After the bizarre finale to UFC 168, the MMA community is still struggling to overcome the horrific end to the evening's main event bout between middleweight champion Chris Weidman and former kingpin Anderson Silva.
Weidman lifted his leg, turned his knee and checked the kick heard around the world.
Georges St-Pierre voluntarily retired weeks ago, whereas Silva might be forced to do the same in light of his crippling leg fracture.
MMA's new guard has much work ahead of it in 2014.
There is an upside, though. The rest of the evening was rather terrific.
Travis Browne continued his destructive run, as did Ronda Rousey. In fact, the entire main card was devoid of a single decision.
Let's take a moment to examine whose stock went up, whose went down and what the consequences of this monumental fight card are likely to be.
If improving is the name of the game, Michael Johnson deserves some kind of commendation.
After a stint on The Ultimate Fighter, "The Menace" struggled to find his place in the UFC—he bounced endlessly between big knockout wins (see: Castillo, Danny) and frustrating decision losses (see: Jury, Myles).
Then came the reawakening.
Johnson put all the pieces together in an August bout against UFC fan favorite Joe Lauzon, stringing together crisp counter strikes and brilliant cage control.
Against Lauzon, he went home with a decision, but at UFC 168, he stopped Gleison Tibau in brutal fashion with a right straight that landed on the temple.
Now if Johnson can keep it up with consistency, we'll be talking about him even more.
Uriah Hall has the raw skills and athleticism to make magic happen inside the Octagon, which makes his UFC record of 0-2 coming into UFC 168 all the more frustrating.
His back was (officially) up against the wall. If Leben bested him on Saturday night, Hall would have been staring blankly at his walking papers.
But as soon as the fight commenced, it was clear that Hall valued his UFC career enough to perform at the level we've been expecting all along.
His footwork and movement were brisk, to say the least. His strikes landed with precision on Leben's chin, resulting in not just a few knockdowns but also forcing Leben to quit in between rounds.
Sure, in light of Leben's dismayed pronouncements of "I'm done," the end was both heartbreaking and anticlimactic. With that said, Hall looked superb and, in this victory, managed to secure his status as a UFC fighter.
If a fighter comes in a pound or two overweight, we might chalk it up to the strains and complications of a prolonged fight camp. It's disappointing, but not the end of the world.
But Diego Brandao busting the 145-pound weight limit by eight pounds is near impossible to explain away. He was immediately fined 25 percent of his purse, with half going to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the other half to opponent Dustin Poirier.
Oh, and his performance at UFC 168 highlighted the consequences. He charged at Poirier as if he had somewhere else to be and wanted to get it over with quickly.
A few body shots later, Brandao was crumbling toward the canvas.
It's tough to imagine UFC brass showing him any empathy from this point forward.
Shortly after stopping Diego Brandao with some rigorous body work at UFC 168, Dustin Poirier took the mic out of Joe Rogan's hands and proclaimed that he "didn't cut any corners" in his preparation for the fight—a subtle yet clear reference to Brandao missing weight by eight pounds.
Regardless, Poirier took care of the matter swiftly.
He has the focus, drive and skill set to make a run at the featherweight title. From his perspective, that effort needs to begin by making amends on his last loss to Cub Swanson.
Swanson vs. Poirier 2? Count me in.
There's always something to be said for a gritty workhorse, and few fighters epitomize the title more than Jim Miller.
With a workmanlike attitude, he brought the fight to the ground and goaded opponent Fabricio Camoes into throwing ground-and-pound punches.
Miller gladly ate a left in order to lock the right arm into a secure armbar. Moments later, Camoes tapped.
A fixture of the lightweight landscape, Miller can't be denied. He'll continue to pursue Top 10 fighters in 2014.
MMA veteran Josh Barnett knows how to sell a fight—few would deny that.
The concern, though, is that salesmanship isn't going to stop premier UFC heavyweights—a fact that Travis Browne demonstrated on Saturday night by casually waltzing through Barnett's ineffective punches and takedown attempts.
Barnett was stopped—rather brutally—in a fight he didn't show much chance of winning.
That's not a good sign for his future efforts against Top 10 heavyweights. He'll need to take this loss in stride and tighten up the holes that Browne exposed.
In 2013, Travis Browne knocked out out Gabriel Gonzaga and Josh Barnett with vicious elbows against the fence. His third knockout of the year? A brutal front-kick KO of Alistair Overeem but only after weathering a storm of knees.
Browne is the real deal. Period.
As heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez heals from surgery, Brown will now have to pass the time by fighting Fabricio Werdum in a title eliminator in 2014.
Submission grappling expertise enables Werdum to always target a submission, but that won't be simple against Browne's 100 percent takedown defense rate.
If he can get through Werdum, a title fight against Velasquez would be guaranteed for Browne.
There's no doubt that great things await this promising heavyweight contender.
Love her or hate her, Ronda Rousey's seat atop the throne of women's MMA isn't going to be a temporary fixture.
Miesha Tate endured an "anti-judo camp" for months in preparation for the champ's strong suits. In return, Rousey ragdolled her countless times, beat her up on the feet and eventually submitted her via third-round armbar.
Sure, the champ could have shown more class and consideration by embracing Tate in the aftermath, but at the very least, her demonstration affirmed her unrelenting ideals. If she says she hates you, she means it.
Sparing you the hyperbole, I'll point out that it'll take a destructive force of female nature to bring "Rowdy" down.
Perhaps that woman will be her opponent scheduled for UFC 170: Sarah McMann.
When they initially fought in Strikeforce, Miesha Tate was the first woman to thwart a Ronda Rousey armbar attempt.
At UFC 168, her resiliency and determination allowed her to take things a step further—she pulled Rousey in the third round after several failed armbars.
Despite eventually tapping in the third round, Tate revealed the kind of heart that many fighters don't even possess. In the buildup to the event, UFC president Dana White referred to her as a "live dog."
She came through on that expectation by pushing Rousey further than anyone had before.
Sheer athleticism and experience will likely keep her away from ever topping the champ, but that doesn't change the fact that she validated her place in the women's bantamweight rankings.
He stopped Anderson Silva at UFC 162 with a brutal left-hook knockout, only to follow up that performance by strategically checking Silva's notorious leg kicks in a manner that crippled the former middleweight juggernaut.
The end result was both horrific and tragic—no fighter deserves to endure needless agony.
Yet in the end, Weidman walks away with a pair of wins over the greatest of all time. There's something to be said for that.
He's steadfastly improving, ever confident and only touching upon his UFC potential.
If he can get past Vitor Belfort in his second title defense, the middleweight rankings will be spearheaded by a young and capable champion with endless possibilities in his future.
- Chris Weidman def. Anderson Silva, TKO (Round 2, 1:16)
- Ronda Rousey def. Miesha Tate, Submission (Round 3, 0:58)
- Travis Browne def. Josh Barnett, Knockout (Round 1, 1:00)
- Jim Miller def. Fabricio Camoes, Submission (Round 1, 3:42)
- Dustin Poirier def. Diego Brandao, TKO (Round 1, 4:54)
- Uriah Hall def. Chris Leben, TKO (Round 1, 5:00)
- Michael Johnson def. Gleison Tibau, Knockout (Round 2, 1:32)
- Dennis Siver def. Manny Gamburyan, Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- John Howard def. Siyar Bahadurzada, Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- William Macario def. Bobby Voelker, Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Robbie Peralta def. Estevan Payan, TKO (Round 3, 0:12)
Fight Bonuses: ($75,000 each)
- Fight of the Night: Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
- Knockout of the Night: Travis Browne
- Submission of the Night: Ronda Rousey