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Falling Action: Best and Worst of UFC 125

Between the free UFC 125 prelims and a power-packed pay-per-view card, MMA fans began 2011 with enough fighting action to choke a horse on Saturday night.

Plus, if you tuned in early to ION, as I did, you got to see the tail end of "Timecop," starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. If you haven't seen it, take my word for it, it's a great film to show if you want to give your audience a real sense of appreciation for whatever's coming next.

But after a great event in Las Vegas full of both rising and falling stars, it's time to get our Monday morning quarterback on and sort through the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between from UFC 125. Won't you join me below?

Biggest Winner: Frankie Edgar
Simply surviving that disastrous first round would have been impressive enough. But when he came off the stool for round two it was as if he were beginning a brand new fight. Edgar displayed tremendous physical ability over the course of the five-round bout, but rebounding from that first round tells us so much more about his mental toughness. Edgar proved his bona fides as a champion on Saturday night, even if he retained the belt in the least satisfying way possible. An immediate rematch is the right move here, only this time expect there to be a lot more pre-fight interest from fans and media.

Biggest Loser: Brandon Vera
After getting dominated for most of the first two rounds, Vera came out early in the third and dropped Thiago Silva with a body kick. It was his most significant offensive moment in the whole fight, and his response to it was to pose as if he'd just hit a walk-off homerun in the World Series. There, in a nutshell, is Vera's whole career. When things are going his way, nobody is more impressed with Vera than Vera. When they aren't, he folds up shop. He keeps telling us he's learned from his past mistakes, and yet we're just not seeing it on fight night. If only he didn't have such spectacular physical ability, maybe it wouldn't be so disappointing.

Most Surprising: Gray Maynard
Even if he ended the night with a kiss-your-sister type draw, at least Maynard proved to fans everywhere that he's more than just a human sleeping pill. You could argue that it was to his detriment, but Gray Maynard absolutely didn't fight like a total Gray Maynard on Saturday. Quite the contrary, he was one half of perhaps the best UFC title fight in history, which just about makes up for the years of boring performances it took for him to get to this point. All he needs to do now is show a little personality in his pre and post-fight interviews and, who knows, fans might actually start to care about him.

Most Heartbreaking: Phil Baroni
Things were looking so good. He showed up in shape, hurt Brad Tavares early, and didn't gas out after the first two minutes of the fight. Maybe, or so it seemed, Baroni was poised to turn things around. Then a head kick from Tavares set off a chain of events that ended with Baroni clutching the referee's leg in a moment of depressing confusion. Just like that, the last glowing ember of Baroni's MMA career was unceremoniously drowned by a sudden deluge. For all his failings, it's hard not to feel some compassion for a guy like Baroni at a time like this. He gave it everything he had, wore his heart on his sleeve, and now his options look grim. Face it, he's not going to go become an architect any time soon. Instead, he'll probably press on in a sad game of diminishing returns.

Most Frantic: Clay Guida
Watching Guida bounce around Gomi, tossing his hair to and fro, I was reminded of one of those exotic animals that hypnotizes its prey before attacking. Just as you start to think, 'What the hell is this guy doing?' – boom – that's when he kicks you upside the head and takes you down. The submission win over Gomi makes it three straight for Guida, who is consistently the most dizzying lightweight on the UFC roster. As far as sheer ability he may not be the most terrifying man, but at least you always know that when you fight him you're in for an exhausting night. The same goes for the announcers trying to keep up with his movement in the cage.

Least Evolved: Chris Leben
After nearly six years in the Octagon, it's still more or less the same old Leben. It's not that he doesn't know the finer technical elements of the game. It's just that, when given a choice, he'd always rather throw down in the center of the cage and bet that his chin is better than the other guy's. Against Brian Stann on Saturday night, it backfired big time. His coach said afterward that Leben had the flu and that's why he wasn't himself, but the difference seemed to be one of degree. Plus, if you're that sick, don't fight. The UFC won't like it, but it's not going to help your career to go out there and get knocked out. Not to mention, this ain't tennis. If you're too sick to properly perform out there, you could get seriously hurt. Even a guy who can take as much punishment as Leben can isn't immune to that particular occupational hazard.

Most Fortunate: Jeremy Stephens
I don't want to use the word 'lucky,' since that implies good fortune that is somehow undeserved. But Stephens' one-punch knockout of Marcus Davis was incredibly fortunate, coming as it did in the third round of a fight he probably would have lost on the scorecards. It's definitely not the first time Stephens has saved himself with one big punch. He did almost the exact same thing to Rafael dos Anjos two years ago. Still, it's the kind of good fortune one wants to benefit from only sparingly. Good fortune, like good looks, usually fades before you really learn to appreciate what it's worth.

Least Heralded: Dong Hyun Kim
His style may not be the most exciting to watch, and his post-fight interviews definitely need work (it's cool to learn one phrase in a foreign language to announce your presence, but the key is choosing the right time to employ it), but don't sleep on Kim. He's manhandled several fine fighters on the mat in his time with the UFC, and if he develops the other aspects of his game he could be a legitimate threat. Whether anyone will be interested in seeing him deploy that threat, well, that's harder to figure.

Best Spoiler: Dustin Poirier
Apparently nobody told him that his fight with Josh Grispi was just a chance for Grispi to stay busy while he waits for Jose Aldo to heal up. Poirier took it to him from the opening minute, while Grispi hung back in shock, almost as if he thought that just showing up would be enough. If you're trying to take a title shot and flush it straight down the toilet, I can think of no better way to do it.

Least Congenial: Thiago Silva
You know how in reality TV shows people are always saying that they aren't there to make friends? Silva is sort of the MMA embodiment of that philosophy, only he seems at times like he is specifically out to make enemies. Not only does the man seem to have an ill humor about him at all times, but he has no problem punking an opponent on live TV. I mean, open-hand slaps? Really? Silva's like one of those people who watches an after-school special and roots for the bully. It doesn't make him seem like anyone you'd want to be stuck in an elevator with -- or even stand near on the subway -- but at least he's in the right line of work. Slapping co-workers doesn't go over so well at an office job. Trust me on this.

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