UFC 130 kicked off with five preliminary bouts featuring some very intriguing matchups between bantamweight standouts and up-and-comers as well as lightweight and middleweight fighters.
It kicked off with a bout between Renan Barao and Cole Escovedo in the bantamweight division. Other bantamweight fights were Michael McDonald vs. Chris Cariaso and Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson.
The lightweight bout was Gleison Tibau vs. Rafaello Oliveira. Middleweights Kendall Grove and Tim Boetsch also squared off.
Each fight was available on Facebook and Spike TV.
Barão used his dynamic striking attack and wrestling ability to take Escovedo down at will and control the fight throughout.
He won with the scores 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Barão improved his extensive record to 26-1 while Escovedo drops to 17-7 in his 10-year MMA career.
Possible opponents for Barão include Ivan Menjivar (22-8) or former WEC title challenger Joseph Benavidez (14-2). He isn't ready for the top of the division yet, but he is on his way.
20-year-old Michael "Mayday" McDonald is one of the bantamweight division's top prospects, and he is also the youngest fighter in the UFC.
He improved his record to 13-1 with his workmanlike win over Chris Cariaso (11-3) tonight. The two fighters fought three close and competitive rounds. McDonald won a split-decision.
Cariaso utilized his kicks while McDonald used his technical boxing to score counters and drop Cariaso once in the fight. McDonald also had several takedowns that scored well to end the rounds. One judge had the fight scored 30-27 for Cariaso. The other two had it 29-28 for McDonald.
McDonald is young and still learning the sport. A fight with another UFC newcomer may be his best option or a mid-tier fighter like Renan Barão (26-1), a fighter who won on tonight's card as well.
A rematch with Edwin Figueroa (7-1) could also be an intriguing bout. It was one of the best fights in the 135 lb. division so far this year. Figueroa takes on Jason Reinhardt on UFC on Versus 5. A fight with the winner of that bout could be next.
UFC lightweights Gleison Tibau and Charls Oliveira battled back-and-forth before Tibau rocked his opponent with a left hand and tapped him out with a choke in the second round.
With the win, Tibau is 6-2 in his last eight fights and deserves a solid lightweight challenger.
Tibau's losses are only to some some of the very best the lightweight division has to offer, and some of them were close decision losses.
A bout on a main card of a fight night event with former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk (36-4-1)could be an appealing lightweight bout between two of the strongest fighters in the division. It was supposed to happen last year before Sherk pulled out. "The Muscle Shark" hasn't fought since defeated Evan Dunham at UFC 119.
It was a must-win fight for Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch, and he easily defeated Ultimate Fighter Seasons 3 Winner Kendall Grove over three rounds.
Boetsch (13-4) made his middleweight debut tonight and looked good defeating Grove, a 6'6" middleweight with a hard right hand and good submission skills. He controlled the taller fighter for three rounds with his wrestling and top control.
There is always new potential made for a fighter making his way to a lighter weight division, and Boetsch has the ability to pick up some solid victories if him and his trainer, Matt Hume, can come up with the gameplans needed to win.
A fight with Jason MacDonald (25-14) or Aaron Simpson (8-2) could be next for Boetsch, and they would be the right step in him finding better success at middleweight. MacDonald currently has a fight scheduled with Alan Belcher, but he could take on the winner of that fight.
Former WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres returned to the Octagon tonight to take on the very tough and explosive wrestler "Might Mouse" Demetrious Johnson.
Johnson (10-1) utilized his wrestling and speed to take Torres (39-4) down throughout the fight. Torres attacked from bottom and made Johnson work to hold top position. He even reversed position several times, but it was the control of Johnson that looked good in the judges' eyes. He was awarded a unanimous decision.
So who is next for Johnson? How about a contender bout with the winner of Brian Bowles (9-1) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (14-5) , which goes down at UFC 132 in July? I'm not sure if he's ready for the winner of Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber, but he is definitely "in the mix." A win over Bowles or Mizugaki would undoubtedly secure his position as the number one contender.