UFC 135: Breakthroughs

James Te Huna

Three fighters outside the spotlight who stepped up on Saturday night

Jon Jones is getting the lion’s share of the attention following his UFC 135 victory over Quinton Jackson, and rightfully so—the UFC light heavyweight champion looked phenomenal in his first title defense.

But the main event wasn’t the only bout where a statement was made. This trio of fighters each had an impressive showing Saturday night in Denver, bringing them here, casting them as UFC 135: Breakthroughs.

James Te Huna

The New Zealander picked up an early birthday present on Saturday night, collecting his second UFC victory just five days prior to his 30th birthday.

Fighting outside of Australia for the first time in his career, Te Huna needed just 47 seconds to blast his way through Ricardo Romero in the opening bout of the evening. After landing a big uppercut early, Te Huna landed again shortly after, knocking Romero out cold.

Te Huna is now 7-1 over his last eight, his only loss coming to light heavyweight up-and-comer Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 127. With clearly explosive knockout power, Te Huna is definitely one to keep an eye on in the future.

Tony Ferguson

With all due respect to Court McGee, Ferguson might be the most promising talent to come off The Ultimate Fighter in quite some time. After winning Season 13 as a welterweight, Ferguson dropped to lightweight for his post-TUF debut, and delivered an outstanding performance.

Facing tough veteran Aaron Riley, Ferguson demonstrated the punching power that stopped all his TUF opponents, breaking Riley’s jaw with a left uppercut midway through the opening round.

The weight cut didn’t appear to impact Ferguson. He retained his impressive power, maintained speed on his punches, and coupled with his length, “El Cucuy” could become problematic for fellow residents of the 155 pound division.

Nate Diaz

Speaking of long and lean lightweights with excellent boxing, Diaz returned from his four-fight welterweight vacation to dominate Takanori Gomi.

The winner of Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter put together his most impressive performance to date, peppering the former Pride champion on the feet before showing his smooth submission game. Still just 26-years-old, the younger Diaz has all the tools inside the cage to be a contender.

He’s much better than the 1-3 record he put together in his final four fights before moving to welterweight. If he continues to fight to his strengths, using his reach, crisp boxing, and strong jiu-jitsu, Diaz should be able to hang with just about anyone in the lightweight division.