Former WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner (20-6-1) returned to the UFC for the first time since 2007 to take on one of the best rising contenders in the division in Edson Barboza (10-1) and pulled off one of the biggest upsets, stopping the Brazilian in the first round.
What we'll remember about this fight:
Barboza entered the fight as a near 5-to-1 favorite over Varner, making this one of the bigger upsets in recent memory. Coming off a KO of the year candidate versus Terry Etim, many expected Barboza to be the first to knock out Varner, who came into the bout as a late replacement.
After an early takedown, Varner continued his attack with punches and dropped Barboza three minutes into the round. He followed up with some hammerfists before the referee stopped the fight.
What we learned about Edson Barboza:
Barboza is known for his stand-up technique, but he was overwhelmed in that area by Varner. Backers of Varner thought he would have the bigger advantage on the ground, but it was surprising to many that he was able to get to Barboza the way that he did on his feet.
What we learned about Jamie Varner:
Without much time to actually get into a rhythm of the fight, fans have to take in what was truly an amazing upset and all-around comeback for Varner.
"I gotta thank the UFC for bringing me back," Varner said in the post-fight interview. "Barboza is a tough, scary dude. I just wanted to come out here and put on a good performance. I didn't care if I won or lost. I wanted to come out here and fight for the fans."
Varner might be making a strong case for comeback fighter of the year with this performance.
What's next for Barboza:
Nobody can be taken for granted in the lightweight division, and even though Barboza lost, he still has plenty of time to get back and improve his overall skills.
Despite his early success in the UFC, he still doesn't have all that much experience. A fight versus Tony Ferguson, who is 13-3, would give both fighters a chance to get back on the winning track.
What's next for Varner:
With his comeback clearly off to a great start, Varner can continue to move back into the division's top fighters with a fight versus Matt Wiman, who is 4-1 in his last five fights.
Tonight's UFC 146 pay-per-view will feature a five-fight main card packed with heavyweights, including current UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, who will face former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir.
Santos, a Brazilian power-puncher, has knocked out some of the top heavyweights in the world, including Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez. He won the title last November and has gone unbeaten throughout his UFC career.
Mir, who is stepping up as a late replacement for Alistair Overeem, is coming off three wins, including a brutal and impressive finish of Santos' mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He submitted the Brazilian submission wizard with a Kimura lock in the first round of their bout at UFC 140. Other wins include those over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Roy Nelson.
Other main card bouts include Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva, Shane del Rosario vs. Stipe Miocic and Lavar Johnson vs. Stefan Struve.
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