In the world of combat sports, some matchups guarantee a special caliber of violence. When two fighters who have built their careers upon aggression and separating their opponents from their consciousness are put inside a locked cage, a special kind of ruckus is sure to unfold.
Here were two men on resurgent climbs up the welterweight ranks. Both had left a trail of wreckage in their wakes, and they were going to collide in San Jose, California, to determine who would get the next shot at Johny Hendricks and the 170-pound strap.
Short of there being a new champion crowned at UFC on Fox 12, the tilt between Brown and Lawler had all the makings of a high-profile affair. After a rough patch where Brown had dropped four out of five fights, including a run where he lost three straight showings, The Immortal pulled one of the best about faces in recent memory and notched seven consecutive victories coming into Saturday night.
While Lawler hadn't amassed quite the toll as his opponent, his comeback has been equally spectacular, as the former Elite XC champion whipped a stalled career into an impressive title run. Since returning to the Octagon in 2013, he had won four out of five bouts, with his only setback coming in a razor-thin loss to Hendricks for the vacant welterweight title at UFC 171 back in March.
The showdown between two of the most brutal finishers in the game had a ton of anticipation heading into UFC on Fox 12, and the fight certainly delivered.
While Lawler did solid damage early, Brown returned the favor by stunning the Ruthless one with a shot of his own in the opening frame. The action continued back-and-forth style over the next two rounds, until Lawler turned up the heat and took a decisive advantage on the judges' scorecards in the championship rounds.
Somehow the "Gods of Violence" allowed this fight to go the full five rounds, where Lawler took the unanimous-decision victory and earned another shot at the welterweight title.
While the main event certainly moved the "violence meter" on Saturday night, there were plenty of other highlights to be found in San Jose. A pair of up-and-coming lightweights engaged in one of the night's best dust-ups, while a perennial contender was turned back by a fighter looking to take his place in the lightweight divisional hierarchy.
Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from UFC on Fox 12.
Lawler has been a monster since returning the UFC in early 2013.
Ruthless has lived up to every bit of his nickname, as he's collected five victories in his six showings inside the Octagon, with his most recent coming in a five-round war with Brown at UFC on Fox 12.
While the American Top Team product was a heavy favorite with the oddsmakers going into the tilt, the Ohio native proved to be as game as they come, as The Immortal stood toe-to-toe with the heavy-handed knockout artist every step of the five-round affair.
That said, it was Lawler who had the edge in the later rounds as his forward pressure and combinations pinged up the surging contender in nearly every exchange. While he never landed the kill shot or put Brown away as many figured he would, Lawler put on another impressive performance for the fighting faithful in San Jose on Saturday night.
With the victory, he earns another shot at the welterweight title and the champion who holds it in Hendricks. The two men put on an instant classic when they collided at UFC 171 back in March, and their rematch promises to be one of the most anticipated scraps of the year.
On another note, while Lawler will go on to compete for the 170-pound title, Brown has nothing to hang his head about. The Columbus representative battled back from the edge of obscurity to become a potential title contender, and he gave Lawler all he had for 25 minutes.
While the main event was a memorable affair, the co-main event can be filed in the "not so much" category.
Anthony Johnson is quickly becoming one of most feared fighters in the light heavyweight division. While Rumble used to ferociously battle the scale in his attempt to make the 170-pound limit, the Boca Raton, Florida, transplant decided to settle in at 205 pounds and has been an absolute nightmare in the weight class.
The 30-year-old Georgia native was released from the UFC back in 2012 after failing to make weight and then losing to future teammate Vitor Belfort at UFC 142.
Yet, while being cut was an immediate blow to the heavy-handed knockout artist's ego, it ultimately became the best thing to happen to his career as it forced Johnson to deal with his weight issues head on. And that decision changed the tides of his career in a major way.
Since his release from the UFC back in 2012, Johnson has seven consecutive victories, with his most recent coming in a starching of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on Saturday night.
All it took was 44 seconds, and a series of some of the most brutal uppercuts to be launched in recent memory, to send Lil Nog slumping to the canvas and for Johnson to pick up his second straight win since returning to the Octagon earlier this year.
While his victory over Nogueira will boost Johnson into title-contention status, the current logjam between Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson could mean the Blackzilians fighter may need another big win for a championship opportunity to materialize.
The featherweight division has become one of the most competitive collectives under the UFC banner, and Dennis Bermudez solidified his place at the big boy's table on Saturday night. The New York native put on one of the best showings of his career, as he battered and then submitted former lightweight contender Clay Guida at UFC on Fox 12.
While defeating The Carpenter is the biggest win of his career in regard to name recognition, the victory is just the latest addition to what has become commonplace for The Menace. In fact, the 27-year-old hasn't visited the loss column since being stopped by housemate Diego Brandao in The Ultimate Fighter 14 finals back in 2011 and has been successful in his seven showings since.
With his win over Guida in San Jose, Bermudez is guaranteed to see a top-five-ranked fighter in his next outing.
*** Making the most of opportunities is the name of the game in MMA, and Bobby Green took the biggest step of his career at UFC on Fox 12. The King stepped up on short notice to face perennial contender Josh Thomson in front of The Punk's hometown crowd in San Jose.
While the former Strikeforce veteran gave up the first round on the cards, Green found his rhythm in the second frame and found his mark in the striking game. While it was a close, hard-fought fight, Green took the split-decision victory to pick up his fourth straight victory under the UFC banner and grab his eighth consecutive win going back to 2011.
*** There wasn't anything remotely pretty about it, but Patrick Cummins picked up his second UFC victory by outwrestling Kyle Kingsbury en route to a lopsided unanimous decision.
That said, while his performance lacked excitement, it was absolutely dominant. The former Arizona State University football player had zero answers for what the former barista-turned-mixed-martial-artist brought to the table.
*** Tim Means had his back against the wall coming into San Jose. The Dirty Bird was released from the UFC last year following a two-fight skid, but he battled his way back to the big show by picking up wins in smaller promotions.
Yet, the Albuquerque, New Mexico, representative stumbled in his return to the Octagon, and that put the pressure on him going into his bout with Hernani Perpetuo at UFC on Fox 12. Means weathered an early storm and came back to take the final two rounds on the judges' scorecards en route to the unanimous-decision victory.
*** First impressions in the UFC are important, and both Gilbert Burns and Andreas Stahl threw everything they had into their tilt at UFC on Fox 12.
It was a back-and-forth battle throughout the 15-minute affair, with Burns edging out the Swedish fighter on the judges' scorecards. The Vitor Belfort protege displayed solid striking and forward pressure, as he handed Stahl the first loss of his professional career.
*** Staying in the realm of making the most of a debut showing, Brian Ortega capitalized on the biggest opportunity of his career. The Gracie protege made quick work of Mike De La Torre on the preliminary portion of the card as he locked in a fight-ending rear-naked choke early in the opening frame. With the submission win, Ortega not only picked up his first win under the UFC banner, but the undefeated prospect will have some additional buzz around his name going forward.
*** In addition to possessing one of the most difficult names to come along in some time, Joanna Jedrzejczyk had a solid debut on Saturday night, as she defeated Juliana Lima on the preliminary portion of the card.
In addition to Lima missing weight on Friday, she also gassed out fairly early into the fight, and Jedrzejczyk never took her foot off the proverbial gas pedal to pick up the unanimous-decision victory.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira has had difficulty staying healthy in recent years as Lil Nog has competed just five times since 2010. The Brazilian veteran returned to the Octagon following an 18-month layoff to face light heavyweight powerhouse Anthony Johnson, and the decision turned out to be disastrous.
Rumble backed Nogueira against the cage with a series of crisp shots, where he unloaded a barrage of uppercuts that melted the former Pride fighter to the canvas. It was a rough showing and a brutal ending for the Team Nogueira fighter. Moving on!
Late last year, Josh Thomson was on the cusp of making his long-awaited shot at the UFC lightweight title a reality. The AKA staple had just defeated Nate Diaz in his return to the Octagon and was slated to face Anthony Pettis for the 155-pound strap at UFC on Fox 9 in December.
Yet, Showtime would suffer an injury, and The Punk would go on to face Benson Henderson in the main event at UFC on Fox 10 in January 2014.
While Thomson's willingness to push forward is admirable, that decision has taken his attempt to become lightweight champion on a severe detour. He was edged out by Henderson via split decision in Chicago, and on Saturday night, he found himself on the business end of another razor-thin call on the judges' scorecards at UFC on Fox 12.
While Thomson jumped out to an early lead against short-notice replacement Bobby Green, King found his rhythm in the second round and began to find a home for his punches.
When the cards were read, Green picked up his eighth consecutive win, and Thomson was forced to face the reality of being down two straight fights in the highly competitive fold of the lightweight division. Granted, Green getting the split-decision nod is debatable, but it will go down as a victory in the books regardless.
The bigger question will be what Thomson decides to do next. The former Strikeforce champion contemplated retirement following his loss to Smooth back in January, and it will be interesting to see what he decides to do going forward.
Another fighter who will have some thinking to do is Guida.
Whereas The Carpenter was once a staple in the upper tier of the lightweight fold, a rough patch in 2012 led the Chicago native to try his hand in featherweight waters.
While he picked up a win in his divisional debut, he suffered a brutal knockout at the hands of Chad Mendes in his second showing at 145. For a veteran fighter looking to make a title run in a new division, the loss to the Team Alpha Male fighter served to put some serious damage on those intentions.
Yet, Guida is a fighter known for his durability, and he bounced back strong against Tatsuya Kawajiri back in April. The Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter picked up the unanimous-decision victory and put himself back into the hunt for featherweight title contention.
That said, there was no room for error going forward, and he came into his tilt with Dennis Bermudez at UFC on Fox 12 needing an impressive showing.
Nevertheless, the surging TUF alum proved to be too much, as he submitted the Midwestern grinder in the second round of the bout. While losing to Bermudez is nothing to hang his head about, two losses in four showings at 145 pounds and dropping four of his past six is a tough look for the fan favorite.
*** After a lengthy layoff and some soul searching, Kyle Kingsbury decided to return to the Octagon at UFC on Fox 12. With the event taking place in his hometown of San Jose, he was on a mission for redemption when he squared off with Patrick Cummins on Saturday night.
Unfortunately for The Ultimate Fighter alum, that just wasn't in the cards as the Southern California-based fighter worked over Kingsbury en route to a one-sided steamrolling. While the showing wasn't anywhere near what the former Arizona State University football player wanted to display, it provided the answer he was seeking, as the 32-year-old announced his retirement shortly after the bout.
Sometimes the human body can do superhuman things inside the Octagon, and Jorge Masvidal provided the latest example on Saturday night.
Gamebred was blasted by a cannon-like right hand from Daron Cruickshank that landed squarely on Masvidal's chin and sent his body crashing to the canvas.
Yet, in a Matrix-style turn, the South Florida native immediately popped back to his feet and continued pressing the action. Punches of the caliber Masvidal ate typically turn a fighter's lights off for the evening, but the former Strikeforce lightweight title challenger fired back with a vengeance.
Not only did Masvidal come back to dominate the second round, but he also ultimately won the fight as his ground game proved too slick for The Detroit Superstar to handle. Despite the rough start, Masvidal's performance was one of the best of his career as he picked up his fifth win in his past six showings.
While mainstream sports can have a much broader feel at times, the realm of mixed martial arts is a very insulated community for the most part.
Two athletes step into an Octagon-shaped cage and trade leather to determine who is superior on that particular evening. When this happens, everything going on in the outside world falls silent for the most part, but every now and again, something of greater significance will find its way through.
On Saturday night, Noad Lahat's post-fight interview with Joe Rogan caused a stir throughout the MMA community.
In the pre-fight buildup to his tilt with Steven Siler at UFC on Fox 12, the AKA-trained fighter told the media during fight week he would be returning to his post in the Israeli army immediately following his time in San Jose. Israel is currently clashing with Palestinians in Gaza, and Lahat's message brought a very real-world conflict into the niche bubble of the UFC.
Fans and media alike shared their thoughts on Twitter, and those viewpoints landed at different places on the spectrum. Some found Lahat's speech to be poignant, while others believed those matters should have been kept off the UFC broadcast.
On a final note—and anyone who reads this column with regularity—will appreciate the return of Joe Rogan's suit jacket on Saturday night. The longtime commentator shook the sharp duds for his last card, but the "million bucks" version of Rogan returned to call the action in San Jose.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.
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