UFC Fight Night in Poland is in the books, and a relatively unremarkable show ended with Mirko Cro Cop finishing Gabriel Gonzaga in the night's main event. Cro Cop was down 2 rounds to nil after 10 minutes and bleeding badly after eating some hard elbows, but the PRIDE and K-1 legend turned things around by hurting Gonzaga with standing elbows before finishing the fight with ground elbows and punches. It was a great moment for Cro Cop fans to savor, and the paying crowd certainly enjoyed the comeback.
Since Karim Zidan was on-site covering M-1 Challenge 56 in Russia, so taking his place writing up this Winners and Losers column is me. He'll be back in the swing of things next Saturday in time for UFC on Fox 15.
Mirko Cro Cop. If not for sentimental value, it was nice to see Cro Cop find a second wind and pick up a win that looked increasingly unlikely with each takedown and mount from Gonzaga. Cro Cop seized the opportunity when he hurt Gonzaga in the 3rd and finished brilliantly. Do I want to see him fight again? Not really, because I know better opposition would have thrashed him, but it's still a great personal moment for Mirko in the twilight of his career.
Maryna Moroz. That was a completely unexpected ass kicking she delivered. I didn't think she would be able to outstrike Calderwood based on seeing past footage of her, and certainly didn't envision her "pull guard for the armbar" strategy to pan out so easily. She achieved both, called out Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and instantly put herself on the map as a contender in the fledgling UFC women's strawweight division. Consider that a massive feather in her cap.
Pawel Pawlak and Anthony Hamilton. Two fighters who were arguably on the cusp of a UFC release managed to get pivotal unanimous decision wins, over Sheldon Westcott and Daniel Omielanczuk respectively, to potentially rescue themselves for at least a couple of fights.
Stevie Ray. I thought Ray was far and away the most impressive debutant in the cage last night. Marcin Bandel is rather one-dimensional, but he took away Bandel's leglock threat quite well and turned Bandel's guard pulls against him on numerous occasions. For a short notice fight he looked great, and I can't wait to see him again.
Leon Edwards. Nothing like getting your first UFC win in just 8 seconds AND getting a $50,000 bonus on top of that. That was by far the most violent finish on the card and he's definitely earned himself a few more minutes in the Octagon with his swift knockout win.
Joanne Calderwood. The stage was set up for Calderwood to seemingly secure a women's strawweight title shot by beating the unknown underdog Maryna Moroz on the opening main card bout. She was supposed to have a major striking advantage but was picked apart by Moroz's boxing before the armbar ended the fight in just 90 seconds. It's Calderwood's first loss as a pro and a hammer blow to her title aspirations. I'm sure she'll bounce back from this, but this has to sting big time, and she was by far the biggest loser on the card.
Gabriel Gonzaga. For more than 2 rounds, Gabriel Gonzaga was winning until he suddenly wasn't. This is his 3rd straight loss, his 2nd by KO/TKO, and his 8th overall out of 10 professional defeats. I don't know how much longer the UFC will keep him around, but it's clear that he's not even a top 15 heavyweight at this point in his career, and getting hurt with strikes on a consistent basis is a major reason for that.
Light Heavyweight division. Jimi Manuwa beat Jan Blachowicz, but in the long-term this ended up being a net negative for the division. Manuwa winning isn't the problem, being on the sidelines recovering from a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus is a problem. He stated in the post-fight press conference that he will need surgery for those injuries, which he suffered pre-fight and somehow got cleared to compete anyway. The last thing a thin division like 205 needs is a "fresh face" like Manuwa shelved for an extended period of time. Blachowicz meanwhile failed to impress and probably isn't looking at top 10 caliber opposition any time soon.
Polish MMA (sort of). I already talked about this in the post-fight analysis post, but the UFC had to contend with not having the best Polish fighters on the card, and the end result wasn't pretty, as only two Polish fighters out of seven walked away victorious. Don't consider it an indictment on the quality of Polish MMA fighters when the bulk of the best ones aren't in the UFC. Alas, 2-5 is 2-5 and this show will be lumped in with the UFC Porto Alegre show from February and UFC Stockholm in January as far as anti-home field advantage.
Seth Baczynski. Once upon a time, "The Polish Pistola" was on a 4 fight winning streak, but now he's lost 5 of his last 6 and suffered a wicked KO loss yet again in the 1st round. It's hard to see anything else but another release coming for Baczynski.
Referees. Not a single point deduction was handed out for fence grabbing, which Stevie Ray and Marcin Bandel were guilty of, along with several other fighters on the card. I don't know what it will take to actually penalize fighters for repeated fouls instead of warning them a million times over. Also, there were far too many instances of referees separating fighters early in the clinch, as well as telling them to "work" even as they were throwing knees and short punches. I also contend that Leon Roberts was late in stopping Cro Cop/Gonzaga, but it wasn't Mir/Carwin levels of late.