Handing out UFC Performance Bonuses for July
And just like that, July is coming to an end.
We were greeted with a highly anticipated title bout between the new middleweight emperor Chris Weidman and a valiant challenger in Lyoto Machida at UFC 176, only to be sent off toward August with an equally anticipated bout between Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown to determine the first man who will contest Johny Hendricks' reign as the welterweight champion.
But, before we get to another action-packed month of ultimate fighting, it's important we look back on the great month that was and acknowledge the great performances that were. Scroll on to see who receives performance bonuses for July.
Honorable Mention: Performance of the Month
Donald Cerrone Defeats Jim Miller via TKO at UFC Fight Night 45
Donald Cerrone entered the Octagon against Jim Miller to notch his fourth straight win, his third victory in 2014 and one step closer to challenging for the lightweight title.
He claimed a first-round TKO victory over Adriano Martins in January. He went on to catch an overzealous Edson Barboza with a knockdown before submitting him in the first round of their April bout. After such impressive performances, most people were warm to the idea that Cerrone would see his hand raised against Miller too. Not too many people thought he'd be as imposing in doing so.
After a back-and-forth round to open the bout, Cerrone came into his own in the second. Miller was nearly finished after a kick in the teeth crumpled him up like piece of paper.
Fortunately for him, it was misinterpreted as a low blow, and he was given time to recover. Unfortunately for him, this made him remarkably more hesitant toward any strikes to his midsection—Cerrone noticed and landed a knockout blow to his unguarded head.
If not for two other spectacular performances by other fighters, at least one of Cerrone's finishing blows would have notched Cowboy a July performance bonus.
Honorable Mention: Fight of the Month
Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida at UFC 175
Chris Weidman was fresh off of his second straight victory against the former pound-for-pound king, and Lyoto Machida was giving everybody reason to believe in "The Machida Era" again—it was only fitting that these two forces clashed in a five-round war.
Weidman proved that having a phenomenal fighting IQ and great tactics can supplement average striking abilities against a world-class striker. He cut off the cage often, struck Machida whenever he was comfortable and took the Dragon down whenever he could.
Machida—though having lost against the Ray Longo-trained fighter—proved that he's capable of stripping himself of that counterstriking label that casual fans have come to lament and swing for the fences when the odds are stacked against him.
Considering Machida's ability to compete against high-level competition at both middleweight and light heavyweight, it's likely that we see these two paired off in future bouts that will provide equal amounts of fireworks.
Performance of the Month No. 1
Ronda Rousey Defeats Alexis Davis via TKO at UFC 175
It's hard to argue against a 16-second domination in a title fight, right?
Sure, there were plenty of other fighters—such as Cerrone, Frankie Edgar or John Lineker— who had longer periods of dominance than Ronda Rousey did against Alexis Davis, but none were, technically speaking, as dominant.
But unlike Cerrone, Edgar or Lineker, Rousey was in the cage for 16 seconds and literally did everything right. She landed the overhand right like she claimed she'd been practicing in the training camp leading up to the fight. She landed a masterful hip toss before connecting with several unanswered blows to persuade Yves Lavigne to wave his arms up in the air and put an end to Davis' title hopes.
Her dominant victory over Davis not only proved that Rousey was the best female fighter on the face of the planet but also proved that the UFC needed to bring in some outside talent to challenge its biggest star.
Performance of the Month No. 2
Anthony Johnson Defeats Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via KO at UFC on Fox 12
UFC on Fox 12 essentially reaffirmed what we'd all come to believe: Anthony Johnson is probably the scariest dude in the UFC's light heavyweight division right now.
It only took 44 seconds to confirm what we'd all expected when this fight was originally booked: Little Nog didn't stand a chance.
Nogueira might have the better boxing techniques on paper, but Johnson has all of the speed and the power. It certainly paid off, as the knockout victory suddenly has fans yearning to see Johnson skip to the front of the line and challenge for the light heavyweight crown.
The impressive victory didn't create all positive ripples. With Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson all set to participate in title fights, there's virtually no sensible opponent left for Johnson to duke it out with.
Maybe if he stopped making top-tier light heavyweights look so overmatched, we wouldn't have this problem.
Fight of the Month
Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown at UFC on Fox 12
Two heavy-handed, strong-chinned, technical strikers who have no issues with throwing technique out the window in favor of a fan-friendly brawl—that's what Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown were poised to deliver in their No. 1 contender bout.
It's not everyday that highly anticipated fights materialize into the sort of competition we'd all originally pictured in our heads at first glance, but this one did.
A fairly one-sided bout in favor of Lawler's expected dominance wasn't necessarily as boring as one may have assumed it would be. Brown held his own inside the Octagon, regardless of how many rounds the judges saw him lose.
In spite of a seven-fight winning streak against formidable opponents, The Immortal walked into the cage to prove himself a viable contender in this division. Even in a losing effort, Brown successfully pushed his name further up the welterweight ladder.
Meanwhile, Lawler once again proved himself as the top challenger to Johny Hendricks' crown. With Lawler as motivated as ever with vengeance on his mind and Hendricks looking to be healthier this time around, the rematch is poised to be listed amongst Lawler's last two fights as potential fight-of-the-year candidates.
Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.