UFC 155 marks the end of Zuffa's cursed year. A year where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. A year marred by so many injuries that most events were unrecognizable compared to the original booking.
It was headlined by a heavyweight showdown between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight title. In a fight that many expected to end early, the two fought tooth and nail for the full five rounds.
It was Velasquez who walked away victorious after an absolutely dominant performance.
The card also featured a Fight of the Decade candidate in Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller. After the first three bouts on the card threatened to put the arena to sleep, these lightweights put on an absolute classic.
It seemed like it was going to be finished early in the first when Miller opened up a horrible cut over Lauzon's eye. However, by sheer grit and determination, the Massachusetts native was able to fight on and make the bout competitive.
With the night over, let's take a look and grade the performances of all the main-card fighters.
It wasn't a perfect performance. There were times when Derek Brunson looked great. But it was clear that after the first round he experienced an adrenaline dump. His shots were predictable in the second and third round and really appeared to be lazy.
He did pick up a really nice win, especially in his Octagon debut, over a name opponent, but it wasn't as impressive as it could have been.
At times it looked like he was wading through quicksand. His punches slowed to a crawl in the third. But a win is a win, and I expect him to have a better outing next time.
I was torn going into this fight. I really wanted to see Chris Leben put in a vintage performance where he'd come back and land that big knockout punch that made him a fan favorite for all these years.
But it was not meant to be.
The years of drinking caught up with him, and he was noticeably slower and lacked pop in his step. His face was weathered, and it was clear that the man we saw on The Ultimate Fighter is long since gone.
It was a really nice return story, but this may be a case of a fighter trying to overcome too many obstacles in order to get a new start on his career.
I'm sorry, I've got nothing due to this kind of disappointing performance.
It wasn't a pretty fight, but that was a manly performance by Yushin Okami.
In typical Okami fashion, he owned his opponent in the clinch and controlled the fight on the ground with constant pressure. He was in danger at times on the feet but was able to close the distance quickly and get the fight to the mat whenever he wanted to.
There were some scary moments for Okami, with Belcher constantly hunting for the guillotine choke, but he remained calm and was able to work through those attempts.
It's clear that Okami is still one of the top fighters in the division. I just hope that he's able to work his way back up into title contention. There are some really interesting matchups for him on the horizon.
This was Alan Belcher's chance to make a case for a middleweight title shot with the division wide open. After coming back from an injury that threatened to end his career, he was slowly but surely making the argument that he possessed the skills to challenge Anderson Silva.
Instead, he fell into the same trap that most middleweights fall into, which is allowing Okami to fight his fight. He was stifled at all times and just offered up nothing.
I'm not sure what happens with Belcher. He's proved that he can beat the B-level fighters in the UFC, but he seems to not have the ability to make that big step forward.
This was an unlikely outcome on paper, but Costa Philippou has quietly snuck into the top 10 for the middleweight division with his TKO victory over Tim Boetsch.
It wasn't a perfect performance, and had Boetsch not been cut by the accidental headbutt or blinded by that eye poke, it's perhaps a totally different fight with a completely different outcome.
What we know is that Philippou may have been underestimated by everyone in the MMA world. It's easy to overlook the guy since he lacked the "name" win, but he possesses all the skills to really be a threat in the middleweight division.
A fight against Lombard would be awesome. I'm just sayin'.
I feel for Tim Boetsch. A win over Philippou would have made it very difficult to deny him a title shot. Instead, he's cut open by an accidental headbutt and then poked in the eye, which had a legitimate effect on his third-round performance.
He's going to have to work his way back into the title picture, but it may be a long road ahead.
I'm sorry; I'm not sure what else to say. It wasn't a great performance, and a loss is a loss. Tough break.
Okay, this fight was awesome. And before any commenters complain about me giving a losing fighter a perfect grade, stop. He deserves it. And I'm not changing it no matter what you say.
Joe Lauzon is a man. Perhaps the manliest man who ever man'd. He was manhandled and battered in the first round. I honestly figured they'd stop the fight in between the first and second. But not only did he fight on, he also pushed the pace and forced Jim Miller to fight the whole time.
I want to see this fight again. And again. And again. Who do I have to speak to about making that happen?
Jim Miller is a tough dude. A supremely tough dude.
With Lauzon leaking blood all over the place, a lesser fighter may have lost their stomach. But Miller remained calm and beat Lauzon from pillar to post for the full three rounds.
This was the fight that Jim Miller needed to put himself back in the title discussion. And it was also the fight that made him a star. This is the kind of night that makes you ask, "Where were you when Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon had that amazing fight?"
So that was the Cain Velasquez we were supposed to see at UFC on Fox 1? Huh. I wonder if those Fox executives are bummed that Saturday night's heavyweight showdown wasn't the fight that they aired last year.
Cain Velasquez came out like a man possessed with one thing on his mind: regaining his heavyweight title. I was worried that he was going to gas himself out in the first with those constant takedown attempts, which Dos Santos did well to avoid.
But then he started landing punches in bunches and took Dos Santos out of the fight early. From there it was just do what he does best, which is constant pressure and a barrage of punches.
Saturday night he proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is the absolute best heavyweight fighter in the world.
I know that Alistair Overeem is waiting in the wings, but the UFC 155 Velasquez would maul the best Overeem.
I can't call it a great performance for Junior dos Santos, because it wasn't. But it was an amazing display of heart. A lesser fighter would have wilted under Velasquez's onslaught of punches. But Dos Santos proved that he has the heart of a champion by continuing to fight back, despite being on the receiving end of a brutal beatdown.
Due to the fact that I've never seen Dos Santos get dominated like that or gas out so early, I can't help but wonder if maybe he entered the fight with an injury that prevented him from being in top condition. I'm not exactly preparing for an excuse. Just thinking out loud.
I was impressed by his ability to constantly get back to his feet whenever he was taken down. I honestly can't remember another fighter who has done that so often with Velasquez.
With rumors that he suffered a broken jaw, it's unlikely we'll see him challenge for the title again in 2013, but I wouldn't be surprised if we get the trilogy sooner rather than later.
Oh, and props to him for handling the "boo birds" with such poise. He fought his heart out. If you booed him, you're an idiot.