The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) invaded Japan for the second year in a row last night (March 2, 2013) as UFC on FUEL TV 8: "Silva vs. Stann" went down at the historic Saitama Super Arena just outside of Tokyo.
The judge's had their hands full from start to finish as eight of the 11 bouts on the card went the distance, with the main and co-main events ending via (technical) knockout, respectively.
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 FUEL TV 8 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 Japan.
The Biggest Winner
Wanderlei Silva turned back the clock in his first fight in Japan since 2006 to earn a stunning second-round knockout victory over Brian Stann in one of the best fights of the year. Silva and Stann went after each other from the opening bell, engaging in some of the most thrilling striking exchanges you will ever see in an MMA bout.
Stann had the upper hand on the Brazilian in the first round, scoring several knockdowns over the course of the opening five minutes. He couldn't get the job done, though, and as the action slowed in the second frame, Silva boded his time until he found the perfect moment to plant a right hook, left hook combination on Stann's chin that dropped "All-American" and was followed by a series of shots on the ground that put the lights out.
Silva was a three-to-one betting underdog coming in to the fight, but he looked nothing over the sort in arguably the best performance of his UFC career. Many fans believed UFC on FUEL TV 8 would be the last fight of Silva's Hall-of-Fame career; however, his performance against Stann changed all that and now fans are craving for more of "The Axe Murderer."
What can you say about Mark Hunt? "The Super Samoan" has risen from MMA obscurity to become a top-10heavyweight in 2013 following his upset third-round technical knockout of Stefan Struve in the UFC on FUEL TV 8 co-main event.
It is wild to think that when Hunt made his UFC debut in Sept. 2010, he had a record of 5-6 and the only reason he was even fighting for the organization was because of leftover fights on his contract from when the UFC purchased the now-defunct Pride organization.
While Hunt didn't show the best fight IQ in the bout by playing into Struve's game and fighting "Skyscraper" on the ground where he's strongest, the American Top Team (ATT) product showed serious improvement to his game by escaping several dangerous positions in the first and second rounds.
Both fighters were exhausted in the third round of the bout, but Hunt managed to overcome his fatigue and connect with an overhand right, left hook combination that broke the Dutchman's jaw -- literally.
No one would have ever predicted Hunt to be a contender in the heavyweight division after being submitted by Sean McCorkle in 63-seconds in his UFC debut at UFC 119, but after putting together a current heavyweight best four-fight win-streak, the 37-year-old is exactly that.
Takeya Mizugaki gets honorable mention as biggest winner of the night not for the performance he put on in his split decision victory over Bryan Caraway, but for giving one of the most memorable post-fight interviews in recent memory with Jon Anik after the fight. Mizugaki burst into tears as soon as he was announced as the winner by Bruce Buffer and was absolutely hysterical. The emotion from the bantamweight fighter continued through the post-fight interview and as he walked backstage in one of the most candid sights in recent memory.
After giving a gutsy performance in front in his home country and perhaps saving his job with the organization by winning back-to-back fights for the first time in his 11-fight career under the Zuffa umbrella, Mizugaki was arguably the fighter most appreciative of winner to come out of UFC on FUEL TV 8.
The Biggest Loser
Stefan Struve said prior to UFC on FUEL TV 8 that if got Mark Hunt on the ground, the win would be his. Well, the UFC's tallest fighter was served the opportunity to back up his talk on a silver platter, and was never able to put his opponent away with strikes or a submission.
It's not as if "Skyscraper" only had a few chances to win prior to being knocked out in the third round; Hunt was fighting right into the game of the 25-year-old for the majority of the first two rounds and was never able to capitalize. Moreover, Struve didn't utilize his reach in the fight as he allowed a much smaller opponent to get inside on him and inflict an unnecessary amount of damage.
A win in Japan would have given the Dutchman a five-fight win-streak and catapulted him towards the top of the division -- now he is back to square one. To make things even worse for Struve, he suffered a broken jaw in the loss, which means he will have plenty of time on the sidelines to think about what's next.
Going in to UFC on FUEL TV 8, Hector Lombard seemed like he was underestimating Yushin Okami. "Lightning" was talking more about a fight against fellow middleweight contender Michael Bisping during pre-fight media than the opponent in front of him and when fight time arrived, the Cuban was defeated by his Japanese foe via split decision.
Okami controlled the first two rounds of the fight, but in the third Lombard turned the tables and nearly scored the finish. Lombard's inability to finish Okami when he was badly hurt and on the ropes makes the defeat sting even worse, and the former Bellator champion is now an underwhelming 1-2 inside the Octagon.
Aside from the third-round flurry, Lombard was never able to get off with his strikes and was slightly tentative for the majority of the contest. While he did a good job avoiding some of the takedowns of "Thunder," the former Olympian still succumbed to the dominant wrestling of his opponent, which is ultimately why Okami was awarded the win.
Where Lombard goes from here is anyone's guess, but after coming in to the UFC on a 25-fight undefeated streak, the 35-year-old certainly hasn't lived up to the hype.
Diego Sanchez recorded a split decision win over Takanori Gomi; however, his performance was far from impressive.
Many people, including this writer, believe Gomi clearly won the fight 29-28. The judges did not feel the same way, though, as "The Dream" was awarded the fight in his first bout since Feb. 2012.
Yes, Sanchez left Japan with his "show" and "win" money, but the victory was far from "clean." The controversial decision paired with the fact the 31-year-old failed to make weight for the bout makes Sanchez the honorable mention for biggest loser of the night.
Who were your biggest winner and loser from UFC on FUEL TV 8? Let us know in the comments in the comment section below.