UFC 165 saw many fighters show their brilliant skills inside the Octagon. Khabib Nurmagomedov was one of the biggest stars of the evening.
Not only did the card have six outstanding stoppages, but three ranked fighters found themselves outworked by hungry up-and-comers on the rise.
Here is a look at the eight most impressive performers of UFC 165, power ranked based on their remarkable nature.
Several factors went into ranking the performances of UFC 165's competitors. Betting odds going into a fight played a major role. If a fighter was expected to dominate and won a close fight, he will rank lower than an underdog who won a close fight.
Here is our ranking criteria:
- expected performance vs. delivered performance
- win vs. loss
- quality of opposition
- stoppage victory vs. decision victory
- recovery from adversity
All betting odds referenced in this article are courtesy of Tapology.com.
Jon Jones struggled to find his groove on Saturday but ultimately got there.
Result: Win (unanimous decision) vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Betting Odds: -875 (huge favorite)
Compared to the performance that oddsmakers expected, the Jon Jones who showed up on Saturday night sucked. While judges were tallying up their scorecards, you could practically hear every bookie on the planet crying themselves to sleep.
However, the epic and close fight between Jones and opponent Alexander Gustafsson was awarded to the champion. That was due to the fact that "Bones" turned up his intensity in the final two rounds, doing massive damage to his Swedish opponent.
The fact that Jones took the beating that he did in this fight and still came back to win it all was impressive enough to earn him the bottom spot in our countdown.
Stephen Thompson earned his second KO in the UFC on Saturday night.
Result: Win (second-round KO ) vs. Chris Clements
Betting Odds: -440 (heavy favorite)
No offense to Chris Clements, but anyone who had previously seen "The Menace" in action knew that he was not a good stylistic matchup for karate sensation Stephen Thompson.
En route to scoring a second-round knockout, "Wonderboy" picked up a pair of takedowns in as many attempts. His acute progression in his ability to grapple earned him a spot in our countdown.
Wilson Reis used his grappling to earn the biggest victory of his career.
Result: Win (unanimous decision) vs. Ivan Menjivar
Betting Odds: +115 (near even)
As a former EliteXC champion and nine-time Bellator veteran, Wilson Reis wasn't exactly an unknown commodity entering this fight. However, his inability to reach a tournament final despite four attempts didn't scream "top bantamweight."
Heading into Saturday, Ivan Menjivar was the No. 10 contender in the UFC bantamweight division. For that reason, it was surprising to most that Reis took this fight on three weeks notice and put together the win.
Result: Win (second-round TKO) vs. Eddie Wineland
Betting Odds: -700 (huge favorite)
When a 7-to-1 favorite scores a quick win, it usually isn't worthy of much discussion. However, the method of victory here raised our collective eyebrows. Since Eddie Wineland's biggest strength resides in his stand-up skills, Barao dropping him early in the fight was a game changer.
Not only did Barao score the TKO, but it came in highlight-reel fashion with a spinning back kick to the face.
Result: Win (unanimous decision) vs. Costa Philippou
Betting Odds: +130 (slight underdog)
Few fighters have been gifted decisions the same way as Francis Carmont. Heading into UFC 165, the Frenchman won decisions against Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin, despite widespread belief that he deserved losses after both performances.
On Saturday night, he had his chance to shine when taking on Costa Philippou, the No. 7 contender in the middleweight division.
Utilizing a dominating top game, Carmont was able to snap Philippou's five-fight streak inside the Octagon by smothering the Cypriot for three rounds.
Result: Win (first-round submission) vs. Matt Mitrione
Betting Odds: +135 (slight underdog)
Brendan Schaub told the world that he was going to be the talk of UFC 165. Were it not for an incredible knockout in the co-main event and an all-time classic fight in the main event, he might have been right.
Taking on fellow The Ultimate Fighter 10 alumnus Matt Mitrione, Schaub impressed by not only finishing his opponent but by effortlessly sinking in a D'Arce choke and putting "Meathead" to sleep.
Not only did this show off a new element to "The Hybrid's" skill set, but it reintroduced him as a heavyweight to look out for.
Result: Win (unanimous decision) vs. Pat Healy
Betting Odds: -270 (moderate favorite)
Khabib Nurmagomedov now possesses a 21-fight winning streak, a 5-0 record inside the Octagon and a last name that fight fans are going to have to get used to pronouncing.
Repeat after me: Nur-muh-go-may-dawv.
Prior to Saturday, "The Eagle" set a UFC record for most takedowns in a single fight. However, he wasn't facing a tried and true veteran in that contest. How was he going to fare against a grappling ace like Pat Healy, who holds submission wins over Jim Miller (changed to a no-contest) and Carlos Condit to his credit?
Healy was shut out, as Nurmagomedov scored 30-27 on all three scorecards. Not only is the Russian expected to take Healy's spot in the lightweight rankings, but his next move has been the talk of many fans around the globe.
Whom should he fight next? Rafael dos Anjos? Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez winner? Benson Henderson? After Saturday night, nobody is off limits.
Result: Loss (unanimous decision) vs. Jon Jones
Betting Odds: +600 (huge underdog)
It should be a surprise to no one that Alexander Gustafsson tops this list despite coming up short on Saturday night.
Not only was "The Mauler" better than expected in his title bout, but the Swede pushed No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Jon Jones to his breaking point on several occasions in the bout.
Twitter erupted after the decision was read. Many fighters believed that Gustafsson had just been screwed out of the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Others demanded a rematch be booked immediately.
While the accuracy of the scorecards is still being debated, two things are for sure:
- Jon Jones had to leave the arena on a stretcher because of The Mauler.
- Alexander Gustafsson will never be overlooked by fight fans ever again.