The UFC’s latest foray on network television certainly provided some interesting results. The actual winners of the fights are almost exactly what most had predicted, but the manner in which those victories came wasn’t necessarily what was expected. Nowhere was this more evident than in the main event, where Benson Henderson (20-3) picked up a very controversial split decision over Josh Thomson (20-6) after five rounds that were primarily controlled by ‘The Punk’. Thomson was able to take advantage of many of the grappling tendencies that Anthony Pettis was able to exploit in his first bout with Henderson. Thomson was able to take Henderson’s back in three separate rounds, controlling the former UFC champion for varying lengths of time. The Arizona fighter did land slightly more on the feet, but not nearly enough in most eyes to tip the balance from Thomson’s superior ground work. If I could compare the decision to another in MMA, it would be the Mike Easton/Chase Beebe fight. While not as egregious as that bout, I do feel that the wrong man was awarded the victory. While many contend that every round but the first and third were competitive, that doesn’t mean a fight cannot be accurately judged. The backlash over the decision has been a bit much, but the fact that Benson Henderson was awarded yet another controversial decision and Sal D’Amato had the scorecard most out of line with the rest of the MMA world is a bit frustrating. From here, Thomson — who broke his hand in the bout — says he may retire. At 35 years old, with a history of injuries and a tricky road in front of him to get back to the title shot he had previously earned, it’s hard to blame him for that stance after a disheartening loss. Henderson should take up the mantle of a high-level gatekeeper in the division, as there is no interest in seeing him take on Pettis again. However, Henderson would knock off many potential contenders, which even makes that proposition tricky. The co-main event had the outcome many expected, but took a bit longer than most had predicted. Stipe Miocic (11-1) outpointed Gabriel Gonzaga (16-8) over 15 minutes to take home the decision. Gonzaga took the first round on most scorecards — except two of the three judges — but tired after that and Miocic was able to pile up the strikes without much offense coming back his way. Gonzaga will continue to beat up low and mid-tier opposition, while Miocic deserves a step up in competition, as he has erased the loss to Stefan Struve at this point. Donald Cerrone (22-6, 1 NC) looks to finally be getting some consistency, as he dispatched Adriano Martins (25-7) with a brutal head kick with just 20 seconds remaining in the first round. Taking home the KO of the night bonus for his performance, Cerrone has now won more ‘of the night’ bonuses than any other fighter in Zuffa history. If Khabib Nurmagomedov continues to find himself without an opponent, Cerrone would likely be willing to step up to face the undefeated Russian.
Opening up the Fox card, Jeremy Stephens (23-9) continued his resurgence at featherweight with a dominant decision victory over Darren Elkins (17-4). Elkins was never able to get his trademark wrestling going, as Stephens has improved his takedown defense greatly and has better physical advantages at his new weight. A fighter more willing to exchange with Stephens on the feet, such as Dennis Siver, may be an appropriate next step. On the preliminary portion of the card, Alex Caceres (10-5, 1 NC) and Sergio Pettis (10-1) put on a fantastic performance which Caceres capped off with a rear-naked choke just 21 seconds from the final bell. Eddie Wineland (21-9-1), Daron Cruickshank (14-4), and — shockingly — Nikita Krylov (16-3) were the other stand outs on the undercard, as all three finished their fights with strikes, the latter two with head kicks. Combined with Cerrone’s head kick on the big Fox portion of the card, this was the first UFC card in history with three head kick stoppages. Quite the night of violence indeed.