Cain Velasquez vs Junior Dos Santos 2: UFC 155 Post-Fight Stock Report
Once again, the heavyweight title picture has been flipped on its head.
But as amazing as the fight was, the co-main event was even better.
Although Joe Lauzon didn't pull off the win, he survived an early blitz from Jim Miller in the night's co-main event and battled through three rounds of horror to earn both men a "Fight of the Night" bonus. For the bloodthirsty Las Vegas crowd, that fight definitely saved the main card.
Unfortunately, the three fights preceding it weren't nearly as entertaining—and despite wins from some men, their value in the UFC didn't rise much in victory.
With that in mind, here's our stock report on several fighters from UFC 155. As a year-end special, we're also going to be picking out some noticeable players from the prelims as well as the main card.
Cain Velasquez: Rising
By snatching back the UFC heavyweight title from Junior dos Santos in such dominant fashion, Velasquez has likely erased any doubts left from their first match.
However, the champion didn't get the finish despite landing 144 more strikes than his opponent (according to Fight Metric).
That's one of the only negative takeaways from the fight, though, as even a visibly tired Velasquez nonetheless out-hustled JDS to a rare decision victory in a UFC heavyweight title fight—something that hasn't happened since Randy's Couture's win over Tim Sylvia at UFC 68.
Although a trilogy fight may be in the future for both of them, that wholly depends on whether the champion can stay on top and if JDS can climb back from the brink.
Junior Dos Santos: Falling
Dos Santos' loss to Cain Velasquez wasn't just surprising, it was uncharacteristic.
Prior to Saturday, JDS had never lost a single round in the UFC, had never been planted on his back with such dogged wrestling and had certainly never been so ruthlessly dominated on the feet in a striking battle.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of loss that can seriously damage a fighter's career.
While Velasquez had the benefit of the doubt with last-minute injuries and an anticlimactic flash-knockout loss, JDS was soundly beaten back and forth across the Octagon in five rounds—how do you mentally recover from that?
Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon: Rising
Both Miller and Lauzon saved the UFC 155 pay-per-view with a gritty, bloody performance that's a legitimate last-minute candidate for Fight of the Year.
Lauzon ultimately fell to both blood loss and a dominant assault from Miller, but even in defeat, he came out a winner by amazing the crowd and netting another "Fight of the Night" nod. That puts Lauzon at 12 post-fight bonuses, officially tying Anderson Silva's own post-fight bonus record and putting him on pace to surpass the currently idle middleweight king.
For Miller, a win like this keeps him from falling out of the title picture.
Despite losses to Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson, this victory keeps the blue-chip contender at the top of the division and possibly sets up rematches down the line.
Constantinos Philippou: Slightly Rising
It wasn't pretty, but "Costa" got the job done at UFC 155 by pulling off a major upset against Tim Boetsch and becoming the first man to stop him on strikes since 2008.
But although that puts him at a 5-0 streak in the UFC, detractors can still point to headbutts and eye pokes to take away from his performance.
Still, Costa showed patience and grit as he worked his way to a stoppage win, fighting back from a near knockout after getting stung from a Boetsch front kick in the first round and closing the distance in the remainder of the round.
With that, Costa slides into the "Top 10" argument at middleweight where he can likely start talking about title shots with another couple of solid wins.
Tim Boetsch: Quickly Falling
After Saturday night, Tim Boetsch watched his hopes for a title run go up in smoke.
Even though he narrowly defeated the much-hyped Hector Lombard in his last fight, the victory didn't help him much, as he was widely criticized for not pressing the action.
Boetsch definitely tried to push his opponent last night, and all it got him was a nasty cut, a horrid finger to the eye and a heavy serving of ground-and-pound.
This loss for "The Barbarian" marks a major downswing for his career, knocking him out of the middleweight division's elite group and probably inching him solidly towards gatekeeper status for now.
Yushin Okami and Alan Belcher: Steadily Falling
It's a shame that Okami isn't much of a trash-talker, because a stifling win like that isn't going to put butts in seats for the UFC on future cards.
For three rounds, "Thunder" stuck to a conservative game plan that saw him slowly grind Alan Belcher into the fence and down through the Octagon mat, occasionally opening up for some steady ground-and-pound. It was a technically sound effort to be sure, but at times, it was downright boring.
It also drew huge boos from the Las Vegas crowd, cementing the fight as a low point for the main card.
Unfortunately, that's the kind of bout where both fighters look worse coming out of it. Considering that Belcher was on the losing end of a previous 2006 match with Okami, this loss sets him back immensely in the division and sucks away all the heat from his four previous wins.
Derek Brunson: Same
Brunson pulled off an upset against Chris Leben, but that says way more about "The Crippler" than it does about the ex-Strikeforce middleweight.
Without the tools to battle Leben on the feet, Brunson played a low-risk, low-reward game of clinching and wrestling that won points, but also got him in trouble with various submission scares.
But at the end of the day, the win is what matters.
Brunson likely didn't impress many fans in his Octagon debut (and his weird roar at the end was comically out of place), but at least he guaranteed himself another fight.
Chris Leben: Quickly Falling
Leben has posted three losses in his last four fights, and his only win in that time came against an equally shot Wanderlei Silva.
In fact, one could argue that Leben's been on a downward slide since losing to Brian Stann at UFC 125, a night where the promotion's most notorious alcoholic competed less than 24 hours after the world's biggest drinking holiday.
Whatever the case, Leben looked old and slow last night.
Even if his iron chin hasn't completely left him in the past year, it appears that the rest of his body may be inching out the door.
Erik Perez: Rising
Highly-touted Mexican prospect Perez notched his third first-round finish in the UFC bantamweight division, mauling a hapless Byron Bloodworth with heavy strikes.
But that fight wasn't as notable as the post-fight interview, where Perez wore a luchador mask while taking to color commentator Joe Rogan.
True, Dana White hates seeing anything in the Octagon that resembles pro wrestling. But it's good that Perez' camp was able to get their way.
There's a clear difference between dressing up for the camera for shock value and representing your heritage. Besides, there's no reason Perez shouldn't benefit from bringing a little cultural flair to one of the UFC's lighter, less prominent divisions.
Jamie Varner: Slightly Rising
As soon as Varner figured out that he didn't have to fear Melvin Guillard blitz-bombing him with his usual frantic striking, he had an advantage.
Although he ate plenty of leg kicks and strikes throughout the fight, Varner dominated much of it with efficient wrestling that likely saved his neck.
Now that he has that upset in the bag, Varner also avoids a 0-2 slide and cements himself in the middle of the pack in the UFC lightweight division.
That's not too shabby for the former WEC champion—he might not climb much higher in the division than where he is now, but there's still some more room for gatekeepers in the heavily stacked weight class.
Melvin Guillard: Falling
Even though Guillard has lost his last two fights by the thinnest of margins, it seems his MMA career has never hit a lower point.
Despite joining up with the Blackzilians and seemingly retooling his game, "The Young Assassin" is 1-4 in his last five fights and likely looking a pink slip with another loss.
It just depends on whom he fights next and whether it's a tune-up.
Should Guillard face a hot prospect and get blown out, that spells the end of his UFC career.
On the other hand, the UFC might just throw him a bone with some tune-up bouts.
At the very least, Guillard has the benefit of mostly losing to a group of the division's elite talent in the last two years—but that description doesn't really fit Jamie Varner.
Myles Jury: Rising
Jury utterly shut down Michael Johnson in a battle between Ultimate Fighter competitors, controlling and beating up the TUF 12 finalist over three rounds.
Chalk up another loss for the Blackzilians.
Although Jury came up short against Al Iaquinta in TUF 15, his professional record luckily remains intact and rises to 11-0 with his dominant performance at UFC 155.
Stealing away Johnson's heat should be a small career booster, and it looks good on Jury as a relatively young prospect in the division—all that remains to be seen is how far he'll go at 155 pounds.
Todd Duffee: Slightly Rising
Phil De Fries had the Duffman on the ropes, but the tides quickly turned before the round was over.
After eating few shots and falling back on his heels, Duffee caught De Fries with a short uppercut that changed the course of the bout and started the TKO finishing sequence.
Duffee's been out of the UFC for more than two years, but he's young enough to make up for lost time.
Much of his shine may be gone from 2010, but with knockout wins like that, it's possible that Duffee can build up some steam over a few good opponents before getting a big-time match against a "Top 15" heavyweight.
Max Holloway: Same
Although Holloway won't get a ton of credit for winning a debatable split decision against Leonard Garcia, he deserves a nod for putting up a good fight.
Both men slugged it out often and early, and remarkably, Holloway matched Garcia blow-for-blow as his opponent started pulling out some of his unhinged windmill striking tactics.
Moreover, since losing to Dustin Poirier at UFC 143 last February, Holloway has rattled off three wins to close out the year.
That's making the best out of a tough situation, especially since the Hawaiian stepped in as a late replacement for Cody McKenzie on just 10 days' notice with barely any time to prepare for a difficult fight against a Greg Jackson student.
Leonard Garcia: Quickly Falling
Garcia is lucky that he's favored by UFC president Dana White, because a four-fight losing streak would be a death knell for nearly any other fighter on the roster.
At some point, seven post-fight bonuses between the UFC and WEC isn't going to matter.
Garcia needs a win in his next fight badly.
Even if he pulls off an amazing "Fight of the Year" performance to open up the 2013 season, it's hard to imagine that the Greg Jackson student will be safe if he loses a fifth consecutive match.
Then again, you never know.
If Dan Hardy could rebound after a four-loss stretch and Yoshihiro Akiyama still hasn't been cut, there's always the possibility that Garcia could stick around after a fifth loss if he manages to win a "Fight of the Night" bonus in another three-round brawl.