Perhaps the biggest event in the history of mixed martial arts is now complete after an exciting main event between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight championship of the world. Bleacher Report is here with this and the rest of the winners and losers from tonight’s monumental fight card.
The UFC made its network television return tonight on FOX with this extremely important fight. As UFC President Dana White said in the pre-fight analysis, it was important for the organization to put its “best foot forward.”
It did just that.
The main event was obviously the main course, but the appetizers were amazing tonight as well.
So without further, let’s take a look at the real winners and losers from what was perhaps the most important night in the history of the entire sport of mixed martial arts.
Recent The Ultimate Fighter contestant Alex Caceres has had a tough start to his UFC career, but may have finally found his calling in the bantamweight division.
He used to fight at featherweight and jokingly told reporters that he cut his trademark afro haircut in order to make 135, but he appears to be ready to be a serious contender at his new weight class.
Caceres took it to Cole Escovedo and earned a nice unanimous decision victory in what was easily his best performance in the Octagon. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Japanese superstar Kid Yamamoto made his debut in the UFC at UFC 126, losing a unanimous decision to eventual bantamweight No. 1 contender Demetrious Johnson. Johnson grinded him for 15 minutes, not allowing Yamamoto to do much of anything. It was a disappointing loss which had many questioning whether Yamamoto still had “it.”
Tonight, those speculations were confirmed.
Yamamoto fought top-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner Darren Uyenoyama tonight, losing another tough decision, but this time it wasn’t because he was just held to the ground. Instead, Uyenoyama went crazy looking for submissions for all three rounds, nearly finishing him on numerous occasions.
Yamamoto was certainly one of the top fighters in the world a few years ago, but he just hasn’t seemed to get much better over the past few years.
One of the most exciting fights of the year happened on tonight’s fight card and it was even (most likely) for the No. 1 contender’s slot in the UFC lightweight division.
Benson Henderson and Clay Guida fought to a very entertaining decision tonight in the semi-main event, with “Bendo” earning the victory in the end after numerous near-finishes from both men.
Typically this would be one of the televised fights, but tonight was an exception... And a really bad exception.
With the UFC and/or FOX’s insistence that there only be one fight on tonight’s televised card, Guida-Henderson was relegated to Facebook duty. Why!? These poor guys put on a show and it didn’t even make it onto television... Sigh...
At least Benson Henderson will get his shot on pay-per-view when he fights Frankie Edgar in 2012.
UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was making his first championship defense after defeating Brock Lesnar for the title in 2010. The champion was coming off of the long layoff after recovering from surgery which many believed may be a major factor in tonight’s fight due to ring-rust.
It seems that those concerns might have been very warranted.
Velasquez looked a bit hesitant early and Junior dos Santos eventually tagged him with a huge punch to the ear that quickly knocked him to the ground. From there, dos Santos pounced on him and finished him with strikes just a minute into the fight.
Cain is certainly far from being done as a top-level fighter, but this was the first loss of his career and it happened on the biggest stage possible. Ouch.
We have a new champion!
About one year after Cain Velasquez became the first Hispanic UFC heavyweight champion in history, Junior dos Santos became the first Brazilian UFC heavyweight champion tonight by defeating Velasquez himself.
Dos Santos’ unbelievable run continued tonight with yet another astonishing knockout victory as he defeated the previously undefeated Velasquez who was unanimously considered the No. 1 heavyweight in the world. The dream has finally come true and this fighter’s life has forever been changed as he will be entered into the permanent record books as a champion in the biggest MMA organization in the world.
Relatively unknown television station Fuel TV was the host of an interesting and entertaining pre-fight extravaganza which included a red carpet and countless celebrities. It was really about as Super Bowl-like as it could have been and surprisingly not as cheesy as some of us expected it might be.
Fuel will become much more UFC-focused in 2012, but tonight was really the beginning of the relationship.
As good as the show on Fuel TV was, millions and millions of fans are not lucky enough to have the channel as part of their cable package.
Tonight it wasn’t as big of a deal because there were some really entertaining preliminary fights on Facebook, but for those who were interested in the pomp and circumstance of the pre-fight events, this had to have been frustrating.
Hopefully this will be added to more cable packages, specifically Comcast, sometime soon.
One of the big winners from tonight’s event has to be the FOX network.
In the very first MMA fight for the network, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos battled for the most prestigious title in the sport. Typically this type of fight is only available for big money on pay-per-view, but FOX got the UFC to put it on their network for free!
While the fight between Velasquez and dos Santos only lasted for about a minute, it was a lot better than the “grappling contest” that could have been. Most casual fans typically look for intense knockouts, and that’s exactly what we got tonight.
One of the more overlooked winners from tonight’s event might be former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, who served as an expert analyst before and after the main event on FOX.
Lesnar was defeated last year by Cain Velasquez in the kind of fashion that we never would have expected as he was smacked around and thrown like a child in that contest at UFC 121. Lesnar would never admit it, but there is a real possibility that he matches up better against dos Santos than he does Velasquez.
Dos Santos is a top-level striker, but he has not yet been challenged by a top-level wrestler and certainly not one like Brock Lesnar. Yes, Velasquez is a former All-American wrestler, but he didn’t attempt to bring the fight to the ground tonight... Lesnar will not make that mistake.
Brock still has to get by one of the top heavyweights in the world in December when he fights Alistair Overeem, but the result of this fight could be very good for him and his chances of becoming the heavyweight champion again.
According to Dana White, the UFC lost a ton of money on tonight’s UFC on FOX event.
Even with the large deal they signed with FOX, the company missed out on what could have been millions and millions of dollars in pay-per-view revenue if Velasquez-dos Santos wasn’t being given away for free.
But realistically, the UFC made a great decision tonight by putting this fight on for free. As White mentioned in an interview with MMA Fighting, tonight wasn’t making a one-night profit. It was about establishing the business to a bigger audience.
"It's an investment in the company," he said. "In no way, shape or form do we come anywhere close to making our money back. You don't go on free television and make your money. That's just not how it works. We're going to get smashed on this fight, but it's an investment in the future of the business."
Many people who were watching tonight are probably very new, or even brand new to the sport, and the UFC delivered in a big fashion. New fans will now be hooked on the sport with Velasquez and particularly dos Santos being established as even bigger pay-per-view draws than they were before.
We can’t expect that future UFC on FOX fight cards will include heavyweight title fights, but hey, it was a great fight to kick things off! Hopefully this will be the dawning of a new era in mixed martial arts... One in which MMA is no longer considered “barbaric” and is instead looked at as being every bit as legitimate of a sport as basketball, baseball, football or boxing.
Welcome to the mainstream.
Be sure to stay tuned to Bleacher Report for all things UFC on FOX. B/R is your home for post-fight analysis of the Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos fight card. Also, be sure to check out our fight card hub page for news and opinion on the entire UFC on FOX fight card.