Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, last night (Sat., Sept. 21, 2013) and with a number of knockouts on the "Prelims," the pay-per-view (PPV) main card continued the momentum, delivering with a great showing of mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
Jon Jones edged Alexander Gustafsson in perhaps the greatest title fight in Light Heavyweight history (watch full video highlights here), winning a close five-round decision after a total back-and-forth war. However, it was one of those calls that had the MMA bubble talking well after the fight was over.
That's because it was the "Fight of the Year" to date, with both the champion and the challenger showing their warrior spirits.
Gustafsson exceeded expectations, putting Jones in a dogfight, taking down the champion more than once and stuffing every takedown except for one. Indeed, the Swede surprised nearly everyone by making this more than just a competitive fight; in fact, in the eyes of many professionals, fellow fighters and media observers, he could have done enough to win it. Minus the scorecard of 49-46 in favor of Jones, this fight was one of those main events that is scored per round based on the judging system and there will always be controversy -- or just a river flow of opinions -- after the fact.
The interim Bantamweight championship, on the other hand, was decisive, as Renan Barao got his 31st consecutive professional win by torching Eddie Wineland with a spinning-sidekick to the face, rocking the former World Extreme Cagefighting champion a few steps back and followed up with punches (watch full video highlights here).
And that's just the top two from UFC 165 last night.
Unfortunately, in a sport like 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 defeat in front of the millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the eight-walled cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
There were several shining stars on UFC 165, including champions who retained their titles, challengers who exceeded expectations and competitors who cannot get the big wins.
With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser from the event in Toronto.
Biggest Winner: Renan Barao
Barao proved that he, too, has been sick of the interim tag that follows the 135-pound title. And if the main event of the evening was the "Fight of the Year," he certainly made a case for "Knockout of the Year" in the second round (and won the Knockout of The Night, as well), with an unorthodox spinning sidekick that clocked Wineland as the challenger crouched down, virtually walking right into it. Barao now moves to 31-1 with a "no contest" as well, having not tasted defeat since his career debut in 2005. He has beaten Wineland, Michael McDonald and Urijah Faber thus far in his UFC tenure , eagerly awaiting the news to have the chance to unify the title with the sidelined champion, Dominick Cruz, who has had a string of unfortunate knee injuries that has kept him out of action for two years now.
Barao and Jose Aldo are the only Brazilians holding titles in the UFC right now, and hopefully the former has just inserted himself a few notches above whoever he needs to be on the pound-for-pound list of the greatest fighters in the world (if that tag means anything at all).
What makes this special for Barao is now that Cruz has been away for so long, fans who are familiar with Barao will consider him the actual bantamweight champion and although nobody can take the fact away that Cruz is still the title holder, he has defending the title as many times in the UFC as the Brazilian (minus his two defenses in the UFC) and this makes for an interesting hypothetical tug-of-war to see who deserves to be called the "real" champion right now.
Another reason this fight cannot come any sooner.
Runner Up: Alexander Gustafsson
Yes, we are fully aware that "The Mauler" lost his championship fight; however, the Swede should not be considered a loser. He said he was going to shock the world and he did, taking it to Jones and making it a highly competitive fight for five rounds. And he was even considered the winner in the eyes of his peers, who thought he had done enough to be crowned the new champion.
Keep in mind, this was the first time he entered the championship rounds.
However, Jones must be credited for being the decisive winner. It is as simple as that. Everyone can cry robbery, though it would be more appealing to look at the positives of Gustafsson's performance as a heavy underdog who was supposed to be another victim for Jones, and was being overlooked with names like Glover Teixeira and Daniel Cormier being included in the fold before this bout even took place.
The heart of "The Mauler," his chin and his fighting spirit, having the heart of a lion, makes his place worthy on this list. He engaged right from the get-go, making this hard to top for being considered the fight of the year. If you are not a Gustafsson fan right now, you probably have had bad experiences with IKEA products, because this kid is on the rise and gave us a fight we will always remember.
Biggest Loser: Matt Mitrione
Not because of the trash-talking and badass attitude (since that is all a part of the game), more so because of the inability to win against the step up in competition over and over again. Matt Mitrione was choked unconscious, by his former friend, Brendan Schaub in the first round (it is safe to say they are friends again). Coming into the UFC by way of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10, Mitrione has had all of his nine fights in the UFC and is 6-3 which is not bad yet if you look at the guys he defeated, half of them are not even under contract anymore (Phil de Fries, Tim Hague, Christian Morecraft) and the guys he has lost are much better than that opposition (Brendan Schaub, Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo -- who is also not with the promotion).
Mitrione is now 35-years old, and he could still stick around yet he could keep on fighting the sub par heavyweights in the division but where would that lead him? A win over Schaub would have leapfrogged him into better positioning and would have geared him towards an opponent who could have either been ranked or sat right outside the rankings.
Not everybody is Kimbo Slice and sadly for Mitrione, Schaub was the perfect opponent for him to beat to further improve his status in the UFC. At this moment in time, who knows where Mitrione stands in the division.
Runner Up: Eddie Wineland
This is not to say Eddie Wineland's career suffered a whole lot, although he was on the receiving end of a brutal knockout in the second round and now finds himself at the bottom having to climb up in a prosperous Bantamweight division.
It was an tough loss for Wineland, who now finds himself with a promotional record of 2-3. And although he was the first WEC Bantamweight champion, with a handful of combined knockouts in WEC and UFC (he only has one in the UFC), this was his chance to shine and take the spotlight away from the proposed Barao vs. Cruz match up, inserting himself into the picture against "The Dominator."
Now Wineland will be hopeful he can stay on the main card, and work his way back up after a brutal knockout loss.
Unfortunately for Wineland, he cannot beat the world's best to label himself as exactly that, with his last three losses coming from names like Barao, Joseph Benavidez and Urijah Faber. Like mentioned before, it is not a career-threatening loss since he did have a decent first round, although he did not show us any other positive aspects we can take away from his performance.
For our complete coverage of UFC 165: "Jones vs. Gustafsson" click here.