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UFC on Fox 18 - Winners and Losers

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The fortunes changed for various fighters in a very compelling event from a place Goldberg didn't find to be beautiful. Imagine that.

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This weekend brought a few anticipated matchups, but the part that appears to have gone unnoticed was the divisional implications that resulted from it all.

Winners

Anthony Johnson has once again punched his ticket to be the clear #1 title challenger not named Jon Jones. He timed his sprawl perfectly and solidified his reputation as one of the most terrifying men in the sport. While current champion Daniel Cormier is by all indications waiting for former champion Jon Jones, it seems very likely that Johnson could be a suitable replacement in either scenario.

Ben Rothwell has come such a long way since the IFL days. Back then I remember him being touted as one of the very best heavyweights not in the UFC outside of Fedor Emilianenko himself. Somehow, Big Ben never lived up to the hype due to personal problems that led to a career largely defined by inconsistency. Rothwell is currently on a four-fight win streak dating back to 2013 in which he has beaten Brandon Vera, Alistair Overeem, Matt Mitrione and now Josh Barnett - and he's finished every one of them. His style isn't pretty, he takes a lot of hits, but he is one of the few people in the sport that can turn a fight on its head in an instant. He turned some heads in the Overeem fight, but it was largely noted to be a virtue of him outlasting the Dutchman to a KO win against a defensively deficient opponent. To submit a submission wizard that is also a former champion? This should comfortably put him in the number 4 spot of his division.

Jimmie Rivera put on a wild an exciting bout against tough and slick veteran Iuri Alcantara. All elements of MMA were on display for this bout, including takedowns, clinchwork against the cage and a still evolving standup game with punches and kicks mixed in along with a constant hunt for positional advantage. It wasn't the perfect fight, but if there were any doubters of how legit Rivera is, this fight should silence those concerns. This is the kind of fight that earns you a ton of respect in Zuffa management.

Bryan Barberena came through with the hard upset of rising prodigy Sage Northcutt with what appeared to have been an arm triangle at first, but upon further inspection looked more like a Von Flue choke from top half guard position. Either way, it takes a really strong guy to pull that off, and speaking from experience it is a miserable thing to endure. He's rebounded nicely from having his seven-fight win streak snapped by Chad Laprise and is another fighter under the tutelage of John Crouch that shows improvement in each outing.

Tarec Saffiedine also rebounded from his tough knockout loss in October 2014 against Rory MacDonald with a solid decision win against the also dangerous Jake Ellenberger. Tarec was able to keep the fight mostly where he wanted it and work his shot selection and could very well return to the middle of the welterweight pack with this win. Here's hoping he stays healthy.

Rafael Natal survived another tough slog of a fight that didn't feature the BJJ showdown we expected. Wilson Reis looks leaner and meaner, outworking the very gritty wrestling and resilience of Dustin Ortiz. Alexander Yakovlev scored a very slick combination that led to a devastating knockout that evens out his current UFC record. Alex Caceres looked fantastic at featherweight, and put on a performance that was the closest we've seen to a round of Tekken we've seen in a long time, and Tony Martin seemed to have been running out of answers before latching on a very deep rear naked choke that ended up putting his opponent to sleep. Finally, Ring of Combat standout Randy Brown continues with his perfect record.

Losers

Perhaps it's safe to say after this performance that Ryan Bader has finally hit his ceiling in the UFC. He's a spectacular athlete that has finally put everything together with slick boxing and world-class wrestling, is physically imposing and gives a lot of fighters fits. Unfortunately, he had to fight an even greater phenom in 2016 Rumble Johnson. Not risking taking damage standing, Bader took a shot from the outside that was a day late and a dollar short and while he threatened with the shoulder lock from bottom half-guard, he stubbornly kept at it while ending up mounted and pounded out. Tough break for a guy that was so very, very close to a title shot not too long ago.

Josh Barnett is a world-reknowned submission artist, and for him to be submitted through such a painful submission is a massive statement for Rothwell. But what does it say about Barnett? Has he been simply underestimating guys like Rothwell and Browne, thinking they'd be easier outs? He improved his boxing and conditioning substantially as we saw in the Nelson fight, but gets caught in moments that he may perhaps think he can have an easier time surviving. His stock doesn't go down as much as Rothwell's rises (nor anywhere near as far as the Browne loss - especially given the current HW landscape), but it sets him back a bit.

Let's get this Sage Northcutt business out of the way - anyone that called him a quitter for tapping out to a clearly tight submission applied by a guy that has demonstrated some solid upper body strength is someone who is either blinded by hate or whose grappling experience must be questioned. It's understandable to hate on the guy because he's getting paid more than most fighters in his position and is getting a ton of promotional exposure, but this glee at his loss is largely pointless. Northcutt was clearly winning that fight and much like the Pfister bout was actually taking down and briefly controlling opponents that are more known for their wrestling than he is. He won't lose much shine as he's only 19 and capable of many more highlight reel moments. By this time two years from now, this will largely be remembered for what it is - a young fighter having a setback. He'll bounce back from this easy and continue to rise in the sport.

While Jake Ellenberger should be commended for finally leaving Glendale Fight club for Kings MMA, he still ended up on the losing end of his bout against the aforementioned Tarec Saffiedine. Ellenberger is now 9-7 in the UFC and still has an impressive list of wins even outside of his UFC tenure, but it remains to be seen if it really is too late for him to turn things around the way he should. If anyone can work that magic to get a heavy-handed wrestler where he needs to be, it very well could be Rafael Cordeiro, and maybe it isn't this match but rather his next that shows us where he really is after the change in camps.

Iuri Alcantara seemed to not have any answers for his opponent Jimmy Rivera. The 35-year-old may have hit his ceiling here in this bout. Olivier Aubin-Mercier didn't seem like the dynamic athlete he's capable of being, which is not unusual in MMA and perhaps not something that's worrisome considering his age and stage of development. Kevin Casey looked sluggish in some of the exchanges in his bout, and for a Rickson Gracie black belt appeared to have underwhelmed fans. George Sullivan was obliterated in front of friends and family that drove from his hometown to see him fight, which makes you feel for the guy. Masio Fullen also looked lost and somewhat snakebitten by the time Alex Caceres turned things up in the third round. Matt Dwyer may get his walking papers after dropping his second straight decision loss, and former Pancrase and Shooto standout Felipe Olivieri loses in his UFC debut, and should be back soon enough. The state of New Jersey takes a hard L on this one too, because Goldberg didn't find it beautiful.

The joys of MMA commentary, ladies and gentlemen.

Neither

Dustin Ortiz was outgrappled by former EliteXC champion Wilson Reis, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. He doesn't take much of a hit here considering how small the flyweight division is. Levan Makashvili and Damon Jackson had an underwhelming bout that ended up in a draw, so no dice on that one, either.