UFC on Fox 7 had a little bit of everything, including eight knockouts and a marriage proposal. With many combatants fighting in the Octagon for the first time, some used the opportunity to establish themselves as contenders in their respective divisions, while other failed to rise to the occasion.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from the UFC on Fox 7 fight card held on April 20, at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif:
1. Smaller MMA promotions
Prior to UFC on Fox 7, Strikeforce fighters had already proved they belonged inside the Octagon, but Daniel Cormier, Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez, and Lorenz Larkin (he lost his fight to Francis Carmont, but I scored the bout in his favor) took things to another level on April 20. Cormier bullied a former UFC champion for 15 minutes, Thomson became the first man to knock out Nate Diaz (a feat even Benson Henderson couldn’t accomplish), Melendez almost became the first fighter to win a UFC title in his debut, and Larkin displayed impressive takedown defense and spinning kicks.
Make no mistakes about it, fighters from smaller MMA promotions are good enough to compete with, and defeat, the UFC’s stars – Strikeforce and WEC imports have proven that time and time again.
2. Josh Thomson
“The Punk” deserves some extra recognition for his performance at UFC on Fox 7, considering how domineering he was during his encounter against Diaz. He bloodied up Nate with hard elbows from the clinch, and managed to get the better of the striking exchanges a number of times. With just one fight, Thompson has established himself as a top contender in the UFC’s lightweight division. His performance earned him the Knockout of the Night award and an extra $50,000.
3. Gilbert Melendez
Even though he’s 0-1 in the UFC, Melendez is clearly going to be a dominant force in the promotion. “El Nino” didn’t have any problems stopping Henderson’s takedowns, which is something more accomplished wrestlers like Jim Miller, Clay Guida, and Frankie Edgar weren’t able to achieve. As far as I’m concerned, he’s currently the second-best fighter in the lightweight division right now. A couple of wins inside the Octagon should earn him another title shot.
4. Matt Brown
Brown took another step up the welterweight rankings – and Fight of the Night honors – with his TKO stoppage of Jordan Mein at UFC on Fox 7. Lesser men would have quit when Mein dropped Brown with a hook to the body and followed up with a barrage of punches, but “The Immortal” used the opportunity to threaten with submissions instead. Brown is yet to taste UFC gold, but it couldn’t be any clearer that he has the heart of a champion.
Notable mentions: Chad Mendes, Myles Jury, Joseph Benavidez, Anthony Njokuani.
1. Nate Diaz
With his loss to Thomson, Nate Diaz can forget about a second shot at the lightweight title for the time being. Thomson didn’t just defeat him, he made the Stockton native look bad, brutalizing him with elbows in the clinch and exposing flaws in Nate’s boxing. The loss was Diaz’s second straight, as he dropped a decision against Benson Henderson in the main event of UFC on Fox 5 on Dec. 8, 2012.
2. Francis Carmont
Carmont might have been declared the winner, but he didn’t gain any new fans with his UFC on Fox 7 performance. He had a hard time getting the fight to the ground – where the Frenchman wanted to take the fight – and Larkin mesmerized fans with all sorts of spinning kicks and fists. Luckily for Carmont, for the second straight time, the judges handed him a favorable decision.