By Dwight Wakabayashi
Brazilian heavyweight Antonio (Bigfoot) Silva shocked the mixed martial arts world this weekend with his devastating knockout over the heavily favored Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 in Las Vegas. The brilliant upset gives Silva the biggest gain of the week.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Joseph Benavidez also made good gains following their wins this weekend while other favourites failed to hold value.
Here is a complete look at the fighters who raised their stock and those whose stock dropped following UFC 156.
Antonio Silva – All-time high
Very few, if any, predicted Antonio Silva to beat Alistair Overeem this past weekend, let alone deliver the devastating knockout that he did (aside from Sportsnet.ca’s Mike Johnston, who called it almost perfectly). Silva’s prefight words were extremely prophetic as he continuously advised Overeem that he better show him some respect heading into the fight. Overeem refused, and his lack of respect was his undoing as he carelessly stood in front of Bigfoot in the third round.
It was one of the best knockouts you are ever going to see in mixed martial arts. Overeem was widely seen as the next No. 1 contender to the title. With the upset, Silva’s stock skyrockets to the top of the contender heap. Champion Cain Velasquez bloodied and beat Silva badly in May of last year, so he may have to win another fight before he gets his shot at revenge. Junior dos Santos, Josh Barnett or Stefan Struve are all possible next opponents for Silva.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – Rising fast
It seemed a bit lucky that Lil Nog got a fight with Rashad Evans coming off his last win over the now retired Tito Ortiz. It was a golden opportunity for the Brazilian veteran to make the next step in his career. He took full advantage with a solid, yet not spectacular upset win over a sub-par Evans. Rogerio used his solid boxing skills to outpoint Evans, and he was able to nullify any wrestling Evans tried to use.
The win vaults Lil Nog over Evans in the light-heavyweight division, and puts him in a long line waiting to get a shot at Jones that includes Dan Henderson, Alexander Gustafsson and Gegard Mousasi. Nogueira’s next fight will be the biggest of his career.
Joseph Benavidez – Slight gain
Joseph Benavidez got off first and fast in his fight with Ian McCall, and his use of effective combinations carried him to a decisive win over McCall. While Benavidez was coming off a loss for the flyweight title, many people had him the underdog coming in. Benavidez was simply the sharper of the two and executed a better gameplan then McCall, who seemed hesitant to get off in the fight.
Benavidez solidifies his place ahead of McCall in a division that seems only four elite fighters deep and John Dodson is the only real choice for his next opponent to see who gets another shot at Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson.
Demian Maia – Slight gain
If you think that Jon Fitch has a filthy, mauling, top-game style let me introduce you to Demian Maia. The Brazilian dominated Fitch in their fight this weekend, although it certainly wasn’t pretty to watch. Maia came out of his corner and jumped on Fitch’s back right away, and pretty much stayed there for the entire fight. He had Fitch in a body triangle for most of the fight, but could not find the opening he wanted to get the finish.
It was a dominant performance, but Maia only makes a slight gain based on the fact that it was a very ugly and uneventful fight, and the fans booed throughout. Boring or not, Fitch was unable to stop Maia’s grappling game and the win keeps him in the mix with many of the men set to fight at UFC 158 in March. A fight with one of the winners there is almost a certainty.
Jose Aldo – Holding
We have gotten used to seeing highlight-reel knockouts and electrifying performances from Jose Aldo, Jr., so this weekend’s fight was only a slight letdown. Aldo was solid, and did what he had to do to get a win and keep his title, or did he? The unanimous decision win over Frankie Edgar was a very close fight and many had Edgar winning three of the five rounds, creating yet another issue in an Edgar fight. Aldo tagged Edgar early with effective jabs, and was able to defend against most of Edgar’s takedowns.
Despite the win, Aldo was not his aggressive self and was more the countering fighter early. He faded in his activity in the later rounds. He won, but many expected him to win a little bit easier and his stock only holds because of it.
Frankie Edgar – Slight fall
It was only Edgar’s first fight at featherweight and he performed very well. The loss hurts his stock a bit but the performance softens the blow. The problem now is where does he go from here? He continues to show that he is good enough to beat anybody except for the champion at two different weight classes, and even that is not for sure. Edgar is now in a very tough spot of being an in-between fighter who can’t seem to get a decision with the style that he fights with.
There are a few interesting fights out there for him at featherweight, such as Ricardo Lamas, Chan Sung Jung or Chad Mendes, but I see Edgar winning all three of those fights without much of a problem. I would match him up against Mendes and let Jung and Lamas battle for the next title shot.
Ian McCall – Slight fall
McCall was simply a step behind in his fight with Joseph Benavidez, and he loses his No. 3 spot in the division because of it. I had “Uncle Creepy” behind John Dodson but ahead of Benavidez in the rankings coming in to this fight. It was a very good and close fight but McCall could not land his shots on Benavidez when he ventured in, yet he ate a bunch in the process. He tried to turn the tide by taking Joe down for top control in the second half of the fight but it wasn’t successful enough to get the win in the end.
McCall hung in there, and due to the fact that it is a fairly shallow division he does not slip too far down the ladder. A surging John Moraga could be next for McCall.
Alistair Overeem – Falling fast
Not only has Overeem been exposed as a “dirty” fighter in recent times, but now he has been exposed for not taking an opponent seriously enough, and his stock continues to plummet because of it. He was heavily favoured in his fight against Antonio Silva this weekend and the way he lost is a very big blow to his stock in 2013. Overeem looked solid and in control early in the fight but it was clear that he was being a little too over-confident in his defence with his hands down and his chin out. He also ran out of gas near the end of the second round, something Silva’s corner noticed heading in to the last round.
Overeem has had two very tough lessons in the UFC in the last year and he must get serious about his career longevity if he wants to fulfill the promise that his skill set can bring. At 32 years old, time is running out on the Dutch star, and he will need to bounce back immediately to stay in serious title contention. He could be set up against Junior dos Santos next, or the loser of any of the Cormier-Mir, Struve-Hunt or Nelson-Kongo match-ups. He has lost his value as an immediate challenger to Velasquez’s title and loses a big payday because of it.
Jon Fitch – Falling fast
It was not a good night for Jon Fitch as he was unable to get Demian Maia off him for any amount of time in their fight this weekend. Fitch was unable to stop the larger man from taking him down and getting his back at will and his stock will plummet because of it. Fitch was unable to scramble his way to success at all and now sees himself on the outside looking in on a big line up of contenders at welterweight.
Watch for Fitch to get a bounce-back opportunity against Martin Kampmann or the biggest loser to come out of the welterweight showcase at UFC 158.
Rashad Evans – Falling fast
What in the world was wrong with Rashad Evans on Saturday night? His performance against Lil Nog was by far the worst of his career and his stock plummets because of it. Evans was supposed to be a step up from Nogueira and was still in consideration for a title shot in two different divisions going into the fight. Now, Rashad is in major limbo with many wondering if he is still motivated and capable of competing with the best in any division.
He simply failed to display any of his skills and his trademark athleticism was nowhere in sight, so where does he go from here? Evans should refresh and invigorate his career by deciding to go down and make a run at middleweight as there are many interesting fights for him there. He can start against Tim Boetsch, Mark Munoz or Jake Shields.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.