Conor McGregor rallied to knock out Chad Mendes in a result that sent shockwaves through the sport and proved McGregor an elite fighter, not just a trash talker. In the co-main event of that same card, Robbie Lawler beat Rory MacDonald is what was hands down the best fight of the year.
One night after UFC 189 in July, there was another UFC card. In the same MGM Grand Garden Arena. Except all the pomp and circumstance had departed. All that was left were a few thousand people, probably still hungover -- literally and figuratively -- from the incredible night before.
In the main event of the Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale, Stephen Thompson knocked out Jake Ellenberger with not one, but two spinning hook kicks in the first round. It was an incredible, action-movie-like sequence that we should still be talking about today. Thompson's KO barely gets talked about as being among the best of the year when it should be right there.
"It was like it didn't even happen," Thompson told MMA Fighting.
Thompson (11-1), with all the momentum in the world, has not fought since. He has won five straight and put his name up there among the top welterweights in the UFC. But if that dual spinning hook kicks finish happened on its own, on some other card, it's possible "Wonderboy" would have gotten something of a push.
"Everybody was kind of tired of being there," Thompson said. "Some fans had left. The card on Saturday night was amazing. But I did exactly what I said I was going to do and that was put on a show. The people that were there were super excited about it."
Thompson, 32, was supposed to fight Neil Magny at UFC 195 on Jan. 2 back in Las Vegas. But then Matt Brown got injured, and the UFC needed Magny to fill in against Kelvin Gastelum in the Ultimate Fighter Latin America 2 main event on Nov. 21. Thompson was left without an opponent and then taken off the UFC 195 card.
It seems like the bad luck has run out for "Wonderboy" now, though. He will face Johny Hendricks at UFC Fight Night 82 on Saturday night n Las Vegas. Magny would have been a very good opponent, but not the kind of elite 170-pounder that Thompson wanted. Hendricks, the former welterweight champ, is as elite as it gets in the division.
"Magny is a dangerous guy," Thompson said. "He's a good fighter. I wanted to get out there and put it all on the line against somebody in the top-five. Things happen for a reason."
Thompson is in a position now where he could potentially earn a title shot with an impressive performance. Lawler defended his belt against Carlos Condit at UFC 195 and Tyron Woodley has been told he is next in line. But phrases like that get tossed around all the time. "Wonderboy" will go into Super Bowl weekend preparing for a potential title eliminator.
"My goal is to be the champion of that fight and after that I want the gold," Thompson said. "If Tyron Woodley gets that title fight, then the winner of that. I think my goal going into the cage is to have that belt and if it's not I don't think you should be out there."
Thompson isn't necessarily worried about being a draw or superstar. He's been a martial artist his entire life -- since the age of 3 -- with black belts in three different disciplines. So when he knocked out Ellenberger and didn't generate much buzz, he wasn't upset.
"It doesn't really bother me that much," Thompson said. "For a lot of fighters it does. You see a lot of fighters who just got into the UFC getting a lot more recognition than the people who have been in there. ... After this fight, people will hopefully know my name and I'll get the recognition I deserve."
It's a wonder he hasn't already.