The evening's main event saw Chris Weidman take a grueling decision victory over a very game Lyoto Machida, who gave the champion his toughest test to date.
Although his resume includes two victories over arguably the greatest fighter in UFC history, Weidman entered the cage against Machida facing a lot of questions. His conditioning had never truly been tested against top-level competition, with his longest fight to date going three rounds.
And those two wins against Anderson Silva involved a freak leg injury, and what some might call a lucky punch, which only caught Silva because he was clowning his opponent.
Those questions were answered on Saturday, as Weidman outlasted a great fighter, going five full rounds and solving the Machida puzzle that many highly-skilled veteran fighters before him had struggled with.
Weidman controlled the cage for much of the first three rounds, limiting Machida's movement, which is a lot of what makes Machida such a dangerous counter fighter. Weidman also scored on five of thirteen takedown attempts (38%), a far better showing than many expected given how much trouble Machida gives wrestlers (77% career takedown defense, according to FightMetric).
Weidman started to fade midway through the third round, just as Machida seemed to find second life, but the champion had enough left in the tank to survive an attack that included a barrage of punches and knee strikes just before the final horn sounded.
In the semi-main, Ronda Rousey extended her professional record to 10-0, finishing Alexis Davis in just sixteen seconds, retaining her UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship.
Davis briefly fared well in the standup game, but a hip toss and a barrage of right hands to the face later, and Davis was left dazed and trying to grapple referee Yves Lavigne.
At the urging of the production truck, Joe Rogan ambushed Rousey in her post-fight interview and asked if she would be willing to step in on short notice and save the August 2 pay-per-view show, which lost its main event this past week when Jose Aldo dropped out of his title defense against Chad Mendes with back and neck injuries.
UFC President Dana White seemed less than enthused with Rogan's line of questioning, particularly after Rousey revealed that she's set to undergo knee surgery. Still, Rousey would not rule out taking a fight on that show.
The real money fight for Rousey, and really the biggest fight the promotion has on the radar right now, is Rousey vs. Gina Carano.
There are obstacles to making that fight, most tied to the fact that Carano has a real Hollywood agent. My sense is that despite the fact that she's been back in training recently, Carano knows that Rousey is at an entirely different level than Gina was years ago, and that's not even taking Carano's long layoff into consideration.
Carano has acknowledged that a fight with Rousey would be her last fight. She knows she will probably lose, and I'm sure she and her representation would want a huge guarantee on top of a pay-per-view cut.
But with all those obstacles, I think the deal will ultimately get done, and that fight could end up headlining UFC's January 3, 2015 show. To book Rousey against anyone else between now and then is to risk the money fight, and I'm never in favor of jeopardizing your money fight. When you can book your money fight, you should, no matter how minute the risk of even a hobbled Rousey taking a loss on August 2 would be.
The scheduled Matt Mitrione vs. Stefan Struve bout did not take place on this show, after Struve reportedly suffered a panic attack backstage and briefly blacked out. Struve was examined and is believed to be okay, and at press time, did not require a hospital visit.
UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
Round 1: Weidman was the agressor early, unsurprisingly, but the tact he took was a bit shocking, as he came out firing kicks. Machida danced away from everything. Weidman shot for a single-leg, but Machida stuffed him. Machida just missed with a straight left hand. Machida missed with a high kick. Weidman just missed with a left kick. Machida missed with an uppercut. Weidman continued to press forward, pushing the pace. His cardio is really untested, so this could get interesting, or really boring, if this goes long. Weidman landed a few more strikes, probably his round, but nothing significant from either fighter.
Round 2: Some hand fighting early, as Weidman tried to measure the distance. He missed with a right hand but caught the challenger with a short left. Body kick from Machida. Weidman was doing an excellent job of cutting the cage in half, severely limiting Machida's movement, which is his bread and butter. Weidman used a front kick to control the distance. Weidman checked a high kick from the challenger. Big left hook from Machida. A power double from Weidman left Machida seated, with his back against the fence. Machida gave up his back, but was able to get back to his feet. He ate some decent shots in the process, though. Another round for the champion.
Round 3: More hand fighting early, then some jabs from Weidman, trying to find his range. Weidman shot for a takedown and missed. Weidman shot again and got it. Machida tried to grab a guillotine, but Weidman got out easily. Machida used a butterfly guard to keep Weidman controlled. Machida gave up his back, but again was able to get to his feet from that position. Back on the feet, Weidman landed some big right hands, cutting Machida's face. Weidman scored with another single-leg, and Machida again gave up his back. Machida got back to his feet, but Weidman kept control of his waist and threw him back down. Machida squirmed back to his feet, but this round really took it out of him. 3-0 for the champ.
Round 4: Weidman still looked fresh out of the corner as the round started. Machida's movement still looked good, but his arms seemed to be getting heavy, as he held them low, even by his standards. Weidman with a knee. Machida with a body kick that just glanced off the champion. Left hand by Machida. Weidman got a single-leg briefly, but Machida was back up quickly. Big left hook from Machida, which seemed to throw Weidman. Machida with another left that hurt Weidman, and the champion started to back off. Weidman took some deep breaths, so maybe that cardio is going to come into play. Kick by Machida. Left hand by Machida, who seemed to be gaining confidence. Weidman tried to get a takedown to turn the momentum, but Machida stuffed him and just missed with a knee. Weidman shot again, but didn't really fight for it and just seemed to be trying to catch his breath. Machida just missed with a wild spin kick. Machida landed a big left hand at the horn. Machida's round.
Round 5: Machida knocked Weidman down with an inside leg kick, but the champ was back up. Machida pressed the pace and cut the cage in half with a front kick. Weidman missed with some punches, and his arms looked really heavy. Machida landed a left hand. Weidman shot, but was stuffed and ate some left hands on his way back up. Weidman with a right hand. Weidman with a left. Machida ducked under a head kick but ate a left hand. Machida pressed forward and took some big swings in the center of the cage. Weidman with an elbow-left hand combination. Weidman with a big double-leg takedown with just under two minutes left, looking to seal the victory. Weidman slipped from half-guard to back mount. Weidman got both hooks in, but Machida shook them off. Weidman got one hook back in, but Machida got back to his feet. Machida started swinging for the fences and landed some big shots just before the horn. Perhaps his round, but probably not enough for the decision.
Result: Chris Weidman defeated Lyoto Machida via unanimous decision (49-45, 48-47, 49-46) to retain the UFC Middleweight Championship.
UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis
Round 1: Davis threw some stiff jabs, but Rousey caught her with a knee to the face and used a hip toss to take her down. Rousey kept head and arm control and delivered ten unanswered right hands to the face of the challenger, ending the fight.
Result: Ronda Rousey defeated Alexis Davis via TKO (punches) at :16 of Round 1 to retain the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship.
Chris Weidman defeated Lyoto Machida via unanimous decision (49-45, 48-47, 49-46) to retain the UFC Middleweight Championship.
Ronda Rousey defeated Alexis Davis via TKO (punches) at :16 of Round 1 to retain the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship.
Uriah Hall def. Thiago Santos via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Russell Doane def. Marcus Brimage via split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29).
Kevin Casey def. Bubba Bush via TKO (elbows) at 1:01 of Round 1
Luke Zachrich def. Guilherme Vasconcelos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Rob Font def. George Roop via KO (punch) at 2:19 of Round 1
Bruno Santos def. Chris Camozzi via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Kenny Robertson def. Ildemar Alcantara via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Urijah Faber def. Alex Caceres via submission (rear naked choke) at 1:09 of Round 3