There are moments when a sporting event becomes more than just a competition. Time stands still. Conversations cease. Athletes become immortalized.
Last night (Sat., Nov. 19, 2011) was just such an occasion, as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered what will go down as one of the greatest fight cards of all time with UFC 139: "Shogun vs. Henderson" in San Jose, Calif.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) legends fought to keep their legacies (and careers) alive. Prospects looked like savvy veterans. Title shots were on the line and boldly claimed.
As is usually the case, MMAmania.com will take an in-depth look at whose stars shone the brightest, as well as whose stock took a nosedive.
Check out who UFC 139's biggest winners and lowliest losers were:
Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson -- It's impossible to separate these guys from each other after Saturday night's grueling war. It may remain that way for the rest of time. From now on, is it even possible to mention "Shogun" in a sentence that doesn't also include "Hendo?" To put it bluntly, the fight was ridiculous. For five rounds, Rua and Henderson beat each other mercilessly, painting the canvas with their sweat, blood and tears. It was the kind of fight that made you turn your cell phone off and ask your girlfriend to stop talking. Though Henderson did get the decision nod, both of these men earned the respect of all who watched.
Wanderlei Silva -- "The Axe Murderer" is back. How long will he stick around? Hard to say. In the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White still sounded like he wants to keep Silva on a short leash. After his quick and brutal knockout loss to Chris Leben at UFC 132 on July 2 in "Sin City," many were calling for "Wandy" to hang up the five-ounce gloves and call it a career. Many of those same nay-sayers expected Silva to have problems with Cung Le's kicks and martial arts pizzazz. In the first round, it looked like they were right. Silva was puzzlingly keeping his distance from Le, allowing him to stick-and-move and use his advantage. In the second round, Silva did a great job of cutting off the distance, stalking his opponent and lighting him up with his signature heavy hands. By the end of the fight, Le, the former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, was hardly recognizable. It's unclear what is next for Silva, but for now, he can rest easy with the knowledge that he's bought himself some more time.
Urijah Faber -- This is what Faber looked like during his dominant days fighting for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). For one round, it looked as though "The California Kid" was merely doing "recon" on his opponent. He methodically figured out where the holes were and stored the information away for the next frame of the fight. In round two, Faber jumped all over Brian Bowles, never giving him room to breathe or a moment to recover. Faber was not fighting a bum. Bowles has only lost once and it was to current Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. He's a dangerous striker and a very well-rounded fighter. Faber made him look like he didn't even belong in the cage with him. Maybe he didn't. The trilogy between Faber and Cruz is now in the works. Buckle up.
Michael McDonald -- He's 20 years old. He can't even buy a beer yet. Some companies wouldn't even let him rent a car from them. Yet, this "kid" has no problem taking center stage in front of thousands of people and engaging in professional combat. All of that is an accomplishment in of itself. But that's not enough for "Mayday." He doesn't just want to compete; he wants to make a name for himself while contending for a title as soon as possible. He's had three fights thus far in the UFC. Two of them earned him a fight bonus. All three revealed just how explosive he is as a fighter. Right now, the world is his oyster. After his thrilling knockout victory over Alex Soto, ESPN analyst Brett Okamoto tweeted: "I want to see Michael McDonald fight Joseph Benavidez. Don't tell me it's too soon, either." I won't. I'd personally love to see it.
Ryan Bader -- After two terrible back-to-back guillotine losses to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz, respectively, Bader sorely needed a win. He looked good. His quick knockout win over Jason Brilz would have earned him "knockout of the night" on most UFC cards. It's hard to get super worked up over this win, as Brilz has now lost his third fight in his last four appearances. Still, a win is a win and a first round knockout is good enough to get a fighter back into the "relevant" category. Big win for "Darth."
Miguel Torres -- I'm not going to prattle on here. This wasn't a win that will catapult Torres back into his position as one of the pound-for-pound greats in the world. A finish would have been nice. That said, I believe Torres showed a newly acquired ability and willingness to adapt his game to his opponent and not just go out and rely on his athleticism and gangly arms and legs. Torres used some very good "dirty boxing" to beat up Nick Pace and break his will with a plethora of violent elbows and knees. Is he back to where he was? The jury is still out.
Matt Brown -- "The Immortal" has now lost four of his last five UFC fights. The one win that he did notch during that run was a terribly uninspired decision win over John Howard, who was let go by the promotion directly after the fight. Each of the four losses was a second round submission. Brown is a popular fighter for his willingness to scrap and to "bring it." He'll fight anyone. Just ask him. I'm not saying I don't respect that, but at some point, you need to beat "anyone" if you want to keep getting opportunities in the Octagon.
Shamar Bailey -- Fail to make weight? Check. Try to use your go-to weapon, wrestling and get totally handled in the process? Check. Prove that you may just not have the necessary skill set to be a competitor for the world's biggest MMA organization? Check. Bailey just hasn't got it done and it's questionable if he is going to. His wrestling is not enough to make him a dominant or even a top-flight fighter. Truth be told, Bailey needs to take a step back, find a good camp and really figure out what weight class he should be fighting in. For each of his last five fights, he has weighed something different than the last. It's time to get that worked out if he really wants to make a run at being a professional fighter.
Jason Brilz -- As recently stated, Brilz has lost four of his last five fights. The 36-year old former Omaha high school state wrestling champion has got some soul-searching to do. Is this what he wants to keep doing? Brilz is the assistant wrestling coach at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He's also a trainer at Omaha's Premier Combat Center. Fighting in the UFC is not his full-time job. After his showing Saturday night, it might not be his part-time job either.
Referee Dan Stell -- It doesn't happen often. Most of the time, MMA referees do a fantastic job of stopping a fight right when they need to. If anything, we see more early stoppages than failures to end things in a timely manner. That's why what happened in the fight between Chris Weidman and Tom Lawlor is such an anomaly and raises red flags. In the first round, Weidman was able to sneak in a "filthy" d'arce choke that left Lawlor unconscious. The problem? Weidman had to actually tell Stell that Lawlor was out. By the time Stell pulled Weidman off of him, Lawlor was asleep and looked like he had been for a few seconds. That's dangerous. Every second that a fighter continues to squeeze after the blood has been cut off to the brain is an important and scary one. Stell wasn't in position to see what was going on and that's a problem. We've got to do a better job of educating our officials.
That's a wrap, Maniacs. Think you can do better? Prove it. Who were your winners and losers from this fantastic UFC event?
To check out complete UFC 139 results and detailed blow-by-blow coverage click here.