A lot of sports fans are all too familiar with heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, or at least as familiar as you can be after just 64 seconds. That's how long it took dos Santos to dethrone Velasquez and claim possession of the UFC's heavyweight championship.
That was 13 months ago, the first and only fight on the inaugural UFC appearance on network television. It was the most watched fight in American MMA history, drawing more than eight million viewers for its one minute and change of action.
Will the fight have the same appeal when they run it back for $44.95 on pay-per-view rather than free on Fox? That's the question UFC officials were asking themselves in the days leading into the year-end event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
We won't have the answer to that question for several days. In the immediate aftermath, we'll judge success and failure based only on what happened in the cage and on television. And there, it wasn't much of a show until Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller stole the show with their three-round blood bath.
In the main event, Cain Velasquez regained his belt in a dominating performance. Dos Santos was never in the fight, but impressed many with his hard head, surviving a sustained beating from the new champion.
Of course, results don't tell the whole story.
At every UFC event, there are literal winners and losers, and some whose victories and losses are metaphorical. A fighter can have his hand raised and still be a loser, if only in the eyes of the fans and UFC brass. Likewise, a loser who fights with heart and spirit can make a name for himself in a way he never could with a dull win.
Who were the real winners and losers at UFC 155? Let's explore together.
For five rounds, Cain Velasquez kept coming. Like a Terminator robot or, to modernize the metaphor, a zombie, he slowly, inexorably came forward. No matter what champion Junior dos Santos did, whether it was circle off the jab or blatantly grab the fence, Cain never stopped.
It wasn't a tornado—there was nothing sudden about it. Instead, Velasquez was a steady rain, a continuous accumulation of blows that wore the champion down.
Of course, it was thunder that started it all, thunder in the form of a right hand that rocked dos Santos in the first round. The champion never seemed to regain his bearing completely. Time and again, Velasquez landed cleanly. Time and again, glassy eyed and progressively battered, dos Santos survived.
It wasn't a great fight—Dos Santos wasn't competitive enough for it to be a classic. But it was a great performance from Velasquez, who came back from a loss in their first encounter to become the world champion once again.
For 13 minutes, Joe Lauzon fought with blood pouring out of his head. It might sound like hyperbole, but it isn't. Lauzon was covered in blood. Opponent Jim Miller was covered in his blood. The cage mat was covered in his blood.
Through it all, Lauzon fought on. Through the final seconds, when he went for a flying heel hook and front choke, Lauzon gave it his all. Miller may have won a unanimous decision, but it was Lauzon who won the hearts and minds of the crowd.
In an otherwise lackluster night of fights, this one stood out as not just the best of the evening, but one of the best fights of all of 2012.
Tim Boetsch, who lost four times as a light heavyweight in the UFC Octagon, looked like a new man after his move to middleweight in 2011. He won all four of his bouts at 185, including a knockout of Yushin Okami and a startling (if not lackluster) win over highly-touted newcomer Hector Lombard at UFC 149.
A title shot loomed on the horizon, but instead of getting creamed by champion Anderson Silva, Boetsch took his beating at the hands of Constantinos Philippou, filling in for injured teammate Chris Weidman.
Philippou dominated, cracking Boetsch with punches and ably defending the takedown. Slowed by an injured hand and an enormous cut, "the Barbarian" just had nothing for Philippou after an evenly-fought first round. Now relegated back to the middle of the pack, it may be years (or never) before Boetsch can pull himself back up to the top of the ladder.
My friend Damon Martin believes the only appropriate word for Yushin Okami's game is "suffocating." That's an apt description.
Words never used to describe the Japanese star: exciting, action-packed, scintillating or fun.
Okami won the bout against Alan Belcher, but he didn't win any fans with that performance. And unlike training partner Chael Sonnen, Okami can't lean on his wicked tongue to prop up potential title shots.
If he's not careful, Okami will become a middleweight Jon Fitch—a guy who doesn't get opportunities he might deserve because of a reputation as a grinder.
Derek Brunson, who took the fight with barely more than a week's notice, has an excuse for gassing out and basically sleep-walking through the last 10 minutes of his fight with Chris Leben.
What's Leben's excuse? The breakout star of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter has had a year to prepare for his return to action after testing positive for oxycodone and oxymorphone after his UFC 138 loss to Mark Munoz. It didn't appear he used that year for anything productive, as he struggled every minute of his bout with Brunson.
At 32, it may be the end of the road for Leben, a mainstay of the middleweight division for seven years. His leathered face resembled Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western or a Hollywood actor playing a meth addict in a Lifetime movie. It didn't look good.
Leben has given a lot in his career. I hope his friends and mentors can help him consider what's next for him as his MMA career winds down. It may be time to give it some real thought.
After a "Fight of the Night" performance against Damacio Page and a "Knockout of the Night" against Yves Jabouin, Britain's Brad "One Punch" Pickett seemed on the verge of big things. A bantamweight title shot wasn't completely out of the question.
First, however, he had to find his way past Eddie Wineland.
Wineland, in many ways, is an anachronism. He still works his full-time job as a firefighter, one of the few UFC fighters to have a job other than fighting. In a fair world, he would make way for the new breed of full-time competitors.
But Wineland wasn't willing to step back gracefully. He outboxed Pickettt on his way to a split-decision win.
After eight fights under the Zuffa banner and only a single knockout, it may be time for Pickett to consider a new nickname.
OK, so Erik Perez didn't get to do a rana, a flying headscissors or even a la majistral cradle. But he did get to wear his custom lucha libre mask to the weigh-ins, a win for personal style and the sport of El Santo.
Perez, a rising star at bantamweight, ran over Byron Bloodworth, an opponent designed as little more than a speed bump. It will be interesting to see how the Greg Jackson product does against stiffer competition, but it seems clear no matter how Perez performs in the cage, he will enter it in style.
When he was initially interviewed on Fuel TV after his bout with Jamie Varner at UFC on Fox 4 was cancelled, Melvin Guillard told reporter Heidi Androl he wasn't interested in fighting Varner, who had pulled out of their bout with an illness.
"He’ll never get the chance to fight me," Guillard said. "I thought what he did tonight was cowardly. I lost all respect for him. I have a level of respect for him as a person, but not as a fighter.”
"That’s cool. I just hope he doesn’t back out again. The UFC might want to line up someone else to fill in if he backs out again.”
After the bout, he may want to take it all back and stick with his initial answer. Varner won the bout 30-27 on two of the three judges' scorecards, and Guillard will head back to Florida a loser.
For the first time since 2005, when he missed consecutive shows because of commitments to Fox's college football coverage, iconic UFC play-by-play man Mike Goldberg didn't call the action at a UFC pay-per-view event.
Goldberg, who faced some criticism for what some deemed a poor performance during the UFC's fourth show on Fox earlier this month, was replaced by FX and Fuel broadcaster Jon Anik. The former Bellator announcer and ESPN host joined the UFC family this year and stepped into the booth for the UFC's "B" broadcasts on the smaller networks all year with partner Kenny Florian. This is the first time he's replaced Goldberg, who is not slated for an immediate return.
"He's taking time off and is not working this weekend," UFC president Dana White told MMA Junkie. "I don't know when he will be back."
Anik, working with color man Joe Rogan for the first time, did an admirable job on short notice, making none of the trademark flubs that cause fans to yank their hair out when listening to Goldberg. Anik's ability to step up on short notice is a major asset for the UFC.
Before his hiring, several years ago, there was momentary panic at an event when Goldberg woke up ill on Saturday morning and the UFC brass had no backup plan. UFC VP Joe Silva was considered for the role before it was finally determined that Goldberg would be able to make the show. Anik's hiring and strong performance eliminate that possibility and give the UFC breathing room on event weekends.
More than two-and-a-half years after his last UFC appearance, Todd Duffee finally made his way back to the UFC Octagon against grappler Phillip De Fries.
The big man picked up right where he left off like nothing had happened, knocking out De Fries with a huge uppercut and a series of right hands against the fence that had veteran observers reminiscing about Phil Baroni's classic knockout of Dave Menne.
Still just 27, and now training with some of the best heavyweight wrestlers in the world at the American Kickboxing Academy, Duffee remains an intriguing prospect. I expect to see his next fight on the main card of a PPV in 2013.
UFC Heavyweight Championship: Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez
Velasquez defeated Dos Santos by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-43, 50-44).
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon
Miller defeated Lauzon by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou
Philippou defeated Boetsch by TKO at 2:11 of the third round.
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
Okami defeated Belcher by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson
Brunson defeated Leben by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland
Wineland defeated Pickett by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27).
Erik Perez vs. Byron Bloodworth
Perez defeated Bloodworth by TKO at 3:50 of the first round.
Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner
Varner defeats Guillard by split decision (30-27, 27-30, 30-27).
Michael Johnson vs. Myles Jury
Jury defeats Johnson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Phil De Fries vs. Todd Duffee
Duffee defeated De Fries by TKO at 2:04 of the first round.
Leonard Garcia vs. Max Holloway
Holloway defeated Garcia by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Chris Cariaso vs. John Moraga
Moraga defeated Cariaso via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:11 of the third round.