The Geraldo Jose de Almeida State Gymnasium (in Sao Paulo, Brazil) played host to the UFC this weekend, and we finally witnessed the third chapter of a rivalry between legends. Fight Night: Henderson vs. Belfort was another terrific offering from the flagship promotion, and the Main Event even brought the requisite fireworks. When Middleweights Dan “Hendo” Henderson (31-14-0) Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (25-11-0) met in the Octagon to settle their trilogy, it certainly was settled rather decisively. The rubber match between these two destroyers appropriately lasted under three minutes, with an explosive ending that was as sudden as it was violent. After an extended feeling-out period, Belfort suddenly sprang like a tiger with a left head kick, knocking “Hendo” out 2:07 into the fight. There was some thunderous, destructive follow-up but that was merely formality, the damage had already been done. This knock-out tied Vitor with Anderson Silva for the most finishes in UFC history. While it was a somewhat disappointing ending for hardcore “Hendo” fans like myself, I’m certain Vitor fans are satisfied with how things turned out, and the card as a whole was really fantastic.
Both contestants in the Light Heavyweight Co-Main Event entered this fight riding the wave of momentum from quality stoppage wins in August, but only one man would still be riding that wave for the duration of November. #4 Glover Teixeira (24-4-0) and #9 Patrick “Durkin” Cummins (8-3-0) collided in the cage, and Teixeira managed to repel everything thrown his way. Over a round and change he was able to chip away at Cummins’ defense (along with his face) on the feet until the 1:12 mark of round two, when referee Herb Dean was forced to save him from getting badly hurt. Cummins had some grappling success early, though he didn’t have time to engage in any real offense because Teixeira got up practically immediately every time. The contrast in the levels of striking the two men employed was plain to the eye, easily apparent, and Cummins has a ton of work to do if he really wants to compete at the heights of the sport.
In the battle of world-class Bantamweight prospects, the supreme talent of #8 Thomas “Thominhas” Almeida (21-0-0) was like a beacon brilliantly shining on the horizon. This magnificent young fighter knocked out fellow likely future star Anthony “El Toro” Birchak (12-3-0) with a big fat exclamation point, and he rose high above in a sort of ‘prospect-eliminator’ showdown. The end came with a little less than a minute left in round one, when Almeida got Birchak up against the cage and really teed-off with a series of strikes accentuated with a thudding right cross that put Birchak’s body into folding-chair mode, giving us two knock-outs in a row at that point. Almeida has now earned a T/KO victory in fourteen of his last fifteen fights, and he tied current Champ T.J. Dillashaw for the UFC Bantamweight record of three consecutive T/KO wins, no small feat.
Much like the other fighter who has the same nickname, Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (13-2-1, 1 NC) packs a ton of power behind his strikes, and I agree with announcer Jon Anik that he’s “Must-See TV”. Unfortunately for Poland’s Piotr Hallman (15-5-0), he got to find all of this out first-hand, though to his credit he fought hard while he lasted. Less than a minute into the likely winner-takes-all third round, the two men had a wild exchange in the center of the Octagon during which Oliveira landed not one but two flush rights. The second one really did the trick, and Hallman crumpled deliriously to the mat, rendering the “Cowboy” follow-up mostly superficial. The referee stopped it there and it was ruled a round three knock-out, fifty-one seconds in.
The second entry on the Main Card was Lightweight action between rising stars who shared just one loss in their nearly thirty combined fights. In a classic striker vs. grappler pairing, Rashid “Goretz” Magomedov (19-1-0) controlled the action with high-efficiency, clinical stand up, rendering the still-growing, formerly undefeated Gilbert “Durinho” Burns (10-1-0) ineffective for most of the fight, which went the distance. It looked like Magomedov might get the finish in the second round, but he refused to push the issue and accidentally expose himself (to the audible displeasure of those in attendance). The judges awarded Magomedov his twelfth consecutive victory with identical 30-27 scorecards, and there is no controversy with this one.
The Main Card started off with bang (in my mind). I had HOPED to see #12 Fabio “Caipira” Maldonado (22-9-0) have a vintage performance and win an all-out war. Standing in his way was the ever-evolving Corey “Beastin’ 25/8” Anderson (8-1-0), winner of my ‘Worst Nickname Ever’ Award. Anderson ruined my plans and crushed this particular dream with heavy pressure and a balanced, non-stop assault. Maldonado didn’t gas late this time, he just had no significant answer for Anderson’s onslaught, and he couldn’t ever land any damaging strikes as is his modus operandi. Maldonado has now last three of his last four, while Anderson notched his second win in a row and the fourth out of his last five fights.
It seems like a card cannot come and go these days without some form of (usually minor) controversy, and that quota was adequately filled by the time the FS1 Prelim marquee fight was finished. Gleison Tibau (41-11-0) appears to have been the beneficiary of a just yet still probably very early stoppage by referee Keith Peterson. In the ref’s defense, Abel “Killa” Trujillo (12-7-0, 1 NC) was in a very deep-looking rear-naked choke, and his eyes WERE shut. Peterson should have done the arm test or a verbal test, though I can’t really fault an early stoppage under those circumstances (better safe than sorry). Trujillo has now dropped two in a row, and Tibau improved to 4-1 over his last five.
The first Lightweight clash of the evening was like a Tale of Two Styles. Johnny “Hollywood” Case (22-4-0) specializes in striking, though he shows constant improvement from one fight to the next in the other disciplines, and he spent most of the fight looking to drop smart bombs. Yan Cabral (12-2-0) is a grappler and ground fighter with serviceable stand up, and he spent most of his evening looking to squeeze the fight from Case one way or another. Both men had their moments but “Hollywood” had more of them, getting the upper hand for the better part of two rounds. The judges agreed with my assessment, earning Case the Unanimous Decision and extending his winning streak to an incredible twelve wins (four in the UFC).
Much to my chagrin, Clay “The Carpenter” Guida (32-13-0) dropped to 3-3 at 145 and literally wrestled his way right into an arm-in guillotine submission loss in his 21st UFC fight. Thiago Tavares (24-6-1), another longtime fixture on the company roster, took early advantage of a very committed double-leg attempt and sunk in the choke, getting the tap at :39 of round one. Adding to the impressive nature of this win is the fact that it was the fastest submission win in UFC Featherweight history.
The FS1 Prelims opener was the first of two straight fights in the Division Jose Aldo Junior Built. Although Chas Skelly (15-1-0) looked like his tank was empty early in the second round, he landed a perfect rolling takedown on Kevin Souza (19-4-0), leading to a rear-naked choke submission at the 1:56 mark. The whole exchange took place right in front of Skelly’s corner, and they walked him through the entire process, shouting directions that he followed to perfection. Skelly earned his 4th straight UFC win, and snapped a ten-fight win streak that Souza was enjoying. Souza had some success in the first round, even dropping his opponent with a stiff left hook, but Skelly played his usual game and got the win.
The Fight Pass headliner was also the lone Welterweight fight on the entire card, and it was unfortunately mostly a one-sided offering between two fighters in need of a win. Viscarde Andrade (18-7-0) defeated Gasan “Cobra” Umalatov (15-5-1) with a clear Unanimous Decision, though one of the judges DID give Umalatov one round. If my telepathic powers are working, the round in question was the third, the only round he showed any sense of urgency in. Rivera has now won in two of his three appearances in the Octagon, while Umalatov falls to 1-3 in the promotion.
The second FP prelim brought together Bantamweights who left it all in the cage for this battle. American Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera (18-1-0) looked great for long stretches of this fifteen-minute go-round, walking away with a razor-close Split Decision win over home favorite Pedro “The Young Punisher” Munhoz (11-2-0, 1 NC). Ring rust played an early role in this fight for Munhoz, which in my opinion was the difference here, giving the surging Rivera his 17th straight victory. The fight itself was exciting, with numerous competitive exchanges, especially in the final two frames.
The Fight Pass Prelims were kicked off by two talented Bantamweight prospects making their official UFC debut. These former teammates on TUF Brazil: 4 put on quite the show to kick off the event as Matheus Nicolau (11-2-1) submitted Bruno Korea (4-2-0) in the third round of their back-and-forth slugfest. Each man scored at least one knockdown, Nicolau in the first and the third and Korea in the second, each man likely winning those respective round on the scorecards. The scores would not be required, however, as Nicolau capitalized on his last knockdown by moving to mount and eventually securing the win at 3:27 of round three by cranking on a slick, deep modified leg-in guillotine choke from the top position. Nicolau earned his fourth consecutive victory, and likewise snapped the four-fight winning streak of Korea, though both men impressed in their debuts and appear to have bright futures in the sport.
Photos courtesy of Getty and Wikipedia