There were no mega-stars competing on the UFC's second Fox Sports 1 showcase. They needed a splash for their debut and got it, courtesy of Chael Sonnen and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. And Wednesday night's show should better reflect what these fight cards will normally look like.
And things look pretty good so far.
Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann are a step down the ladder, at least when it comes to star power and notoriety. But when it comes to fireworks, they take a backseat to no men. Condit finished Kampmann in the fourth round of the main event, but he was hardly the only winner on the night in Indianapolis.
In combat sports, there are winners and losers on paper, and then there are the fighters who owned the night in the hearts and minds of the fans. Sometimes they are one and the same. Click through with me and see who I thought fit each bill at UFC Fight Night 27.
Disagree? Sound off in the comments.
Nick Diaz is a little crazy, at least when he gets a microphone in front of him. We know that because, in the aftermath of their 2012 bout for the interim welterweight title, he suggested Carlos Condit was a point fighter—a guy who doesn't come to scrap.
That's, in a word, bonkers. Sure Condit was strategic on that night. But that doesn't change who he is as a fighter.
Carlos Condit is violence personified. Coachable violence. Thoughtful violence. Malleable violence.
In the first round, Martin Kampmann took Condit to the mat and controlled the action. In between the first and second rounds, coach Greg Jackson calmed his fighter and gave him some simple instructions to block Kampmann's takedowns.
Condit was able to stay on his feet and made the most of it, dominating the bout from there on out, using punches, kicks, knees and elbows. In the fourth round, Condit followed a liver shot with a bundle of strikes. Like that, it was all over. Condit might not be in a title bout again for some time, but I think he's as good as anyone in the division not named Georges St-Pierre.
Personally, I've never had anything but terrible interactions with Donald Cerrone. Our interviews have been stilted and vaguely confrontational. He's been involved in some crazy situations...it's my job to ask him about some of them.
If you're thinking that means I'm biased when discussing his fight with Rafael dos Anjos, well, you're absolutely right. Just not quite the way you think.
I love Donald Cerrone. I want to get that out upfront. "Cowboy" is the last of the UFC's real fighters—a guy who would be throwing down in a Walmart parking lot on a Saturday night if he wasn't fighting for a living. It was sad to see him fall to dos Anjos, who beat him standing and on the ground en route to the unanimous decision victory.
Guys like Cerrone, fueled by chewing tobacco and Busch beer, used to be a dime a dozen in the old UFC. Today they are a dying breed. Ring a bell for the fighter. The age of the athlete is upon us.
It didn't take me long to tuck my littlest one into bed, but it was just long enough to miss Kelvin Gastelum do work. The 21-year old former Ultimate Fighter winner rocked Brian Melancon, then sunk the hooks in for the rear-naked choke and got the finish in the middle of Round 1.
Simple. Easy. Awesome.
It's easy to compare and contrast Gastelum to fellow TUF competitor Uriah Hall, a flash in the pan who could already be on his way out of the sport. Gastelum is on a different trajectory. Now competing at 170 pounds, Gastelum is a prospect worth watching.
Robert Whitaker is probably a more skilled MMA fighter than Court McGee. His standup, for sure, is crisper and more technical. But sometimes skill alone is not enough. It wasn't for Whitaker, who lost a split decision in a battle of former TUF champions.
McGee has seen some dark places in his life, returning from the depths of heroin abuse (and death) and emerging a better man. Perhaps it's those unspeakable moments that power McGee over the course of 15 minutes inside the Octagon.
What allows him to charge ever forward like a beard-wearing Diego Sanchez, trading one to give one, over and over again until his opponents blink? Who can say for certain?
It's the part of sport you can't quantify with a statistic. And it's one of the things that makes MMA such an incredible sport.
Before the fight, announcer Kenny Florian referred to Takeya Mizugaki as a "measuring stick." Get past him and you were on your way to some serious bantamweight success.
Well, this fighting thing might not be for you. At least not on the championship level.
Erik Perez, the UFC's lone Mexican-born fighter, measured himself against Mizugaki. And, over 15 fun minutes, he came up short.
Normally I'd call both men winners after a fight this good. But the UFC was grooming Perez for big things. This is a very real setback. And that, no matter how valiantly he fought, makes Perez both a literal and figurative loser on the night.
Copeland via prommanow.com
My colleague Jeremy Botter called him "Mini-Brock."
My friends at MMA Sentinel went with "Brock Less-nar."
Unfortunately, his given name is a bit less exciting. But make no mistake—Gary Copeland is a pocket-sized bundle of awesome.
Now, for all I know he's a terrible referee, though I noticed no heinous mistakes on this night. But his appearance was slightly comical. And when you're all in for five hours of cage fighting, sometimes it's the little things that get you through with sanity intact.
Little things like Gary Copeland, the outrageously muscled miniature referee.
"I think I peed a little bit. That was amazing."
Brandon Thatch, ladies and gentlemen, on the lead-up to his long-awaited UFC debut.
To be fair to Thatch, it was a little bit amazing. He showed explosive striking in his UFC debut, stopping Justin Edwards in the first round with a diverse standup attack to earn Knockout of the Night honors. It appears coach Firas Zihabi and training partner Georges St-Pierre were right—he's got the fighting stuff under control.
The post-fight Octagon interviews?
That will come with time. It all starts with a simple maxim: Never talk about bodily functions. Once Thatch masters that, the sky is the limit for the young welterweight.
The third time's the charm.
At least it was true for Jason High, one of the sport's certified nice guys. The "Kansas City Bandit" moved his camp to Florida, where he ate at First Watch and trained at American Top Team.
The dedication paid off as High, in his third attempt, finally notched his first win in the Octagon with a first-round submission over James Head.
Chael P. Alloway.
Per announcer Jon Anik on the Fight Night broadcast, that's the given name of Ben Alloway's young son, named in honor of UFC and Fox Sports motor mouth Chael Sonnen.
I'm not making this up. He wasn't even fighting and somehow Chael P. Sonnen was still a big winner.
Not so much. He lost in the first round by submission to Zak Cummings.
Carlos Condit def. Martin Kampmann, TKO (Round 4, 0:54)
Rafael dos Anjos def. Donald Cerrone, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Kelvin Gastelum def. Melancon, submission (Round 1, 2:26)
Court McGee def. Robert Whittaker, split decision (27-30, 30-27, 29-28)
Takeya Mizugaki def. Erik Perez, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Brad Tavares def. Bubba McDaniel, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Dylan Andrews def. Papy Abedi, TKO (Round 3, 1:32)
Brandon Thatch def. Justin Edwards, TKO (Round 1, 1:23)
Darren Elkins def. Hatsu Hioki, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jason High def. James Head, submission (Round 1, 1:41)
Zak Cummings def. Ben Alloway, submission (Round 1, 4:19)
Roger Bowling vs. Abel Trujillo: No contest (Bowling KO'd by illegal knee in Round 2)