At the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., UFC on FX became an instant success.
From the preliminary portion of the event to the main card, all bouts were exciting and fan friendly, though the real story of the night were the lightweights, as former contenders Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller took center stage.
The New Jersey native managed to weather an early barrage from "The Young Assassin," eventually cinching up the rear-naked choke inside of the first round.
The win helped ascend Miller back into the upper echelon of the division, though Guillard's stock plummeted with his second defeat in as many bouts.
The lightweight division is notoriously unforgiving and always changing, so in the end, where does the weight class sit as a whole?
Once a promising prospect in the WEC's lightweight class, Kamal Shalorus has been largely disappointing since entering the big stage.
The Olympic caliber wrestler has gone 0-2 since stepping foot inside the Octagon, though his losses have come against formidable opposition in the world renowned Jim Miller and Russian import Khabib Nurmagomedov—who submitted the Iranian last night in the waning moments of the fight.
With back-to-back losses, Shalorus will likely be on the receiving end of the UFC axe, where the 39-year-old will have no easy road back.
What a way to make a first good impression.
Despite showing some questionable and unorthodox striking skills, Khabib Nurmagomedov made a successful UFC debut against a tough, formidable opponent.
The bout was even early on, though a shovel punch, left hand from the Russian quickly changed the flow of the bout altogether.
From there on out, Nurmagomedov (say that five times fast) dominated Shalorus with surprisingly effective wrestling, coupled with his continuing onslaught of strikes. Finally, in the final round, the Octagon newbie sunk in the rear-naked choke, which quickly yielded the tap out.
Now suffering his second loss in a row, Guillard now finds himself on the tail end of the lightweight division. Before his October tilt with Joe Lauzon, the New Orleans native looked to be just one fight away from a shot at UFC gold.
However, Guillard was upset by both Lauzon and Jim Miller, both of whom deftly submitted the wily and aggressive 28-year-old with first-round finishes.
A five-fight win streak has now been squelched by a two-fight skid, though Guillard still has plenty of time to plod back up the hill, which continues to get more steep by the day.
Like his former training partner, Guillard, Clay Guida was seemingly just one fight away until the Wildman would finally get his shot at lightweight gold, though an impending loss to Benson Henderson squelched those plans.
Both Guida and the WEC import engaged in a memorable, three-round fight last November, though Henderson did just enough to sway the judges and earn the decision, which earned both men "Fight of the Night" for their performance.
Guida won four fights in a row before the loss to "Bendo."
Though Donald Cerrone closed out 2011 with a loss, it's been a fun ride watching the "Cowboy" make waves in the UFC.
A three-time title challenger in the WEC, Cerrone was a tough customer and not a pushover by any means. However, it was hard to imagine that the Greg Jackson product would be this dominant, even against some of the talented foes in the lightweight class.
Dominant victories over Charles Oliveira and Dennis Siver opened up Cerrone to the masses as fan favorite was eventually pitted against Nate Diaz, where the two served as the co-main event for the organization's year-end extravaganza.
Diaz managed to upset Cerrone, using his pristine boxing skills to batter the touted striker for three rounds, taking home the clear-cut decision win.
The loss snapped a six-fight win streak incurred under the Zuffa banner.
After a surprisingly lackluster performance turned in against Benson Henderson last August, Jim Miller looked to be back in form in his most recent outing against the aforementioned Guillard.
Miller survived some hellish knees from the powerhouse that is Guillard, plodded forward and expertly sunk in the rear-naked choke, earning the first-round finish.
The win helped erase the pain of defeat and has now moved the AMA fighter back into the limelight of the 155-pound class.
Miller has won eight of hist last nine fights.
The former UFC title challenger is the only man to have given champion Frankie Edgar a blemish on his record, and there's something to be said about that.
In their rubber match, Maynard was looking to make good on his second opportunity at the belt. Much like their second bout, the Xtreme Couture product looked to be well on his way to a first-round shutout.
Maynard rocked Edgar early with some heavy shots, though the durable New Jersey native survived the onslaught and brought the fight into the later rounds. There, Edgar began to assert his speed and boxing prowess, which wilted Maynard in the fourth.
Edgar dropped the TUF vet with a surprise uppercut, following Maynard against the cage, where he unloaded successive right hands, which yielded the "Knockout of the Night" finish.
The loss to Edgar is the first and so far only of Maynard's career.
Season 5 veteran of The Ultimate Fighter Joe Lauzon went from middle of the pack lightweight to immediate contender in just one bout.
In his last outing, "J-Lau" was paired with then top contender Melvin Guillard, who was fresh off back-to-back knockout victories against Evan Dunham and Shane Roller, respectively.
Many pegged Guillard as the consummate favorite, though the overly aggressive fighter ate a counter left hook from Lauzon early. Stunned, Guillard fell to the mat where the jiu-jitsu prowess of the Massachusetts fighter took over. Lauzon earned the rear-naked choke finish in just seconds.
Now, Lauzon is riding on the strength of a two-fight win streak, which has now carried him to a pivotal battle against former world champion Anthony Pettis next month in Japan.
Former WEC champion Anthony Pettis had his momentum momentarily halted by Guida, though he's since bounced back.
The dynamic Duke Roufus fighter picked up his first win inside the UFC when he edged fellow banger Jeremy Stephens, taking home the close split-decision win last October.
Now, Pettis will look to continue his momentum when he takes on the resurgent Joe Lauzon this February when the duo will be prominently featured in the UFC's return to Japan.
After going 2-2 in the welterweight division, Nate Diaz has now emerged as a top contender in the 155-pound class.
Diaz made his initial return to the division last September where he took on unarguably his most decorated opponent to date, former Pride champion Takanori Gomi.
The Stockton native battered Gomi early, stunning him with brilliant combinations before closing out the show with a first-round armbar, earning "Submission of the Night" for his efforts.
Next, Diaz made a quick return to the Octagon when he was pitted against the fast rising Donald Cerrone. For three rounds, Diaz displayed why his boxing skills are just as dangerous as his jiu-jitsu, fighting on his feet for fifteen minutes of battering and bruising action.
In the end, the Cesar Gracie fighter was dubbed the winner by decision, now being regarded as one of the best top-10 fighters in the talent laden division.
Out of all the WEC imports, excluding champions Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz, no man has been as impressive and dominant as Benson Henderson since stepping up to the UFC stage.
After an upset loss to Anthony Pettis in his final appearance with the WEC, Henderson moved to the big stage where he made an immediate impact in the lightweight class by dominating Canadian Mark Bocek last April.
Next, Jim Miller was called to task. The budding contender was just one fight away from a shot at the title, though Henderson stole Miller's momentum by putting in another dominant performance. He out-muscled the New Jersey fighter for three rounds, taking home another clear-cut decision win.
Finally, Henderson now ascended the ranks of the upper echelon and was given a final challenge in the form of Clay Guida. The two spark plugs engaged in a memorable battle last November, which earned both men "Fight of the Night" honors, though Henderson was the only one to add another "W" to his record.
Now, the Arizona fighter is set to challenge champion Frankie Edgar for his 155-pound title this February, as the two will serve as the main event for UFC 144, which takes place at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.
The man on top of the mountain, Frankie Edgar has put himself far above the rest with his recently culminated trilogy with the tough Gray Maynard.
After a "Fight of the Year" bout in January of last year which ended in a draw, both Edgar and Maynard had their third go-round last October. The Las Vegas fighter had Edgar on roller skates early, rocking him with heavy shots, though the resounding champion survived.
Finally, in the fourth, Edgar connected on some heavy leather of his own, dropping Maynard with a left uppercut, finally ending the action with a barrage of strikes yielding "Knockout of the Night" in the process.
Edgar will now look to make the third defense of his title when he takes on Benson Henderson next month in the organization's first foray in Japan in more than 10 years.