Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Newark, New Jersey last night (Sat., April 18, 2015) for an action-packed evening of fights at the UFC on FOX 15 event, featuring a pivotal main event pitting Lyoto Machida against Luke Rockhold.
In the end, Rockhold put on a career-defining performance, utterly dominating the former light heavyweight champ en route to a second round rear-naked choke victory (highlights here). The former Strikeforce champ unquestionably nabbed the No.1 contender spot with his performance in New Jersey.
The co-main event featured the out-gunned Chris Camozzi losing once again via submission to Ronaldo Souza in the very first round. This time, "Jacare" latched on to an armbar that closed the show in just over two minutes against his short notice opponent.
With that quick overview of the night's marquee bouts, here are your biggest winners, as well as the runners-up from New Jersey.
Biggest Winner: Luke Rockhold
From his nonchalant walk-out, through his dominant performance, all the way through his pristine call-out of UFC champ Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold could do no wrong in New Jersey.
Rockhold made a major statement by becoming only the third person to finish Lyoto Machida, and he did it in style.
The American Kickboxing Academy product was in perfect form in both rounds, picking apart Machida both on the feet and the mat.
If anyone thought "Jacare" Souza was the No. 1 contender, you can bet your bottom dollar Rockhold stole that coveted title from the Brazilian.
Rockhold said it best, he and Weidman should make history at Madison Square Garden for UFC 194.
That of course only happens if Weidman "does his job" and defeats Vitor Belfort at UFC 187 in May.
Max Holloway is a legitimate top-10 talent in the UFC's featherweight division today.
At only 23 years old, "Blessed" won his 13th professional MMA fight -- nine of which have come inside the Octagon -- with an absolutely impeccable performance against Cub Swanson.
Even though Holloway came into the fight on a five fight winning streak, he had not defeated a top ranked opponent -- let alone No. 5 in "Killer" Cub.
The Hawaiian completely outclassed Swanson on the feet, hurting him throughout three rounds before pulling off an incredible guillotine late in the fight.
Holloway is easily one of the hottest fighters in MMA right now with five finishes during his six fight winning streak, and you can bet he will face another top 10 opponent his next time out.
Talk about a pint-sized beatdown!
Paige VanZant used Felice Herrig's face as a punching bag on Saturday night, drowning the kickboxing veteran with a slew of combinations over 15 violent minutes.
"12 Gauge" had huge pressure on her coming into her fight against her self-proclaimed idol. At only 21 years old, VanZant's mix of talent and looks saw UFC brass push her hard into a major FOX show in only her second UFC fight.
Oh, and did I mention she is one of the few Reebok sponsored fighters on the roster?
Things are looking up for the Team Alpha Male product, and there is only room to grow.
Did father time finally catch up to Lyoto Machida, or is Luke Rockhold just really sensational?
Either way, "The Dragon" looked a considerable step slower than his opposition in New Jersey, and ultimately he paid for it. After getting ragdolled and nearly finished in the first round, Machida was thrown to the mat early in the second before succumbing to a rear-naked choke.
At 36 years old, it will be intriguing to see where the former light heavyweight champ goes from here. Machida is 3-3 in his last six affairs, and while he has been facing only top-notch competition, he has not been able to beat the top dog.
While I don't suspect Machida to retire, it may be time for him to take a few fights against up-and-comers to see where he stands in the stacked middleweight division.
Cub Swanson had never lost two straight fights prior to his drubbing at the hands of Max Holloway last night. In a fight that Swanson badly needed to win in order to stay relevant in the stacked 145-pound division following his submission loss to Frankie Edgar, "Killer" Cub came out flat.
Sure Holloway put together a picturesque performance, but Swanson just did not look like himself in New Jersey. The Jacksons' MMA product was beaten to the punch on the feet, and when the fight did hit the mat, he seemed out of his element.
At 31 years old, now is not the time for Swanson to lose two straight fights. With his No. 5 ranking all but lost at this point, "Killer" Cub is going to need a big bounce back performance his next time out.
TUF 19 Winners
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 19 winners Corey Anderson and Eddie Gordon both had rough nights in New Jersey last night.
Gordon was granted the first fight of the night on UFC Fight Pass, and after getting head kicked into oblivion by Josh Samman his last time out, "Truck" really needed a victory in his backyard.
Instead, Gordon came out stiff as a board, seemingly taking a tremendous step backwards in the striking department before gassing badly midway through the second round.
In a close -- but absolutely terrible fight -- Chris Dempsey was granted the split decision win over Gordon.
As for Anderson, "Beastin' 25/8" was sleepin' by the time Gian Villante got done beating him down. After eating an endless serving of leg kicks, Anderson was put to sleep courtesy of a vicious right hand from Villante.
Both Anderson and Gordon will have to get back to the drawing board before stepping back into the Octagon again.
That's a wrap!
For complete UFC on FOX 15 results and coverage of all the night's action click here.