Critics said Chael Sonnen didn't belong in the same cage with Jon Jones. That, coming off a loss to Anderson Silva, he didn't deserve a shot at the UFC light heavyweight championship. Oddsmakers, too, were almost unanimous in their opinion that Sonnen had nothing for Jones.
And, this time at least, the critics were all right.
Jones dominated Sonnen in a short, one-sided fight. Worse for Sonnen's pride, Jones chose to eschew his incredible reach advantage and beat Sonnen at his own game. It was Jones who won the battle in the clinch and took Sonnen down at will, a role reversal that shocked many cageside.
Of course, Jones wasn't the only winner on the night, though labeling him a winner seems like a stretch. He beat an overmatched opponent and somehow ended up badly injuring his big toe in the process.
From the very beginning, the show seemed jinxed. Not one but two fights were stopped early due to eye pokes and another fighter broke his thumb defending a takedown. At one point, the announcers' microphones were seemingly possessed by demons. It was just that kind of night.
Click along, and together, we'll relive the highs and lows of one of the wackiest UFCs in some time.
Jon Jones defeats Chael Sonnen by TKO in Round 1(4:33).
Jones all but told the media what he was going to do, violating traditional protocol and revealing his game plan early. He said he was the better wrestler and that he intended to prove it. And he did.
Jones easily took Sonnen down several times, eventually securing a solid top position and dropping some serious punches and elbows. The fight was stopped, a bit early for my taste, but the end seemed nigh. Jones, as Sonnen admitted after the bout, is simply the better fighter.
Real Winner: The Real Chael Sonnen
Sonnen had a lot to say about Jones in the months leading up to the fight. He had a lot to say afterward, too—all of it complimentary. Sonnen fell short to arguably the best fighter in mixed martial arts history. Kudos to Chael for refusing the easy route, eschewing excuses and complaints and admitting this wasn't his night.
If this was the last time we see Sonnen in the cage, he will never achieve his goal of winning UFC gold. But he left a legacy nonetheless, becoming one of the most memorable and vivid characters in the history of the UFC.
Real Loser: Jon Jones' big toe
Sonnen did almost no damage to Jones, but somehow, he still limped away with a badly injured toe. It's not clear exactly what happened as yet. One minute Jones was grappling with Sonnen with a completely normal foot. The next minute, his foot looked like a science experiment gone very wrong.
Michael Bisping defeated Alan Belcher by Unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Belcher talked a good game, but when it came time to deliver in the Octagon, he was nowhere to be found. Bisping did what Bisping always does—stayed active, threw his hands and avoided danger.
Not that Belcher proved to be much of a threat. He mostly stood around grinning every time Bisping hit him, looking like he'd rather have been anywhere else but the cage.
Real Loser: Alan Belcher's eye
The fight ended with Bisping's finger deep in Belcher's right eye. Blood streamed out of his eyeball. I repeat—his eyeball. Belcher was done for the night and it was a grisly sight—made worse by the fact that Belcher had two previous surgeries on the same eye after suffering a detached retina in 2010.
This wasn't Alan Belcher's night. But I hope it isn't his last in the Octagon.
Roy Nelson defeated Cheick Kongo by TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (2:03).
It's been so long since we considered Nelson a grappling-first fighter that Joe Rogan felt the need to remind newer fans that Nelson has real game on the mat. Ask anyone on the Las Vegas MMA scene—Nelson, to this day, can roll with anybody and hold his own.
In the beginning, grappling was all Nelson had. But since 2007, when he scored his first TKO against Vince Lucero in the long forgotten IFL, Nelson has reinvented himself as a striker.
After three consecutive knockouts, there's little doubt it's been a successful transformation. If Nelson hit a bull elephant flush, that elephant would drop in a heap, trunk flailing around uncontrollably on the ground. That's serious power, and it's enough to make Nelson a threat to any heavyweight in the world.
Real Winners: Fat Guys
"There are a lot of guys who look like Roy Nelson. There aren't a lot of guys who fight like Roy Nelson"—UFC announcer Joe Rogan.
You've got to love Roy Nelson. Belly overlapping his shorts, hair in a fishtail braid, shaggy beard gone grey...he doesn't look like a man who should be able to beat up Kongo, a sculpted god.
But Nelson's fists said otherwise. And his fists talk louder than your doubt and cynicism. With just a single clubbing blow to Kongo's neck, Nelson announced himself as a legitimate heavyweight contender.
Phil Davis defeated Vinny Magalhaes by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Jab. One-Two. Jab. Jab. Rinse. Repeat.
Davis was flatfooted, didn't take advantage of angles and seemed to know only one punching combination. That was still more than enough to demolish the striking-deficient Magalhaes.
Real Losers: one-dimensional fighters
This isn't 1993 when Royce Gracie could dominate the UFC with just his Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In 20 years, this sport has evolved in remarkable ways. The best fighters are dominant in at least one area and at least competent in several others.
Magalhaes, seven years into his career, still hasn't developed a striking game that you could even call marginal with a straight face. He's absolutely awful standing...a complete neophyte. And, at this point, it's unlikely he's ever going to improve.
Pat Healy defeated Jim Miller by submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 3 (4:02).
This had to be like looking in a mirror for both men. Same size, build, ginger hair and scraggly beard. They even had the same fighting style—one built primarily from grit and chewing tobacco. In the end, Pat Healy out-Jim-Millered Jim Miller, grinding away and eventually choking him unconscious.
Real Loser: Bruce Buffer
Sometimes, Bruce Buffer botches the pronunciation of a fighter's name. With the UFC's athletes hailing from Brazil to Korea and everywhere in between, that's bound to happen.
Sometimes, he makes goofy faces and psyches himself up cageside in ridiculously dramatic fashion. That's just good fun.
But I don't remember Buffer ever announcing the wrong winner's name in the cage. It would have been worse if the fight had been a close decision. As it was, there was little doubt this mistake would be quickly corrected.
After all, there was little doubt that Miller, nearly unconscious on the mat when the fight was stopped, was not the winner. Still, the look on Healy's face as they proclaimed Miller the winner was priceless—a moment his poor heart will never forget.
Rustam Khabilov defeated Yancy Medeiros by TKO (injury) in Round 1 (2:32).
Ovince St. Preux defeated Gian Villante by technical decision (majority) (30-28, 30-29, 29-29).
Saint Preux and Villante were well on their way to a completely forgettable fight when St. Preux "accidentally" thumbed his opponent in the eye. Referee Kevin Mulhall wasted little time asking Villante if he could continue—like, seconds. When Villante said he couldn't, Mulhall immediately called the fight off and sent it to the judges for a verdict.
Things got even weirder when Meideros broke his thumb defending a Khabilov suplex. I've never seen that particular injury before. On closer examination, Meideros' thumb was pointing in two directions—and neither one looked quite right.
Real Winner: Murphy's Law
"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."
I can't imagine a worse start to the evening for the UFC. These are the fights that are supposed to propel an audience, on the fence while watching the FX prelims, to go ahead and buy the pay-per-view. Can't imagine these two awful fights parted any fools with their money.
Sara McMann defeated Sheila Gaff by TKO (punches) in Round 1 (4:06).
The third time wasn't the charm for women in the UFC Octagon. For the first time, a woman was booed in the cage as McMann took her time getting a dominant position on Gaff. But once the former Olympic wrestling silver medalist secured the crucifix position, there was little Gaff could do but wait for the referee's kindly intervention.
Real Winner: Diversity
It's fun to see women in the UFC, almost like getting in a time machine and traveling back to 1999. The best women, fighters like McMann and Ronda Rousey, are still very much specialists, imposing their one superlative skill set on their opponent.
Will well-rounded technique eventually be able to overcome single-discipline dominance in the women's game? It will be fun to find out.
Cody McKenzie defeated Leonard Garcia by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
McKenzie, nicknamed "the Constrictor" by announcer Joe Rogan, refused to play rock 'em, sock 'em robots with Garcia. Instead, he took him down immediately and spent the better part of 15 minutes looking for submissions. It was a dominant performance for McKenzie and an abysmal showing for Garcia.
Real Loser: Leonard Garcia
Behind the scenes at Bleacher Report MMA, there was significant debate about whether it was appropriate to refer to Garcia as "the worst fighter who regularly appears in the UFC."
Good news! His performance against McKenzie shows this to be true. Or, at the very least, arguable.
Bad news! With his fifth loss in a row, Garcia won't be a UFC fighter for much longer. Looks like we'll need to set up the search committee to identify a new "worst." Good luck to Garcia in his inevitable World Series of Fighting appearance later this year.
Jon Jones defeats Chael Sonnen via TKO at 4:33 of Round 1.
Michael Bisping defeats Alan Belcher via technical decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28); fight stopped in the third round due to accidental eye poke from Bisping.
Roy Nelson defeats Cheick Kongo via knockout at 2:03 of Round 1.
Phil Davis defeats Vinny Magalhaes via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Pat Healy defeats Jim Miller via submission at 4:02 of Round 3.
Rustam Khabilov defeats Yancy Medeiros via TKO (thumb injury) at 2:32 of Round 1.
Ovince St. Preux defeats Gian Villante via majority technical decision (30-28, 30-29, 29-29); fight stopped due to accidental eye poke at 0:33 of Round 3.
Sara McMann defeats Shelia Gaff via TKO at 4:06 of Round 1.
Bryan Caraway defeats Johnny Bedford via submission at 4:44 of Round 3.
Cody McKenzie defeats Leonard Garcia via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).
Steven Siler defeats Kurt Holobaugh via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3).