Back in Michigan for the first time since 1996, UFC knew they had to deliver a great. After all, the last time they were in Michigan they produced one of the worst MMA fights in history, the Michigan Wolverines had just been blown out by 20 points earlier in the day, the Detroit Pistons are one of the worst teams in the NBA, and their most recognizable star is only “famous” due to other peoples work on YouTube and he peaked two months ago. Obviously feeling bad for the state, UFC brought in four former champions to compete in one night for the first time in UFC history. While it may not have been the best UFC event of the year, it was certainly memorable thanks to a number of stand out performances.

Quinton Jackson defeated Lyoto Machida by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 28-29)

When Quinton Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida was announced it was immediately a very intriguing fight even if it had the potential to be lackluster. It was a complete styles clash in striking and the mindset of both men was questioned due to the nature of their most recent losses. Well it was rather lackluster for the most part but it was also very intriguing until the judges decision was finally announced.

The first two rounds of this fight were very close. Machida did what most expected him to do on the feet. He moved effectively, landed some leg kicks, and made Jackson miss. Jackson fought rather smartly though as he slowed down Machida with clinch work against the cage. It wasn’t the most exciting 10 minutes of action but it was a great chess match as both fighters tried to stick to their gameplan and frustrate their opponent. The third round looked to be going to same way until Machida landed a flurry on Jackson and got a takedown. On the ground Machida controlled Jackson and went for a couple of submissions but nothing that looked close to be fight ending. Of the three rounds, the third round was the most dominant for either fighter. When the fight ended, Jackson raised the hand of Machida and then slumped over in the corner. He looked to be a defeated man. Then the judges scores were announced, Jackson’s arm was raised in victory, and Jackson had the look of complete shock on his face. Personally, I thought Machida won the fight 29-28 but the first two rounds were close enough to go either way. I don’t want to spend 1,000 words on judging because you’ve already read that article 100 times and you’ll probably read it 100 more in the coming weeks. All I’ll say is that the best way to fix judging is to judge the fight as a whole.

Machida didn’t do anything wrong in this fight. He fought his fight, he had Jackson stunned in the third round, and he was just on the wrong end of another questionable MMA decision. He still looked sharp on his feet and he’s still going to give a lot of light heavyweights problems. Since the immediate rematch is off the table, who knows where Machida goes from here. He’s lost two straight but one was a title fight and the other was a controversial decision. One option would be the Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader winner while Matt Hamill could be another option.

Even though I thought he lost, Jackson fought a good fight. He did a good job in slowing down Machida and roughing him up in the clinch. He’s still far too predictable on the feet though. He doesn’t throw any kicks and he doesn’t set up his hooks with any kind of jab or attack to the body. Anytime they were in striking distance, Machida made Jackson look foolish. Jackson said he wanted to bring back, “The PRIDE Rampage” in this fight. Well he failed. He was still the same old “Rampage” we’ve seen for the past few years, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. It’s not like “The PRIDE Rampage” was ever a champion or had success against top-level Brazilians. Dana White shot down any talk of an immediate rematch between Jackson and Machida so it’s very likely that Jackson could end up facing the winner of Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin.

Predicted Next Fights: Jackson vs. Griffin/Franklin winner – Machida vs. Hamill

BJ Penn defeated Matt Hughes by KO (Punches) at 0:21 in Round One

Mike Goldberg called BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes, “greatest rivalry in MMA.” Hyperbole aside, this was a huge fight for both men. Penn needed an impressive performance after losing two straight fights and Hughes just wanted to prove that he had more time left in his MMA career. One of them got their wish.

There’s obviously not much to say about a fight that lasts 21 seconds. Right off the bat Penn looked much faster than Hughes on the feet and it showed when Penn slipped the strikes of Hughes, landed a big straight right that put Hughes down, and then quickly knocked him out cold on the ground. Penn returned to “Prodigy” form in this fight. He even tried to recreate his post-fight celebration from UFC 34 by running out of the octagon and all the way to the locker room but felt he owed it to Hughes to stick around.

Only Hughes knows what he’s going to do next. He has nothing left to prove in this sport and if he wants to walk away, that’s his choice. He seemed to be in a great place in his career in his past few fights, just having fun and not worrying about making another run at the title. It’s not fair to write off Hughes just because he lost to Penn in 21 seconds. Penn is still a world-class fighter and even though Hughes admitted that he wasn’t clipped, he was hit and hit hard, losing in 21 seconds doesn’t really prove where you’re at as far as your skills as a fight. The only conclusion I came to about Hughes in this fight is that his chin might be shot, which is obviously never good. If Hughes wants to give it one more shot to try and go out on top, more power to him. If he wants to retire, well, a country boy has always survived.

Penn quickly silenced all critics with this performance. He used his superior speed and striking to really exploit Hughes and put him away early. When Penn is motivated, he’s as scary as they come. Now he just needs to stay motivated and not fall back into a comfort zone. He’s going to fight Jon Fitch next and one would think that he will be motivated for that bout. Fitch is as tough as they come and he’s never been finished in the UFC. Plus a victory could earn him a title shot in either the welterweight or lightweight division depending on how he feels and who the champion is.

Predicted Next Fights: Penn vs. Fitch – Hughes vs. Dennis Hallman 3

Maiquel Falcao defeated Gerald Harris by Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)

On paper this looked like an easy victory for Gerald Harris. Maiquel Falcao is a Brazilian striker making who was UFC debut while Harris is an athletic wrestler who had been on a roll heading into this fight. This is why they don’t have the fights on paper.

The fight started off very slow with Harris flicking out a jab and Falcao doing nothing. Then near the end of the round, Falcao exploded with a flurry that dropped Harris and was awfully close to finishing the fight with a rear naked choke but Harris was saved by the bell. Falcao ended up holding onto the choke a few seconds after the horn and while I don’t buy his excuse of “I didn’t hear the horn,” there doesn’t appear to be any type of punishment for such action, which really says something about the MMA rulebook. And even if the horn went off early, it’s not like Falcao knew that the horn was early and just decided he could get away with keeping the choke on. You hear the horn, you stop fighting. In the second round, Falcao picked up where he left off and caught Harris with a quick flurry and again went for the rear naked choke but Harris survived. Harris tried hard for a takedown the rest of the round but couldn’t succeed. Then we had the third round where both men tried to recreate Dan Severn vs. Ken Shamrock from UFC 9. Falcao was content on coasting, knowing he was up two rounds, and Harris wasn’t aggressively trying to finish, even tough he was down to rounds. At the end of the fight Harris raised his arms in victory and jogged around the ring, I guess to try and influence the judges to give him a 10-8 round so it would end up being a draw. He didn’t get his wish as Falcao won an easy unanimous decision.

Was Harris overrated or did he just take Falcao lightly? We probably won’t know the answer to that until each man fights again. No matter the answer, this obviously wasn’t the Harris that was advertised. He didn’t react well when pressured and it looked like he was trying to be a little too cute on the feet. We’ll know more about Harris in his next fight, which hopefully for him isn’t in a smaller organization given his third round performance in the contest.

Final five minutes aside, Falcao looked very impressive in this bout. He stayed composed, has explosive striking, and looked to have a rather solid ground game, even if it wasn’t all that technical. The thing that surprised almost everybody though, most of all Harris, had to be his takedown defense. Even though Falcao was on the main card this past Saturday and he picked up a big victory over a highly-touted Harris, don’t be shocked if Falcao finds himself regulated to the prelims. It won’t be because of his UFC 112 Anderson Silva performance (although that didn’t help) but it could just be due to UFC wanting to bring him up slowly as they see potential in him. Remember that after KO’ing Fabricio Werdum at UFC 90, Junior dos Santos was bumped to the prelims against a then debuting Stefan Struve at UFC 95. So don’t fret all you Falcao bandwagon fans who had never heard of him prior to his UFC debut but liked what you saw and see potential in him, if he doesn’t headline the next UFC Fight Night event, it’s not the end of the world.

Predicted Next Fights: Falcao vs. Kyle Noke – Harris vs. Dong Yi Yang

Phil Davis defeated Tim Boetsch by Submission (Hammerlock) at 2:55 in Round Two

This was booked as a showcase fight for Phil Davis given his athleticism and world-class wrestling against Tim Boetsch and his striking and lack of wrestling. Davis didn’t disappoint.

Boetsch looked good on the feet early but unfortunately for him, he couldn’t keep the fight standing. Davis used his superior wrestling to put Boetsch on his back about halfway through the round and then beat on Boetsch from the half guard for the rest of the round. In the second round Davis wasted no time going for the takedown and working the arm of Boetsch. He ended up locking up a hammerlock, which Joe Rogan claimed that he had never seen before but it looked awfully similar to Shinya Aoki’s submission on Mizuto Hirota where be broke Hirota’s arm. Rogan wants to name the hold “The Mr. Wonderful” but I personally like the name Bruce Buffer announced it as, which was simply “a submission.”

Boetsch is a solid guy to have around because he can have exciting fights against good strikers and in his victories he’s looked very good. He did his best on the feet but he just can’t hang with top-level wrestlers and unless he drastically improves his takedown defense, he’s never going to be a top light heavyweight.

Davis continues to impress. He improves with every fight and he seems to be finding his comfort zone inside the octagon. His wrestling is obviously his biggest strength but his submission game is underrated. He’s seemed to pick up the grappling aspect of MMA and he’s so comfortable on the ground and confident in his wrestling that he isn’t afraid to put himself in positions that aren’t exactly technically correct. His striking still needs work and UFC would be smart to bring him up slowly but a year from now he’s going to be ready to challenge the top guys in the division.

Predicted Next Fights: Davis vs. Vladimir Matyushenko – Boetsch vs. Alexandre Ferreira

George Sotiropoulos defeated Joe Lauzon by Submission (Kimura) at 2:43 in Round Two

After two straight controlling victories, George Sotiropoulos needed an impressive performance against a tough but ultimately overmatched Joe Lauzon. Sotiropoulos proved that he belongs with the lightweight elite after this performance.

Lauzon started off strong in this bout. He was tagging Sotiropoulos with a very good straight right hand, fending off takedowns, and holding his own on the ground. Then he started to fade with about a minute remaining in the round and may have lost the round had Sotiropoulos not tried a late armbar where he slipped off, allowing Lauzon to end up on top. Sotiropoulos took over in the second round. He started to find his groove on the feet, finally managed to get Lauzon on the ground, and then worked his superior jiu-jitsu to lock up a kimura and force Lauzon to tap. Sotiropoulos once again showed why he’s one of the best grapplers in the lightweight division.

This was Lauzon’s chance to prove he belonged near the top of the lightweight division and for four minutes he succeeded. Then something happened and he did a complete 180. He seems to have the talent to be a very good lightweight but either his conditioning is a big problem or maybe he’s not mentally sharp. In all three of his UFC losses he had early success, failed to put his opponents away, and ended up losing. Conditioning can be fixed, mental weakness can’t. The one thing Lauzon has going for him is that the man is never in a boring fight.

Sotiropoulos is near the top of the lightweight ladder although every time he wins, he seems to take a step back in competition. After finishing Lauzon, one would have thought that Sotiropoulos would be given a big fight where a victory could earn him a UFC Lightweight Title shot. Instead he’s going to be facing Dennis Siver, a good but not considered top lightweight, in Australia. I realize the timing of things hurt his chances to get a marquee match up because Sotiropoulos obviously wanted to fight in his hometown of Australia and there aren’t any top lightweights available but when you win, you should be facing better competition, not worse. Hopefully we’ll see Sotiropoulos challenge a top lightweight in the summer of 2011.

Predicted Next Fights: Sotiropoulos vs. Siver – Lauzon vs. Nik Lentz