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UFC 201: Lawler vs Woodley - Winners and Losers

In UFC 201, Atlanta was graced with a better event than some expected.

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The story of UFC 201 began as a combination of lowered expectations, not much fan support, fatigue from the previous bunch of events in the month of July alone, and the high expectations and name value of UFC 202.

The problem with that line of thinking, however, is the fact that sometimes we get, well... this. We end up with a strange little diamond in the rough that doesn't have the biggest names yet still manages to provide a degree of action, showcases talent, and even moments that make changes -- however small they may be -- to the history of the sport and the direction it heads in.

From the resurrection of the career of a man that was seen as fading and done, to a new de facto title challenger at strawweight to give a dominant champion fits, to the title changing hands in what is arguably the second deepest and most talent-rich division in the sport. All of this, all of the performances we saw had potential and could have gone in various directions. And that makes this a far more solid card than what many were expecting, which is one of the most pleasant kind of surprises.


Tyron Woodley - Generally, the longer a fighter sits out to get a title shot, the more fans resent that fighter for it. Not only that, but everyone starts to doubt your abilities because the lack of consistent performances to gauge growth as well as to compare and contrast with opponents usually leads to a grim prognosis every time. Not only that, but the risk of it all is something we've seen before with the likes of Rashad Evans and how it can all fall apart. With all of this in mind, it's easy to understand why there was such trepidation from fans and analysts to pick Woodley over a champion that looked as dominant as Lawler had. Woodley fought smart, used his athleticism and absolutely blasted a fighter known for his durability in yet another shocking title upset (something we've been spoiled with for over a year now). What the future holds for Woodley isn't something we can determine right now, but he bet on himself big and rolled the dice only to end up the welterweight king, and there's certainly no shortage of worthy challengers.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz - After moving around from KSW to Invicta and back before ending up in the UFC, Kowalkiewicz has shown improvements and steady progression. It has come to the point where there should now be no doubt not only as to whether or not she should get a title shot, but whether or not she can hang with champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. After surviving a rough first round, she made adjustments and kept brutalizing Namajunas' midsection and legs with knees and kicks to sap her cardio. Not only does she make a statement in the division while remaining undefeated, she now gets to eat those cookies.

Jake Ellenberger - 11 years. It was in 2005 that Jake Ellenberger began his UFC career, and after stints in the IFL, M-1, Bodog, Victory Fighting Championships, and Bellator among others, he made his way to the UFC. He remained consistent with his wins despite some setbacks, and then hit a terrible losing 3-fight losing skid. That was followed by a win over a Josh Koscheck facing the sunset of his UFC career and two more losses. These things need to be mentioned for context, because Ellenberger has what is perhaps one of the very best welterweight records in terms of opponents faced, even in losses. So when faced with the possibility of finally having his long UFC career coming to an end, his star shone the brightest against yet another fighter notorious for being difficult to knock out. It seems like he's finally put the pieces together with Kings MMA in his second bout with that gym, and he looked sharp with the first double-pump feint to big right hand, all the way to the end. It shouldn't surprise anyone if he's knocking on the door of a title shot sometime in the not-so-distant future. Makes you hope he had left Glendale sooner.

Nikita Krylov - The Miner did that work, taking on an established and durable veteran that had a speed and striking disadvantage. Support for Krylov started off as something of an ironic throwaway joke and has now become legit love for a fighter that becomes more and more complete with each fight. Distracting Herman with the left hand after that right punch to set up that final kick he couldn't see was a bit of simple brilliance, and the man that was thought to be a punchline after the slopfest vs Soa Palelei is now 6-2 in the UFC - all of them finishes. He's still only 24yrs old and with much unrest on his home soil, he's persevering after having to do some growing up he may not have considered he'd have to do. We need more of this man in our lives.

Jorge Masvidal - My main criticism of Masvidal has been his tendency to hang back after hurting an opponent instead of continuing to push for the finish, and it's possible this may have happened again against Ross Pearson. He delivered another must-watch fight displaying tenacity and skill while snapping a two-fight win streak and improving to 30-11(!) and while we didn't get to see him face Siyar Bahadurzada, we may still get that opportunity later on.

Wilson Reis - when you get plucked to fight the champion of the shallowest division that unfairly gets their accomplishments and talent looked over, it seems like you don't really have much to lose. Reis had gone 4-2 in the UFC with a two-fight win streak and earned the shot to fight Demetrious Johnson, only to have him pull out with an injury and face UFC newcomer Hector Sandoval. At least Reis used his bread and butter to make short work of the regional veteran, and perhaps being on national television with a win like that helps improve his profile just a bit for the eventual title fight against DJ. Maybe.

Erik Perez and Ryan Benoit got some hard-fought wins in some rather odd fights that got downright ugly. Goyito now has two wins in a row after a loss to Bryan Caraway while Benoit continues to alternate wins and losses. Damien Brown improves to 1-1 with a brutal KO, and that's a good thing. Anthony Hamilton also alternates wins and losses as well, but looked much faster and impressive in this outing.


Matt Brown - Quick question - how much offense did Brown get to dish out in this bout? Not much. While I personally think it has more to do with Ellenberger's skill and physicality more than any decline on Brown's part, he's no spring chicken. He should by all metrics be on the downside of his career now, or at least pretty close. It didn't seem like he landed any significant strikes, either. Granted, he could very well have been close to being on autopilot by then, but that makes another set of consecutive losses for Brown. He's not done, but this is a rough patch for an aging fighter that has suffered a lot of damage.

Francisco Rivera - Rivera did well in the opening portion of the bout, but lost a tough fight that ended up leaving his record at 11-7 with three straight losses. Does he get another shot due to being a dependable action fighter? Probably not, as 135 has quietly become another very solid division with reliable and talented action fighters, along with the fact that he's 34 years old.

Ed Herman - Short Fuse has been alternating wins and losses since his fight against Jake Shields got overturned to a no-contest back in 2013. Fighting since 2006 and now 35 years old, it's not certain how much longer he should even be fighting, but he's been taking some considerable damage in some of his fights, and he got his lights shut off badly in this bout. His spot in the organization is safe for now, but his future health doesn't look too good.

Ross Pearson - Big ups to Ross for fighting twice in the same month and getting paid, but much like Herman, you have to worry about his future when he gets beat so badly he heads to the wrong corner between rounds, and celebrates as if he had won the fight with another round to go. I also sincerely hope that the people that run the UFC's social media are legitimately happy with themselves with their disgusting lack of class, but that's another conversation for another day. That's two straight losses, and he needs a break. Another fighter that's not done yet and can still accomplish some things, but he needs to take a step back and reevaluate what's next in his career.

Fredy Serrano - From being the most decorated wrestler to ever come out of Colombia to being fast tracked in MMA to the biggest stage of the sport, it's a little unfair to be so harsh on the guy. Still, it's a big problem to see him essentially tumble forward and go for wild and odd strike attempts for a round and a half. From having a smoker or two to the Ultimate Fighter to the UFC, perhaps he shouldn't really even be in the UFC at all, but he's had a degree of success so far.

Cesar Arzamendia - With two consecutive knockout losses, it's very possible that he gets his walking papers here. That was a wild fight, but he's now 0-2 in the UFC. He could still eventually come back, but I doubt he stays for now.

Hector Sandoval loses in his UFC debut, but has looked good enough on the regional scene to probably get him another fight. Damian Grabowski is now 0-2 in the UFC, being finished in both losses by strikes. He's almost guaranteed to get cut, because while the UFC likes having heavyweights around, well...


Robbie Lawler - True, he lost his fight and got finished in the very first round. Yes, he lost the belt. Ask yourself this - how much did he really lose here? You could argue he's nearing the end of his prime, but still in it. He's still adding wrinkles to his game as a fighter and remains in the top 3 of his division, plus he had one of the most exciting and terrifying title reigns in the history of this sport, elevating the title after the void left by GSP and the controversy of the Hendricks fights. In the grand scheme of things, his accomplishments as champion were big enough to cushion the blow of losing the title. It's not inconceivable that with one more win he can bounce back to get another shot at the title.

Rose Namajunas - Aside from being undefeated in a handful of amateur fights, Rose didn't really make waves until she broke through in Invicta and tore through the opposition in the Ultimate Fighter house with three submission wins. That got her rushed into a title shot for the nascent division in a fight she lost only to rattle off another three consecutive wins. She may have lost this #1 contender spot - and yes, it is a shallow division as well - but she's not only still maturing as a fighter, she's only 24. At no point was she about to be finished, and she stood her own against a very legit opponent and one of the very best strikers in any women's division aside from the strawweight champion. Nothing to be ashamed of here, because she can easily pick up where she left off.

Michael Graves and Bojan Velickovic - Not much to say here. A draw between two unranked opponents that are trying to move up the ladder? They live to see another day.