UFC on Fox 6, which took place last night (Sat., Jan. 26, 2013) from the United Center in Chicago, Ill., moved several compelling storylines once the dust settled.
Showcasing the first 125-pound title defense of newly-minted Flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson, in the main event of the evening turned out to be smart decision, as his hard-nosed, down-the-stretch closing effort turned back a dangerous John Dodson in a five-round scrap that was worthy of its "Fight of the Night" honor (watch the video highlights here).
Glover Teixeira -- who outpunched and outlasted former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson in the co-featured fight of the night to win a unanimous decision -- as well as Anthony Pettis and Ricardo Llamas, all registered impressive wins on the televised main card.
Here's a closer look at Saturday night's fights and how the competitors graded out.
Lamas came up huge tonight, especially with the looming Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar showdown at UFC 156 next week, which is probably the most anticipated fight in the history of the 145-pound division. After Aldo and Edgar, there isn't a really clearly delineated line of contenders, as everyone is pretty much in "Group B." Lamas might have changed that, however, with a big-time knockout of the talented Erik Koch.
Demetrious Johnson: A
Champions are defined when they overcome adversity ... and Johnson did exactly that. With the talented and shifty Dodson drilling him with sharp counters in the first two rounds, and "Mighty Mouse" unable to score early takedowns, Johnson just kept doing what he does best -- pressing, pressing and pressing some more. It eventually broke down Dodson by the third and fourth, as Johnson's pressure, pace and persistence yielded results.
Johnson closed the show like a champ should, with a one-sided final round, battering Dodson from a relentless Muay Thai clinch with a ruthless procession of knees. This was two fights tonight -- the first, between a stronger challenger with better stand up, and the second, showing a champion with superior conditioning and a seemingly unbreakable will. Johnson is one hell of a fighter and he delivered big-time tonight against a very capable challenger.
Anthony Pettis: A
When Pettis wins, he wins big, and that's what makes him one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. And while some of his biggest victories have come on the heels of all-in moves that elicit highlight-reel results (wins over Ben Henderson and Joe Lauzon come to mind), tonight victory came off the basic instinct of sensing his man was wounded, and driving home another vicious body kick to finish the job. Pettis' standup and athleticism make him a difficult match up for guys who can't take him down, and given Donald Cerrone's style, this was a great match up for "Showtime."
And as the last guy to beat lightweight champ Ben Henderson, he should absolutely get the next shot at the title after Henderson's April 20 showdown with Gilbert Melendez. Sure, Pettis might be wrestle-slept against either guy, given how much the Ben has improved his stand up and overall game since they last met. But, he's also probably the challenger with the best chance of beating the imposing Henderson, who is unlikely to be overpowered by a fellow grappler. Pettis' big-time striking and accuracy make a him a serious threat to anyone in the division, and tonight he made a perfect case for why he's the top contender in the division. A bout against Melendez, should he win the title, would be equally compelling.
Pettis also turned the impressive trick of stopping the durable Cerrone via strikes, something nobody else has been able to do. That in itself is pretty damned impressive.
John Dodson: B+
Dodson went into his title challenge of Johnson confident, and his performance showed he has a bright future in the sport. He won the first two rounds (on my card) and showcased some brilliant counterpunching, seamless timing, and cement hips, negating Johnson's attack for the most part. He also showed one hell of a chin and resilience, taking a thumping in the fourth and fifth rounds, as the champ's conditioning essentially made it a one-sided fight at that point.
Dodson didn't win the title tonight, but given how well he performed in a five-round championship bout on a Fox main event, the guy is only going to get better. His numbing power and quickness - both of which gave Johnson more trouble on the feet than he's ever had - make him an exceptionally tough assignment for any 125-pounder. And while he'll have an early advantage in standup against any flyweight he meets in the near future, he would definitely benefit from using the threat of a takedown to open up his strikes. He's also fun to watch and we will definitely see "The Magician" take on some quality flyweights again soon, and he is a lock to get another title shot if he keeps improving.
Glover Teixeira: B
Teixeira made the most of his long wait to take on elite light heavies in the UFC, and tonight, he was equal parts patient and aggressive, showing improved stand up and, perhaps most importantly, a very good chin. Eating an occasional power shot from Jackson didn't deter the Brazilian, as he simply outworked the former UFC champ, showing superior conditioning that was obvious by the second round.
Teixeira still has some holes to fill in his game, however.
He tends to reach with his shots at times, and his stand up -- while upgraded -- isn't the kind of powerful striking to strike real fear in opponents. He'll need to change that if he's to keep moving up and succeeding against better competition. But he stood in there tonight with a very dangerous Rampage -- albeit a faded one -- took blows, and kept coming back with his own. He also mixed in takedowns very nicely with outstanding transitions between striking and grappling, and knew when to pick his spots across multiple phases, and when to brace himself for Jackson's rushes. Mauricio Rua is available and a logical next opponent, given that most of the promotion's light heavies are otherwise booked in the coming weeks and months. It would also be a great time to add another ex-champ to his list of scalps, given Rua's spotty showings in recent bouts.
Erik Koch: C
Koch didn't look terrible or out of sorts in any way. He simply got caught with some heavy ground-and-pound by an exceptionally strong 145-pounder, which brought about a bloody end. Early in the opening round, Koch looked like he was about to find his range and assert his superior stand up, but fates change quickly in this sport, and suddenly he was on the receiving end up a brutal knockout.
This is a tough loss for a guy scheduled to fight champ Jose Aldo twice last year, only to have both bouts scrapped due an injury to each of them. With the Feb. 16 Dustin Poirier vs. Cub Swanson match, Koch would make a very good fight against either of them, preferably the winner. The guy is always dangerous, and a fellow stand up artist in Poirier or Swanson would be the best showcase for him to start making a comeback up the rankings.
Quinton Jackson: D
As expected, Rampage started strong early, faded by mid-bout, and was soundly thumped in a one-sided match. While he showed flashes of his vintage self, bobbing, weaving and firing off big punches, Jackson's poor conditioning and general erosion over the three-round bout shot he's a fighter in the downslope of a long career. This was especially disappointing given that tonight was the last fight on his contract, and an impressive win would've bolstered his negotiating position. Instead, he's pretty much at the UFC's mercy, and given the big money he's been paid in the past, I'm not sure if he'll be willing to accept retread-level money.
It's kind of hard to see once-great fighters get old, and watching Jackson get buckled by strikes tonight made it obvious his best days are behind. There's bits and pieces of vintage "Rampage" that come out now and then, but the rest of it is pretty much a tired pile of faded skills.
Donald Cerrone: D
Cerrone's had a long career in combat sports. He was 28-1 as a kickboxer, and tonight was his 25th MMA bout. The injury suffered against Pettis might have happened without all those bouts, but recent showings have seen him absorb considerable punishment against Melvin Guillard and Nate Diaz. Tonight simply wasn't his night, as he was hurt early and taken out, and this was also, style-wise, his best chance of scoring a win against a top lightweight contender.
Watching Cerrone against fellow strikers is the best use of "The Cowboy," as wrestlers will basically took to lay and pray on him, which is a scenario that doesn't benefit anyone (especially viewers). The UFC would do well to pit him against someone like Joe Lauzon in his next fight, which would be a great chance for Cerrone to get another win, or, even more likely, another thrilling battle.
For complete UFC on FOX 6: "Johnson vs. Dodson" results, coverage, video and everything else you can handle click here.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.