Benson Henderson is the UFC's new king of controversy. Not for anything he's said or done outside the cage, but for his propensity to split the judges and the crowd at the end of five long rounds.
For the second time in three fights, Henderson was the lucky recipient of a split-decision victory, this time over Gilbert Melendez in front of Melendez's furious hometown crowd. Henderson again displayed some interesting attacks, including a jab to the thigh, standing heel kicks and a nifty lead left elbow. Melendez did better with the bread-and-butter stuff, pursuing the champion with straight punches and the occasional spearing knee to the body.
As the bell rang, both fighters raised their hands in the air, both confident the day was theirs. But, in the end, there can be only one.
It was an action-packed card from top to bottom, filled with incredible twists and turns for most of five hours. Henderson, of course, wasn't the only winner.
In mixed martial arts, unlike most sports, there is a significant entertainment element at play. A fighter can win a bout on the scorecards and lose in the eyes of fans and matchmakers with a dull performance. Likewise, an official loser can win in the end with an exciting and valiant showing. Click on for the real winners and losers from UFC on FOX 7.
Benson Henderson almost lost a decision to Gilbert Melendez. It was a fight won by the slimmest of margins. And, had he lost, it would have been easy to pinpoint the culprit—Henderson's hair.
Over and over again, the champion had to remove his flowing locks from his eyes. It was distracting to him—and to me as a viewer. How about a haircut?
Worse, on Melendez's home turf and as the recipient of a questionable split decision, Henderson decided it was a good time to propose to his girlfriend. Now UFC fans aren't the most sensitive lot to begin with. But after the hometown favorite loses a questionable decision? They are downright ornery. Somehow, I'm guessing boos raining down aren't a good omen for any relationship. Poor future Mrs. Henderson.
Occasionally, you can get away with a stinker of a fight. When it's buried in the middle of the card, or when it's one of several subpar contests on the evening, fans are quick to forgive and forget.
But when it's the single turd on a night full of fun and exciting fights, fans have the memories of a herd of elephants.
Daniel Cormier did what he needed to do in order to win his UFC debut against the tough Frank Mir. He had his hand raised, which is the ultimate goal.
But it won't do anything to create the kind of groundswell that could place Cormier on the fast track for a title shot at heavyweight or light heavyweight. It's a nice line on a resume—but that's all.
No, Condit wasn't competing at UFC on FOX 7. But his strategy for dealing with the Diaz brothers was well represented in the person of Josh Thomson. The longtime Strikeforce contender followed the Condit template to a tee, circling away from Diaz's power hand and landing leg kicks to throw him off his game.
When Diaz lost his cool and chased, Thomson consistently landed a high kick to the dome. Twice, Diaz seemed to walk right through it. But the third time was most definitely not the charm for the Stockton bad boy. Thomson dropped him with the kick, then pounced for an impressive finish.
Fans have long wondered where Strikeforce's best stood when it came to top competition. Thomson joins a laundry list of former Showtime fighters who have proved they were every bit as good as their UFC counterparts.
Matt Brown was supposed to be just another stepping stone for the fast-rising Jordan Mein. A Canadian with 36 fights in his 23 years, Mein seemed on his way to big things at 170 pounds. Instead, he's on his way back to the undercard, falling to Brown in the second round of a scintillating fight to open the FOX portion of the show.
Brown refused to be impressed with Mein's reputation and his status as the prohibitive favorite. He had already derailed the Stephen Thompson hype train. Mein was just another fighter with a name.
The first round was an amazing battle. Brown tagged Mein early with a left hook, before a Mein body shot dropped him in turn. Brown, apparently, doesn't feel pain. After taking a few moments to recover, he nearly caught Mein in a triangle to finish an incredible five minutes.
In the second round, Brown simply overwhelmed his young foe, nailing him again and again with elbows to the body. It was a hard lesson for Mein—sometimes, when you run into a brick wall, it doesn't crumble. Brown is that brick wall in the welterweight division. He may never be a champion, but it looks like he'll be there in the middle of the card, separating pretenders from contenders for years to come.
It's rare to see a major flub on broadcast television, but that's exactly what happened on FOX as the show opened. The pretaped introduction, including announcer Curt Menefee's tribute to Boston and its brave first responders, played back to back. It was an important message, sure. But once was enough.
The network followed that with an absolutely awful mashup, combining UFC highlights with shots from the latest "Marky" Mark Wahlberg movie. Not a great start for big brother after a great undercard on FX.
Ludwig in action
It's easy to overstate the effect of a new coach, especially in a sport like MMA that sees athletes shuttle from gym to gym and instructor to instructor to work their jiujitsu, wrestling, striking and strength and conditioning. It's such a team effort that pointing the finger at any one man for success or failure can be misleading.
But I think it's clear that Duane Ludwig has had an enormous impact on his new pupils at Team Alpha Male. Ludwig, a former kickboxer with slick standup, has helped reinvent a team that has mostly been known for its stellar grapplers.
At UFC on FOX 7, three Team Alpha Male fighters competed—and all three won by knockout. That speaks volumes for the work Ludwig has done in a short period of time.
Joseph Benavidez is the top contender at 125 pounds. Chad Mendes is knocking on the door at featherweight.
This isn't just my opinion, mind you. These are the UFC's official rankings. And yet, there they are—ostensibly two of the world's best fighters, buried on the FX undercard.
I think both men are great fighters. In their respective divisions, they are obviously extremely important. But in the overall scheme of things, at least as far as the UFC is concerned, neither matters enough to warrant the extra viewers and attention that comes with a place on the main card.
In fact, it appears neither is as highly regarded in the Zuffa offices as Matt Brown, an Ultimate Fighter refugee who has had mixed success against mostly middling competition. That speaks volumes about where the smaller guys rate. And it's not good news for hardcore fans who love the "go, go, go" action.
Benson Henderson defeats Gilbert Melendez by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Daniel Cormier defeats Frank Mir via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Josh Thomson defeats Nate Diaz via TKO at 3:44 of Round 2
Matt Brown defeats Jordan Mein via TKO at 1:00 of Round 2
Chad Mendes defeats Darren Elkins via TKO at 1:08 of Round 1
Francis Carmont defeats Lorenz Larkin via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
Myles Jury defeats Ramsey Nijem via KO at 1:02 of Round 2
Joseph Benavidez defeats Darren Uyenoyama via TKO at 4:50 of Round 2
Jorge Masvidal defeats Tim Means via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
T.J. Dillashaw defeats Hugo Viana via TKO at 4:22 of Round 1
Anthony Njokuani defeats Roger Bowling via TKO at 2:52 of Round 2
Yoel Romero defeats Clifford Starks via KO at 1:32 of Round 1