The event culminated with Benson Henderson defending his lightweight title against former Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez, who was making his UFC debut on Saturday.
Just about every fighter, from Facebook to Fox, delivered the goods Saturday night. The evidence lies in the evening's most salient stat: Eight of the event's 12 fights ended in a knockout or technical knockout. That is unusual. It is also awesome.
But the stat lines only tell you so much. Here are grades for every main-card fighter.
Result: Matt Brown def. Jordan Mein by TKO (elbows), 1:00, Round 2
I'm getting used to calling each new Matt Brown performance the best of his career. He's not going to win many style contests, but he's unquestionably a very good fighter. And he put young buck Jordan Mein in his place Saturday night.
To the surprise of no one, Brown was hyperaggressive from the opening horn. But in the second round, the end began when a Brown right hook landed on Mein's nose. Then some huge Brown knees hit the same spot.
Mein went down and turtled up. Undaunted, Matt Brown rained elbows on Mein's back, presumably going for the kidneys. It was pretty medieval, and it earned Brown the stoppage and his fifth consecutive UFC victory.
If Jordan Mein needed a reminder that they're not knitting sweaters out there in the Octagon, Matt Brown gave it to him.
But Mein dished out plenty of his own as well. In particular, a body shot in the first round appeared to hurt Brown.
Mein showed he's more than a technical-striking standout. He's willing to get dirty for the good of the show. And despite the loss, that attitude is good not just for TV but for Mein himself.
Result: Josh Thomson def. Nate Diaz by TKO (head kick and punches), 3:45 of Round 2
Thomson's strategy was a good one and he worked it to perfection. He threw leg kicks, circled away from Diaz's stalking and waited for openings to either go for a takedown or fire a head kick.
He threw the head kick three times. Twice it landed, and the second time it effectively ended the fight. Thomson swarmed, raining punches and hammerfists on a fetal Diaz. The referee called Thomson off right as Diaz's corner literally threw in the towel.
I'm definitely a fan of the Diaz brothers, but part of me wonders if that whole "Diaz Thing" has jumped the proverbial shark.
They continually use the stalking, the taunting, the tumbling punch combinations and the almost complacent reliance on jiu-jitsu to keep or bail them out of any ground exchanges. Josh Thomson had it all sniffed out, and as such, was two or three moves ahead of Nate Diaz the entire time, and Diaz just couldn't get much of anything going.
It might be time for them to try something new.
Result: Daniel Cormier def. Frank Mir by unanimous decision
No two ways about it: Daniel Cormier dominated this fight. He spent most of the fight mashing Mir against the fence, grinding his head into Mir's jaw and pounding Mir's body. He shook off one of Mir's choke attempts the way I shake off my daughter at the end of a piggyback ride.
You could almost see the life force draining out of the former UFC champ. Maybe halfway through the second round, it didn't really look like he wanted to be there anymore. That's a testament to how good Cormier really is. He's a force to be reckoned with in the UFC.
This is the second consecutive fight where viewers could almost pinpoint the moment when Frank Mir took his foot off the gas. Against Junior dos Santos, it was maybe the third consecutive takedown defended that did it. Against Daniel Cormier, it was the choke attempt and maybe one of those heavy body shots.
I don't mean to be too disparaging of Mir. After all, dos Santos and Cormier are both former champions and two of the four or five best heavyweights on the planet. Mir was once on that sort of level. He's not anymore.
Result: Benson Henderson def. Gilbert Melendez by split decision
Another title defense, another excellent performance and extremely close fight for Bendo. I actually had this one scored as a draw. But you have to beat the man, as they say, and at the end of the day, Melendez just didn't do enough to do that.
As for the champ, it was classic Bendo. He wasn't able to overpower Melendez the way he did with Nate Diaz and Frankie Edgar, but he was able to swing those Doric columns he has for legs and take plenty of starch out of Melendez over the course of the fight. A few big punches sprinkled in here and there was enough for Henderson to take the split decision.
It was close. It probably could have gone either way. But this was far from a robbery. You can't be mad at the champ here. And if you are, remember that he proposed to his girlfriend in the cage after the fight—as the boos rained down. Awkward. At least she said yes.
Melendez may have come up short, but he fought a great fight, and hopefully, quieted any doubts about his fitness as a UFC elite. Melendez was prepared for Bendo: He caught many a leg kick and stuffed many a takedown, all while putting his own combinations on Bendo's chin.
An impressive UFC debut for Melendez. At 31, Melendez could still have quite a few good years left at the highest levels of MMA.
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