UFC 144 Results: Report Cards for All Main Card Fighters
UFC 144 is in the books and the fighters have walked away either in the triumph of victory or the tragedy of defeat, but every single one of them more was banged up by the end of the night.
Credit should go to all men who decide to take up this dangerous profession and who fought tonight.
But how much credit should be given for each fighter? Even though each man should be applauded for fighting, there are still winners and losers and they must be gauged somehow.
The UFC's foray into Japan was a great success and even though the event gets an A, some of the fighters marks aren't as high.
Joe Lauzon: F
Joe Lauzon is a great fighter. That isn't what fans got to see tonight as he got knocked out quickly by Anthony Pettis.
There is no shame in getting caught by a good blow or in losing to a former champion like Pettis who is known for his striking. That aside, Lauzon did get beaten in less than two minutes.
While he should be allowed to recover from his injuries both mental and physical, his stock still goes down.
Jake Shields: C-
Jake Shields looked untouchable when he was in Strikeforce, with his loss to Dan Henderson an exception, but it hasn't turned out that way in the UFC.
He got his hand raised tonight, though the 30-27 scores he was given by all three judges are a bit ridiculous and didn't convey the closeness of the fight he had with Akiyama.
Shields ended the fight well with an impressive third round, but obviously has a lot left to learn if he wants to get back to the welterweight elite.
His striking has improved but is still weak, and his game plan of trying to take his opponent down is now all too obvious. Shields will need to shake it up a little if he wants to get past having close fights with fighters like Akiyama.
Tim Boetsch: D+
Boetsch had a finish that would have gotten him an A in this article if he hadn't been beaten on for the first two rounds before it happened.
Yushin Okami enforced his will and looked to be on his way to picking up an easy win in front of his hometown crowd. He was cruising along and doing well landing multiple strikes and submission attempts when Boetsch caught him with a head kick to the temple and took him out.
Kudos to Boetsch on the win and getting himself a three-win streak, but the grade is for the bout overall and for most of it, he was getting brutalized.
He will need to improve if he wants to keep racking up wins in the UFC instead of becoming another gatekeeper who sometimes pulls off the upset.
Cheick Kongo: D-
Kongo was beaten much like Lauzon was. Quickly and efficiently.
In the opening minutes of the fight, he was able to land some offense, a little more effective than Lauzon's, and then was quickly dispatched by his opponent.
It happens and it isn't surprising that when he and Hunt, two former kickboxers, met in the cage, one of them got knocked out.
It just happened to be Kongo's rotten luck that it was him. At 36 years old, it had to be heartbreaking to get another win streak broken, but that is what happened. If he wants to continue his career he is going to have to start at the bottom and work his way back up.
Being such an advanced age and a gatekeeper, it might be time for Kongo to make some tough choices about what to do next.
Anthony Pettis: A+
Anthony Pettis knocked his opponent out in under a minute and a half and didn't look like he took any damage.
He showed that his Taekwondo background was to be taken seriously when he kicked Lauzon hard enough to wobble him. It wasn't long after that he was able to land punches and have referee Marc Goddard wave the fight off.
Other than fighting in the main event for the title, there isn't much else Pettis could ask for tonight.
Hatsu Hioki: B
What a difference one fight makes.
Hioki looked weak in his UFC debut against George Roop, but fans who missed that fight wouldn't know it from his performance tonight.
He faced a much tougher task in Bart Palaszewski who was much more difficult to fight than his last name is to pronounce. Instead of seeing the same martial artist that struggled with a .500 fighter like Roop, fans saw a much more confident fighter.
From the outset, Hioki was able to drop Palaszewski in the opening moments of Round 1 and then continued to hammer on him for the next two rounds. Hioki did struggle a little in the second round but was able to get past it and pick up the victory.
The UFC hasn't seen such a dominant force from Japan since Yushin Okami so it will be interesting to see where the UFC places him after this performance.
Frankie Edgar: B-
Frankie Edgar needed to start out fast and push the pace against Benson Henderson and he did just that.
It ended up not being enough.
Edgar's heart is certainly not to be denied. In his last two fights, he was able to rally back and beat his opponent to the punch both literally and figuratively when he faced Gray Maynard.
However, Henderson had better endurance than Maynard and proved to be just a little too much for the pint-sized champion.
Where Edgar decides to go from here is his call. He could still campaign at lightweight, but the most intelligent move would be to finally drop down to featherweight. Either way, he has proven that even in defeat, he is tough as nails.
Yushin Okami: C
If Okami hadn't had the first two rounds he did against Tim Boetsch, this would have been an F.
But the talented middleweight did everything he wanted to inside the first 10 minutes. He was able to beat on Boetsch and then take him down and continue to control the fight.
Then Okami made a mistake and Boetsch capitalized. It may have been for just a moment, but that was all it took.
That doesn't change the fact that he was beaten, though he did well enough beforehand to warrant another shot against a winning opponent. He just needs to make sure that what happened tonight doesn't happen again or he will be out of the middleweight scene.
Yoshihiro Akiyama: C+
UFC fans will need to bid goodbye to "Sexyama" after his loss to Jake Shields tonight. He is the quintessential essence of what a fighter should be (he brought fun fights to the viewing audience and arguably won his fight with Shields), but he has also lost his last four fights in the Octagon.
Much like Keith Jardine, Akiyama is a fighter that fans and UFC officials want to keep, but can't if they wants to keep the image of housing the world's best fighters. Unless he has earned a place like welterweight Dan Hardy, this fourth loss means that he is going to be cut.
He did well in the first two rounds of the fights, stopping Shields' takedowns and using his judo to throw his opponent off balance, but in the end it wasn't enough. The rounds were close enough that the judges scored them for Shields.
Then Shields came back and easily won the third round. It may not be the best case for releasing Akiyama, but it is the unfortunate crossroads that the company and the fighter are probably coming to.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson: D+
Quinton Jackson got his wish when he was put on UFC 144. He got to fight in Japan again.
Unfortunately, he didn't get the result he might have wanted, and he certainly didn't get the fight he dreamed of. It didn't help that he came into the fight overweight which limited his cardio.
Bader didn't decide to trade punches with him or go for the knockout. He opted for a grappling session and used his superior wrestling to win a points victory.
It must have frustrated Jackson to have another opponent not willing to engage him on his feet, but it is hard to argue against the tactic. Jackson is a monster when it comes to knocking people out and it would behoove a great wrestler like Bader to do what he can to nullify those talents.
Jackson is going to have to improve his takedown defense if he wants to keep fighting the way he has and if he isn't willing to learn it, then he deserves to lose.
Mark Hunt: A-
The only negative that one can give Hunt in his fight with Kongo is that he momentarily lost his balance because of a low kick from his foe. While that may seem harsh, so was high school and A's are for perfect performances.
The Australian still did enough to earn high marks as he rallied back quickly and was able to catch Kongo with a counterpunch and made sure he never recovered.
Hunt has overcome walking into the UFC on the end of a five-fight losing streak, losing his first bout in the Octagon, then winning his next three including the one tonight.
At 37, he may not be a champion in the making, but his story his a heartwarming reminder that even the old, grizzled veterans can sometimes prove jaded fans wrong.
Bart Palaszewski: D
Bart Palaszewski did well enough to possibly win the second round of his fight against Hatsu Hioki.
That is even debatable considering how well Hioki was able to implement his will on his opponent. He was able to counter Palaszewski and even control him on the ground. The same fighter that had beat Anthony Pettis and Tyson Griffin disappeared and was replaced by the man fans saw tonight.
It may be that Hioki is that good, but Palaszewski will need to dig deep and find what he needs to not just give his opponents a tough fight, but to win them as well.
Ryan Bader: B
Ryan Bader opted not to please the Japanese fans who had grown up seeing Jackson in great fights in Pride. Instead, he did what many of Jackson's opponents have done in the past. He used his superior wrestling to keep him grounded and exhaust Jackson's less-than-stellar cardio.
Getting a second win in a row against Jackson after being on a two fight losing streak was just what Bader needed after losing two out of three fights in 2011. Fans are quick to anger though and while he may have knocked out Jason Brilz in one round in his fight before, he opted for the safer route this time and was booed because of it.
Still, he adhered to the ancient adage that has helped many winners in MMA and boxing.
"Win this one, look good in the next one."
Benson Henderson: B+
Benson Henderson was able to take a win against champion Frankie Edgar proving that not only he, but the WEC was worth acknowledging.
He was able to do serious damage to Edgar's nose which may have affected the champ's cardio and then came out like a natural disaster and pushed Edgar past his limits.
Henderson deserves some time off, but sooner or later fans will see him defend his title, and considering the excitement he brings, it will probably be in the main event of another pay-per-view.
How his future opponents will handle his energy, one which puts Clay Guida's to shame, will be interesting to say the least.
For now he should enjoy his time in Japan and focus on relaxing.