UFC 165 lived up to the hype. Highlighted by a tremendous main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson and supported by a strong undercard, the event got people talking, and that's exactly what UFC needs.
The most important thing was the quality of the fights, especially on the main card. There was some top-notch action and plenty of drama, especially in the main event. If UFC could put that type of show on every time it would make a much larger mainstream impact.
That's easier said than done, of course. But credit goes to the fighters for putting together a solid string of fights. Let's take a closer look at some of the night's biggest winners, starting with Jones' escape in the UFC 165 finale.
Fans of both combatants probably saw enough to believe their fighter won the main event. But some of that probably had to do with the fact that Jones has been rarely challenged since winning the light heavyweight title.
Gustafsson pushed him to the limit at times—neutralizing the size advantage Jones normally holds—and was able to catch him with some big shots. Jones also deserves credit for withstanding that barrage while also striking back enough to score the win by unanimous decision.
It was the type of fight Jones really needed to win as he aims to validate his extended championship run. Everybody knew he could dominate a majority of opponents in the division, but stepping in the Octagon without his usual natural advantages and winning a brawl was key.
Barao did exactly what he needed to do against Eddie Wineland. While the powerful American was able to land a couple significant strikes, he was never able to build up any rhythm as the interim bantamweight champion maintained a safe gap between his opponent.
Who was UFC 165's biggest winner?
The Brazilian attacked from a distance, using his legs to wear down a dangerous challenger. Then he connected on a perfectly timed spinning kick that knocked Wineland down, and the fight was over after Barao delivered the finishing shots.
With Dominick Cruz sidelined, Barao has passed every test thrown his way and now it's just a waiting game to see if the champ is ready to return from an ACL injury. It would be a great fight if Cruz is at full strength. Barao definitely looks ready after another triumph.
Nurmagomedov holds an undefeated MMA record but has flown under the radar because he hasn't gone up against formidable opponents until recently. A couple more performances like the one he put together against Pat Healy and he will no longer be overlooked.
What stood out most was his quickness. He never allowed Healy to find a comfort zone, constantly using speed to move around the Octagon, creating angles to land on the counter. It was the perfect game plan to attack Healy.
The result was a unanimous decision in his favor. It's another big step in the right direction for Nurmagomedov, who's showing with each passing fight that his unbeaten streak is no fluke. He continues to step up as the level of competition increases.