With 2014 coming to a close, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) put on a weekend doubleheader in Las Vegas and Phoenix that will not soon be forgotten. On Friday (Dec. 12, 2014) UFC crowned its first-ever women's strawweight champion as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 20 came to its rousing conclusion. On Saturday (Dec. 13, 2014) UFC put on the final FOX show of the year in a night jam packed with oddities and finishes.
In the main event of the TUF finale, former Invicta FC champion Carla Esparza became the inaugural UFC women's strawweight champion by running through fan favorite Rose Namajunas en route to a third-round submission victory (highlights here).
In the main event of UFC on FOX 13, former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos defeated Stipe Miocic via unanimous decision in a razor-close fight. Although the scorecards may suggest otherwise, Miocic gave Dos Santos a stiff test as the two heavyweights put on a show in Phoenix (highlights here).
With that quick recap, here are your biggest winners, as well as the runners-up from this past weekend.
Biggest Winner: Carla Esparza
How could it be anyone else?
The former Invicta FC strawweight champion did not have the privilege of defending her title right off the bat inside the Octagon in similar vein to former Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey. Instead, Esparza was forced to relinquish her belt in Invicta, and enter the TUF house with 16 of the very best strawweights gunning for UFC gold.
Esparza was ultimately named the No. 1 seed on the show, and was crowned the inaugural UFC strawweight champion this weekend after defeating fan-favorite Rose Namajunas via third round submission on Friday night.
Not only did Esparza beat "Thug," she dominated her in the second and third round with arguably her best career performance. Esparza's coaches put together a perfect game plan, and "The Cookie Monster" executed it to a tee.
No matter what happens from here, Esparza will always be remembered as the first-ever UFC strawweight champion, and that is something undoubtedly special.
One night after Carla Esparza earned the inaugural UFC women's strawweight championship, UFC may have crowned its first ever No. 1 contender in the brand new division.
The Polish Muay Thai world champion showed off her impeccable striking in an all-out war against former No. 1 Invicta contender Claudia Gadelha. In a fight that tested her takedown defense and mettle, Jędrzejczyk proved she was a lot more than a one-dimensional fighter.
After her razor-close split decision victory over Gadelha, UFC president Dana White noted that the undefeated Jędrzejczyk would likely be getting first crack at Esparza. While the fight against "The Cookie Monster" certainly won't be an easy task, Jędrzejczyk's confidence will be sky high after her performance at UFC on FOX 13.
Nobody fighting in UFC this weekend had as much pressure as Alistair Overeem did going into his main card bout against Stefan Struve on FOX.
Prior to sending Struve into the realm of unconsciousness (video here), Overeem had lost three of his last four via brutal knockouts. If "The Reem" could not defeat "Skyscraper" on Saturday night, it would have been an unceremonious end to his UFC career, and potentially his MMA career altogether.
The once highly-touted free agent who dominated Brock Lesnar in his UFC debut still has a ways to go before being considered in title discussion just yet, but staving off a pink slip from UFC brass earns him this slot on the "Winners" of the UFC weekend.
Biggest Loser: Nate Diaz
Get buried by UFC panelists during FOX show? Check. Miss weight by five pounds and skip UFC open workouts? Check, check. Get dominated by Rafael dos Anjos?
Three strikes, you're out?
If Nate Diaz was attempting to end his UFC career on Saturday night, he may have done a great job in earning a pink slip from UFC brass.
After taking a year off to complain about his pay, his manager, and anything else UFC did, Diaz returned to the Octagon and put up an absolute goose egg against No. 3-ranked Rafael dos Anjos. Not only did Diaz lose, he was not even remotely close to winning at any point in their 15-minute affair.
In a fight that had title implications, Diaz looked uninterested and subsequently got punished by the Brazilian. If Diaz does get another chance inside the Octagon, he better take the opportunity a lot more seriously than his co-main event slot at UFC on FOX 13.
In what would be his final fight in his illustrious MMA career, Jamie Varner was unable to pull out the victory in his home town of Phoenix.
After a strong start that saw Varner clip his opponent, Drew Dober, a failed lateral drop stunned him as Dober capitalized en route to taking mount and transitioning into back mount. "C-4" fought valiantly to get out of the bad position, but Dober latched on to the fight-ending rear-naked choke in under two minutes in the very first round.
The loss was Varner's fourth in a row, and it is clear that the former WEC champion is just not the fighter he once was. Before Joe Rogan interviewed Dober, Varner was given the stage to his announce his retirement (watch the video here).
Although Varner did not go out the way he would have liked, MMA fans around the world have to thank him for the great fights and wars he put on over the years.
In the biggest fight of his UFC career, Stipe Miocic came just a few minutes short of a monumental upset that could have catapulted him into title contention.
Miocic came into his UFC main event against former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos on a three-fight winning streak, and early on in the fight it looked as if Miocic would earn his fourth straight victory.
After battering Dos Santos in the first two rounds, Miocic began to slow down in the latter half of the fight. As Miocic's energy waned, "Cigano" began to land heavy shots on the Ohio native. Even though Miocic took some of the biggest shots Dos Santos had to offer, he was firing back with power of his own and never backed down in their 25-minute affair.
Ultimately, Miocic put up a valiant effort, but lost a unanimous decision in a fight he truly had in the bag early on (see the scorecards here). While Miocic may be out of title contention right now, the heavyweight division is so thin that one more victory could put him right back in the discussion in 2015.
That's a wrap!
For more results and fallout from the TUF 20 Finale, click here. For more results and post-fight news from UFC on FOX 13, click here.