On Saturday night, the UFC made its first visit to Winnipeg—and oh, what a debut it was.
While the original lineup was set to feature a bantamweight title fight showdown in the main event, an injury pushed the bout between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland aside and made way for a collection of the heaviest hitters in the sport to take the spotlight.
Former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans stepped up in a "make or break" moment to best MMA legend Dan Henderson on the judges' cards via split decision, and Stipe Miocic earned the biggest victory of his young career by derailing surging knockout artist Roy Nelson in the co-main event.
Once action got under way in the MTS Centre, it was just as the John Lee Hooker tracked promo advertised things to be with all the "Booming" and "Banging" that fight fans could handle. But with all the high points that UFC 161 gave us, there were some lows and wacky happenings.
Let's take a look at the great performances, the bad looks and the eyebrow-raising curiosities of UFC 161. As Burt Watson would say, "We rollin' baby!"
In the headliner, Evans not only kept himself relevant by defeating Henderson but maintained his position in the 205-pound division's title picture as well.
"Suga" brought his two-fight skid to an end, which could spark a much-needed resurgence in his career.
After losing to Stefan Struve in February, Stipe Miocic rebounded in a major way by defeating Roy Nelson in the co-main event. Throughout the three-round affair, the Ohio native scored with crisp boxing and heavy shots, taking home the lopsided decision victory.
Before the Struve fight, Miocic was on the verge of trading his prospect card, and the victory at UFC 161 will make sure that happens.
In heavyweight action, Shawn Jordan scored a huge victory over Pat Barry to kick off the pay-per-view card. In less than a minute of work, “Savage” dropped Barry with a series of thunderous uppercuts before hammering him with left hands.
The Jackson’s MMA fighter has now been successful in four of his past five showings, and the win will guarantee the former LSU fullback a bigger opponent in his next outing.
It wasn’t anything close to pretty, but Jake Shields made a triumphant return to the welterweight division by edging out upstart Tyron Woodley. The former Strikeforce champion kept the pressure on Woodley throughout the fight, consistently pressing him into the cage. In the eyes of two out of three ringside judges, he did enough to get the victory.
James Krause not only made the most of a short-notice opportunity, but he logged an impressive Octagon debut in the process. The former TUF alum stepped in for an injured Isaac Vallie-Flagg to face Sam Stout and defeated the gritty veteran in a bloody, action-packed tilt.
After busting up Stout in the first round, Krause kept his output high and continued the onslaught. Looking to score points late, “Hands of Stone” shot in for a takedown, but Krause was able to lock in a guillotine choke and end the fight in the third round.
With the victory, the 27-year-old extended his winning streak to eight and earned a spot in the ultra-competitive lightweight ranks.
Pat Barry has been struggling to make traction in the heavyweight division for the past three years—and with two huge uppercuts—Shawn Jordan bulldozed any momentum “Hype or Die” had built.
With the loss, the 33-year-old Louisiana native has now lost four out of his past six fights. While his personality and willingness to stand and bang will keep Barry a fan favorite, his hopes of title contention were dashed at UFC 161.
Did I mention Shields vs. Woodley was difficult to watch?
After losing two consecutive bouts in the welterweight division, John Maguire came into UFC 161 in a must-win situation. Unfortunately for “The Gypsy,” dropping down to 155 pounds didn’t provide the rejuvenation he was looking for, as he lost a split decision to Mitch Clarke. The loss was Maguire's third in a row and could spell the end of his UFC career.
While this category thankfully had few entries, the worst element of UFC 161 was the main event between Evans and Henderson only being a three-round affair. Both men had their moments in a close-fought battle, and it would have been great to see another two rounds of leather-slinging goodness.
Yves Jabouin has built a reputation of putting forth exciting performances. Win or lose—the Haitian-born fighter always shows up to throw down.
That being said, he spent the majority of the time against Dustin Pague barely surviving the Team Takedown fighter’s submission attempts and still managed to get the win. If that’s not strange, I don’t know what is.
If a fighter is going to draw extra attention, he better put on a show inside the Octagon. With his '80s-themed Flashdance-inspired walkout, Maguire needed to bring the ruckus against Clarke to balance out the showmanship. Unfortunately for Maguire, he failed to deliver.
When a fighter's entrance is more impressive than his performance, he has a problem, and the Brit did himself no favors on Saturday night. Maybe he should take a few pointers from Ryan Jimmo—who, despite picking up the victory, didn't throw down his signature "robot" dance because he was unhappy with his showing.
While mid-fight acts of camaraderie (bro hug) are frowned upon by MMA diehards, they love nothing more than a bloody, smiling exchange between fighters.
After Krause split Stout’s dome with a head kick in the opening round, the two lightweights went to the ground where they joyfully discussed the blood pouring out of the Canadian’s right eye.
In women's MMA action, Rosi Sexton may not have won her fight against Alexis Davis, but she earned toughness stripes in Winnipeg. The Canadian bantamweight had Sexton locked up in a tight triangle choke for the majority of the opening frame, but somehow the gritty Brit survived the round.
The bad positions continued over the next two stanzas, and while Sexton never gained the upper hand, she proved she's a difficult fighter to put away.
With one fight remaining on his contract, Roy Nelson stepped up on short notice to add some much-needed star power to UFC 161. "Big Country" was riding a three-fight winning streak before coming out on the business end of a decision against Stipe Miocic.
For Nelson, the fight fulfilled the former TUF winner's contractual obligation with the promotion, and now the focus will shift toward Nelson's future in MMA. If manager Mike Kogan telling Nelson, "You don't want to go out like this," in between rounds were any indication, signs are pointing to the Las Vegas native leaving the UFC.
While Nelson has been one of the most exciting UFC heavyweight fighters for the past four years, his future with the sport's biggest promotion is in limbo. Then again, maybe that is how the heavy-handed slugger wanted it all along.
Make no mistake: Nelson's showing was a bad look for the former IFL champion, but few things are ever what they seem where he is concerned.