The UFC's streak of stellar fight cards continued in Toronto on Saturday night, and the Canadian fans showed all the intelligent appreciation we've come to expect of our MMA-crazed neighbors to the north. That's good news for guys like Mark Bocek, who would have been booed out of the building in Las Vegas, but got treated like a conquering hero of technical grappling in the T-dot.
But now that UFC 140 is in the books, it's time again to sift through the rubble to find the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between.
Biggest Winner: Jon Jones
Here's a scary thought: what if Jones' chin is as good as the rest of him? What if he can take a shot as well as he can give one, and still come back to slice you up with those killer elbows and smack you upside the head with kicks that he flicks out like jabs? Then who beats this guy? Probably nobody, if we're being honest. The more confidence and experience he gains, the more of a nightmare he becomes for anyone in the light heavyweight division. Just as we've been saying for months, the biggest threat to his dominance is still, paradoxically, that very same dominance. When you're beating people this easily, it would be almost natural to get complacent and over-confident and let hubris get the better of you. There are a thousand different ways for that to happen to a wealthy young pro fighter who seems to be headed for super-stardom, and so few ways for him to avoid it. Will Jones prove to be the exception rather than the rule? Maybe. If there's one thing we know about the guy at this point, it's that he's exceptional.
Biggest Loser: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Nothing about Big Nog suggests that he's the type to tap to a kimura even when he realizes that you've got it locked up. We all probably suspected as much before this fight. Now we know it. We also know that he's willing to pay the price for his own stubbornness, and he did. Considering all the surgeries and lingering injuries he's dealt with in the past few years, he seems like the last person who needs a broken arm right now. But really, maybe this is a good thing for him. Maybe it will sideline him long enough to make him think about why he's still doing this when it's clearly taking a terrible toll on his body. After having surgery on both hips, Nogueira told us before the fight, he went two months where he couldn't put his foot on the floor without searing pain. That's two months per hip, and since he had the surgeries a couple months apart, it means he spent nearly half a year off his feet, then came back as soon as possible to fight professionally again because...well, that part's still unclear. He's a legend of the sport, and as he showed in those early moments against Mir, dude can still scrap. But how much trauma can you put your skeleton through before it's just not worth it anymore? I don't know, but I fear Nogueira might be determined to find out.
Too Reasonable For His Own Good: Chan Sung Jung
Not only did he apologize to the Canadian crowd for knocking out one of their own in seven seconds, he later attributed his own victory to more good luck than skill. That's true in the sense that it was lucky for him to have faced an overly reckless version of the usually patient Hominick, but give yourself some credit. You don't hear Duane Ludwig or Todd Duffee saying they were lucky to score their blitzkrieg knockouts, though sure, there had to be a little luck involved. You almost get the sense that even Jung didn't expect himself to win that fight -- certainly not that quickly, anyway. A win's a win, even if it's a result of your opponent screwing up. Take 'em however you can get em, Zombie.
Most Charmingly Delusional: Frank Mir
He wasn't dazed. No way. And Nogueira wasn't close to stopping him. It was just a matter of time until he locked up the kimura and snapped his arm like a stale breadstick. If you believe all that, then you might also believe that it would be a good idea for Mir to fight Brock Lesnar in three weeks. Clearly, Mir is living in his own little world these days, but he is riding a three-fight win streak in that world, so maybe there's something to it. Maybe success depends on making the most of your own illusions. It probably doesn't hurt to be a 260-pound submissions expert, either.
Blackest Pot to Accuse Kettle of Same: Nik Lentz
According to the quotes sent out by the UFC, "The Carny" has suddenly come to the conclusion that holding an opponent down without doing any damage to him is a pretty cheap way to win. That he came to that conclusion right after Mark Bocek Lentz'd him, and not after he did more or less the same thing to Andre Winner, well, that's probably no accident. "He did zero damage. That's what fights are based on and he didn't hurt me," Lentz told the UFC, citing the Nick Diaz version of MMA scoring. "He did absolutely nothing to me except hold me down. That's not what a fight is supposed to be. So what if he was on top, he did nothing." Somewhere in England, Winner is sipping a cup of Earl Grey and having himself a good laugh.
Best Career-Saving Victory: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
This is the problem with fighting a guy like Tito Ortiz. If you lose, it's disastrous -- especially if you're already riding a two-fight losing streak, like Little Nog was. If you win, as he did, then people shrug and say, so what? All you did was beat Tito, and everybody's done that lately. At least Nogueira did it in brutal fashion, and in a hurry. In the process he showed that he can still hurt people when he manages to stay upright. If he improves his wrestling enough to stay there against some of the better takedown artists in the division, he might string together a few wins that fans have no choice but to be impressed by.
Most Knockouts Per Round: Constantinos Philippou
He only fought the brilliantly-mustachioed Jared Hamman for about three minutes, but Philippou must have knocked him out at least three times in that span. Hamman showed incredible toughness and resiliency by continuing to rise and rise again, but Philippou had no trouble locating Hamman's skull with his fist each time. Philippou is a frightening enough striker when your legs are firmly underneath you and your guard is up. The last place you want to be is wobbling around like a newborn fawn in front of a slugger like that.
Least Impressive in Victory: Brian Ebersole
He played it safe and did enough to win, but just barely. It was his least entertaining performance in the UFC so far, and one of the few fights to draw the ire of the uncommonly patient Toronto crowd. These people seemed to actually find some enjoyment in the Bocek-Lentz fight, but Ebersole and Claude Patrick pushed them just a little too far. As long as Ebersole doesn't make a habit of it, we'll let this one slide.
Most Impressive in Defeat: Walel Watson
He dropped a split decision to Yves Jabouin on the prelims, but it could have easily gone the other way. Watson's height and reach could prove to be serious weapons if he learns how to maximize their effectiveness. He's not quite there yet, but he made some strides in the right direction against Jabouin, even if the judges didn't see it his way. While it's a bummer to go home with an L on your record, he shouldn't get too down over this one. He'll be back soon, and I'll be eager to see it.
Least Convincing New Nickname: Tito Ortiz
He's now calling himself "The People's Champ," supposedly because he's tired of associating himself with the negativity represented by "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy." That's fine, but in order to be anybody's champ you still have to win some fights. Ortiz has won just one of his last eight, and he wants to be the people's champ? I guess, but only in the same way that the public pool is always a little sadder than the private pool at the health club. He still remains a popular, or at least well-known figure, and he deserves a place in the UFC's insular little Hall of Fame for all he did to help build the sport and the brand. But if Dana White does decide to grant his wish and let him have one last fight in May just so he can call himself a 15-year veteran, it will be more an act of generous pity than anything else. No other fighter gets to lose this much and still stick around. But then, no other fighter is Tito Ortiz. For the sake of White's sanity, that's probably a good thing.
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