im Miller celebrates after knocking down Melvin Guillard during the UFC Lightweight Bout at Bridgestone Arena. Photo of Miller by JAE S. LEE / THE TENNESSEAN via Tennessean.com.
There some "firsts" that you'll just never forget: Your first kiss, your first time out on the road and several other "firsts" that we won't mention here.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) got a big "first" out of the way last night (Jan. 20, 2012) as UFC on FX 1 marked the promotion's inaugural fight card on the FX network. The "Prelims" portion of the card started off on FUEL TV (also a part of the FOX Sports network), and boy, did it ever deliver!
With five explosive, first-round finishes, this card took no time getting the ball rolling. To get a detailed recap of the UFC on FX 1 "Prelims" on FUEL TV click here.
Before mixed martial arts (MMA) fans had time to catch their breath, it was on to the main card portion of the event, which was seen on FX and featured several high-intensity brawls that drew their fair share of "oohs" and "aahs" from the many in attendance at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
So, who were the biggest winners and lowliest losers at UFC on FX 1? Let's take a look:
Jim Miller -- Things didn't look good for Miller at the onset his fight with Melvin Guillard. Miller was getting pounded, and for a minute, it looked like it wasn't going to be his night. A motivated Guillard is a dangerous Guillard, and Miller was getting lit up like a Christmas tree. Credit to Miller for staying in there and waiting for the right moment to work his submission game and take home a very key victory. He's back, ladies and gents.
Jorge Rivera -- Rivera is one of the good dudes in the sport of MMA. Before his fight tonight, he announced he would be retiring, regardless of the outcome. After clearly losing the first round of his fight versus Eric Schafer, he was able to get the upper hand when "Red" shot for a takedown and Rivera clipped him with a punch, signaling the beginning of the end. "El Conquistador" came, he saw and he conquered as he went out in a blaze of glory. For more on the MMA retirement of Rivera click here.
Pat Barry -- Before tonight, "HD" had lost two of his last three and four of his last six fights, respectively. It didn't look good at the beginning. Christian Morecraft was using his wrestling and ground game to smother Barry and even looked close to securing an arm triangle choke at one point. Morecraft eventually transitioned to an armbar that appeared to be the end of the night. Not so. Barry showed that his jiu-jitsu and submission defense game has improved vastly, defending beautifully and escaping to safety. Moments later, Barry clipped his foe with a big right hand that sent the big, 6'6" heavyweight spiraling down to the canvas. Barry did not make the same mistake he made against Cheick Kongo, by letting him recover. He jumped all over him, planting concrete hand over hand before Herb Dean finally stepped in to save him. Big win for Barry. Welcome back to the "win wagon."
Mike Easton vs. Jared Papazian -- For three, five-minute rounds, these two fighters looked like bantamweight "rock 'em, sock 'em robots." Kenny Florian said it well when he noted: "Most of this fight is being fought inside a phone booth." It was non-stop action and though Easton edged Papazian in the points department, it was very close. Both guys looked awesome and had nothing to hang their heads about. If you didn't like this fight, you probably hate beer and explosions, too. Stop hating things that are awesome. You're missing out.
FUEL TV -- Talk about a fantastic first impression! Five of the six "Prelims" fights on FUEL TV ended in either a submission or (technical) knockout. The "Prelims" featured quite a few UFC newcomers who were making their Octagon debuts. Some of them fared not so well, clearly not being able to handle the moment. Some looked hungry and eager to show that they truly belong. It was a great way to kick off the show and FUEL TV reaped the benefits.
Nick Denis -- Speaking of first impressions, bum rushing your opponent, powdering him with punches that he can't defend, grabbing a hold of a Muay Thai clinch and then knocking him out with a thunderous elbow (all in 22 seconds) is not a bad night's work, especially when it's your first fight under the bright lights and in the Octagon. Well done, sir.
Josh Neer -- He took a beating for the better part of the first round by Duane Ludwig, who threw everything he had at him, looking to end things with a "Bang." Neer survived and found an opportunity to get the fight to the canvas. It was pretty much over from that point, as his jiu-jitsu was just too much for Ludwig to handle. Before he even got a chance to tap, Ludwig was out and dreaming of a very tight turtleneck sweater.
Melvin Guillard -- He switched camps. He was in the right head space. He was "in the best shape of his life." Same story, same ending. For most of the first round, Guillard was dishing out an absolute beating. He was perfectly timing flying knees, defending takedowns and fighting his fight. Then it happened. Guillard got carried away with the flying knees and finally threw one too many. Miller finally timed it, took him down and had him gasping for air and tapping his forearm within seconds. Live and learn. Or don't.
Herb Dean -- Let me start by saying I love Herb Dean. He's easily my favorite referee. I hardly ever notice him and that's a compliment. Tonight, I noticed him way too much in the fight between Charlie Brenneman and Daniel Roberts. It's a shame when an official allows an uneducated crowd's reaction to influence the way he officates a fight. Several times in the fight, Brenneman was in a dominant position and clearly inflicting damage when Dean, very curiously, called for action and then stood them up. I admit, Brenneman was never really all that close to finishing the fight from any of those positions. In fact, Roberts got closer at the end of the second and third rounds to getting a submission than Brenneman ever did in the whole fight. That said, you cannot stand up the fight when one of the fighters is in dominant position and landing punches. The "wrestlehump" haters are not going to like this one. That's okay. We can agree to disagree.
Jorge Rivera's corner, Matt Phinney -- I'm sorry, I just can't take it when a fighter's corner tells him he's doing great when he clearly is not. In between the first and second round, the exact words were: "Everything is beautiful! You're looking great!" It wasn't and -- he wasn't. I don't know. I guess every fighter gets motivated differently. Maybe Phinney knows Rivera doesn't do well with bluntness. I've just seen too many guys fighting like they're ahead, when they're not, and pay the eventual price for it with a loss. Luckily, Rivera was able to pull off the victory anyway.
Christian Morecraft -- He's now lost three of his last four fights, all by knockout. Time to go back to the drawing board, because what you're doing isn't working, big fella. He's not as bad off as some fighters in similar positions because he's only 25 years old (big upside) and the UFC's heavyweight division is , quite frankly, very thin. (Ironic, no?) He'll probably luck out and get to stick around, but he needs to step his game up.
Anyway, that's our list of the triumphant and downtrodden from UFC on FX 1. Does your list look different? Let us know in the comments section below!