Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered yet another mixed martial arts (MMA) event fans will be talking about for the duration of the week (and maybe even months to come). It is always a memorable night when UFC visits eastern Canada and this time it was no different.
A contingent of Canadian fighters on the card did not have the evening they were looking for with the exception of a few who dazzled -- and even bored -- the crowd.
The real stories of the night derived from the main and co-main events, where both champions in their respective bouts hung on to their coveted prizes, with one of them participating in the fight of his life (see it again here).
Jon Jones successfully defended his UFC Light Heavyweight championship a sixth consecutive time, closing the chapter on Tito Ortiz's record (see the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy's reaction here) and became the most winningest 205-pound champ in the promotion's history -- if not the greatest of all time, depending on who nods their head in agreement.
"Bones" did not steamroll through his opponent with ease per se -- he was in a war for the ages with Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson, who stood right in front of the champion from the opening seconds and hit the New York native with blow after blow (follow our live play-by-play here).
Interests peaked and eyebrows were raised when Gustafsson landed a takedown on Jones in the first round, making him the first competitor to ever do so. In addition, he opened up a gnarly gash over the champion's right eye (which almost caused the fight to be called off).
Gustafsson and Jones played the stick-and-move game for another couple of rounds, with the Swede being bouncier on the feet, until the championship rounds when "Bones" poured it on, landed a brutal spinning elbow that caught his foe off guard. He followed up by pouncing on "The Mauler;" however, the horn to signal the round was almost nearing the end may have saved the challenger.
"The Mauler" stuffed a pair of takedowns from the champion, proving that training with Phil Davis at Alliance MMA did wonders for this encounter. The combinations were also out in full force, as he had zero fear when trading with "Bones" and his boxing was crisp, timely and he did not take too many risks.
Ultimately, Jones landed more strikes, never looked to be in serious danger and had a fantastic display of accuracy. He never stopped working to get the unanimous decision from the judges (although the 49-46 scorecard was so horrendous, that it reminds us we should not even be surprised or try to look for answers).
Was it reach, distance and height?
It obviously had something to do with the outcome; however, it also had something to do with heart, courage and skills from both men. Now that both competitors are out of action for awhile, and Glover Teixeira is slated to be the next opponent, both men are eyeing the possibility of meeting again in the near future -- with the challenger wanting a rematch right away.
Who know, they could even get "Fight of The Night" again.
The co-main marked the 31st victory for interim bantamweight titleholder Renan Barao, who may have delivered the knockout of the year besides winning "Knockout of The Night" with a spinning kick that clocked Eddie Wineland right in the face, just as the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion bent down (watch their highlights here).
The first round was pretty even, with Wineland nailing Barao with a nice shot that did not hurt the champion, though it staggered him back a bit. Both bantamweights went at it furiously, with a pace that was so fast it reminds us of what is special about these weight classes.
In the second round, it was much of the same until 30 seconds in, when Barao delivered an incredibly nasty spinning-back kick right on the chin that knocked Wineland back. He was eventually finished by punches when Barao swarmed him.
Barao should be called the actual bantamweight champion since the interim tag is just annoying right now. Hopefully, the champion, Dominick Cruz, can be back for early 2014 and we can get an epic title fight for the ages to unify the straps once and for all.
There was a lot of bad blood between Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione, and it was "The Hybrid" who got the last word. Schaub was able to redeem himself from embarrassment at Metamoris and his last fight against Lavar Johnson, as he submitted Mitrione in the first round (watch highlights here).
With no touch of gloves, Schaub and Mitrione stood up with each other and looked for the knockout blow, with Schaub getting the most significant strike with a walloping hook that clocked Mitrione and opened up a cut. He then landed a takedown after a wild combination, showcasing his jiu-jitsu skills and locked up a D'Arce choke to put Mitrione to sleep, who originally gave the thumbs up and clearly did not want to tap.
Schaub got the biggest win of his career, and more importantly, it was redemption.
Mitrione clearly has a lack of ground game, as we saw in this fight and with previous opponents like Cheick Kongo. Who knows what is going on in the mind of "Meathead," but at 35 years old and a record of 1-3 in his past four, it may be a sign that the end is near.
Schaub moves to 2-2 in his last four and 6-3 in UFC.
Fighting out of Montreal's TriStar camp with the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald, Francis Carmont defeated middleweight slugger Constantinos Philippou in a showing that was not to everyone's liking (check out our recap here).
Grilled by the fans and Dana White on social media, Carmont took Philippou down at will early on in each of the three rounds and started to grind the Cypriot until each buzzer sounded. Carmont's wrestling is among some of the best in the division and the Toronto crowd grew restless fast, booing the countryman by way of France and having no regard for the different styles that present themselves in the sport, besides slugging it out on the feet.
Philippou was incredibly frustrated, even showing his distaste at the end of the second round.
Carmont literally smothered Philippou to the point of no return and he should now receive a top 10 opponent. However, it is no secret that UFC feels wrestling-based, "boring" performances should go away and who knows if these types of fighters have a place on future main cards.
When are we going to hear that Francis Carmont is too "expensive?"
Kicking off the main card was an anticipated lightweight bout between Pat Healy and Khabib Nurmagomedov and it was not a terrible fight, just not what everyone was expecting (check out the results here).
Both fighters had some good moments in the first round, with 40 significant strikes landed by Nurmagomedov. Healy was dishing out his fair share of punches as well; however, his opponent had more success with grappling and takedowns in the second round.
Being the bigger competitor, Healy was unable to land real clean shots on the inside, as Nurmagomedov was able to circle on the outside and land some big uppercuts when his opponent came through. The grappling battle ultimately went to Nurmagomedov, who spent the majority of the third round in top position and started to smother Healy, who did not have an alternative.
In the third round, a huge Matt Hughes-esque slam was performed by Nurmagomedov, who enlightened the crowd and that was perhaps the best -- and most exciting -- moment of the fight.
"The Eagle" stays undefeated, with a 21-0 record and expect him to get a difficult opponent in his next fight. Not only a top 10 competitor; someone he could beat en route to a potential title fight.
With not much going on in he stand-up department, there was an incredible amount of stalling in the wrestling and ground game too, with Jury dominating Ricci in the last two rounds of the fight. What was supposed to be a war was incredibly boring to watch and was not a good look for UFC to have this fight headline the "Prelims" in hopes to generate PPV buys.
Jury stays undefeated, yet it was one of those performances that really pissed off his bosses, since they always want exciting fights. It was a dominant performance minus the split decision call, and it did show us that the two-time Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran is not just an adept slugger.
Ricci though, must improve his ground game to be a better, well-rounded fighter. He has now been dominated by Jury and Colton Smith in UFC and if he cannot improve, it will be dangerous for his job. Ricci has not won two straight fights since 2009 and is 3-4 in his past seven bouts.
Although Menjivar's guard is world-class, having a jiu-jitsu expert like Reis on top forced Menjivar to hang on, without much work from both men on the ground. The TriStar fighter tried to weaken his opponent with strikes from the bottom; however, he was no match for the Brazilian, who set up his takedowns in the grappling game and relentlessly tried to take his opponent down whenever he had a chance.
There were nice displays of the clinch game in this fight but apart from that, there was nothing that compared to Reis' work on the floor that we can take away from this fight.
Reis is now on a five-fight win streak, winning his promotional debut while Menjivar should not go down too far in the pecking order with this loss since he is 4-3 in UFC although he has lost two in a row and three out of four.
He definitely needs a victory in his next fight.
Chris Clements could not find an answer for kickboxing savage Stephen Thompson, who mixed up his game and went for takedowns, as well. He spent the majority of the first round on top of Clements, with the Canadian finding a reversal and doing a satisfactory job of staying in there with "Wonderboy."
Not only were Thompson's takedowns impressive, he dropped Clements early in the second round and that was the beginning of the end. As the Canadian got up, he was stung by a left hand that started to buckle his knees and another combination flush down the middle dropped him.
This display from Thompson proved a full arsenal is now under his belt. In addition to knocking out Clements, he also showcased his grappling and takedown skills in this fight and that should be noted. Without being just a kickboxer anymore, Thompson moves to 8-1, with his only loss coming against Matt Brown.
Canadian Mitch Gagnon got the tenth win of his career on Saturday night, with all of his wins coming by submission. The Sudbury, Ontario fighter snapped Dustin Kimura's undefeated streak, although it did not prove to be painless for Gagnon, who was badly hurt with a body shot at the halfway point of the first round.
Gagnon immediately took him down and survived a heel hook and as both men wound up on their feet, they started to bang it out some more.
It was all Gagnon afterward as he clocked Kimura with left hands and went to the body. With Kimura clearly hurt, "The Diamond" went for the takedown and found himself in a world of hurt, as Gagnon slapped a guillotine choke on him in
Kimura refused to tap, but went to sleep instead.
Gagnon received an additional $50,000, earning the "Submission of The Night," snapping Kimura's winning streak, who is now 10-1. Gagnon, who is now on a two-fight winning streak, finds himself at 10-2 and with the sole exception of a slam, all of his submissions come by way of choke, either a rear-naked or a guillotine.
Halifax-born John Makdessi closed out the Facebook "Prelims" in devastating fashion, knocking out the former TUF Brazil cast member Renee Forte in just two minutes, with the former being hit on the temple and falling face-first to the mat. It took the referee a few minutes to intervene, as Forte was on dream street and the fight should have been stopped a few seconds earlier, though it was not one of those frustrating moments when an incompetent referee nearly costs a man his life.
It just could have been sooner.
The striking standout, also fighting out of TriStar, is on a three-fight winning streak, with a UFC record of 5-2, and will look to improve his positioning on the upcoming fight cards with a breathtaking performance.
Although a last gasp haul by short-notice replacement Jesse Ronson fired up the crowd, Michel Prazeres was too much to handle on Saturday night. "Trator" moved to 17-1 and earned his first UFC victory with a grappling clinic over Ronson, who stepped in courageously for Mark Bocek just a few weeks before the fight.
Prazeres was too much of a problem for Ronson on the ground, using his superior grappling skills and was not at all affected by anything Ronson was able to bring to the table. A last-minute slam by Ronson had him grunt and pummel the Shooto and Jungle Fight alumni, yet it was too late, since he was not able to land a clean, devastating shot before the final sound and suffered the third loss of his career.
Alex Caceres, better known as "Bruce Leeroy," matched up well against Roland Delorme and both athletes had a great first-round of action. Getting dropped early in the opening frame, Caceres found a way to regain his composure and after mad scrambles on the ground, eventually took his opponent's back. Shortly after, Winnipeg's Delorme returned the favor.
It was a great first round with multiple positions being traded at a furious pace.
Caceres eventually established his jab with neat footwork, getting the best of Delorme on the feet. His striking was better than Delorme's on fight night, as he landed more significant strikes with the Canadian looking as if he had trouble connecting to hurt "Bruce Leeroy."
Caceres' performance was just what he needed, as he improves to 9-5 and besides the one "No Contest" he suffered earlier this year (his win was overturned because of a positive drug test), he has three victories in his past four fights.
The first bout of the night was seen on Facebook, and featured two heavyweights making their promotion debuts: Strikeforce veteran Nandor Guelmino and Daniel Omielanczuk. This was not half as bad as Nikita Krylov and Sao Palelei, although both looked a little too sluggish for UFC mainstays, as each of them found strong points on the ground but came out exhausted in the third round.
After catching Guelmino with a left hook, Omielanczuk followed up with another huge shot and Guelmino went to the canvas crashing, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that the fight was now over.
Omielanczuk may have gotten a late knockout, but performances like his must have him wary in his next fight. All it would take is another gas tank emptied for him to get finished and the brass may not want to let inexperienced heavyweights hang around too long. It is a Catch-22 for them also, since the division has always been thin and could use some new blood time and time again.
There you have it.
For more on the UFC 165 pay-per-view (PPV) event including live results, play-by-play, recaps, highlights, videos, reactions and more, check out our "Jones vs. Gustafsson" live story stream by clicking here.