It happened to Anderson Silva and Benson Henderson earlier this year and it nearly happened to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 167.
GSP narrowly avoided his first loss since 2007, as he won a controversial split decision over Johny Hendricks in the main event of the UFC’s 20th anniversary event Satruday in Las Vegas.
Sportsnet.ca brought you live results, analysis, stats and reaction to all the action inside the Octagon at the historic event.
GSP barely defends title in record-setting performance
Oh boy was that controversial.
St-Pierre became the UFC’s all-time leader in wins, passing former welterweight champion Matt Hughes, whom GSP beat twice and lost to once. This was GSP’s first fight in Las Vegas since his win over Thiago Alves at UFC 100.
GSP landed a takedown right off the bat, but Hendricks got back to his feet, landed some solid strikes and even took GSP down. After 39 seconds elapsed in the first, GSP surpassed B.J. Penn as the fighter that has spent the most total time competing in the UFC’s Octagon.
Early in the second round, Hendricks rocked GSP and had the Canadian on wobbly legs but GSP survived.
In the first two rounds Hendricks landed a total of 64 strikes GSP’s 56. St-Pierre rebounded in the third round, but Hendricks pressed the action in the fourth.
The two went back and forth in the fifth with GSP likely taking it on the scorecards, but it was tight. As the final horn sounded, Hendricks and his team were convinced the title was theirs.
What do the numbers say?
Although most people thought Hendricks won the fight, the stats make the fight seem much closer.
Hendricks landed 142 of 252 total strikes, while GSP connected on 125 of 245 strike attempts. However, GSP beat Hendricks 101 to 85 in significant strikes and landed three takedowns to Hendricks’s two.
On the judges’ scorecards Round 1 was the only one they were split on. Most felt Hendricks won the first, but two judges gave it to GSP. The first frame saw Hendricks out-land GSP 27-26 in total strikes but GSP had the edge in significant strikes 19-18 and the two were even in takedowns at one apiece.
Rashad Evans beats up friend Chael Sonnen
They’re friends and work colleagues at FOX yet it was business as usual for Evans and Sonnen as the two battled in the UFC 167 co-main event.
Evans overpowered Sonnen en route to a first-round TKO win and in doing so tied Jon Jones and Chuck Liddell for the most wins in UFC light-heavyweight history.
The former 205-pound champ gave a shoutout to former UFC standout Anthony Johnson, whom he says helped him tremendously in his camp.
Evans landed 32 of his 42 strike attempts and was the fourth straight current or former champion Sonnen has fought.
Robbie Lawler drops Rory MacDonald
These two welterweight contenders knew there was a lot on the line, both men fought like it, and Robbie Lawler likely earned himself a title shot by picking up a split decision win over Rory MacDonald.
Lawler came out strong in the first round, landing 15 strikes to MacDonald’s seven. The stoic Canadian rebounded in the second round, attacking Lawler’s body and securing a late takedown.
In third, however, Lawler landed several big punches that had MacDonald rocked. MacDonald got three takedowns in the final frame, but it was too little too late.
Lawler has now won three fights in a row since returning to the UFC’s 170-pound division, while MacDonald suffered just the second loss of his career.
Though Lawler is eight years older than MacDonald, both fighters made their respective UFC debuts at age 20.
The talk of a possible MacDonald versus GSP matchup can finally be put to rest… at least for the time being.
Tyron Woodley smashes Josh Koscheck
Woodley did to Koscheck what only two other fighters had done and that’s knock the tough veteran out after he landed a beautiful counter right hand that dropped Koscheck late in the first round.
In just four 4:38 seconds of action, Woodley landed 47 strikes on Koscheck to earn his second first-round knockout in the UFC.
Woodley is as athletic as any welterweight in MMA and if he can string together a couple more wins don’t be surprised if he earns a title shot by the end of 2014.
Koscheck has now lost three in a row for the first time in his career. The 35-year-old is just one of four members from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter still in the UFC. The other are Diego Sanchez, Chris Leben and Mike Swick.
Ali Bagautinov upsets Tim Elliott
Russian flyweight standout Bagautinov picked up his 10th straight win, snapping Elliott’s two-fight win streak in the process.
Although Elliott outstruck Bagautinov 72 to 43, he didn’t land with the force as his opponent. Everything Bagautinov landed was registered as a significant strike; 24 of Elliott’s strikes were not considered damaging blows.
Elliott has gone the distance in all four of his UFC appearances.
The Terminator is in the house
There are usually high-profile names in the crowd when the UFC holds events in Las Vegas and since UFC 167 is a special event there are some majors stars taking in the action.
Among the many current fighters and fight fans, Arnold Schwarzenegger is at the MGM Grand Garden Arena enjoying the fights.
The first ever UFC champion, Royce Gracie, was seated beside fellow UFC Hall of Famers Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.
Mario Yamasaki named main event referee
The UFC 167 main event between Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks will be overseen by veteran MMA referee Mario Yamasaki.
Acclaimed ref Herb Dean, who tweeted out a photo of the UFC 167 assignment list, will be the third man in the cage for Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans in the co-main event.
Yamasaki will also officiate Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler at UFC 167.
Donald Cerrone puts on a show
Cerrone hadn’t quite looked himself in his last few outings, but he was better than ever in a win over Evan Dunham.
He used an impressive kickboxing arsenal in the first round, dropping Dunham early before using his slick grappling in the second.
Cerrone tapped Dunham with a triangle choke, picking up his 14th career win by submission and his seventh by triangle.
It is the first time Dunham has been submitted in his MMA career.
Thales Leites tops fellow veteran Ed Herman
It certainly wasn’t the most exciting fight of the night, but Leites looked solid in his win over Herman.
The Brazilian has now won nine of 10 and two in a row in the UFC. Meanwhile, Herman has won only one of his last four fights.
Leites only landed 47 strikes, compared to Herman’s 51, but Leites had three takedowns and an impressive 13 guard passes.
‘Story’ time is painful!
Rick Story is a ball of power and Brian Ebersole found that out at UFC 167 as Story won a one-sided decision.
Georges St-Pierre brought Story into his training camp to help him prepare for Johny Hendricks since Story was the only man to defeat Hendricks heading into the event.
Story, who has now alternated wins and losses dating back to 2011, landed 71 significant strikes on Ebersole and dropped him with leg kicks in the third round, but couldn’t get the finish.
Ebersole has never been knocked out in his 68-fight MMA career dating back to February 2000 when me made his pro debut.
Erik Perez outshines Edwin Figueroa
The story of this bout was Perez’s efficiency on the feet and his ability to take the fight to the ground virtually at will. The young, talented Mexican outstruck Figueroa 120 to 21 and showed a dominant ground game by landing seven takedowns on eight attempts.
The win improved Perez’s record to 14-5 and he bounced back from his first UFC loss. Perez, at just 23 years of age, is one of the best young bantamweights in MMA and has shown improvement in each of his five UFC appearances.
Perez hit Figueroa with a hard low blow in the first round that resulted in a lot of “Ooohhs” and “Aahhhs” from the fans. Luckily He was able to continue. Referee Kim Winslow warned Perez that “you’ve got to control your weapons.”
Figueroa, although always exciting, has now lost three straight in the UFC and is 0-3 in 2013.
Sergio Pettis thrills in UFC debut
Sergio Pettis, the brother of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, put on a show in his UFC debut, picking up a unanimous decision over Will Campuzano.
The 20-year-old Pettis is currently the youngest fighter on the UFC’s active roster. Other UFC 167 competitors that made their UFC debuts at age 20 include Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler.
Pettis improves to 10-0 as a pro with his fourth career unanimous decision win. He has a well-rounded skill set, is part of Duke Roufus’s team and has a brother and role model that’s a UFC champ. Sergio Pettis’s future is extremely bright and he could one day be a champion himself.
This was Campuzano’s first fight in the UFC since Jan. 22, 2011 and it ended a five-fight win streak he was on. He took the fight on less than a week’s notice.
Jason High edges Anthony Lapsley
High picked up his second straight win in the UFC after losing his first two appearances in the Octagon.
The loss snapped a four-fight win streak for Lapsley and it was his first decision loss since March 2007.
Gian Villante flattens Cody Donovan
Donovan, who was coming off a knockout loss to Ovince St. Preux, used a precision striking attack to pick Villante apart early, but it was not enough to get the win.
UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman was in the corner of Villante yelling instructions and they paid off in the second round as he landed a big right hand that put Donovan away.
Donovan is now on the first two-fight losing streak of his career, while Villante picks up his seventh career win by knockout or TKO. It was his first win in the UFC since he came over from Strikeforce.