If Fox Sports 1 and the UFC were hoping for a memorable launch night, they got it with UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen. The card was among the most entertaining top-to-bottom in UFC history, featuring amazing performances, great finishes, massive upsets and tremendous action.
Topping the list of the unexpected was Chael Sonnen beating Mauricio Rua in the night's main event. The unexpected wasn't a Sonnen win -- he was only a small underdog -- it was the way he did it. He quickly scored a takedown, Shogun got up and got a takedown of his own, but he never disengaged from the wrestling game Sonnen wanted to play, getting taken down again and eventually submitted via a guillotine.
Sonnen isn't supposed to submit a guy like Rua, he's supposed to grind him down over the full fight.
I don't know what else to say about it really. Shogun had no real chance to get anything done, he was simply not ready for the way this fight went down, all too comfortable engaging in a wrestling battle he couldn't win.
Sonnen then called out Wanderlei Silva, but I'd much rather see Sonnen face Vitor Belfort in a bout with so much TRT that it can only possibly be held on a barge in international waters.
•Alistair Overeem simply lacks something that he needs to be the fighter he is supposed to be. He has the physical tools to be the best heavyweight in the world, but he doesn't seem to have the head to protect himself against dangerous heavyweights. He stops defending himself and gets blasted, it has happened twice now with Travis Browne front kicking him and finishing him with strikes on the ground.
•The Browne loss actually makes Overeem one of the biggest busts in UFC history. He had some really questionable drug test stuff happen before he fought Brock Lesnar, then he beat that shell of Lesnar, then failed a drug test, came back to get KO'ed by Bigfoot Silva and now was KO'ed by Travis Browne. Overeem was supposed to be a PPV draw, long-time heavyweight champion/contender, not a guy who legitimately should not even sniff the top 10.
•Urijah Faber is an incredible success story. He was champion for an extended time and despite losing the title and aging (something that tends to take a bigger toll on smaller fighters) he still is clearly one of the absolute best fighters in the world in his division. He might never have another title run, but he's not going away any time soon. It looked bad at the start of his bout with Yuri Alcantara, getting thrown and mounted, but he survived and then wore Alcantara out, dominating the second and third.
•Matt Brown is on an incredible run. He has won six fights in a row, at least four of them over legitimate "tough opposition" including tonight's brutal knockout of Mike Pyle. Brown has been one of the most consistently entertaining fighters in the UFC for years and now he's on a somewhat shocking run that has him legitimately able to be talked about as a title challenger.
•Fun fact: the six fighters Brown has beat on this streak have a combined record in their last four fights of 18-6.
•Uriah Hall was booed again and lost on top of it. The fight was not exactly exciting and the two engaged in a weird crowd hype/high five segment with half a minute left in a fight that was clearly going to be close on the scorecards. it led to Dana White tweeting that it was horrible and "high five fight of the night! WTF!" I guess the UFC's brief love affair with Hall as the future of the division is over.
•Michael Johnson has finally delivered on the talk of him as a monster in the gym. Over the past year he has finally looked comfortable in the cage and his striking has taken massive jumps forward. He thrashed Joe Lauzon tonight. To the point where people decided Lauzon had to be sick or injured. No doubt Lauzon's history of brutally tough fights may have caught up to him, but Johnson was crisp, quick and accurate. He also threw in combination with regularity.
•Michael McDonald put on one of the most impressive fights in recent memory against Brad Pickett. Pickett is no joke and McDonald beat him up from the opening bell until locking in the triangle that finished the fight. McDonald is only 22 years old, he's had a title shot but he has so much upside that it's hard to not get excited thinking about how good he could be in a few years.
•Speaking of upside, Conor McGregor shut up some of his doubters tonight, really dominating Max Holloway. McGregor thought he hurt his knee during the fight so he stopped his aggressive striking game and just wrestled his way to the win. The skills he showed on the ground made it seem that he has been addressing the one big question about his game. He has a ton of hype behind him, but I hope that doesn't mean that they rush him to fights he isn't ready for. If given time he might develop into the force they're hoping.
•Again, this was one of the best nights of fights in UFC history and there's no way to consider it anything other than a success. The ratings will be interesting when they come in, but the fighters did their part to provide an exciting experience for the viewer.