UFC on Fox 7 was billed as one of the more stacked cards since the UFC-Fox partnership began, and for the most part, it didn't disappoint.
The main card got off to a furious start with Matt Brown and Jordan Mein going punch for punch with one another. The pace continued with Nate Diaz and Josh Thomson putting on an interesting scrap.
Daniel Cormier used his superior wrestling skills to avoid Frank Mir's strikes and his jiu-jitsu game en route to a victory, and Benson Henderson edged Gilbert Melendez in the evening's main event.
It was a solid event for the UFC, but as always a few moments stood out from the rest and were by far the most memorable from UFC on Fox 7.
One feature quite a few UFC cards have in common is that the prelims are oftentimes more exciting than the main card itself. That seemed to be the case as the UFC on Fox 7 prelims were a dazzling display of MMA and featured a handful of KO's.
The prelims started red hot when Yoel Romero crushed Clifford Starks with a flying knee. Anthony Njokuani put on a striking clinic against Roger Bowling before finally ending his night with a beautiful hook to the chin.
On FX, TJ Dillashaw continued the KO-fest by finishing Hugo Viana. His Team Alpha Male counterparts also finished their fights in dominant fashion, especially Chad Mendes as he simply steamrolled through a guy who had been on a roll in Darren Elkins.
Although the prelims were full of exciting moments, perhaps none stood out more than Myles Jury's KO of Ramsey Nijem. Jury was evading Nijem's attacks and landed a huge overhand right to the face of Nijem who went out cold the second the punch landed.
With how exciting the prelims were, it was hard for any fan not to be excited for the main card.
Jordan Mein was a name many in the MMA community had on their radar as a top prospect. And despite losing last night to Matt Brown, some will argue that he still is.
Brown did what everyone knew he would do by pushing the pace early and often. The first round between he and Mein was a flurry of strikes to one another.
Brown looked to have the advantage early as he continually backed Mein around the Octagon. It was all Brown early until Mein landed a hard body shot that visibly wounded the UFC veteran.
Mein desperately looked for the finish, but Brown survived to fight another round. The UFC vet would finish Mein in the second, but there wasn't a true "loser" in this contest as both men showed tremendous heart.
Brown won't likely be "in the mix," but we can safely say he's definitely a good barometer of where fighters rank. I know gatekeeper is typically a negative term, but Brown's doing his best to own that term and prove you can win and be a gatekeeper.
Many (including myself) expected to see Josh Thomson use his wrestling to grind out a decision over Nate Diaz. Instead, Thomson had no issues with staying on his feet against Diaz, and now we know why.
Thomson caught Diaz with the same kick that ended the fight on multiple occasions but Diaz (in typical Diaz fashion) refused to adapt in the fight. It proved to be his undoing as Thomson landed the head kick once more—this time with the shin and it was game over for Diaz.
Everyone will remember the kick, and I think the Earth may have shaken from the collective cheers of the anti-Diaz crowd, but there were a few other memorable moments from this contest as well.
Why do both Nick and Nate feel the need to try and get cheap shots in after the bell? They had five minutes to land strikes at free will but feel the need to look for a hit after the bell. I know they're trying to play mind games, but at this level is anyone still falling for it?
I will give some small measure of props to Nate, however, for landing a takedown in the second round. I know he didn't do much with it despite his jiu-jitsu game, but it at least showed he was willing to change it up somewhat from the straight forward approach we typically see out of that camp.
Daniel Cormier executed a flawless game plan against Frank Mir that earned him a fairly lopsided decision victory. Still, it left a little more to be desired from "DC" and Cormier knows it.
Cormier used his strength in the clinch to perfection as he held Mir against the Octagon and worked him over like he was hitting the bag at the gym. Every time Mir seemed to get a bit of momentum, Cormier forced him against the cage where it was clear who had the greater advantage.
Still, as dominant as Cormier looked, I think we all expected a bit more from "DC" in this contest. We saw Cormier attempt some head kicks and even a jumping head kick attempt. Cormier showed he's still an incredible athlete despite his age, and I was waiting for him to use that athleticism against Mir.
Instead, Cormier relied on his wrestling base to pin Mir against the cage and worked the body. It was an effective strategy and a dominant win for Cormier, but I think all can say, "he can do better."
Frank Mir disappointed once again. Despite being a wealth of talent, Mir can't consistently put things together to extend any kind of success in the UFC at this point.
Mir found himself pushed up against the cage repeatedly in this contest, and for a moment it looked as if he was about to relive his fun times with Shane Carwin against the cage. Daniel Cormier instead chose to work the body, and it appeared to sap the gas tank of Mir as the fight went on.
In the weeks leading up to fight, Mir routinely brought up the fact that he was bigger and was going to show Cormier he didn't belong in the heavyweight division. Where was that size advantage or the confidence in Rounds 1 and 2?
Mir froze once more in the face of adversity, and the necessity for a victory didn't kick in until the final round. He started to land some good kicks but once again let himself be pressed against the cage anytime he got some offense going.
Mir didn't look for any takedowns and never appeared to have thought about trying to take this to the ground.
The former UFC heavyweight champ loves to talk about his striking game, and while it's improved since his early days, it's nowhere near the level of his ground game. Let's hope Mir can come with a better game plan his next time out and focus on his true strength rather than trying to impress everyone with his striking game.
I thoroughly expected Benson Henderson to pull away with this one and didn't give Gilbert Melendez much of a chance coming in.
Melendez changed everyone's mindset when he took it to Henderson in the early going. Henderson adopted a defensive strategy in the early rounds that nearly saw his UFC title slip from his grasp. Melendez continuously pushed forward and landed some solid shots as well as a takedown to leave little doubt as to who won the first two rounds.
He started to slow as the fight wore on, but there was never a moment where you thought Melendez was totally out of the contest. The split decision shows just how close of a fight this was, and even though Melendez lost, the former Strikeforce champion showed he belongs with the UFC lightweight elite.
I expect Melendez to make a great second impression as well and expect him to bounce back strong from this defeat.
After retaining his title, Benson Henderson made a smooth move and dropped to a knee to propose to his girlfriend—on national TV no less.
I almost would've expected Henderson to pull the ring out of his mouth in a toothpick-like incident, but the moment was still memorable nonetheless.
Henderson said he wanted to make sure she was in his life for a long time in the post-fight interview, and it's good for a fighter to have that solid foundation at home. I know Henderson doesn't live the party lifestyle, but for an athlete who spends six-eight weeks in almost pure isolation in the gym, it's very comforting to have the family lifestyle to come home to.