UFC 195 seemed on paper to truly be a card that catered to more dedicated fans than to the mainstream, and it totally did not disappoint. The undercard had great fights, the main card had some great action that led to a dream title fight between two of the best welterweights ever.
After a thrilling bout that featured what indeed could be considered the greatest final round in championship history, we end with another controversial split decision even though the action delivered and the heart of the participants is unquestioned.
Robbie Lawler - The champion remains champion after yet another battle for the ages. There's an argument for keeping the title based on aggression/cage control as well as damage over volume. Still, this is and will be a hotly contested matter that will be debated ad infinitum. He was gracious toward the challenger, fought his heart out and has shown a tremendous ability to only shine even brighter as he faces greater adversity. This is his fourth straight fight where he's reached the fifth round, with three of those being thrilling decision victories. Maybe when his admiration for gladiators and his vision of seeing himself as a modern one has something to it, as he's already campaigning for a rematch in a remarkable gesture.
Carlos Condit - Yes, he lost the decision on the scorecards, but this performance is the greatest representation of who he is as a fighter, and solidifies his place as one of the greatest welterweights ever. Relentless combinations, tremendous focus and composure along with sharp counterattacks led most people to believe he in fact should have won the championship - and for good reason. He's in the winner's column because his stock just went up exponentially. He's alluded to wanting to retire even before this fight, and if he does it's a hell of a way to go out.
Stipe Miocic stamped his ticket in an emphatic manner in his win over former champion Andrei Arlovski in the very first round of their bout. Miocic had a bit of a reputation of being sort of a bland wrestleboxer that was more athletic than average with no true standout performances. He's rebounded nicely from his decision loss to Junior Dos Santos and now has back to back victories over Mark Hunt and the aforementioned consensus #2 fighter in his division, and with the kind of performance that Zuffa loves when it comes to getting guys over the hump and into title contention (for reference, see Rafael Dos Anjos after his win over Benson Henderson). Now he waits to see who he'll face after next month's bout between Cain Velasquez and heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. Also, big ups to him for complimenting Rogan on his really nice shirt.
Albert Tumenov - "Einstein" came in with a lot of expectations and won in what was another controversial decision but also a close bout against the very tough Lorenz Larkin. His timing and pressure got him far enough early in the bout, but he struggled with Larkin's kicking arsenal and use of angles. Personally, I was surprised Tumenov didn't take things to the ground, but it only made for a more interesting bout in which both fighters tried to solve the puzzle of how to crack the other. Tumenov continued with solid body shots and continues to move upward in his division.
Brian Ortega ate some very hard shots but kept himself together to pull off a lovely scramble that led to chaining together various submission attempts, which ultimately led to his triangle choke victory over a very game Diego Brandão. It should be noted that he did struggle for a while, even while in bottom position on the ground for a majority of the fight. He remains undefeated in the UFC with a two-fight win streak and continues to impress as he moves up in an ever-changing featherweight division.
Dustin Poirier - It seems that after Phil Davis left for Bellator and Benson Henderson opted to fight out his contract, that others are finally following suit in the UFC. Now Dustin Poirier bet big on himself and won in massive fashion. He took what his opponent Joseph Duffy could offer standing and dominated more and more as the fight went on. He seems healthier and deadlier at lightweight, and seems to have finally be realizing that potential that he's had for some time.
Abel Trujillo bounced back after two straight losses and managed to get a submission over a very tough Tony Sims in the very first round. He's now at 4-3(+1NC) in the UFC and shows that he's not an easy fight for anyone, and is snatching any opportunity he can to win a fight.
Michael McDonald returned after a lengthy absence of just over two years and survived a very top-heavy approach to sneak out back and slap on a very deep rear naked choke on Masanori Kanehara in the second round. Perhaps he'll get another opponent outside of the top ten before facing top ten guys again given the time out.
Alex Morono could very well be the second biggest winner of the night with his big upset over established veteran Kyle Noke, and while it was yet another controversial decision, the young Texan has made an immediate impact. For a moment it seemed close to finishing Noke with that crafty armbar deep into the third round. We don't see young talents come in on short notice and do this well against long-time talents like Noke, and the way it went down was very impressive.
Justine Kish had her last fight in January of 2014 in a win against Randa Markos and hasn't had an official bout since (given her time on TUF). Perhaps it was octagon jitters, the long injury layoff or a combination of factors, but I remember her looking sharper before against other opponents. Still, she had a wild back and forth with the always gritty Nina Ansaroff and came out on top. She could very well return to form in her next bout. Women's strawweight isn't very crowded, so it will be interesting to see where things go from here for her.
Drew Dober took on the very athletic and scrappy Scott Holtzman to get the kind of win that will keep him in the organization. Michinori Tanaka put on a very gutsy performance against Joe Soto that raised value for both of them as fun fighters that are willing to put it all on the line. Sheldon Westcott dominated Edgar Garcia in an impressive fashion in a beating that went on waaaaaaay too long.
Andrei Arlovski - Man, that's gotta hurt. He ate one good shot from Miocic but didn't seem to expect that kind of power. The rest of the strikes that connected felled the Belarusian former champion and crushed his comeback story, even if momentarily. Arlovski was undoubtedly on the brink of getting a title shot, but it was not to be. Still undeniably top 5 in his division, but once again it was his defensive lapses that were his undoing.
Lorenz Larkin showed flashes of pure beauty in his fight against the quietly surging Albert Tumenov. Leg kicks, body kicks, everything he could use, he did. It wasn't enough given the style of his opponent and the way judging in modern MMA tends to be. After two very good wins, this is a bit of a setback. Either way, he showed some very good improvements in this bout and has nothing to be ashamed of. Big ups to Zuffa for putting him on the main card as well.
Diego Brandão looked more reserved and measured in his offense and seemed to have improved his striking defense as well, but got outgrappled in the end of a fight he was clearly winning. It wasn't even a lapse of fight IQ, or FightQ (shout out to Eddie Mercado!), it was just a better grappler keeping his wits about him and capitalizing for a big upset. Hurts to see a guy lose like that sometimes, but that's the game.
Joseph Duffy takes a step back this time around, as he seemed to not have any answers in the clinch or on the ground for Dustin Poirier. Fortunately for him he's under the tutelage of mad scientist Firas Zahabi and can work on sharpening his tools. He's got a good future ahead of him, but it will take time to rebuild as the gaps in his game were fully exposed here.
Masanori Kanehara used a smart and smothering wrestling approach, but one minor flaw in a grappling exchange led to him getting finished. Kyle Noke takes a pretty big step back, and Nina Ansaroff ends up currently being 0-2 in the UFC. This could very well lead to her getting cut. Scott Holtzman is still capable of putting on really good fights, but he was bested as mentioned above. Joe Soto deserves to stick around after saving the title fight he took against TJ Dillashaw as well as an exciting bout that could have gone his way against a very sturdy veteran. Finally, Edgar Garcia was simply outclassed as soon as the fight hit the ground. This also leaves him at 0-2 in the UFC, which could mark the end of his run with the organization.