It's not rocket science to figure out the big winners from Saturday's UFC 126 in Las Vegas. Jon Jones emerged as a light heavyweight title contender with a victory against Ryan Bader. Anderson Silva, on the strength of a stunning front kick, was devastating in a first-round knockout of Vitor Belfort. A rusty Forrest Griffin won a unanimous decision over Rich Franklin after a long layoff, and the former light heavyweight champion should continue to progress when he hits the road to work with new trainers, as he says he'll do for his next fight.
Fans won again with an action-packed night. There were six finishes on an 11-fight card -- a pretty good counterpunch to the assembly line of knockouts and submissions seen the previous week at "Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg," and at a higher level of competition. We're seeing more fights, too. There were but two dark fights on UFC 126, and the live streaming of preliminary fights on Facebook appears to be here to stay. There is word from UFC president Dana White of a breakout success in pay-per-view buys, and the all-Brazilian main event attracted a record level of international interest.
But let's talk for a second about a few guys who helped make it happen for the fighters.
It's laughable that just a few months ago, Jackson was at the center of controversy for producing fighters who don't finish fights. Jones was not his only student to earn a submission win at UFC 126; longtime pupil Donald Cerrone submitted Paul Kelly despite taking some heavy punches during their fight on the Spike-televised portion of the card. And last month, Melvin Guillard railroaded red-hot prospect Evan Dunham.
Jackson's fighters are winning, and they're often doing it in stunning fashion. It's a cyclical business when you run a fight team. Unfortunately, coaches, like referees or judges, often get no credit when things go right, and they get blamed when things go wrong. So let's put the "fighting safe" critique to rest, shall we?
Probably some of both. Credit often gets generously spread around in prizefighting. It's possible Silva really does have an interest in Seagal's Aikido background. Maybe they share a kinship through the martial arts. Or maybe Silva is just a big fan of
There is no way Seagal can lay claim to what Muay Thai fighters call a "teep," or thrusting front kick. It's no secret. Silva has always been an adventurous striker, and he was a great martial artist long before he met Seagal. But hey, if the relationship inspired him to take a chance on the strike, more power to him. Whatever works, right?
Now, a few quick hits on the winners and losers from Saturday: