Falling Action: Best and Worst of UFC 139

What a weekend. If you were one of the people who decided that you'd had enough MMA lately and it was time to get out of the house on Saturday night and go see the new Twilight movie, let's just say you got what you deserved.

The rest of us were treated to an amazing UFC event (not to mention a great lightweight battle between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez in Bellator), we didn't even have to fight through a crowd of pre-teen girls to get a good seat.

Now that it's all over and we've had a chance to clear our heads and think rationally again, it's time to look at the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between.

Biggest Winner: (tie) Dan Henderson and "Shogun" Rua
Centuries from now, when future generations attempt to learn about our culture by digging through the ruins of our athletic commission offices, the records they discover will only tell them that Hendo won a unanimous decision over Rua at UFC 139. What it won't tell them is that, honestly, no one really lost that fight. Rua helped make it a classic by battling back from the brink of unconsciousness in almost every round. Hendo just couldn't put the Brazilian away, and after twenty minutes of trying he barely had enough gas left to sputter across the finish line in the fifth. Personally, I gave Rua a 10-8 in that final round, which would have resulted in a draw. I know, I know -- a tie is like making out with your sister while eating non-fat ice cream. Still, I think it would have been a fitting end, not that you can really be upset about any outcome after a scrap like that. Together, Henderson and Rua pushed each other to a new level of greatness. It was a collaborative effort that required both man's mix of skill, toughness, and almost self-destructive resolve. Neither could have reached this height without the other forcing him to it, and for that the MMA world will forever remember both of them as equal partners in one of the greatest fights the sport has ever known.

Biggest Loser: Brian Bowles
This was his big chance to get back into a title shot, and he was simply outclassed by Faber. You can't question his toughness. The sound of that uppercut he took was enough to make me reach up and make sure that my own teeth were still there, so I can't even imagine how he battled through that. But when it came to launching an offense of his own, it was clear very early on that he just didn't have much to threaten Faber with. It's not a catastrophic end for the 10-2 Bowles, but it does knock him down the bantamweight ladder, making you wonder if he'll ever get a meaningful title around his waist again. He's probably still better than about 90 percent of the guys in the division, but the gap between Bowles and the top two men in the weight class is a chasm of talent that I'm not sure he'll ever be able to find his way across.

Best, Slightly Troubling Redemption Story: Wanderlei Silva
There were definitely flashes of the old Wand in his TKO win over Cung Le. He took a few hard shots and stayed upright. He attacked with a ferocious, though measured aggression. In general, he proved that he's not quite ready to be hauled off to the scrap yard just yet, which is a little bit worrisome, to be honest. It's not that the win wasn't a great one, or one that he needed in a bad, bad way. And not to get all double-rainbow on you, but what does it mean? Le's never been known as an especially powerful striker, so it's tough to tell if Silva's ability to withstand his blows is necessarily proof that his chin is solid again. It's not hard to imagine a situation where he interprets this victory as a sign that he's back in the saddle and ready to brawl again, with the end result being several more bad knockouts before he once again faces the same difficult decisions. In a perfect world, maybe this would be the win that lets him go out on a high note. In the real world, he probably won't be happy he takes a few more thumps on the skull.

Best Case for a Rubber Match: Urijah Faber
"The California Kid" did all the right things this weekend. Not only did he dispatch Bowles in impressive fashion, he also talked up his rivalry with champion Dominick Cruz. Before their second fight he was content to play the cool kid and let Cruz look like the one driving the animosity. After losing the decision, Faber now seems genuinely irked and hungry for a decisive showdown, which is exactly what the 135-pound division needs right now. Faber likes to make Cruz out to be a point-fighter who's learned how to game the judges, but that's a little too dismissive. The champ has real skills, and Faber knows it. What's still unclear is if he has an answer for those skills, but we should find out soon enough. Faber better make the most of this shot. If he loses, it's likely the last one he'll get.

Least Likely to Complete His Full UFC Contract: Cung Le
He told us a few days before the fight that he signed a six-fight deal with the UFC and planned to make the most of it, but I have a hard time imagining that after his performance this weekend. It's not that he looked bad, but his style and his age are both working against him. Le is 39 years old and this was only his third fight in the last two years. Most of his prior MMA career has been spent out-kicking overmatched opponents, but he won't get such cozy treatment in the UFC. After showing up on the scales with a physique that's starting to show its age, then getting his face smashed in by Silva, it's very possible that he might soon decide he's better off making his money on the movie set than the Octagon.



Most Deserving of a Step Up: Michael McDonald
The 20-year-old bantamweight looked flawless in a quick destruction of late fill-in Alex Soto. His striking is crisp, his poise is impressive (especially considering his youth), and the UFC obviously sees the potential in him. I know Dana White probably doesn't want to rush his development and get him crushed, but at 14-1 and with three UFC bouts under his belt, he's ready to move up to the next level of competition and take his spot on the main card.

Narrowest Escape: Martin Kampmann
Not that he didn't deserve to win -- he did. But if I'd just been screwed by the judges at least once, maybe even twice in my last two fights, I might have been a little worried about letting them decide my fate a third time. Fortunately for Kampmann, they got it right this time (Dana White claimed that the judge who scored the fight with Story had actually meant to score it for Kampmann) and he's finally back in the win column. It's about time.

Worst Display of Professionalism: (tie) Shamar Bailey and Nick Pace
They both came in over the mark at Friday's weigh-ins, then both ended up on the losing end in Saturday's fights. As strategies for ensuring some degree of job security in the UFC go, that's about as bad as it gets. Bailey came in at 158 pounds for a 155-pound fight, while Pace clocked in at 141 for a fight at 135. That smacks of disrespect for your opponent and yourself, and it also costs you a significant chunk of your purse. Making weight is part of being a professional, and it should be a given at this level. If you can't do it -- and if you make things worse by following it up with a loss afterward -- then you won't be at this level for long.

Most Surprising: Stephan Bonnar
It's not that he dominated Kyle Kingsbury on the mat for most their fight. That was something many people saw coming. But his public apology to Josh Koscheck in his post-fight interview? Now that was a shock. If you don't know, Koscheck and Bonnar got into it over Bonnar's decision to use a very Koscheck-like image and design for his Trash Talkin' Kids t-shirt line. Koscheck didn't approve, Bonnar didn't much care, and Koscheck sued him when he went ahead with the plan. Despite the disparity in weight, a feud seemed to be simmering there, but Bonnar squashed it by apologizing in the cage and admitting that Koscheck was right all along. That was the right way to play it, and it proves once again that Bonnar is one of the genuine good guys in this sport. Koscheck? He's not winning any awards for congeniality, but he's okay too, I guess.

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