OAKLAND CA - AUGUST 07: Junior dos Santos punches Roy Nelson during the UFC heavyweight bout at Oracle Arena on Aug. 7 in Oakland, Calif.
It's not often when two fighters come out of a fight looking better than they did going in, but that's exactly what happened with both Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson following their heavyweight eliminator bout Saturday at UFC 117.
Dos Santos beat Nelson by unanimous decision to secure his championship match likely early next year, but both he and Nelson will see their profile raised by their performances in this fight.
Dos Santos was on Nelson in the first round, hammering his portly opponent and putting him in serious jeopardy on multiple occasions. Yet Nelson showed a level of toughness few have and stayed in the fight and even fired back on occasion, looking for the big overhand right much of the time.
Sensing his opponent wasn't going to go easily into the night, dos Santos scaled back his attack from then on out. Still, he consistently worked his opponent's body and spent a lot of time landing on Nelson's face.
Nelson survived 15 minutes with dos Santos, a fighter who had wrecked everyone put in front of him in the UFC to this point, and dos Santos showed high fight IQ in realizing not to spend himself attempting a finish. Nelson isn't hurt one bit by this loss and will continue to be tread near the top of the division while dos Santos moves on to bigger and better things as he looks to his heavyweight championship fight with either Brock Lesnar or Cain Velasquez. The betting lines certainly would be very close no matter which fighter dos Santos faced.
Welcome to the new UFC heavyweight division.
You have to give it up for Matt Hughes.
The former long-time UFC welterweight champion was an underdog to Ricardo Almeida but handed the Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt his first career submission loss by choking him unconscious in the first round.
It will be interesting to see what the UFC does with Hughes from here on out. He doesn't have enough left in the tank to compete with the top of the division, but with three straight wins, there might be people clamoring for him to be in the title picture if he can pick up another win.
When speaking about Hughes' future on the UFC 117 review edition of Lights Out Radio on Saturday night, Forrest Lynn suggested Dennis Hallman as an opponent for Hughes, considering Hallman twice beat Hughes by quick submissions a decade ago. That is certainly the route to go if the UFC has no intention of putting him in the title picture. However, a win-win situation could be a fight with Jake Shields, provided he gets past Martin Kampmann in October. If Hughes beats Shields, he could very legitimately fight for the title once again. If Shields beats Hughes, he has a win against a UFC Hall of Famer who has a big name. That win would springboard Shields into a title shot.
It will be interesting to see how the UFC handles Hughes here in the immediate future. Realistically, he can't compete with those at the top level. We've already seen him get destroyed by both Georges St-Pierre and Thiago Alves (and the Alves fight was two years ago with the two St-Pierre fights coming nearly three and four years ago). If Hughes couldn't compete with them then, it's almost a given he won't be able to in 2011.
Still, it's always nice to see the "old timers" come out and represent themselves well, especially in the fashion Hughes did Saturday.