Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) closed out 2014 with a bang last evening (Sat., Dec. 20, 2014), staging UFC Fight Night 58 in Barueri, Brazil. After a night full of finishes on Fox Sports 1, fans will certainly hope the momentum continues heading into the mammoth cards planned for 2015.
In the main event of the evening, Lyoto "Dragon" Machida made quick work of "Doberman" CB Dollaway, obliterating the former Arizona State University wrestler with a brutal body kick just about one minute into the fight. The win proved that Machida is still amongst the very best fighters in the world, and is just one step away from being a champion once again.
Check out the highlights here.
In the co-main event, former UFC Bantamweight champion Renan Barao returned to the win column, taking a hard fought third round submission victory over the very game Mitch Gagnon (highlights here). Although Barao was victorious in Brazil, his victory likely won't garner him a crack at the title just yet.
With that quick recap of the night's marquee bouts, here are your biggest winners, as well as the runners-up from Barueri.
Biggest Winner: Lyoto Machida
Lyoto Machida may have been the light heavyweight champion back in 2009, but there is no question his best weight class is 185 pounds.
"Dragon" has put together four masterful performances since shedding the extra weight, earning "of the night" bonuses in each of his middleweight bouts.
Although Machida lost a captivating battle with middleweight champ Chris Weidman earlier this year, his performance in that fight and last night could garner him a rematch if he is able to pull out one more marquee victory.
After dispatching of CB Dollaway in ferociously brutal, but wonderfully technical fashion, Machida is right back in the thick of title contention heading into 2015. With each and every fight, Machida's legacy continues to grow brighter, and the future Hall of Famer proved he has a whole lot left in the gas tank last evening.
Could former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold be next for "The Dragon"?
Runners-up: Rashid Magomedov
While mixed martial arts (MMA) fans clamored over the "Irish takeover" during Conor McGregor and Co.'s impressive run in 2014, many missed the "Dagestani takeover" that continued last evening.
Rashid Magomedov, alongside Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rustam Khabilov and Ali Bagautinov, have all put Dagestan on the map with their performances since joining UFC.
Last evening, the 19-1 Magomedov earned his third straight UFC victory, finishing the previously undefeated Brazilian prospect Elias Silverio by (technical) knockout in the third round. Magomedov put together an exceptional performance, counter-striking the Brazilian in enemy territory, and utilizing his speed advantage the entire fight.
Although Silverio tried desperately to change the complexion of the fight, Magomedov refused to give an inch. Just when UFC commentator Brian Stann noted that Magomedov may have taken his foot off the gas pedal in the third round, the Dagestani unleashed a brutal left hand that had Silverio in all sorts of trouble. After some follow-up shots, Magomedov earned his first stoppage in his UFC career with only three seconds remaining in the fight.
Expect to see Magomedov make his way into the top 15 of the lightweight rankings heading into 2015.
Just 11 or so days ago Renato Carneiro had no fight scheduled, let alone a bout in UFC. Today, Carneiro is among the biggest winners of UFC Fight Night 58 after a sensational performance on short notice against Tom Niinimaki.
Carneiro not only had the tough task of fighting Niinimaki, but he was also replacing Brazilian fan-favorite Rony Jason. Even with the cards seemingly stacked against him, Carneiro rose to the occasion in thrilling fashion, putting it on Niinimaki early and often.
Carneiro was lauded as a jiu-jitsu specialist coming in, but the Brazilian was showing off his exceptional striking technique, basically using Niinimaki as a punching bag for the majority of the fight. Carneiro utilized a huge speed advantage that continued to leave Niinimaki swinging at air.
Ultimately, Carneiro cracked Niinimaki in the second round, and quickly submitted him via rear-naked choke just moments later.
Carneiro's performance was truly one of the best of the evening, especially considering the circumstances. Now imagine what this kid could do with a full training camp!
Biggest Loser: CB Dollaway
This is going to be a tough loss to swallow for Dollaway.
The former Arizona State wrestler never really gave himself a chance against the masterful Lyoto Machida last evening, as he started off the fight within kicking range of "Dragon" instead of pushing the pace and getting in Machida's face.
Anyone making predictions prior to the fight noted that Dollaway simply can not risk striking with Machida, and will need to employ a game plan of stifling wrestling in order to pull off the upset. Instead Dollaway came out, pawed some jabs, and ate a hellacious kick to the ribs that turned his body off in just about a minute.
Dollaway's loss will set him way back in the middleweight division, and it is going to take quite some time before UFC gives "The Doberman" another crack at an elite contender.
Runners-up: Antonio Dos Santos
Like Renato Carneiro, Antonio Dos Santos was not scheduled to fight, let alone make his UFC debut, only about eleven days ago.
When Dan Miller was forced to withdraw from his fight against Daniel Sarafian last week, UFC opted to give the Jungle Fight light heavyweight champion Antonio Dos Santos a shot inside the Octagon.
The problem? Dos Santos and Sarafian are close friends, who in fact used to live with each other! Nonetheless, both men knew their fight was a matter of business, and the Brazilians put on a show for the fans in attendance.
Once again, the UFC debutant looked strong on short notice, showing off his speed and power as he consistently rang Sarafian's bell.
Unfortunately for Dos Santos, an exchange in the second round saw the Brazilian's finger get dislocated badly on Sarafian's head. After seeing his mutilated finger, Dos Santos reactively called a timeout to fix his digit, which forced the referee to call an unceremonious end to the fight.
Dos Santos certainly could have won the fight last evening had it continued, but the injury will force him to accept a TKO loss in his UFC debut.
All is not lost for Dos Santos, however, as his performance on short notice proved he is worthy of a UFC roster spot.
Say what you want about a late stoppage, but Igor Pokrajac likely was not getting up after feeling the mammoth power of Marcos Rogerio de Lima.
Pokrajac returned to the Octagon last night after a year long sabbatical, riding a two-fight losing streak (which really should have been four straight), and yet he was granted a slot in the "Prelims" main event.
Who knows? Maybe the Croatian's time off made him a better fighter. Maybe UFC thought Pokrajac's name was worthy of the "Prelims" main event.
Regardless, Pokrajac got dusted in violent fashion in just under two minutes, marking what should be his fifth straight loss inside the Octagon. If the Croatian does not retire, I expect UFC to cut ties with the veteran.
Either way, last evening's loss was not the way Pokrajac wanted to end his UFC or MMA career.
That's a wrap!
For complete UFC Fight Night 58 results and coverage of all the night's action click here.