Yoel Romero: Speaking of violence, how about that Yoel Romero? Leaving aside the controversy about the stool, which frankly I'm not that interested in hashing out (mostly because Romero fights are always bizarre), he landed shots on Tim Kennedy that would've put down water buffalo and elephants on an African safari. The ease with which he shucked off the American's takedown attempts was shocking - nobody, not Jacare or Luke Rockhold, throws Tim Kennedy around - and he paced himself well. For my money, nobody does more straight-up awesome things in the cage than Yoel Romero, and I can't wait to see him fight again.

Conor McGregor: The birth of a star is a fascinating, infuriating, messy, and above all, a rare process that we're watching unfold in real time. McGregor is the real deal both in the cage and outside it, the kind of charismatic, next-level celebrity that MMA in general and the UFC in particular need to stay relevant in a time of declining ratings and presumably interest in the product. Sure, that process comes with a fair amount of hyperbole, but don't let that distract you from the very real apotheosis we happen to be watching. At the end of the day, I can't pay McGregor any higher compliment than to say that he's worth the price of admission.

Donald Cerrone and Eddie Alvarez: It's a shame that they didn't get Fight of the Night, because that was about as good a technical striking matchup as you'll see in an MMA fight. A great fight is, at heart, a conversation between two talented athletes, and Alvarez and Cerrone communicated beautifully. The command of angles, rhythm, and strike selection was so high-level, while the clinch work was equally impressive. This was a great action fight, and both Alvarez and Cerrone deserve to be praised and celebrated. With that said, this is a huge setback for Alvarez, who has a tough hill to climb in a stacked division. Cerrone has a great claim to a blockbuster, headlining fight in his next outing, and I hope (for our sakes) he gets it.

Losers

Takeya Mizugaki: I'm not sure there's a bantamweight alive who could've beaten Dominick Cruz last night, but getting finished in under a minute is a pretty rough outcome for a tough-as-nails fighter like Mizugaki. Dana White said it best at the presser: nobody does that to Takeya Mizugaki, and Cruz ran through him like he wasn't there. We saw a pretty clear glimpse at the veteran's ceiling. He's clearly made the most of his late-peak run, but this is as far as it goes.

Amanda Nunes: It was a predictable outcome, even if the first round was a little more dramatic than I thought it'd be. Nunes is a monster early, but gasses late, which is a product of her high-energy style. She throws everything into every shot, and while that produces some fantastic finishes, it's not a reliable way of winning decisions in a sport where cardio and consistent output are becoming progressively more important.

Tim Kennedy: Kennedy's gameplan worked, after a fashion, right up to the moment when it didn't. He ate huge shots and generally looked a step above helpless in the first round, found his range and wore Romero down by the end of the second and ended with a huge salvo of punches, and then got cleanly knocked out at the beginning of the third. "Stoolgate" is a mitigating factor, but at 35 and with a lot of mileage on him, Kennedy might not get another shot at a run to the top.

Referee John McCarthy: Whatever happened there, the responsibility ultimately falls on McCarthy, not Romero's corner or the fighter himself. It was a weird situation that happened because of a confluence of rare factors - cornermen not speaking English, confusion between McCarthy and the commission official, an excess of vaseline, etc. - but it's his job to make sure that all goes smoothly.

Dustin Poirier: Poirier didn't exactly look bad, just stunningly outmatched on the feet. He's a power puncher with serious defensive limitations, and McGregor exposed exactly the same weaknesses - a lack of head movement and therefore a vulnerability to counters, a lack of high-level footwork - that Cub Swanson exploited more than a year ago. With that said, there are very few opponents capable of exploiting those holes in his game, and it says less about Poirier's issues than just how good McGregor really is. He's young and he'll bounce back just fine.

Chris Cariaso: Poor Cariaso. Snowballs in hell have a better chance than Cariaso did against Demetrious Johnson, and the fight went pretty much as expected. To add insult to injury, nobody at the post-fight presser even asked him a question. Cariaso stepped into an impossible situation, a gatekeeper forced into a title fight in which he wasn't competitive, and the fact that he got dominated was made worse by the overwhelming apathy.

Demetrious Johnson: This has nothing to do with his performance, which was every bit as dominating as we expected it to be, and everything to do with the complete and utter lack of interest Johnson's exploits seem to inspire in viewers. Maybe it's the fact that he's tiny, maybe it's that he seems like such a good friend to small children and animals, or maybe it's that his personality just isn't cut out for anything resembling stardom, but there's no evidence that anybody outside of the hardest of hardcore fans cares about Mighty Mouse. He's an artiste, but that only goes so far in a sport that demands more from its champions than mere dominance in the cage.

Quick Hits

-Manvel Gamburyan managed to steal a submission victory from Cody Gibson late in the second round in a fight the Armenian veteran was badly losing. Props to Gamburyan for pulling out the submission, but with 15 years' experience, a multitude of injuries, and the way Gibson was shellacking him before the finish, I remain to be convinced that the veteran is long for the UFC. As for Gibson, he looked great up until the very moment he tapped. He'll be back and he'll be better.

-Kevin Lee is going to be pretty good, guys. He beat the hell out of Jon Tuck for a unanimous decision victory, showcasing improved hands, his usual wrestling acumen, fantastic work in the clinch, and plus athleticism. There was some downright strange refereeing from Jason Herzog, but that shouldn't overshadow Lee's steady improvement.

-John Howard and Brian Ebersole put on a completely uninteresting fight that Ebersole won by split decision. I had it 29-28 Howard, but really, it was hard to care too much about the result.

-James Krause didn't look too bad against Jorge Masvidal, and the fight went pretty much how most predicted it would. There's no shame at all in losing to an action fighter of Masvidal's caliber in an entertaining, back-and-forth scrap, and Krause should stick around for a while.

-Stephen Thompson and Patrick Cote didn't really live up to expectations, as the American took a clear but relatively slow-paced decision from the Canadian veteran. It looked and felt like a sparring match, which isn't necessarily a terrible thing, but it lacked a certain edge that might have made it a more violent and quick-paced fight. Cote is still solid, but he isn't the fighter he once was, and I wonder how long he can continue hanging around.

On a more personal note, this will be my last Winners and Losers column, as I'll be leaving Bloody Elbow this coming week. I really appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read and comment on these articles since I started writing them seven months ago. This was a great card on which to exit, after covering some fantastic scraps, a bunch of mediocre events, and a little bit of absolute dross. Thanks for reading, and hit me up on twitter @Patrick_Wyman.