What promised to be another standard Fight Night card ended up being rather special in its own way, as some very surprising performances and developments took place. The best thing about UFC cards these days is that none of them feel like a waste, as there's always a set of moving pieces or a definitive statement made with the matchmaking and rankings of the participating parties, and this card was definitely not an exception despite the fact that it appears to have been conceived largely as more of a fun action card with two great fights at the top.
So in the end, not only do we get a new clear-cut contender at the number one spot in the welterweight division - we also find Donald Cerrone cementing his arrival in the new weight class as a threat to be reckoned with. We truly live in a glorious age.
Stephen Thompson - Seven wins in a row, including back to back wins over powerhouse wrestlers, one of which was a former champion. Tonight, he used a very tactical game to masterfully not only keep his range where he wanted it, but used his timing so well that MacDonald seemed to have run out of answers as the fight wore on. Many fans and MMA media thought Thompson should have already gotten a title shot after his win earlier this year over Johny Hendricks, but that final round of this fight certainly showed an even greater degree of poise, patience and tenacity in a fighter that keeps improving in the most surprising ways with each outing.
Donald Cerrone - Another performance that started at an unusual pace and just an even more widening gap as the fight wore on. The biggest knock on Cerrone for a while has been the fact that he's usually a slow starter, but he seemed to have opened up with a bit more pep in his step this time around. Not only did it pay off, but his maturity as a fighter was once again out there for all to see, as he paced himself when he needed to and appeared to maintain a degree of laser-like focus throughout the fight. Not sure what comes next for him, but if the fight earlier this year against Alex Oliveira didn't make you a believer in the potential of welterweight Cerrone, this fight should grab your attention. Even if he doesn't reach championship level, this is a great sign for him.
Joanne Calderwood - When Calderwood came over from Invicta, there were some very heavy expectations, and a lot of them were rather unfair. Yes, she trained at a smaller team with few notable fighters and had a lot of catching up as a Muay Thai fighter that was coming over to MMA. This time around she kept her opponent at bay with straight kicks to the body and mixing up her offense at every opportunity. Calderwood is a consistently exciting fighter, and the multiple shots to the body were just devastating. She's slowly making her way back up to where many thought she should have been in the beginning of her UFC run.
Krzysztof Jotko - Another fighter that has quietly amassed a nice four-fight win streak to rack up a 5-1 UFC record. Maybe it's the fact that his other wins up until now were all via decision, but stopping a fighter that was coming back to the UFC with so much steam raises your stock significantly. Let's see what they do with him from here.
Olivier Aubin-Mercier bounced back from his decision loss to Carlos Diego Ferreira in January to improve his UFC record to 4-2. It certainly helps when three of those wins are by submission, and you're a fighter that manages to survive some really ugly spots to get them. Aubin-Mercier still takes a lot of damage for my liking, but he continues to impress with his submission game.
Steve Bossé and Sean O'Connell - There's a few things to be said about this fight, the first of which is the fact that after his loss in his UFC debut and O'Connell's KO losses to Ryan Jimmo and noted Destroyer of Worlds Ilir Latifi, we knew what it was like to see both of these fighters get slept. The only problem is that we've also seen them put others to sleep as well, so perhaps some of us figured that one guy or the other had to be finished. Alas, it wasn't the case. What we got was a sloppy but fun spectacle and a remarkable show of heart and determination from both fighters. This is the sort of thing that gains you a tremendous amount of good will with fans and management alike, although we should also remember that CTE is very, very real. Even though this fight may have taken some years of lucidity from either or both participants, for a one-time romp, it was absolutely wild and deserving of respect, let's just not forget that fighters only have a few of these in them in their lives.
Jason Saggo netted another win and looked more impressive this time around in working his grappling game against a very tough Leandro Silva. Misha Cirkunov slapped on a beautiful arm triangle choke that looked like it had the perfect amount of pressure. Another strong showing that puts him at 3-0 in the UFC. Joe Soto finally gets his first win in the UFC after three straight losses and looked much more put together in this outing as well. Randa Markos made the best of a fight that gritty and not very aesthetically pleasing, but certainly another show of her toughness and pressuring style. Ali Bagautinov snaps a two-fight losing streak and remains in the top ten of his division for now.
Rory MacDonald - Rory rolled the dice on himself and decided to fight out his contract and test the free-agency waters. Now, we (obviously) can safely assume his negotiating power has been reduced greatly. That said, given the state of both the UFC and Bellator, as well as the future sale of the UFC (should that come to fruition) it's not entirely unreasonable that the UFC would make a very big effort to keep him in the organization. Consider this: the only three men Rory has lost to in his entire career (not just the UFC, his entire career overall) were Carlos Condit, the two losses to current champion and seemingly indestructible Robbie Lawler, and the pleasant surprise that is Stephen Thompson. Name value alone as well as the fact that he's still only just 26 years old (!) carry a lot of weight. Keeping him in the organization could help Zuffa with their own financial dealings if that sale does indeed come though. If anything, he's really on this list because of the fact that in a division that's somewhat busier at the top again, a second consecutive loss can cause you to tumble a bit in the rankings. Had he won, it would have still been difficult to see Zuffa giving him another crack at Lawler, but with a loss it only puts him on the backburner for longer at best.
Valérie Létourneau - This one really hurt to watch. She really put on a very valiant performance against Joanna Jędrzejczyk in a bout a lot of people saw her coming in as another lamb to the slaughter. She acquitted herself well and earned a ton of very well-deserved respect, but she took a very savage beating in this bout. I'm not 100% certain if the final kick that Calderwood landed to the body was to the lower rib or to the liver, but it was obvious that this fight could have been stopped after Létourneau clutched her midsection and kept her hands down the way Sara McMann lost to Ronda Rousey. It happened more than once, as well as a possible kick to one of or both of her breasts and a possible problem with the top, or maybe the bra she was wearing. The strawweight division is already rather shallow, and this second straight loss could very well cost her a lot. She's still only 3-2 in the UFC, which means she may not get cut.
Chris Beal - after such a tremendous UFC debut, he's getting cut. Three straight losses are one thing when you're Joe Soto and you do the brass a solid, but this is very different. He could very well make it back to the big leagues before long.
Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger - I really like Jocelyn and her twin sister a lot, but two straight losses like this may get lead to her getting her walking papers. Shame, too - she's losing to really good competition and stepped in as an injury replacement for her first fight. I really don't think we've seen her true potential in the UFC so far. Maybe she gets another shot, but it doesn't seem very likely.
Thibautl Gouti ends up with two consecutive losses as well, so he may also get cut as a result. Patrick Cote wasn't ranked, so he goes back into the pack of the welterweight division. Tamdan McCrory's improbable comeback story hit a massive roadblock at the hands of Jotko, but he doesn't lose much here. It's very likely they'll just slow him down a bit.
Geane Herrera had very little to lose taking on #10 Bagautinov, so he won't really take a big hit. Also, Elias Theodorou and Sam Alvey was a fight that was sort of just there. Not much to say and it does neither party any favors nor does it hurt them much. Jonathan Meunier at least got his foot in the door in the organization, and despite the loss by submission may get to hang around, and the same can be said for Ion Cutelaba.