When the final buzzer sounded on the five-round slugfest between Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos, it was obvious that yet again another UFC Fight Night event had delivered the goods. Continuing a 2017 trend of under-the-radar events that serve up some of the best moments in the sport, the Fight Night Winnipeg card was a generous holiday gift for fight fans everywhere.
These are the talking points of UFC Fight Night Winnipeg.
The resurgence of Rafael Dos Anjos
TY Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada #UFC fans for your added energy in the arena enhancing last night’s exciting evening of Octagon action, culminating into this main event 5 rd. battle between @rdosanjosmma & @ruthless_rl Cheers to All! #ITSTIME #BUFFLIFE
A post shared by Bruce Buffer (@brucebufferufc) on Dec 16, 2017 at 10:21pm PST
There was a moment in the second round of the main event when Rafael Dos Anjos had Robbie Lawler up against the fence, giving him an extended 40-punch barrage that you could really see it: the old RDA was back. If his first two wins at welterweight were convincing, his third against a tough-as-nails Lawler was undeniable. This was the elite-level skill that had once made him the lightweight champion.
Speaking with him in the days leading up to the fight, it was evident that the move up in weight class has made RDA a new man. He was lighthearted and jovial, joking that "now I can have a social life" instead of expending his energy on cutting weight. I asked him before the fight if he was already thinking about the belt and he didn't hesitate. "Absolutely," he said. "When I want something, I envision it, and when I envision it, I always acheive it. The belt will be mine."
After Saturday, it's hard to deny he's at least earned the opportunity to try and make that vision a reality. A fight with champion Tyron Woodley makes too much sense not to happen, and Dos Anjos is willing to wait as long as it takes for that shot.
Glover far from over
Misha Cirkunov is one bad dude, and it's easy to fall into the trap of picking the younger, presumably hungrier fighter. But Glover Teixeira surviving some early heat to simply flip the table and get a first round TKO is a prime example of why we should never fall into that trap.
If the crowd had forgotten that he's a jiu-jitsu black belt, they were reminded with some clinical grappling that looked as effortless to Teixeira as waiting for the bus.
Jimi Manuwa is the next opponent on most people's lips for Teixeira, but he and current champ Daniel Cormier have joked that maybe they should meet after DC's bout with Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220, and everyone knows that the best jokes have an element of truth in them.
Ponzinibbio's out-pounds Perry, keeps win streak alive
There wasn't a fight fan alive (particularly Chase Sherman) that truly thought Ponzinibbio vs Perry would go the distance. Given the recent track record of both fighters, it was completely understandable.
Perry's all-in style, while improving, still shows holes to more experienced fighters, and Ponzinibbio was able to capitialize on this. Don't sleep on Santiago. This was his sixth consecutive win, and it was a win that cemented his status as a true danger in the division.
Darren Till or the Usman/Meek winner seem to be the logical next chapters, and after Saturday, who wouldn't want to see either of those fights?
If you didn't know them before...
While moving Jose Aldo to the main event of the UFC 218 card to replace an injured Frankie Edgar made for an excellent and compelling rematch, his removal from a scheduled bout with Ricardo Lamas was a hit to the Winnipeg card.
Speaking frankly, the announcement that Aldo would be replaced by Josh Emmett did not capture the imagination or the je ne sais quoi of the original fight. Add to that Emmett missing weight and nearly jeopardizing the fight itself, and expectations were minimal for the co-main.
Emmett knew this, however, and told anyone that would listen in the days leading up to the fight that all he needed was "one clean shot" and the victory would be his. Emmett got that clean shot, and announced his arrival to the division and to the world with a first-round KO that kept veteran Lamas on the canvas for an extended, anxiety-ridden few moments.
Whoever he fights next, it's safe to say after Winnipeg that we'll all be watching with great interest.
Another newcomer demanding our attention was Julian "The Cuban Missle Crisis" Marquez. Best know prior to Saturday as the guy who delivered that epic head kick on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, Marquez showed up big in his UFC debut against Darren Stewart.
Anyone watching the bout had to wonder if both fighters' heads were actually made out of concrete considering the absolute bludgeoning both were able to withstand before Marquez was able to execute his guillotine choke in the second.
I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. In Marquez's last two fights, we've seen him sleep his opponents to such an extent that they are unconscious on the mat for several minutes before returning to their feet. Instead of celebrateing, both times Marquez has dropped to his knees and respectfully waited to make sure his opponents got up safely. Oh, and he challenged Tyron Woodley...to a beard contest. He's the full package of devastation, sportsmanship and humor, and that should make him a must-watch for years to come.
Steve Latrell is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TheUFSteve