UFC Fight Night 45 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Cerrone vs. Miller
On the quietest night of the sports calendar, the UFC made some noise.
In the middle of baseball's All-Star break and with NFL training camps still several days away, it was the deadest of dead spots for sports fans. Unless, of course, you were an MMA fan, in which case the main event at Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 45 promised on paper to be one of the wildest scraps of the year.
That one featured extraordinary lightweight brawlers Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller, both of whom are mounting solid streaks, with three and two consecutive wins, respectively, and all by knockout or submission.
At the same time, neither man has yet been able to take that definitive step out of the UFC's upper-middle class and into true contender territory. A win Wednesday could signal a new era for the victor.
That was only one of the points of interest on the 11-fight slate. The UFC women's strawweight division officially began with the evening's opening bout. Who was the first 115-pounder to have her hand raised in the Octagon, and how did that fighter look in the effort?
As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. Here are the real winners and losers from Fight Night 45.
Winner: Donald Cerrone
Picture a slobberknocker between Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf, and you'll have a sense of the optics of this fight.
Chalk this one up for the elf. The quicker and longer-limbed Cowboy just keeps gunning them down. A competitive first round saw Cerrone outstrike Miller, with Miller landing a couple of solid takedowns.
In the second, Miller was momentarily rescued from his fate when referee Dan Miragliotta mistook a painful body blow for a groin shot and stopped the action. But the reprieve was short-lived; Miller began to lower his hands to protect against additional body damage (though it came anyway), which opened up the movie-finale head kick that finished off the New Jersey native and scored the KO for Cerrone.
It was the fourth straight victory for Cerrone and his third of 2014. Can he finally get over the hump and get that elusive UFC title shot? A date with phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov appears to be waiting in the wings, with an answer to that very question hanging in the balance.
But for now, his accomplishments of late are worth celebrating on their own, and this finish of a very tough customer in Miller is the crown jewel of his stretch of work.
Loser: Jim Miller
Miller is an enormously popular fighter, especially in his native New Jersey. During the main event in Atlantic City Wednesday, the crowd chanted his name to spur him on.
But it didn't matter. He came up short again in a touchstone moment of his career.
He showed great grit in gutting his way through that body shot and the surgical torrent of muay thai damage that followed. But the head kick that felled him felt inevitable a long time before Cerrone threw it—not only because of Cerrone's MMA mastery, but also because, well, we had seen this film before.
Miller's faithful can root until they're blue in the face, and he will always be a tough and very skilled fighter. But maybe he's just not on the elite level. Still a fine career, but not everyone can be a champion.
Winner: The Strawweight Division
Nova Uniao trainee Claudia Gadelha might be the best women's 115-pounder in the world, and as such, she was substantially favored in the first strawweight bout in UFC history. She followed through on the expectations and indeed took the victory.
But Tina Lahdemaki made it a contest and went the distance with a fighter who had previously done so just three times in 11 professional bouts. Gadelha won convincingly, but she faced a tough opponent.
It added up to a respectable and thoroughly likable start for a new UFC division, not to mention a potential new UFC star.
Loser: The UFC
Given the historic nature of that strawweight introduction—and especially given that the next season of The Ultimate Fighter will focus entirely on the 115-pounders—it's strange that Gadelha vs. Lahdemaki was relegated to UFC Fight Pass, the company's subscription-based stream service.
And not only that, but it was the only bout on the Fight Night 45 card to receive the Fight Pass treatment. Why was that?
No disrespect to Joe Proctor vs. Justin Salas, but come on. Was the strawweight fight really the least meaningful engagement on the card? I don't think so. And it doesn't seem like the UFC thinks so, either. The placement, therefore, is a plain old head-scratcher. It's the kind of missed marketing opportunity that just makes you wonder.
Winner: Edson Barboza
It's not easy to get a guy as tough as Evan Dunham to double over in pain. But that's what Edson Barboza did.
It was a kick to the liver that did it. Barboza landed the shot clean, burying his foot in the target. After a punch or two to the affected area, as Dunham lay crumpled and effectively helpless, the referee had seen enough.
Another fight, another highlight-reel finish for the muay thai, mule-kicking machine that is Barboza. Even when he loses (as he did in his fight before this one, to a one Mr. Cerrone), it's still exciting.
Most importantly, the win should vault him into the lightweight division's Top 10. We'll see what he can do with another shot against a top opponent.
Losers: Activist Judges
Of the 11 fights on the card, only two went the distance.
Eight contests ended in knockouts (though one was because of a knee injury), and one ended in submission. (Check the full results at the end of the slideshow for all the details.)
In addition, three bouts were swayed by body shots. That's just brutal.
That's bad news for post-fight bonus voters (whoever those are) and good news for everyone else—except the people who lost the fights, of course. They also didn't have a good time.
Regardless, it's a pretty solid Wednesday night by any MMA fan's measure, and UFC Fight Night 45 could very well go down as one of the more exciting cards of 2014.
Winner: Alptekin Ozkilic
You have to feel for Alptekin Ozkilic. After planting himself in the pocket and banging with John Lineker—probably the hardest-hitting flyweight in the sport right now—for 14 minutes and 51 seconds, Ozkilic finally fell to a double left hook as the final grains of sand drained out of the hourglass.
Ozkilic, a national Greco-Roman wrestling champion in his native Turkey, probably could have (and maybe should have) neutralized Lineker's power by dirtying things up along the fence. Instead, he chose to put on a show and, in so doing, showed great toughness and some pretty good striking of his own.
The record book will show a TKO loss, but Ozkilic's checkbook will probably show a very tidy uptick thanks to a UFC Performance of the Night bonus. He probably earned quite a few new fans, too. Sounds like more good than bad to me.
Loser: Jessamyn Duke
If it weren't for an illegal knee a year or so back, Jessamyn Duke would be 3-3 as a professional fighter.
The popular TUF 18 contestant is a member of Ronda Rousey's "Four Horsewomen" but frankly hasn't done much in the cage to justify the outside hype. She lost in the TUF elimination round and has now dropped two in a row thanks to Leslie Smith and some wicked body shots at Fight Night 45.
It was a great win for Smith, even if it wasn't so competitive. But that's on Duke, who has seemingly never learned how to convert her ranginess into a striking, grappling or defensive advantage, at least when it comes to facing UFC-caliber opponents.
Adding injury to insult, news came after the bout that Duke had suffered a serious hand fracture, as she posted a photo of the X-ray on Instagram (h/t MMAjunkie). Here's hoping she heals up, even if her MMA game may require a deeper level of rehabilitation.
UFC Fight Night 45 Full Card Results
- Donald Cerrone def. Jim Miller by KO, 3:30, Rd. 2
- Edson Barboza def. Evan Dunham by TKO, 3:06, Rd. 1
- Rick Story def. Leonardo Mafra by submission (head and arm choke), 2:12, Rd. 2
- Joe Proctor def. Justin Salas by TKO, 3:27, Rd. 2
- John Lineker def. Alp Ozkilic by TKO, 4:51, Rd. 3
- Lucas Martins def. Alex White by KO, 2:08, Rd. 3
- Gleison Tibau def. Pat Healy by unanimous decision
- Leslie Smith def. Jessamyn Duke by TKO, 2:24, Rd. 1
- Aljamain Sterling def. Hugo Viana by TKO, 3:50, Rd. 3
- Yosdenis Cedeno def. Jerrod Sanders by TKO, 5:00, Rd. 1
- Claudia Gadelha def. Tina Lahdemaki by unanimous decision
Scott Harris writes about MMA and other things for Bleacher Report and other places. Follow Scott on Twitter if you feel so inclined.