Updated: August 8, 2011, 5:07 PM ET

Evans shines, Akiyama doesn't, more

By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com

UFC 133 became all about salvation the moment Jon Jones withdrew from his title defense with Rashad Evans with a hand injury. It nearly became a throwaway card when Jones' replacement, Phil Davis, went down with an injury too.

Then the casualties began stacking up. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and by extension Rich Franklin. Then Vladimir Matyushenko, who was briefly in the running for the main event spot. Then Alessio Sakara tears his ACL ahead of what has become the most tainted pairing in Zuffa history against Jorge Rivera (Rivera remained on the card and fought the most dreaded name in the media guide, Constantinos Philippou. It's a spelling nightmare.)

In the end, the card will go down as a forgettable event for most, even with (or specifically because of) Dennis Hallman's tight blue skivvies. There weren't any big surprises. Most of the favorites won. The first five fights on the card went to decisions (which incurred Philly's wrath) and the past five fights were finishes (which incurred Philly's wrath). In other words, pretty predictable stuff.

Five new storylines

By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com

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Henderson's fate. In an indirect way,Dan Henderson may find the greener pastures in Strikeforce by Rashad Evans solidified himself as the No. 1 contender at 205 pounds, . If Tito Ortiz had won, Henderson would have been the UFC's best option for Jon Jones-Quinton Jackson. Now, he'd have to wait, and that might be enough for the maverick to re-up with Strikeforce.


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The emergence of MacDonald and Gustafsson. Both Rory MacDonald and Alexander Gustafsson flashed a little peek of the UFC's future. MacDonald plowed through the prospect killer Mike Pyle, who came in at the top of his game, and Gustafsson became the first fighter to finish Matt Hamill inside of two rounds. (Yes, Jon Jones would have, but still). Would the "Mauler" have beaten Rich Franklin? Smart money says "yes," and it's a smart Rich Franklin that said "no" to a late-replacement opponent in Gustafsson.


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The discovery of Ebersole. The chest-hair arrow pointing at the anonymous quasi-Couture character is telling. Brian Ebersole has fought in more than 60 professional MMA fights but people didn't talk about him until he tried that highly ineffective cartwheel kick against Chris Lytle. Now he beats stalwart Dennis Hallman in one of the more bizarre fights since Zuffa's purchase. He's won nine in a row. Why'd it take so long for him to find his way?


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Hamill tanks just before biopic. The timing couldn't be worse for Matt Hamill to fall out of rearview-mirror range of title contention. His biopic, "Hamill," is set to come out this fall. Yet with his second consecutive loss and a particularly listless showing against Alexander Gustafsson, a little bit of his already feel-good story drops off.


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Sexyama to 170 pounds. He is now 1-3 (and nearly 0-4) in the UFC. Yet with a tentative plan for the UFC to host a card in Yoshihiro Akiyama's native Japan in early 2012, it's possible that the UFC will retain the popular star. With one caveat -- that he drop down to welterweight, which Dana White said he and Lorenzo Fertitta have been pining for.

Five new questions

By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com

Q: Does Mike Brown have a second round problem?
A: If you look at his performances against Diego Nunes and Nam Phan, there's one glaring similarity. He dominates the first round, and looks spent in the second. (He faded also against Rani Yahya). This time he held on to beat Phan after what looked like a 10-8 first round, but it's not a trend he can foster if he wants to be a champion again.

Q: Is it time to feed MacDonald to a contender?
A: A lot of people were pairing the barely-old-enough-to-drink Rory MacDonald with Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck after he whupped Mike Pyle. Will he get one of these long-time welterweight commodities? Probably. The UFC doesn't abide by the "bring them up slowly" ideology as much as people like to think.

Q: Are Tito Ortiz's days of being a contender over?
A: Yes. He beat Ryan Bader with his back against the wall, and took the Rashad Evans fight on short notice in hopes that it would expedite things. It didn't, and now he's back in the common lottery of mid-tier 205ers.

Q: Is the new Rashad Evans that much better than the old?
A: There was a time when Rashad Evans was more of a reactive counter-puncher who used his wrestling to finagle points. These days he is more apt to bring it. Even after 14 months out of the cage, his poise against Ortiz was unsettling. The showdown against Jon Jones looms large.

Q: Is Vitor Belfort ready for another title shot?
A: He was called "vintage" enough to feel like a butterfly collar against Akiyama, but the nature of his loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 126 doesn't exactly inspire notions of an immediate title shot. Everybody knows this except Belfort, who was making the case for it. He'll have to get through at least one and probably two more guys before that happens.

The winners and losers of UFC 133

By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com

With UFC 133 in the books, here's a look at who turned in award-worthy performances on Saturday night in Philadelphia. Certificates and puffy stickers are in the mail, gentlemen.

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Rashad Evans. Of all those who emerged victorious at UFC 133, Evans is likely breathing the biggest sigh of relief. Not only did he reassert his position as the light heavyweight division's No. 1 contender, but he took some heat off himself after spending the past 14 months out of action. In his first fight since leaving Greg Jackson's vaunted MMA team, he also showed up rust-free and in phenomenal shape, proving he's more than capable of running his own training camp out of Imperial Athletics in Florida. Now, bring on Jon Jones in the bout everyone really wants to see.


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Yoshihiro Akiyama. The Japanese star looked tentative in the early going of his bout against Vitor Belfort, and, really, who could blame him? After beginning his UFC career 1-2, Akiyama got matched up with one of the middleweight division's deadliest strikers during what seemed like a make-or-break outing for him. After trying a (desperation?) front kick similar to the one Anderson Silva used to KO Belfort at UFC 126, Akiyama got dropped with a left hand and then finished with strikes on the ground by the former light heavyweight champ. The whole ordeal took 1 minute, 54 seconds and if Akiyama is still employed come Monday, it'll only because the UFC needs him to help promote its planned return to Japan in February 2012.


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Belfort KO 1 Akiyama. Belfort officially claimed the UFC's $70,000 KO of the night bonus, but in the interest of spreading some love, I'd like to recognize a couple of young lions in Alexander Gustafsson and Rory MacDonald. After a round and a half of so-so action against Matt Hamill on the preliminary card, Gustafsson jumped all over "The Hammer" once he had him hurt in the second. The 24-year-old is definitely on the move in the light heavyweight division. Meanwhile, MacDonald -- who is but 22 -- just looks better and better each time we see him. At UFC 133, he dispatched Mike Pyle just shy of four minutes into the first round.


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"I know everyone is struggling in this economy," said Belfort on the mic in the cage after dispatching Akiyama, "but I make my own atmosphere. You make sure and make your own atmosphere and live for your dreams." Yeah, no idea exactly what that means, but I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. I think.


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What was he thinking? Dennis Hallman. Hallman edged out Alexander Gustafsson to win Satuday's "Passion for fashion" award. It seemed Gustafsson had the evening's worst ring attire wrapped up when he showed up wearing a tiny pair of red Bad Boy trunks that were only made to look smaller by his lanky, 6-foot-4 frame. However, that was before Hallman made his appearance in his blue Speedo, with the name of one of his sponsors printed on an area Strikeforce announcer Mauro Ranallo likes to call "the peninsula south of the equator." Hallman lost to Brian Ebersole via first-round TKO and after the event Ebersole received a cash bonus from the UFC just for getting Hallman and his tights out of there early.

Who's trending after UFC 133?

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Trending up: Rory MacDonald. If not for his sudden collapse down the stretch of his UFC 115 bout with Carlos Condit in June 2010, MacDonald would be 4-0 in the Octagon right now and would probably already considered neck-and-neck with young, upwardly mobile welterweights like Condit, Jake Ellenberger, Rick Story and Charlie Brenneman. If nothing else, MacDonald showed by quickly taking care of Mike Pyle on Saturday that he's ready for a test against a Top-10 opponent.


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Trending down: Jorge Rivera. What a tough road for Rivera recently. After dropping his grudge match against Michael Bisping via controversial TKO at UFC 127 he twice saw proposed matchups with Alessio Sakara fall through due to injury and illness and on Saturday dropped a hard-fought split decision to replacement fighter Constantinos Philippou. Will this be the last time we see Rivera in the Octagon? Possibly, unless he feels his business with Sakara absolutely needs to be settled before retiring.


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Holding Steady: Tito Ortiz. Granted, perhaps Ortiz saw much of the momentum he'd captured with his upset win over Ryan Bader last month stymied at the hands of Rashad Evans, but he still seems like a more viable member of the 205-pound class than he's been in years. Ortiz did the UFC a major solid by taking this fight for the injured Phil Davis, so expect him to stay near the top of the card -- and the list of disclosed salaries -- for at least one more fight.


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Fighters who desperately needed wins ... and got one: Rashad Evans, Chad Mendes, Mike Brown and Rafael Natal. These four guys were all feeling the heat for slightly different reasons. While Brown and Natal both likely saved themselves from the unemployment line with unanimous decision wins on the preliminary card, Evans and Mendes nabbed televised victories that put them back at the front of the line for title shots they'd previously earned but had then been denied. So long as his broken hand doesn't prevent it, Mendes will get the winner of Jose Aldo versus Kenny Florian from UFC 136. Evans waits on the outcome of Jon Jones against Quinton Jackson at UFC 135 and no matter who wins, he'll find himself in a grudge match that should be one of the promotion's hottest tickets toward the end of the year.


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Fighters who desperately need wins ... and lost: Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera and Matt Hamill. Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera and Matt Hamill. This trio faces an increasingly uncertain future after their already dodgy footing dropped out from under them completely on Saturday night. Questions now abound for each: Will the 39-year-old Rivera retire after back-to-back losses and a series of false starts with Alessio Sakara? Will Akiyama cut to welterweight, as UFC brass said they've been "begging" him to do? Even if he does, can the UFC find him a winnable fight when it treks to Japan in early 2012? Are Hamill's best days behind him, and doesn't that seem like terrible timing, with his self-titled biopic about to drop in the fall? Each guy will have a lot of soul-searching to do in the coming weeks.


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