The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) wrapped up its seventh network television event on Saturday night (April 20, 2013) as UFC on FOX 7: "Henderson vs. Melendez" went down from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
Former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion and current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson successfully defended his title for the third time as he defeated Gilbert Melendez by split decision in the main event of the evening in "The Shark Tank."
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 UFC on FOX 7 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 San Jose.
The Biggest Winner
Nearly 10 years after parting ways with the UFC due to the dissolution of the lightweight division, Josh Thomson returned to the organization in memorable fashion with a second-round technical knockout victory against Nate Diaz.
"The Punk" became the first man to finish a Diaz brother inside the Octagon and more importantly, was the first to finish The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 5 winner with strikes in his 16-fight UFC career.
Thomson displayed a disciplined game plan from the outset, as he never stood in front of Diaz for too long and constantly mixed up his attacks.
The finish came late in the second stanza when the 34-year-old connected with a powerful headkick that put Diaz on queer street and followed up with an onslaught of strikes that forced the corner of the Stockton native to throw in the towel just as the referee stopped the fight.
Re-entering the UFC on the heels of loss to Gilbert Melendez under the Strikeforce banner, Thomson felt he had to prove he is still one of the top lightweights in the world. He did exactly that by stopping the No. 4 ranked 155-pound fighter on the planet.
With one or two more performances like he had on Saturday night, it wouldn't be farfetched to say a title shot could be in Thomson's future.
The Team Alpha Male trio of Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and T.J. Dillashaw went 3-0 in San Jose and all looked absolutely sensational in winning their respective UFC on FOX 7 preliminary card bouts.
The camp has been on a hot-streak since hiring former UFC fighter Duane Ludwig as striking/head coach and all three men displayed improved skills on the feet in finishing their opponents by (technical) knockout in the first or second round.
The trio, which has labeled themselves as "Mendavideshaw," put on exciting performances in significant fights for their weight classes and at this point the team has never looked stronger.
It's not often that three high-profile fighters from one camp will be featured on a fight card, but that's what happened at UFC on FOX 7 and each man came through in spades.
Despite the controversial nature of his split decision victory over Gilbert Melendez, Benson Henderson walked away with another win in the UFC on FOX 7 headliner and tied B.J. Penn's UFC record for most consecutive lightweight title defenses at three.
The 25-minute battle was extremely close and scorecards from fans and media ranged from four rounds to one for Henderson to four rounds to one for Melendez. But ultimately two of the three judge's sitting Octagon-side felt the champion deserved to keep his belt and at the end of the day that's all that matters.
While you could make an argument for each man winning, it's difficult to be too upset about "Smooth" getting the nod because a majority of the rounds could have gone either way.
Henderson's seventh-straight UFC win tied him with Jim Miller and George Sotiropoulos for the longest win-streak in UFC lightweight history, and while people may not be happy about the result of the fight, Henderson is proving time after time he has what it takes to win and is well on his way to accomplishing his goal of being the most successful 155-pound champion in UFC history.
Fans may have a sour taste in their mouth regarding the result of Henderson's latest bout, but the 29-year-old will soon get the chance to put this fight behind him as it has already been announced he will put his title on the line for a fourth time against the winner of UFC 160's lightweight showdown between Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant
The Biggest Loser
Gilbert Melendez put on arguably one of the best performances of his career against Benson Henderson in the UFC on FOX 7 headliner. What was his rewarded for his efforts? A devastating split decision loss in the building where he made his career fame under the Strikeforce banner.
This writer scored the bout 48-47 for Melendez, giving him the first, second and fifth rounds, but the judges disagreed. "El Nino" entered the UFC with the goal to prove he is the top lightweight fighter in the world, and in the eyes of many he did just that.
On top of what he described as a "heartbreaking" defeat, there is no chance the 31-year-old will receive an immediate rematch as the Maynard-Grant winner has already been confirmed as Henderson's next opponent.
For no other reason than the fact he was debatably "robbed" out of the biggest win of his 11-year, 24-fight MMA career and will have to work his way back to a championship fight in a division where title rematches are given out like candy on Halloween, Melendez is UFC on FOX 7's biggest loser.
Nate Diaz was stopped for the first time in his UFC career at the hands of Josh Thomson, and it wasn't pretty. The 27-year-old has lost back-to-back fights in decisive fashion and it's hard to determine where he will go from here.
Days before UFC on FOX 7 Diaz proclaimed to the media that Saturday's fight will be his last in the lightweight division -- win or lose. But after seeing the way Thomson was able to outmuscle him in certain situations, moving up a weight class might not be the best idea.
Diaz has already made two ventures up to the welterweight division in his UFC career, and things did not go well for him, which is exactly why he came back down to lightweight.
It was truly a stunning sight seeing a Diaz brother finished inside the Octagon and after such a devastating loss there will be a high amount of intriguing around his next move.
While he did last three rounds against undefeated heavyweight sensation Daniel Cormier, former UFC champion Frank Mir delivered an underwhelming effort in the UFC on FOX 7 co-main event and has now lost back-to-back fights for the first time in his career.
Mir was supposed to be a reborn fighter after moving to Jackson's MMA to train for the fight. However, that was far from the case as the Las Vegas native didn't appear to have any new tricks up his sleeve and had no answer for Cormier's offense.
Mir showed some signs of life in the third round of the bout when he let his punches and kicks go, but he could not keep it up over time and lost the fight via a clean 30-27 sweep.
The 33-year-old has been in the UFC for well over a decade, has held titles, register significant wins and holds multiple UFC records. With all that he's accomplished and regardless of the fact he can still compete with the world's top heavyweight fighters, one has to wonder if Mir has anything left to prove at this point in his career.
Who were your biggest winner and loser from UFC on FOX 7? Let us know in the comments in the comment section below.