Saturday night's UFC 133 saw: the return to action of the prodigal light heavyweight No.1 contender after a 14-month layoff; the brutal end of a fairy tale come back by one of the UFC's old lions; the return to form of another of the promotion's legends; the demolition of one of Japan's biggest fighting stars; a bizarre battle of bad fashion decisions; a journeyman making the most of his unexpected main card opportunity; and a young prospect who rolled past a veteran gatekeeper just the way it's supposed to be done. All in all it was a fine night of MMA action and one that casual fans and hardcores alike will want to revisit.
Let's go through the whole card and revisit some of the most memorable moments.
- Two of the four Facebook fights made the pay-per-view broadcast Johny Hendricks vs. Mike Pierce and Ivan Menjivar vs. Nick Pace. Both fights were hard-fought, three-round decisions. Fans will want to watch the Menjivar bout especially closely as he snuck past Pace with a decision that raised a lot of eyebrows. Hendricks looked like a contender as he outpointed and outclassed the powerful and gritty Pierce.
- Alexander Gustafsson's deconstruction of Matt Hamill established the lanky Swede as a true contender in the 205lb division. He's 4-1 in the UFC but Hamill is by far the biggest name on his trophy wall. Gustafsson's sole loss is to the undefeated Phil Davis whom many think is the biggest threat to Jon Jones' title reign in the division. The fight highlighted the Spike TV broadcast portion of the card.
- The opener of the pay per view couldn't have been better. Rising young welterweight prospect Rory MacDonald showed emphatically that he has what it takes to get past the gritty veteran gatekeeper Mike Pyle. Pyle has derailed more than one prospect's UFC run to glory (see John Hathaway) and falls to 3-3 in his current UFC run. MacDonald's sole loss was being on the wrong end of a 3rd round come back by top title contender Carlos Condit at UFC 115. Expect big things from the 22 year old Canadian who's trained pure MMA since he was 14.
- Constantinos Philippou made the most of the unexpected opportunity that pulled him onto the main card to face veteran Jorge Rivera. Philippou edged Rivera in a back-and-forth tussle that saw both men land hard strikes and get involved in some sharp grappling exchanges. Philippou nearly submitted Rivera with an omaplata and managed to use it to control position for much of the second round in the turning point of the fight. It was Philippou's first UFC win after failing to make it to the house on a previous season of The Ultimate Fighter. No idea what's next for the 39 year old Rivera.
- Brian Ebersole usually owns the fashion faux pas of the night with his inimitable "hair-row" shaved into his chest, but Dennis Hallman one upped him by coming out in the smallest pair of speedos seen inside the Octagon ever. You'd have expected to see something like that coming out of Brazil or Europe in the mid-1990s but Hallman took it even further. Hallman threatened early with submissions but Ebersole made the most of a mid-first round reversal and pounded Hallman out. UFC President Dana White said later he was furious about Hallman's shorts and angry at the UFC empoloyees who let him wear it into the cage.
- The "old" Vitor Belfort was back with a vengeance last night. Facing the undersized Japanese Judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama, he responded to Akiyama's attempt to land a front kick (the very strike Anderson Silva used to KO Belfort in his UFC 126 title shot) with a barrage of punches, Belfort left no doubt that he remains one of the most dangerous boxers in MMA at any level as he took home the Knockout of the Night bonus. It could be a while before Belfort gets a second title shot, so middleweights will want to avoid "the Phenom" if they have title ambitions of their own. As for Akiyama, one of the biggest combat sports stars in Japan and South Korea he falls to 1-3 in the UFC and this was his first non Fight of the Night performance. Dana White said afterwards that he and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta have been pushing Akiyama to cut down to 170lbs. Time will tell if he's too old at 35 for a run in a new division. Regardless, Akiyama remains central to the promotion's plans to promote an event in Japan this year.
- Headliners Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz put on the Fight of the Night and were rewarded appropriately. Evans proved he remains the top light heavyweight contender and has been promised yet again that the next title shot is his after he waited for Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for months only to get hurt and miss his window. Then champ Jon Jones had to bow out of tonight's fight with a hurt thumb. Evans must be salivating at the prospect of fighting Jones or Quinton "Rampage" Jackson for the belt after those two face off at UFC 135 in Denver in September. As for Tito, his come back was short-lived after his upset win over Ryan Bader at UFC 132 but he won over a lot of fans and UFC President Dana White by jumping in against Evans and saving the card.