Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to the Pacific Northwest with its fifth network television event as UFC on FOX 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz" went down last night (Dec. 8, 2012) in Seattle, Washington.
On paper, the event was by far the best product the UFC has put together for a FOX show and -- boy, oh, boy -- did the fights ever deliver.
Ben Henderson successfully defended the lightweight championship against Nate Diaz in the event headliner, while Alexander Gustafsson, Rory MacDonald and Matt Brown picked up crucial wins on the main card. Moreover, the "Prelims" card delivered with four of seven fights ending inside the distance.
In a sport like mixed martial arts (MMA), each bout can only have one winner and one loser. Earning a victory inside the world-famous Octagon is the highest of highs, while suffering a defeat in front of millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
There were several shining stars on the UFC on FOX 5 fight card, as well as an equal amount of disappointments. With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser from the event in Seattle.
The biggest winner of the night was Alexander Gustafsson. The Swedish fighter outworked Mauricio Rua en route to a unanimous decision victory in what was by far the biggest victory of his career.
Even though odds makers favored Gustafsson coming into the fight, "Shogun" was by far the toughest test of his career and the 25-year-old passed that test with flying colors.
What made Gustafsson's performance especially impressive was the fact Rua was in peak condition for last night's battle. "The Mauler" took down the Brazilian at will, kept his range in the stand up, landed brilliant combinations and perhaps most impressive of all was his ability to absorb some serious strikes from Rua without ever putting himself in serious danger.
UFC President Dana White promised the winner of Gustafsson-Rua a title shot in the light heavyweight division, and Gustafsson certainly proved worthy of the opportunity last night. A finish would have put an exclamation point on Gustafsson's claim for the title, but considering Rua's reputation as one of the toughest fighters in the sport, a decision win is nothing to shake your head at.
While Gustafsson was "the biggest winner" at UFC on FOX 5, a number of other competitors on the card produced stellar performances and made a case for the award.
Rory MacDonald's beat down of B.J. Penn proved his legitimacy as a welterweight contender, Matt Brown earned the first four-fight win-streak of his career with a vicious knockout of Mike Swick, Yves Edwards became the first man to knockout Jeremy Stephens and Daron Cruickshank scored one of the most devastating head-kick knockouts of the year when he nearly decapitated Henry Martinez on the "Prelims" portion of the card.
The biggest loser of the night without a doubt was B.J. Penn.
Simply put, "The Prodigy" once again punked everyone into thinking he would produce a career-defining performance. Without taking anything away from Rory MacDonald, much more was expected of Penn.
After all Penn's talk about legacy and wanting to live up the potential expected of him throughout his career, he disappointed a lot of people who believed in him. He displayed a much more limited offense than his past fights and most importantly of all, was utterly confused by MacDonald's attacks.
The fact that MacDonald was taunting the former two-division champion with absolutely no consequences really showed how superior he was.
There's really no telling where Penn goes from here or if he will continue to fight after receiving his second decisive loss in a row. One positive note for Penn is he overtook Tito Ortiz for the most cage time in UFC history, but it's doubtful that he thinks the damage sustained in the fight was worth the record.
Other notable losers from UFC on FOX 5 were Nate Diaz and "Shogun" Rua.
Diaz came in to the event with some serious momentum behind and Henderson didn't let the Stockton native score with anything significant. Diaz was frustrated by the champion from start to finish, and it will be hard to determine what's next for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 5 winner.
It took Diaz 17 UFC fights to get a title shot, and who knows how long it will take to get back to that status.
For "Shogun," the loss to Gustafsson didn't send him too far down the rankings, but any hopes he may have had for a title shot are out the window for the foreseeable future.
Dana White said prior to UFC on FOX 5 that Rua was a gatekeeper to the title, and he proved to be that tonight. He is still one of the top 205-pound fighters on the planet, and above all the loss showed Gustafsson is for real more so than "Shogun" falling off the horse.
Who was your biggest winner and loser from UFC on FOX 5? Let us know in the comments section below.
For complete UFC on FOX 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz" post-event coverage and fallout, including highlight videos and much more, click here.