Maybe it was a bad idea to hold such an event Down Under, because in the end neither of those things happened as planned.
It was truly a night of surprises in Sydney – some of them good, others just weird – and there's nothing left to do now but sift through the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between.
Biggest Winner: Dennis Siver
He was the biggest underdog on the card and he came through big time with a unanimous decision win over Sotiropoulos, who appeared to be fresh out of ideas when he couldn't get Siver to the mat. Now that he's put together a three-fight win streak and taken out one of the top contenders in the lightweight division, does that mean he's in line for a title shot himself? Not so fast. Siver's likely got a longer wait than Sotiropoulos would have had, but at least he showed off his striking skills and takedown defense. Suddenly the stocky little blond guy who most people ignored seems like someone to take seriously at 155 pounds. Plus, he's officially the most successful Russian-born German fighter in UFC history, so there's that.
Biggest Loser: B.J. Penn
Okay, so technically he didn't lose, but he did take a beating in that final round, and afterwards he sounded like a man who might rather just go home and call it a career. Like Fedor Emelianenko, there's always a chance that he'll feel differently once he's had a day or two to think about it, but motivation has always been a question mark for Penn and his desire to fight seems to have waned recently. If he wants to, he can walk away from the sport right now with his head held high. If he doesn't, he can stay and try to figure out what comes next. He just has to make sure that whatever decision he makes, he makes it all the way and for the right reasons. Otherwise there will certainly be more beatings in his future.
Most Divisive: Michael Bisping
If only he had just beaten Jorge Rivera without any of the fouling or spitting, then we'd all be sitting here talking about how he took the high road and turned himself into a sympathetic figure. For better or worse, I suppose that's just not his style. The knee looked like it was intentional and the spit looked like it was directed at a specific human target. Suddenly a genteel nickname like "The Count" seems quite ironic. He's still vulnerable to the straight right hand, but other than that he looked solid (when he was playing by the rules) in a dominant victory. He also made sure that every MMA fan had a reason to feel something about him by the time it was all over. As Josh Koscheck and Chael Sonnen have shown us, for the purposes of fight promotion something – even when it's negative – is always preferable to nothing. This win didn't necessarily make him a contender, but it did make him a lightning rod. The UFC should capitalize on it quickly and match him up against someone else the fans can get fired up about. That reminds me, has Sonnen served his penance for mortgage fraud yet?
Most Ambivalent: Jon Fitch
His reaction to the draw – and to the suggestion that he might not get a title shot as a result – seemed more annoyed than upset. Or maybe it was more bored than annoyed. It's like he's pretty sure that he deserves to be the number one contender and he just wishes everyone else would stop messing around and agree with him. Then again, he has himself to blame for a lackluster first two rounds. When his corner told him to put it in desperation mode, he took over and dominated the third round. Makes you wonder, why didn't he flip the switch sooner? Did he really need to believe that he might be losing in order to fight like he wanted to win? Maybe he just needed to be reminded that leaving it in the hands of the judges isn't always the safest way to assure victory, regardless of what the last three years of his career has shown to the contrary.
Most Surprising: Brian Ebersole
Showing up on fight night with an arrow shaved into your chest hair is one way to make sure fans remember you, although nearly knocking out a tough vet like Chris Lytle is probably a better way to go about it. Ebersole has been one of those guys who most people would describe as a 'journeyman' when what they really mean is that he fights a lot against very few opponents who matter. The injury to Carlos Condit gave him a chance to shine against Lytle, and no one can say he didn't make the most of it. He snapped Lytle's four-fight win streak and won a Fight of the Night bonus, so it's hard to imagine how Ebersole's UFC debut could have possibly gone any better. Actually, I take that back. He could have done all that without a chest hair design that forced us to imagine him standing in front of his bathroom mirror, a razor in one hand and a can of shaving cream in the other, muttering to himself, 'Yeah, that looks nice.' But hey, nobody's perfect.
Most Guts with the Least Luck: Chris Tuchscherer
He's not the most skilled heavyweight on the roster. That's plain for all to see. But no matter what misfortune befalls him – from a groin kick by Gonzaga that pushes his testicle up inside his body, to a cut against Mark Hunt that leaves his eyebrow nearly hanging into his eye – he's always game to keep going. Even after Hunt hit him with that uppercut, Tuchscherer was still doing his best to struggle back to his feet ala Trevor Berbick. That's just sheer heart, and while we could sit around and point out that he should have gotten this fight to the mat sooner and more often, you can't question his desire. What you can question, however, is whether he'll still have a job with the UFC by the time the week is out.
Worst Robbery: Nick Ring vs. Riki Fukuda
Granted, it was a close fight. It's not as if Fukuda ran through Ring. It's also not as if he didn't beat him pretty clearly down the stretch. Even Ring seemed slightly stunned when he was awarded a unanimous decision for a fight that saw him spend a healthy amount of time stuck flat on his back. Of course, it's rare to meet a fighter who can't talk himself into thinking that he won any fight where he was still conscious at the end, so it only makes sense for Ring to defend the decision. Still, don't expect this one to vault the unbeaten Canadian into a new realm of stardom. He still has a ways to go to convince fans that he truly deserves their attention.
Most Memorable: Mark Hunt
He hit the MMA equivalent of a walk-off home run when he blasted Tuchscherer with a short uppercut and then was halfway into his victory lap by the time the referee jumped in to make it official. I guess when you've laid low as many people as Hunt has, you start to get a feeling for when a fight is really over. He still has a ground game that seems heavily dependent on lying still and hoping that his opponent won't notice his very kimura-able arm, but at least his takedown defense seems to have improved a bit. You could argue that he needs a lot more time in the wrestling room, but if you could take a punch and give one back as well as Hunt, you might not want to do anything else either.
Best Prospect: Tiequan Zhang
Not that Jason Reinhardt was the toughest possible test for his UFC debut, but Zhang still dispatched him with a quickness, so that has to count for something. He looked absolutely vicious in the few striking exchanges, and his guillotine is obviously a weapon he's come to rely on. We still don't know whether he can dig deep down the stretch, or whether he's one of those fighters who gets weaker the moment he hears the words, 'round two.' Time will tell on that one, I suppose. The UFC's new featherweight class has no shortage of quality opponents for "The Mongolian Wolf." Let's hope he faces one in his next outing.
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