Without further delay, here are the big winners, losers, and everything in between after the TUF 12 Finale and Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu.
Biggest Winner: Dan Henderson
A blind man would have known this fight was over once he heard the sound of Hendo's right hand thumping against "Babalu" Sobral's skull. But because Sobral managed to keep his eyes open even as they rolled around in his head, it wasn't stopped until after Henderson had landed several more memory-busters, just for completely unnecessary good measure. The impressive brutality of the win goes a long way towards erasing Henderson's loss to Shields in the minds of fans, but we should probably reserve judgment until we see him in a fight with an opponent who's still in his prime. An opponent like, say, light heavyweight champion "Feijao" Cavalcante.
Biggest Loser: Scott Smith
He's lost three of his last four, but even that is less distressing than the fact that he's taken severe beatings in all of his last five bouts. He came back to win two of those, but that damage piles up. In human years, Smith is only 31. In fighter years, however, he's much older. After collapsing face first onto the mat thanks to Daley's well-placed left hook, it's hard not to wonder what will become of him if his knockout button has suddenly become easier to press, thanks to a lifetime of punishment in the cage. Retirement isn't necessarily the only choice left for him, but if he can't adapt his style to protect himself any better than that, it should certainly be a consideration.
Best, Most Disappointing Strategy: Stephan Bonnar
After beating Igor Pokrajac via decision he showed up to the press conference and sort of apologized for allowing us all to think he was going to try and brawl his way to a victory in this one. Instead he played it smart for a change and got the nod from the judges without having to first leave a couple pints of blood on the mat. Was it fun to watch? Not necessarily, but give him a break. This is Bonnar's first two-fight win streak since 2007. If he had to tell a little white lie and go one night without a bloodbath to get it, that's an acceptable price...but just this once.
Most Egregious Judging Error: Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia
I know, I know: never leave it in the hands of the judges. But when you win every round, shouldn't you be able to let it go to the scorecards without feeling like the outcome is still just a coin flip? If not, why do we even have judges? I'm sure I've seen a worse or more baffling decision in MMA, but honestly, does it matter? If the best thing we can say about a judges' decision is that it wasn't the absolute worst ever in the history of unarmed combat, that doesn't exactly help the guy who got hosed. Sorry, Nam.
Most in Need of Forced Retirement: Matt Lindland
I love watching "The Law" fight, which is part of what made Saturday night's KO loss to Robbie Lawler such an unpleasant experience. It wasn't like he just got caught, either. That was what we might call an 'old man knockout.' He should have seen the punch that was coming at him and been able to react, but he couldn't. Lindland's toughness has never been a question, but at this point his ability to take a shot is. What's more, he doesn't need to keep taking them. He's a successful businessman, so money's not the issue. His legacy in the sport is secure, and it's not as if he's going to become Strikeforce champion at this point. I say this because I have a great deal of affection for him, but it's time to hang it up before something happens that can't be undone.
Best Use of a Post-Fight Interview: Paul Daley
"Semtex" is no dummy. Rather than idly waiting for Strikeforce to decide who he should fight after starching Scott Smith in impressive fashion, he went right ahead and called out K.J. Noons. Good thinking, especially since we all know that what he's really looking for is an opponent who will stand and trade punches with him rather than exploiting his relatively weak ground game. Noons is just such a fighter, so why not? On paper, it's exactly the kind of stand-up shootout that fans love. And if it lets Daley avoid those pesky wrestlers and jiu-jitsu experts for a little while longer, so much the better.
Best Commentating Moment: Joe Rogan's Judging Rant
The Phan-Garcia decision got Rogan so fired up he went on a lengthy tirade about the need for Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer to "clean house" and get rid of the "incompetent morons" who so often occupy a judge's chair on fight night in Las Vegas. He stopped just short of calling for an armed insurrection against the NSAC, but his vitriol was mostly well-founded. There are too many consistently clueless karate instructors and boxing judges getting paid to screw up important fights. Saying that it's "ruining the sport" might be a bit much, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Worst Commentating Moment: Mauro Ranallo's H-Bomb
When you've taken it upon yourself to try and coin a cute little term for some fighter's signature move and Pat Miletich shoots you down on air even as you're trying it out, maybe it's best to let it go. Ranallo could be such a good announcer if he'd just drop the obviously scripted material and overdone one-liners and just let his knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport carry him through. I know it's tempting to get all pro wrestling on the mic sometimes and start assigning every fighter a finishing move, but it's a temptation one must resist.