Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicked off the highly anticipated three-event weekend last night (Thurs., Dec. 10, 2015) with a bang, as fight fans at "The Cosmopolitan" witnessed an epic UFC Fight Night 80: "Namajunas vs. VanZant" event, featuring a bevy of finishes and exciting fights.
In the main event of the evening, Rose Namajunas completely outclassed Paige VanZant in her best performance to date, putting the entire Women's Strawweight division on notice.
The co-main event saw Michael Chiesa notch the biggest win of his career by submitting the very dangerous Jim Miller in the second round of their Lightweight clash.
With that quick overview of the night's marquee bouts, here are your biggest winners, as well as the runners-up from "Sin City."
Biggest Winner: Rose Namajunas
In a night full of outstanding performances, none were better than Rose Namajunas' submission victory over Paige VanZant.
Coming in on five weeks notice as an injury replacement, Namajunas completely outworked and outclassed VanZant for five rounds before finishing the job via rear-naked choke in the final round.
Namajunas' technique was nearly flawless, doing whatever she pleased with VanZant in every single exchange whether it was on the feet, in the clinch, or on the mat.
Nearly every other fighter on the roster would have submitted or wilted under Namajunas' pressure in the first four rounds, but VanZant proved to be as tough as they come, valiantly fighting off several deep submission attempts before finally giving in to the choke late.
While "Thug Rose" is still relatively green in her MMA career, she is coming off two straight finishes, has already fought for UFC gold once, and sits at No. 3 in the rankings (see them here).
With Claudia Gadelha essentially guaranteed the next shot at the 115-pound champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, expect to see Namajunas fight for the No. 1 contender spot her next time out.
It was really difficult to choose who deserved this No. 2 slot after an incredible night of fights at "The Cosmopolitan," but Michael Chiesa's comeback submission victory over Jim Miller simply can't be overlooked.
Chiesa was very adamant before the co-main event feature that Miller had his time at the top of the Lightweight division, but it was now his own turn to stake his claim as a legitimate contender at 155.
Just a few minutes in, Chiesa's chances were looking dim as Miller had locked up a body triangle and was fishing for a rear-naked choke.
"The Maverick" ultimately fought through the bad position, and came out firing in the second round. When Miller dropped for a kneebar, Chiesa quickly transitioned to the back, and pulled off the slick choke to complete the comeback.
After his huge victory, Chiesa demanded Dana White and UFC brass give him a main event booking -- possibly against Beneil Dariush -- and added he wants nothing to do with any fighter who isn't currently ranked.
With two straight gritty victories, it will be hard for White and Co. to deny Chiesa the big fight he desires.
Sage Northcutt, Aljamain Sterling, and Tim Means
UFC Fight Night 80 was a superb event with a ton of captivating moments, so I simply could not justify picking a single fighter to feature in the final "Biggest Winner" slot.
Sage Northcutt fought through some mild adversity in his fight against Cody Pfister before pulling off a slick guillotine early on in the second round to keep his hype train moving. While his ground game proved to be suspect early on in the fight, he closed strong by finishing the fight off his back.
Aljamain Sterling went into UFC Fight Night 80 knowing he would be fighting his last bout of his UFC contract without signing a long term deal beforehand. Ultimately, Sterling's bet on himself cashed large as he brutally choked out Johnny Eduardo in the second round of their Bantamweight affair on the "Prelims."
"The Funk Master" was not featured on the main card despite being ranked No. 5 in the 135-pound division, likely because UFC brass didn't want to promote a fighter they don't have locked up for the future. Considering Sterling is 12-0 and has stopped three of his four UFC opponents, it would be hard to imagine UFC brass not paying Sterling a handsome sum to stay with the promotion.
Time Means returned to the Octagon last night following a tough loss to Matt Brown, and he quickly reverted to his violent ways by completely annihilating John Howard in Las Vegas. "The Dirty Bird" added yet another incredible knockout to his highlight reel, turning Howard's lights off with a picture-perfect left hook right on the button.
In his post-fight interview, Means asked for a rematch with "The Immortal," but regardless of who he fights, Means is must watch television.
Biggest Loser: Paige VanZant
First things first: Paige VanZant is tough as nails.
The submissions that VanZant escaped last night were literally unfathomable. Not only did she use her own blood to escape a ridiculously deep rear-naked choke early on in the fight, she wound up having her arm twisted in every way imaginable in the following rounds, and still refused to tap.
While we can praise VanZant's heart and toughness, the staggering defeat revealed just how far removed "12 Gauge" is from actually contending for UFC gold.
UFC put a lot of eggs into the VanZant basket, and they simply bit off way more than they could chew when it came to Namajunas.
On the bright side, VanZant gained a ton of new fans for her incredible display of heart alone, and at 21-years old, there is still a ton of time to improve.
This is definitely not the end of the road for the Team Alpha Male product.
Kevin Casey and Antônio Carlos Júnior
Being a professional fighter is incredibly difficult, as it is taxing on both the mind and body.
Fighters train for weeks on end to prepare for their fights, and most never get the opportunity to showcase their skills on the grand stage.
For those select few who get the opportunity to fight inside the Octagon, every moment must be taken advantage of, because you never know when it could all be stripped away.
That's what makes the no contest between Kevin Casey and Antonio Carlos Junior so difficult to swallow.
Just 11 seconds into their fight, an errant eye poke from the Brazilian caused such damage to Casey's eye that he was unable to continue fighting.
For both fighters to train so hard, stay healthy, study an opponent, make weight, and then have your fight end in 11 seconds because of an eye poke is just devastating.
Hopefully Casey's eye is not too damaged, and UFC matchmakers can quickly reschedule the fight in early 2016.
It needs to be said: The referee's stand-up in the first round as Cody Pfister was on top of Sage Northcutt was complete and utter crap.
It took all of five seconds for Pfister to take down Northcutt early on in their main card tussle, and the massive underdog was working from guard as Northcutt did essentially nothing but hold on for dear life.
Pfister made some momentary passes, threw some punches, and was certainly working, but the referee warned him to improve position or risk being stood up.
"The Pfist" responded by continuing to work, but the referee inexplicably stood them up with about 1:45 left in the round.
Of course, Northcutt went on to dominate the final moments of the first, completely changing the tide of the fight.
I'm not suggesting the stand-up is what cost Pfister the fight altogether, but it's hard to argue he didn't get the short end of the stick in that situation.
Regardless, Pfister will likely fade back into obscurity following his loss to "Super" Sage in Vegas.
For complete UFC Fight Night 80: "Namajunas vs VanZant" results, including play-by-play updates, click here.