Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) just ravaged through Houston, Texas, like a storm of thrilling knockouts and fast-paced fights to the finish.
In a number one contender match, loudmouthed wrestling aficionado Chael Sonnen put his friendship with American hero Brian Stann aside and dominated him on his way to victory. Afterward, he let UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva know exactly where he's coming for him.
Leonard Garcia and Nam Phan put on what was almost an exact instant replay of the last time they got together. Blood and sweat flew in abundance. It was Phan's turn this time to take the decision nod. Afterward, Joe Rogan summed it up well by saying, "I would like to see these guys fight once a year, forever."
Let's take a look at who the biggest winners and lowliest of losers were at UFC 136:
Sometimes, you can win a fight and still end up losing in the eyes of the public. Fans are fickle. We want blood. We want submissions. We want violence.
At least that's what Bob Arum keeps telling me.
The flipside of the coin is that sometimes we see fighters fail to secure an official victory, but manage to win over the hearts of the viewers (and often times, the UFC brass).
I like happy endings. Who doesn't? With that in mind, let's start with the bad news.
The Losers -- Remember when Steve Cantwell seemed to always be associated with Brian Stann? They both fought in the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) light heavyweight division and had some epic wars together. Stann was on the same card and also was unable to secure a victory. The difference is that the outcome was an exception for Stann, not the rule (as it seems to have become for Cantwell). Last night's loss for Cantwell really put the final stamp on the fact that he and Stann have gone in very different directions. Three in a row usually means a UFC pink slip. Four in a row all but seals the deal.
Nobody wants to be known as the guy who wins all the fights that don't matter that much, but can't manage to come up big under the bright lights. Three times "Ken-Flo" has faced a UFC champion for the belt. Three times, he has now come up short. Let's be clear: Florian showed a ton of heart in this fight. It just simply was not enough and probably never would be against Aldo. He's still probably got some gas in the tank, but he's definitely in danger of always being a bridesmaid and never the bride.
When the UFC signed Jorge Santiago, he came as a highly regarded Sengoku champion with a tremendous upside and an exciting fighting style. After being brutally knocked out by Brian Stann at UFC 130 on May 28, Santiago needed a good performance against Demian Maia. While he didn't look terrible, he just couldn't ever really get it going. He will most likely now be placed under the magnifying glass by the bigwigs at Zuffa. Make no mistake about it. His next fight probably needs to be a win. If it isn't, it had better be an exciting and crowd-pleasing battle.
Now for the good news.
The Winners -- The biggest winner of the night was easily Frankie Edgar. It was more than just a simple victory. It was bigger than merely emerging with the belt. With a win last night, there can be no more excuses or "what-ifs." We now have closure. The fact that he was able to finish Maynard really puts the official stamp on things. Does it mean they'll never fight again? Probably not. But they won't be throwing down again for a while, which means we can finally get some fresh blood in there.
It's no secret that Brian Stann has had trouble with wrestlers in the past. It's also no secret that Chael Sonnen is a fantastic wrestler. If anyone still thinks Sonnen is a "boring fighter," they truly aren't paying attention. He didn't just beat Stann, he utterly dominated him at every turn. He proved that he absolutely is still the number one middleweight contender and it isn't close. You really think Silva is excited about a second go-round?
Who picked Joe Lauzon to beat Melvin Guillard? Whoever it was must have been whispeing, 'cuz I didn't hear them. Guillard came into this fight on a five-fight win streak and looked just about unstoppable. Apparently "J-Lau" isn't impressed by hype. He came in, avoided Guillard's initial blasts, took him down and choked him out in 47 seconds. All in a day's work. Lauzon's victory showed that he shouldn't be overlooked as a top 155-pounder and that the UFC's lightweight division is deep and diverse.
The biggest winner? You, the MMA fan, assuming that you watched this card. UFC 136 will go down as one of the better fight cards that we've seen in a while.