This bout may have slipped under many radars. The importance, though, cannot be overstated.
In the crazy shuffle surrounding the departure of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the rise of Glover Teixeira, the arrival of Gegard Mousasi and the three-man race for a title shot, many fans neglected to notice that Ryan Jimmo and James Te Huna squared off in a fight to determine the next addition to the Top 10 Light Heavyweight.
Both of them are on impressive winning streaks, and both are hungry.
When the bell rang, Jimmo came very close to ending the fight, but Te Huna took control from there, out-working the Canadian in the second and third. That was good enough to get Te Huna the nod from all three judges.
After this back and forth battle, what did we learn about these two light heavyweights?
Te Huna Has a Big Heart
It takes a lot of spirit to eat a huge headkick, get repeatedly punched in the face, and not roll into a fetal position and concede.
Te Huna gutted out a first round that he very easily could have quit during, and ended up getting the win as a result. Granted, it was a close win (many scored the fight a 28-28 draw), but we already knew he had the hands and the grappling, and now we know he has the heart to go with it.
While this might not have been his best fight, it's still a great demonstration of who Te Huna is as a fighter.
Jimmo Can Punch Himself Out
Jimmo rose to prominence as the top light heavyweight of the MFC promotion. During that run, he was widely regarded as a grinding, distance-focused grappler.
He is no stranger to fighting for three full rounds (and he had two five-round decision victories before joining the UFC), but after five minutes of non-stop face-punching, Jimmo was tired. Slowing down more and more as the fight progressed, he couldn't muster up the energy to really threaten Te Huna standing, or on the ground after the first frame.
This is by no means a harsh loss for Jimmo (again, many scored it a draw), and he should still be regarded as one of the better light heavyweights.
Te Huna is a Legitimate Top Ten Light Heavyweight
I might catch some flack for this, but I think Te Huna ranks among the Top 10 Light Heavyweights in the UFC. There are very few fighters who I don't think he could beat.
Part of this is just because of the ugly performances from former champions Forrest Griffin, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans over the last few months. That said, a strong case can be made for Te Huna to be slotted around the No. 8 or No. 9 spot in the division.
He's not quite in the title picture yet, but there are very few fighters that would not change places with him. The fact that his lone UFC loss came against Alexander Gustafsson doesn't help his case, but if he fits another big win or two in this year, we could see him lined up for a title fight in early 2014.
Jimmo Isn't Far Behind
Now that I'm done gushing over Te Huna...did I mention that many scored this fight a draw? Jimmo could have finished the fight very easily, and even then, if he dialed back his first round aggression just a little bit, he could have taken one of the other rounds to handily earn a unanimous decision.
This wasn't the best showing by Jimmo, but he showed enough to say that, if pitted against a guy like Ryan Bader or Phil Davis, he'd be more than competitive. Even though he technically lost this fight, his ascent up the division's rankings should not be halted.
Watch for him to bounce back to great effect.