The last time I heard a crowd go as crazy as the fans in Anaheim did when Cain Velasquez beat Brock Lesnar at UFC 121
, they were all getting free cars from Oprah. The fight fans on Saturday night may have had to drive home in the same boring old rides they came in, but after that furious four-minute main event I guarantee you no one was complaining.
But UFC 121 gave us more to talk about than just the main event. All across the undercard careers were being salvaged and lost, and at least one fighter managed to leave the Octagon victorious but still riding a wave of boos.
Let's break it all down and look at our big winners, losers, and everything in between.
Biggest Winner: Cain Velasquez
From his wrestling to his striking to his game plan, Velasquez was in all ways superior to Lesnar on Saturday night. The combination of speed and power he brings must have some other heavyweights in the division worried, and it's only going to get worse as his striking continues to improve. He may not be quite as marketable as Lesnar, and the UFC may lose out on some pay-per-view revenue when the pro wrestling fans go back to not caring so much about the UFC heavyweight champ, but there can be no doubting this man's ability. Now bring on Junior dos Santos.Biggest Loser: Brock Lesnar
When you talk as much as Lesnar did about how you're the baddest S.O.B. on the planet, expect to eat a lot of crow after you take a one-sided beating on live TV. For the second time in as many fights Lesnar's stand-up game and his ability to take a punch were major liabilities. One or both of those things has to change if Lesnar is going to be champ again some day. But before we get into that, let's wait and see how the reclusive behemoth will react to the loss. If we don't see him again for six months, that's a bad sign. If he decides to shelve the hunting trips and get back in there sooner rather than later, look out.Most Impressive in Defeat: Paulo Thiago
I'll never forget the image of Thiago stuck in mount at the conclusion of a fight he had to know he was losing on the scorecards, still throwing frantic punches up at Diego Sanchez's face in futile defiance. This guy has a true fighting spirit, although he needs to become a better wrestler if he's going to go anywhere in the UFC's welterweight division. At the risk of leaving the Brazilian police's special forces unit down a man, I'd recommend an extended stay at one of the American camps where he can get some serious mat time with former NCAA standouts.Least Impressive in Victory: Jake Shields
Even if you accept the weight cut explanation for his late fatigue, that doesn't change the fact that Shields fought a very boring fight. To the people who were expecting something different I have to ask, is this your first time watching him? Takedowns and ground control is what Shields does. Yes, it's effective. No, it's not much fun to watch. He still got the win and so he'll still get the title shot, but he'd better have something else in his bag of tricks if he hopes to keep that winning streak going. Either Koscheck or GSP would give him major problems if he tries to do to them what he did to Kampmann.Best Career-Resurrecting Performance: Diego Sanchez
After two straight losses Sanchez needed a win like Gabriel Gonzaga needs a chest hair comb. To get one against the very tough Thiago, and to get it in a Fight of the Night performance like that, really reminds you how good "The Nightmare" can be when he puts it together on fight night. Hopefully going back to Greg Jackson's and getting his life in focus will lead him back to his top form. The UFC is always more fun when Sanchez is Yes Cartwheeling his way through it.Worst Career-Killing Loss: Tito Ortiz
I'm not going to say that with a win over Matt Hamill he would have been back on top, but a loss in which he was soundly outworked and outwrestled was the last thing Ortiz needed. He's now lost three straight, including four out of his last five, and he hasn't looked good against a quality opponent since he beat Forrest Griffin via split decision in 2006. What do you do with a fighter like that on the UFC roster? I'm not sure, but Dana White is probably wondering that exact same thing this week.Best Comeback: Court McGee
Judging from round one alone, it looked like the TUF 11 winner was in way over his head against Ryan Jensen. But give him credit, he stayed in the fight and found a way to win, which is exactly what you like to see from a young fighter who's still growing. He still has a ways to go in his overall development, so let's not get too excited just yet. Still, it's reassuring to see him battle his way back after some early difficulties in his first post-TUF fight.