Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicked off 2016 with a bang last night (Sat., Jan. 2, 2016), as fans watching around the world witnessed an epic pay-per-view (PPV) event, featuring Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit's epic UFC 195 main event title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After a legendary 25 minute "Fight of the Night," Robbie Lawler narrowly defended his title via controversial split decision. Ultimately, the incredible battle came down to a razor close third round, which two of the three judges gave to "Ruthless."
In the co-main event, Stipe Miocic staked his claim for a UFC title shot by knocking out the resurgent Andrei Arlovski in under a minute (highlights here). The win was Miocic's second straight finish, and his fifth in eight career UFC victories.
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 Winners: Robbie Lawler & Carlos Condit
What. A. Fight.
It's not often you get the "Fight of the Year" by January 2nd, but the war between Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit may have very well sealed that title.
At the end of the day, Lawler is still UFC's Welterweight Champion, but to put Condit amongst the "Losers" of UFC 195 would be an absolute crime.
The UFC 195 title fight somehow exceeded expectations, as both Lawler and Condit gave everything they had to put on a brilliant display of violence, technique, tenacity, and heart.
Condit threw over 400 strikes in the five round war, pulling out every trick in his arsenal from flying knees to spinning elbows.
In the first round, "The Natural Born Killer" decked the champ, flooring him with a left hand that nearly ended the fight. But the "Ruthless" one stormed back, viciously knocking down Condit just one round later with a picturesque uppercut.
The fight was akin to something you would see in a blockbuster movie. It was almost unfathomable what Lawler and Condit were able to do inside the Octagon in the first four rounds, pushing each other to the absolute limit on multiple occasions and yet failing to give in or give up.
Then came the historic fifth round.
It seemed Condit's output had the challenger ahead on the scorecards heading into the final frame, and Lawler may have needed a finish to keep his title.
As expected, "Ruthless" let everything go in the final five minutes, landing ferocious haymakers on a badly hurt Condit. The "Natural Born Killer" not only survived the blistering barrage, he was firing back with hooks and elbows of his own.
The crowd was in a frenzy, Rogan and Goldberg were screaming, and Lawler and Condit were leaving everything they had inside the Octagon.
It was brilliant, it was savage, it was MMA at its finest.
While I personally scored the fight for Condit, the fight was excruciatingly close and tough to score at times. Considering how many had it tied going into the final round, Lawler absolutely did what he had to in the fifth to deserve the decision.
Lawler retained his title, but Condit is no loser.
So, how about they run it back at UFC 200?
Want a UFC title shot? Knock out former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski in 54 seconds and proceed to scream at Dana White demanding said shot.
At the post-fight press conference (watch the replay here), White agreed to give the No. 3 ranked Heavyweight the winner of the UFC 196 main event pitting Fabricio Werdum against Cain Velasquez in a highly anticipated rematch.
Of course, UFC brass has gone back on their word one too many times to trust in a title shot being "secured."
With Alistair Overeem recently knocking out former champ Junior Dos Santos, and the possibility of a trilogy fight if Velasquez defeats Werdum, Miocic isn't exactly guaranteed anything after UFC 195.
Still, it is hard to knock the 33-year old. He is 5-1 in his last six fights, has a full-time job outside of fighting, and just knocked out a legend in under a minute.
After UFC 195, not only does the "Fight of the Year" have a major candidate, but Michael McDonald will unquestionably be in the running for "Submission of the Year" by the time December rolls around.
Pulling off a wild comeback to finish Masanori Kanehara via rear-naked choke in the second round, McDonald avoided a major setback in his Octagon return and cashed an extra $50,000 for "Performance of the Night" as well.
McDonald looked rusty early on after not fighting inside the Octagon for over two years, and Kanehara capitalized by grounding the powerful puncher and controlling him for nearly 7 minutes.
In a wild exchange, Kanehara seemed moments away from causing McDonald to tap from a deep arm-triangle, before "Mayday" exploded out, took his opponent's back and sunk in the fight-ending choke.
The finish was simply jaw-dropping, and it will keep McDonald in the title hunt moving forward in 2016.
Biggest Losers: The Judges
There were a bevy of questionable decisions at UFC 195.
Scorecards were all over the place in Vegas last night, with four split decisions over the course of the event.
Of course, the highly controversial decision in the main event was the most notable flub in my opinion, as Carlos Condit seemed to earn the title 48-47.
The third round was the swing round for the judges, but to be fair, it likely could have been called either way.
It is tough to see a fighter land 84 more significant strikes, push the pace, have a higher output and yet lose a split decision, but alas, this is MMA and you never really know what you are going to see from the judges.
The other three split decisions were questionable as well, including Alex Morono edging out veteran Kyle Noke, Albert Tumenov squeaking past Lorenz Larkin, and Joe Soto losing to Michinori Tanaka.
The most baffling decision of UFC 195 actually occurred on a unanimous decision, as Justine Kish somehow got the nod over Nina Ansaroff.
Hopefully the puzzling decisions at last night's PPV are not a sign of things to come in 2016.
The resurgence of Andrei Arlovski was violently put to rest in Las Vegas last night.
Just over 15 years after his Octagon debut -- and over a decade since earning UFC gold -- Arlovski stepped into the co-main event of UFC 195 potentially one win away from an unlikely title shot.
Arlovski was 4-0 during his current UFC stint, rising as high as the No. 2 spot on the Heavyweight rankings before being pummeled by Stipe Miocic in under a minute.
While some would reckon the Belarusian's chin is essentially gone, it is hard to count out the 36-year old after proving so many people wrong during his recent rise back to Heavyweight prominence.
If anyone can return from such a brutal defeat, it would be Andrei Arlovski.
The 14-1 Irish phenom's career prospects took a slight hit on Saturday night as Dustin Poirier put an end to his two-fight winning streak, effectively exposing the holes in Joe Duffy's game.
In what was a highly anticipated Lightweight affair pitting two potential title contenders against each other, Poirier proved to be the one ready to make the next big leap into title contention.
After Duffy easily ran through Jake Lindsey and Ivan Jorge in his first two UFC bouts, the last man to defeat Conor McGregor started garnering some major buzz, leading to a major step-up in competition against "The Diamond."
Although Duffy lost, he proved to be a top-15 caliber Lightweight with his performance in Las Vegas, and should continue to fight ranked contenders from here on out.
At 27, Duffy still has plenty of time to work out the kinks in his game, and I expect the Irishman to come out as a better fighter his next time out.
For complete results from UFC 195: "Lawler vs. Condit," including play-by-play updates click here.