Grades for Every UFC 178 Main Card Fighter

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2014

Grades for Every UFC 178 Main Card Fighter

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    The UFC's most wildly anticipated card of the year is in the books, as UFC 178 delivered some enjoyable scraps in Las Vegas on Saturday. It was a wonderful marriage of a good card on paper producing a good card in practice—the type of exciting occurrence that isn't seen nearly enough in modern MMA.

    Demetrious Johnson retained his title over Chris Cariaso. Donald Cerrone welcomed Eddie Alvarez to the UFC in memorable fashion, and Conor McGregor proved that fists talk every bit as well as mouths sometimes.

    Here are the grades for every athlete who competed on the main card.

Cat Zingano

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    It was a triumphant, exciting return to action for Zingano in her bout with Amanda Nunes. After something of a slow start, she slowly stemmed the tide before unleashing some serious violence of her own on the way to a convincing TKO in the third round.

    There were some early holes in her game, but those are likely as much due to her 17-month layoff as to any technical deficiencies. She may want to work on her penchant to start slow should she be challenging for a title next time out, but overall this was a solid comeback bout.

    Grade: B+

Amanda Nunes

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    The only thing missing was the gas tank to finish the job.

    That's about as plainly as one could describe Nunes at UFC 178, as she shocked with a hot start and some vicious strikes on the ground. She evaded submission attempts and whaled away on Cat Zingano, but when she couldn't turn it into a stoppage, the bout slowly got away from her.

    By the time it ended, she was badly cut and a shell of the woman who started the night, but overall it was a very respectable showing against one of the toughest outs in the game. There's plenty of reason to think Nunes will be near the top of the division for a while.

    Grade: B-

Tim Kennedy

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    Kennedy was valiant in defeat at UFC 178, and the debate will rage on for the foreseeable future about whether or not a stool and some absent-minded cornermen might have actually stolen a win from him.

    That said, he struggled with Yoel Romero's power and athleticism throughout the bout and ended up getting stopped violently. At the end of the day, whether some shiftiness from his opponent's handlers influenced that or not, that was the result.

    It was tough night for the Ranger.

    Grade: C-

Yoel Romero

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    Romero looked unstoppable in his meeting with Tim Kennedy, battering him all over the cage and showing that he has a shot to influence title talks even at his advanced age of 37.

    There's plenty to like with his wrestling and constantly improving stand-up game, and his natural power looks like it will help produce wins against the upper crust of the division. Kennedy is no joke, and save for some shaky moments late in the second round, Romero rolled him.

    The Cuban is officially a contender.

    Grade: B+

Dustin Poirier

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    What is there to say about that? That loss stings like few others likely have for Poirier, who seemed to genuinely hate Conor McGregor.

    Losing to him probably sucks. Losing to him so viciously probably sucks, too.

    Best of luck to him in forgetting it.

    Grade: D-

Conor McGregor

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    It's getting harder and harder to deny that the Irishman might very well be the real deal. In one minute, 46 seconds, he went from "what might be" to "what absolutely is," answering all the questions the sport had of him.

    Could he beat Dustin Poirier? Yes.

    Could he do it convincingly? Yes.

    Would he look like a title contender? Yes.

    The future is here, and his name is Conor McGregor.

    Grade: A+

Eddie Alvarez

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    Alvarez came as advertised in his UFC debut, starting the night wildly and taking it to Donald Cerrone in the first round before fading a little in the final two stanzas on the way to a loss.

    He showed great hands and an undying will right into the final moments, when Cerrone buckled him with a leg kick. The showing answered many of the questions people may have had about his ability to compete with the best in the world.

    Overall, it was a delightfully chaotic offering from the former Bellator champion and one that left no doubt about his ability to provide fun, meaningful bouts at 155 pounds in the UFC.

    Grade: B-

Donald Cerrone

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    Well, that was about as textbook a showing from Cerrone as one could imagine. All the elements were there: the classic slow start, the gathering fury that follows said start, the clinical muay thai that either earns a finish or almost does.

    Yup, vintage Cowboy.

    The win places the fan favorite very firmly in the upper echelon of the division, and there's plenty of reason to think he'll be mentioned in title shot discussions for the foreseeable future. The logjam atop the 155-pound class is the only thing keeping him from jumping into a fight for the strap immediately.

    Grade: A

Chris Cariaso

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    UFC 178 was being sold on the merit that upsets happen sometimes, and Cariaso could be a guy to pull one off. However for every T.J. Dillashaw or Matt Serra, there are a hundred guys who fight champions and lose just like they should.

    Unfortunately for Cariaso, he was one of the hundred.

    He was outgunned and overmatched in every imaginable way, and it only took a round and a bit to see that fleshed out.

    Nothing against the challenger, but he shouldn't have been in the position in the first place.

    Grade: D-

Demetrious Johnson

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    Another win for the flyweight champion, this one coming against Chris Cariaso in a bout that was as lopsided in action as it was on paper. Johnson had about as easy a time as one can have in a prizefight, taking no damage and winning almost effortlessly.

    This was more or less a chance to stay in shape and keep from getting rusty for the champion, who has some more noteworthy contenders out there to line up with in the months ahead.

    Here's hoping they can push him more than he was pushed at UFC 178.

    Grade: A+

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