You couldn’t have written a better script for UFC and Brazil this past Saturday night. One of the hottest and enthusiastic crowds in the history of the organization? Check. The return of a Brazilian MMA legend, who almost everyone counted out, fighting in front of his home country, showing why he’s never finished until he’s actually finished? Check. A Brazilian light heavyweight gaining revenge and proving to everyone that he’s still a very dangerous man? Check. The greatest fighter in the sport today, a Brazilian, adding to his legacy and making a tough sport look easy? Check. Brittney Palmer? Ok, maybe the script could have been a little bit better.
*Yves Jabouin vs. Ian Loveland was great for 10 minutes and then both guys gassed. If Jabouin can get his cardio in check, he has a lot of potential at 135 with his striking and improving takedown defense.
*Even though he lost, don’t sleep on Felipe Arantes. He’s only 23, is already a skilled fighter, and will improve and gain experience over time. Yuri Alcantara showed good wrestling and top control but not the most exciting performance in the world.
*Erick Silva showed some good speed and power with his hands. Although his backflip may have been the most impressive move of his octagon debut. Luis Ramos did the always classic move of looking at the ref with the “that stoppage was early” look and then falling over as he tried to get up.
*Raphael Assuncao vs. Johnny Eduardo wasn’t the most entertaining bout of all time, but Assuncao got the job down in his bantamweight debut.
*Paulo Thiago picked up a much needed victory but unless his cardio improves, he’s not going to be the welterweight threat that many thought he could be after his first four UFC fights.
*Rousimar Palhares really needs to stop refereeing his own fights. That said, that was the best Palhares looked in the UFC. He nearly stopped a very tough Dan Miller and really dominated the second round. His body type is always going to mean cardio issues but lesser guys would have been stopped in those first two rounds.
*Impressive performance by Thiago Tavares against Spencer Fisher. The stoppage may have been early but Tavares was still schooling him the entire fight.
Stanislav Nedkov defeated Luiz Cane by TKO (Punches) at 4:13 in Round One
I Looked Stupid: I’m willing to eat my crow in this fight. I didn’t think Stanislav Nedkov had much of a chance, and even though he was getting tagged up for the majority of the first round, he eventually cracked Luiz Cane and finished him. I apologize to Nedkov for selling him short heading into the fight, but I am going to take credit for motivating him against Cane, because I know he read my preview column and immediately said, “I’m going to prove this idiot wrong and win.” So you’re welcome Stanislav.
Cane Derailed: As good as Cane might be technically with his striking, his defense just isn’t there and his chin really isn’t there. Nedkov was throwing one punch all fight and yet Cane couldn’t block it. And when it finally landed and Nedkov put a left behind it, Cane ended up landing a beautiful flying knee to the cage. The skill is there with Cane, but if he can’t take a punch, he’s destined to be someone like Andrei Arlovski, who would be a great fighter if fights were contested under slap boxing rules.
Still Not Sold On Nedkov: Even though he won, I can’t say that Nedkov looked all that great. His “overhand right only” offense isn’t going to get it done against guys who actually block it. He has power in his hands and seems to have a pretty solid chin, so maybe he’ll hang around in the division but I don’t like his chances against any of the mid-level to upper echelon fighters at 205.
Predicted Next Fights: Cane vs. Local Fight – Nedkov vs. Bader/Brilz winner
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Brendan Schaub by KO (Punches) at 3:09 in Round One
Hold The Retirement Party: For those of you planning on throwing a retirement party for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, you can go sit back down. The thing is, that wasn’t even the best Nogueira we could have seen. Due to the layoff, the surgeries, and Nogueira admitting that he rushed back, that wasn’t the best “Big Nog” in 2011. His next fight will be a true indicator of where his skills are nowadays. Sure he got caught a couple of times by Brendan Schaub but he shook off the punches and fired right back.
Schaub’s Chin: Schaub’s chin is now going to be questioned until he proves that he can take a good punch by a power puncher. Nogueira has never been known for his power, although he is a very good technical boxer and might be developing some “old man strength” based on this fight and his bout with Randy Couture, but he’s never had that KO power that he showed in this fight. So was it Nogueira’s power or Schaub’s chin that lead to Schaub ending up face first on the mat? I’m leaning towards the latter.
The Thin Line Between Confident And Cocky: I know Schaub wasn’t overlooking Nogueira, but he was getting a little ahead of himself talking about, “If I beat Nogueira, I have a case for a title shot.” No one thought Schaub was on the verge of a title shot except Schaub, and I think he saw a potential shot at the strap, and simply got ahead of himself. Hopefully this loss will teach him to take it one fight at a time and not think about title shots when he hasn’t earned it yet.
Nogueira vs. Overeem: Now that Nogueira has re-established himself in the heavyweight division, UFC has another big name who can potentially fight for the title if he wins his next bout. So why now have him welcome Alistair Overeem to the octagon once “The Reem” officially signs? Nogueira came off as a huge superstar thanks to his performance and crowd support so it makes sense for Overeem, who could get a title shot win one UFC win, to face someone who is a big name and has momentum behind him.
Predicted Next Fights: Schaub vs. Barry/Struve winner – Nogueira vs. Alistair Overeem
Edson Barboza defeated Ross Pearson by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Close Fight, Questionable Decision: I agreed with the one judge who scored it 29-28 for Ross Pearson. I thought Pearson’s aggressiveness and volume punching was more effective than Edson Barboza’s power and movement. I think the judges were swayed by the fact that Barboza dropped Pearson in the second round, and a hematoma formed over Pearson’s left eye while he was also cut over his right eye. Even though he lost, I thought Pearson looked better in defeat with his boxing than Barboza did in victory with his striking.
Florian’s Commentary: I don’t know if Kenny Florian trains with Barboza, but the way he was speaking about him on commentary, you would have thought that he was the second coming of the Brazilian in the main event. I understand that fighters have certain guys they like and rarely will a fighter pick against a training partner, but on commentary, fighters need to call the action and take personal bias out of the equation. If you just listened to the fight or aren’t a very educated fan, you would have thought that Barboza routed Pearson, when that wasn’t the case at all.
Barboza’s Leg Kicks: Where were they? I think everyone thought they would be key to Barboza’s victory and yet I’m not sure he landed a single clean leg kick in the fight. Credit Pearson for not only checking or avoiding the leg kicks, but for also pressuring Barboza to where he couldn’t plant his feet to unleash his kicks. Barboza could have really used them in the fight though to stop Pearson’s forward progress.
Predicted Next Fights: Pearson vs. McKenzie/Rocha winner – Barboza vs. Dunham/Bailey winner
Mauricio Rua defeated Forrest Griffin by KO (Punches) at 1:53 in Round One
Cardio, Shogun Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Cardio: Who needs cardio when you know guys out in under a minute? This fight may not have answered all our questions about Mauricio Rua, but it showed once again just how dangerous Rua is in the first round with his power and killer instinct. He was aggressive, he clipped Forrest Griffin, and he immediately swarmed on him and finished the fight. Rua reminds me of Happy Gilmore before he used the hockey stick to putt. Happy found out that getting a hole in one every time was easier than that whole putting thing. Rua should just knock guys out in the first round every fight and not worry about that whole cardio thing.
Griffin’s Motivation And Mindset: People questioned Griffin’s motivation heading into the fight as he said that he was only fighting for money at this point. I’m sure he was motivated to win, but his mind was clearly back in Las Vegas with his wife, who went into labor immediately after the event. We all know that Griffin doesn’t like to travel far from Vegas for his fights, and not only did he have to travel to a new continent for this fight, he had to do so while his wife was nine months pregnant. I honestly felt bad for Griffin, having to be in Brazil for the final week of his wife’s pregnancy and that having to fight one of the best light heavyweights in the world when his wife was due at any moment. There were probably a million things on Griffin’s mind on Saturday night, and “Shogun” wasn’t one of them.
Griffin Not Done: There’s a small online movement that believes Griffin should retire, but I’m not on that bandwagon. The guy can still be a very good fighter at 205. I don’t really hold this fight against him because of the circumstances and I hope most fans don’t hold it against him either. I do think that UFC kind of owes it to Griffin, and even fans, to keep his fights in or close to Vegas for the rest of his career because that’s when we see Griffin at his best. I don’t know if Tito Ortiz has taken to twitter to beg for a rubber match with Griffin, but after taking a good amount of time off, I imagine that’s what’s next for Forrest.
Rua: Back In The Mix There are a few options now for Rua at 205. There’s a lot of chatter about a potential Dan Henderson vs. Rua fight, which I like but not as much as Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida, just because that fight gives you a true #1 contender, while Henderson vs. Rua could lead to Jon Jones vs. Rua 2, and I’m not sure “Shogun” fans want to see that one again. There’s also a potential bout against Phil Davis, which I think is very interesting because it will test Rua’s wrestling, which is his biggest weakness and it will see where Davis is at this point in his career. He could also face Quinton Jackson, should Jackson lose against Jones next month. Or if UFC is feeling really uncreative, they could do Machida vs. Rua 3, although I’m not sure how many people want to see that fight right now. Point is, Rua and UFC have options right now.
Predicted Next Fights: Griffin vs. Ortiz – Rua vs. Davis
Anderson Silva defeated Yushin Okami by TKO (Strikes) at 2:04 in Round Two to retain the UFC Middleweight Title
Silva Makes It Look Easy: Fighting isn’t an easy sport. People can get hurt badly if they don’t know what they’re doing. Yet here’s Anderson Silva, who not only makes it look easy, he treats it like a joke. “Fighting? Yeah, it’s harder for me to unwrap a Whooper than it is to fight.” A guy shouldn’t be able to drop his hands against a world-class opponent, not get hit, and then knock the guy down with a jab. Yet Silva does it. And he’s now done it twice. The man does things that other fighters wouldn’t dare try, he gets away with it, and he makes opponents look stupid. Don’t take this for granted everyone because it could be a long time before we see someone like this again.
Okami’s Mindset: Yushin Okami was beat the moment he stepped into the cage. I don’t know what his game plan was initially, but it went right out the window when he laid eyes on Silva. He didn’t get in Silva’s face, he allowed Silva to move around on the outside for the most part, and when he did clinch he never really attempted to get the fight to the ground. And when Silva laid leather on him, he wanted no part of that. Okami isn’t a bad fighter, he’s still a top middleweight in the world, but like 12 men before him, he wasn’t on the level of Silva and he wasn’t mentally prepared for this fight.
Okami’s Future: Now Okami has to rebound and really come back strong. After this performance, it’s going to take a lot of convincing that he’s still one of the best 185 lb fighters in the world when plenty of people doubted him in the first place. He’s probably not going to earn a rematch anytime soon, but he can at least salvage his reputation by putting together a string of victories and looking impressive, or having exciting fights, in the process. The worst thing for Okami right now would be to end up like Jon Fitch, where he does nothing but win, but his wins are so lackluster that no one buys him as a threat to the title.
Silva At Middleweight: Unless Silva is fighting Ryo Chonan, Daiju Takase, and Luiz Azeredo in a 3 on 1 bout in his next fight, I don’t really care to see him at 185 anymore. The exception to that is if Georges St. Pierre is willing to move up to 185 to fight him, but I’m not sure that will happen, even though it would be an absolute shame if it doesn’t happen when both men are on top of the MMA world like they are now. Silva should be fighting in big fights. Is a bout against the Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann winner a big fight? I don’t really think so, but that’s what we’re likely going to see next. I want to see him at 205, where there are new challenges for him. You’re telling me that Silva vs. Rashad Evans wouldn’t be amazing as the main event on FOX? Give the man some fresh challenges and some guys who pose new challenges to him, because before you know it, Silva will get old.
Predicted Next Fights: Okami vs. Ed Herman – Silva vs. Sonnen/Stann winner
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC