UFC 161 was, by all accounts, somewhat of a cursed card. After the initial headliner of interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao defending against Eddie Wineland fell off due to injury to Barao, the planned co-main event of Shogun vs. Little Nog was also lost. This card ended up not resembling anything like what was first scheduled.
Instead of the original top bout, this card featured former champions Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson squaring off in a three round bout that was very important for both men. Evans is the far younger of the two, and his quickness proved to be the deciding factor in his favour, taking a 29-28 split decision victory. While it was by no means the Rashad of old, this was certainly an improvement on the dreadful fight with Little Nog. His head and foot movement were a bit more like what we are used to seeing, and he did well to avoid Henderson’s heavy hands. Rashad will be looking to get back into the title picture from this win, while Henderson has to be left considering where he goes from here.
In the co-main event Stipe Miocic pulled off the shock off the night, beating Roy Nelson 30-27 on all three scorecards. Nelsen fought just six weeks ago, taking this fight on very little notice, and he ran out of gas very quickly. Despite a string of impressive first round knockouts, Miocic neutralized that threat and landed some excellent strikes and combinations of his own. Nelson was fighting on the last fight of his current contract at UFC 161, hoping that a win would make him a title contender; only time will tell how that gambles costs him going forward. Overall Nelson is a fan favourite and an exciting knockout artist, but this fight showed just how truly limited Roy Nelson is in modern MMA. Miocic looked sharp and hungry, and could be one to watch going forward.
Elsewhere on the main card it was a quick knockout win for Shawn Jordan over his good friend Pat Barry, finishing the fight in just 59 seconds. Both fighters came out looking for the knockout that they both know they can deliver, and Jordan managed to come out on top in a win that sees him creep ever closer to the top ten. Alexis Davis took a decision victory over England’s Rosi Sexton in one of the better fights of the night, though Sexton seemed very game and dealt with Davis’ formidable black belt submission game remarkably well. With this victory Davis establishes herself as a top player in the division, and there are lots of interesting fights for her later in the year. Rounding out the main card, Ryan Jimmo took Igor Pokrajac part in a clinical performance that failed to set the crowd alight.
The Fight of the Night award went to Sam Stout and James Krause for their back and forth contest, which ended with Krause taking a submission win late in the third round. This also earned him Submission of the Night. An extra $100,000 payoff is a pretty good night for debutant Krause, who displayed some very unorthodox offense in his win over the veteran Stout, and Krause was singled out for praise by many after the event. Fans, writers and even Dana White himself were left scratching their heads when Jake Shields was awarded a split decision victory over Tyron Woodley. Shields had some good flurries in the second round, but otherwise Woodley dictated the pace and dominated rounds one and three. Similarly baffling was the opening contest of the night, where Yves Jabouin defeated Dustin Pague. Jabouin had a lot of time on top but failed to pass guard or really mount any offense, while Pague had a bucket load of very close submission attempts and displayed an impressive ground game.
All in all, this was a passable card for what it was. Given the injuries and upheaval, not much more was expected of this. The big loser here is probably Igor Pokrajac, who (if you include the loss to Joey Beltran which was overturned) is now on a three-fight losing streak and his job could well be in jeopardy as the UFC continues to look for ways to trim the roster. Englishman John Maguire is also on a three-fight losing streak and is almost certain to be cut in the coming weeks.
Rashad Evans def. Dan Henderson via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Stipe Miocic def. Roy Nelson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ryan Jimmo def. Igor Pokrajac via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alexis Davis def. Rosi Sexton via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-28)
Shawn Jordan def. Pat Barry via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:59
Jake Shields def. Tyron Woodley via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
James Krause def. Sam Stout via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 3, 4:47
Sean Pierson def. Kenny Robertson via majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
Roland Delorme def. Edwin Figueroa via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Mitch Clarke def. John Maguire via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Yves Jabouin def. Dustin Pague via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Check out Callum’s complete live blog of UFC 161 here