The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4 – Week 3 Recap

Ben Grimm: In addition to a fight, we get a whole bunch of other things this episode. As you’ve no doubt seen and heard, this is the episode where Anderson Silva gets pulled from the show. This whole situation bums me out so much. I’m a huge Anderson fan, the first UFC PPV I ever watched was UFC 101, which partly explains why I’ve always been in awe of this magical Brazilian cage wizard.

Team Colours

Team Anderson/Nogueira
Team Shogun

The guys have taken over the house, as is their right, and they’re super stoked about being there.

House PartyYour home could be next.

We only see a little of the first night there, though. The first training sessions get way more focus. Given that Reginaldo Vieira is the first fighter from Team Anderson, he gets a bit more focus here, with Anderson showing him some elbow and knee techniques. Both teams take it relatively easy during training, given that the guys fought the day before. Team Shogun does the same kind of thing, as they make it clear to the team that whoever is up next gets priority, and y’all gotta help them cause they’re all family-team now. Ace.

AL: I’d like to point out that Team Anderson employs TUF: Brazil 3 alum Rick Monstro!

BG: Next up, the boys get dressed up for a night on the town (including those weirdo Octagon shaped necklaces that no sane person would ever wear, right?), and this is where I’ll hand over to Alex.

AL: Oh, they get dressed up alright. They are taking to the Vegas lifestyle like ducks to water.

Looking Sharp

Gun fingaaaaaz!

The fighters wonder if they’re going to a strip club, which would be a first for this show. Shogun Rua tells them he has a mission for the cast and a line of beautiful women come marching out. They are, of course, this year’s ring girl contestants! One of the guys says, “No one here is committed. We’re all single.” It’s not true, but it’s still funny.
Anyway, their mission is to help narrow the girls down to two finalists for the viewers at home to eventually vote on.

Play It CoolEven Jack Godzilla knows to stay out of trouble.

The seeds have been planted for future shenanigans (fingers crossed), but we quickly move on to the coaches interacting with this week’s competitors. Shogun is confident that Matheus Nicolau is better than Reginaldo in all aspects of MMA while Anderson is more inclined to give specific pointers to Reginaldo since he is more of a one-dimensional grappler.

And then Anderson gets a phone call. Now I put the veracity of this whole scene into question, but I’d love to get your take on it, Ben.

BG: As I explained above, I’m a huge Anderson fan.

So this scene sucked so hard for me to watch.

As we all know, large swaths of reality TV are semi-scripted and set up, so I’m not sure how to digest the phone call. Anderson goes from straight denial to convenient excuse very quickly. When Anderson is deflecting the anabolic steroid question, he does so by admitting to taking an anti-inflammatory for three days. I don’t know whether this is textbook denial tactics, but I know I’ve done this shit before. Cop to something lesser, in order to deflect the big charge.

I dunno. I’d love to believe Anderson, and he does seem entirely sincere when he pleads innocence in a confessional, but it doesn’t look good. Also, the potentially scripted nature throws shade on all of this. I doubt that that moment was the first Anderson heard of his test failure. It makes great TV, but it doesn’t ring 100% true.

And then from here we go straight to our first team challenge.

I think the mood whiplash just broke my neck.

Ring GirlsOnly because we didn’t give you guys a MILF shot last time.

The challenge is pretty fun, and the set holding it up is gargantuan. Each team selects four guys, and they’ll be responsible for controlling a corner of what is essentially a marble maze.

Labyrinth ChallengeGood to see that these old Survivor props aren’t just thrown away.

It seems that in this season, they’re playing for prizes, rather than arbitrary fight picking power, and the prize is seeing the snow at Mount Charleston, which I’m sure would be fairly naff to my Canadian counterpart…

AL: I chortle at this “reward”.

BG:…but as I come from Australia, a country that is 80% desert and 20% freak weather patterns, seeing non-terrifying snow would be pretty cool.

Team Shogun eventually wins, in part, I think, due to the fact that they had Soldado up on Jack Godzilla’s shoulders (JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA) as dual parts spotter and mascot. Team Shogun are stoked to win, and Nazareno Malegarie sums it up best:

Freezer SpeechEl Tigre: “The Red Team, Shogun’s guys, will get to see snow. The Blue Team will have to open the door to the freezer or get a bucket of ice while we’re enjoying the snow.”

The fun stuff is over, though, and now it’s time for weigh-ins, and SRS BSNS.

AL: I’m sure you’re referring to the introduction of the first ring girl candidate of the season. Her name is Otmara Marrero and…huh, there’s something off about her Portuguese, I can’t quite put my finger on…hey! She’s speaking English! That’s not how we do on TUF: Brazil! Ironically, she says she feels like she has a certain “mystery” to her. She’s from Miami!

Otmara MarreroDisqualified.

It’s time for Anderson to tell his team about his failed test. I can’t even begin to imagine how crazy it must have been to be in that room listening to that. He goes on to give a speech about not giving up and following your dreams, but if it were me all I’d hear is a faint buzzing. His protégé, Dedé is particularly broken up. Thank goodness we have some old-fashioned violence to distract us from this awful situation.

The Nogueira brothers arrive, with Big Nog sporting some rocking facial hair for our convenience.

Mirror UniverseIt also helps us to distinguish which is the evil one.

Both fighters weigh in without incident and we have ourselves a fight!

Bantamweight Bout: Matheus Nicolau (10-1-1) v. Reginaldo Vieira (12-3)

Unfortunately, most of the actual fight is without incident as well. It has a slow, measured pace and Matheus doesn’t do anything to show off why he was Shogun’s top bantamweight pick. He’s solid, he doesn’t get in any danger, but that’s about it. It’s actually Reginaldo who manages to take the first round, punctuating it with a nice slam.

Reginaldo SlamThe fight has a TUF 19 vibe to it. I know that’s harsh, but it just didn’t do anything for me. We end up going to a third round, much to the chagrin of the Nogueiras who feel that Reginaldo was pushing the action and that should have given him the win already. Matheus scores a key takedown and Reginaldo is unable to get up after that. It’s a unanimous decision win for Matheus.

Matheus VictoriousBG: I’ve gotta agree with the Nogueiras. I thought Reginaldo won the first two and we didn’t need a third. Oh well. At his point, I’m not attached enough to any of these fighters to get angry about judging incompetence. I don’t think this loss will hurt Team Nogueira too much, as Big Nog has an impeccable TUF coaching pedigree. Taking over like this means he’s coaching his third season (TUF 8 and TUF: Brazil 2), and he’s coached three winners (Efrain Escudero, Ryan Bader, and Leonardo Santos), and five of six finalists (Philippe Nover & Patolino). Big Nog is basically TUF royalty.

Although, they may very easily lose the next fight.

Team Shogun selects their number one lightweight pick, Nazareno to fight the number one lightweight of Team Nog, Dedé. Given that his mentor just got booted from the show, Dedé could very easily be quite rattled. Clever fight pick from Shogun.

I did enjoy this episode, in spite of a fairly average fight, and I’m sure we’re gonna get some great moments out of this season!

AL: I am blown away by your staggering Big Nog TUF statistics.

Next Week: Team Shogun’s El Tigre v. Team Nogueira’s Dedé. Also, our first fighter/ring girl romance?!?

Cat

The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4 – Week 1 & 2 Recap

*Some of you more hardcore TUF fans might be thinking: “Wait a minute, TUF: Brazil is already in its third week! What is this nonsense?” Well, real life has caused a slight delay in our usual on-point coverage and we weren’t going to just skip ahead, so here we are catching up with a recap of the first two episodes. Be assured that we will be caught up with the program shortly, real life be damned.

You may also notice that we’re going by our real names now. Beneath our respective masks are Ben Grimm (a.k.a. The_Vortex) and Alexander K Lee (a.k.a. NewChallenger). Nice to meet you.

Ben Grimm: We back.

Alexander K Lee: Oh, we back.

BG: Hold your applause, because we’ve only just started.

AL: Hold onto your butts. Tightly.

BG: Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

You are now about to witness the finest bi-continental reviews of any pugilistic reality show taking place in a language entirely different to our own.

TUF: Brazil is back, and I could not be happier. Whilst it’s going to have to try really hard to beat last season’s Wanderlei Silva meltdown, I’m looking forward to an entirely new cast of Brazilian fighters willing to train all day, praise Jesus all the time, and shed manly tears about their families.

I love TUF: Brazil, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

AL: And TUF: Brazil loves us back.

BG: The best part of TUF: Brazil has always been the cast. They love TUF, they love the UFC, they love their coaches and they’re all ready to scrap. These first two episodes are both prelim episodes, cutting 32 fighters in half (not literally), and promise 8 sub-par fights an episode. Bring. It. On.

Interestingly, these opening fights, and the whole season are taking place in Las Vegas, in the UFC training centre. Fighters always look excited when they enter the set, and these guys are no exception.

AL: I like seeing the guys walking around and stomping on the mat, as if they can’t believe it’s real.

BG: They even make a toast, with the usual TUF: Brazil product placement at the fore. This is the best.

AL: Previous TUF: Brazil contestants had to advance to the finals before being brought to Las Vegas, but this year it’s where everything is happening. As is typical of Brazilian culture, the celebration is defined by calmness and restraint.

Invading BraziliansSomeone alert the authorities.

We get to meet the coaches, Anderson Silva and Shogun Rua, who between the two of them have fought and beaten almost every big name in MMA history. Anderson says he’s a much better teacher than a fighter. It is such a bummer knowing that he doesn’t end up coaching the rest of the season due to his PED scandal.

The fighters get invited to UFC 183 to watch Anderson fight Nick Diaz! The boss is spoiling these guys right out of the gate. Oddly, it sounds like the show dubs over Bruce Buffer so we get Brazilian Bruce.

I have to respect the show’s commitment to all of this Anderson footage despite knowing how things turned out. They’re telling the story honestly even though we all know it ends up with everyone having egg on their face.

That kind integrity is rare in this sport where so oftOMG THEREIS A GUY WITH THE NICKNAME JACK GODZILLA

If he doesn’t make it into the house I may actually cry. Speaking of getting into the house, shall we move onto the elimination fights?

*****

BG:

Fight 1 (Bantamweight): Franklyn “Arrocha” Santos (4-0) v. Bruno “Korea” Mesquita (4-0)

Arrocha is from Rio, and dropped out of college to be a pro fighter. That’s all we learn of him. Korea has a taekwondo base, so I’m pretty excited by that. Last season, we had a karate guy go to the finals, and there are plenty of fighters with a TKD base. Let’s see what happens.

Korea takes the centre of the Octagon quickly, and then we get a lot of circling. Three strikes are thrown in the first minute. Yes, I counted. It picks up a bit from there. They flurry a bit, and Korea throws one very cool spinning head kick that connects just above the neck and basically knocks Arrocha dead. It’s an amazing kick, and no follow up was needed. Dana’s impressed, Shogun less so by Korea’s passivity. Korea landed three strikes that fight, and one was the killing blow. Sick.

TKDKOWTF!

Winner: Korea via KO

AL:

Fight 2 (Lightweight): Joaquim “Netto BJJ” Silva (7-0) v. Carlos “Mistoca” Costa (7-1)

Like so many fighters, Netto got his start watching tapes and wanting to be Royce Gracie. Mistoca’s deal is that most of his childhood friends are dead. As Ben mentioned, we’re only getting about 45 seconds of background and then it is right into the fights. They’re not giving these emotional moments much room to breathe.

Mistoca gets straight cracked after motioning for Netto to bring it on. That causes Mistoca to go for a takedown but quick. Both guys keep taunting after they get hit, which seems like a silly way to go about fighting someone. Mistoca comes out in the second hooting and hollering and Big John has to tell him to get his ass back to his side of the octagon. Real professional so far.

There is so much horsing around on Mistoca’s part, but from what we’re told he is winning the fight. However, he completely gasses in the third round and eats enough punches without responding to have Big John call the fight off in favour of Netto. Anderson lets it be known that he wasn’t amused by Mistoca’s antics.

Huff PuffAnderson: “He was winning, but he started kidding around and ended up injuring himself and losing his greatest opportunity ever.”

Winner: Netto BJJ via TKO

BG:

Fight 3 (Bantamweight): Renato “FranguinhoMônaco (10-1) v. Dileno Lopes (19-1)

Franguinho is the brother of Tiago Mônaco Tosato, another MMA fighter, with a record of 34-19, that consists entirely of beating up debuting fighters. Also, he’s a ranga.

AL: I actually don’t know what that means.

BG: I don’t care for him too much. Dileno Lopes fought Rony Jason on the elimination round of the first season of TUF: Brazil and got TKO’d. He’s hoping this one goes better.

Franguinho is a big bantamweight. Both fighters come out strong. Dileno gets the better of the early exchanges, chopping away at his opponent’s legs. He eventually trips the ranga down, and lands in side control. He mounts really quickly, and when Franguinho rolls, he sinks in the RNC. Really strong performance against a larger opponent.

Lopes ChokeAs he’s announced the winner, Dileno manages to cry, thank Jesus, and his whole family. That’s the real holy trinity of TUF: Brazil.

Winner: Dileno Lopes via submission

AL:

Fight 4 (Lightweight): Nazareno “El Tigre” Malegarie (28-3) v. Edson “PC” Pereira (12-2)

El Tigre is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the same country as one of our favourites, Guido “Ninja” Cannetti. You might actually recognize Malegarie since he fought for Bellator against the likes of Daniel Straus and Marlon Sandro. He’s certainly a favourite going into this competition.

No joke, PC explains that he got his nickname because he would skip training to play games at cyber cafés.

The highlights don’t give us much to work with. All we learn is that PC tired himself out going for takedowns and El Tigre cruised to a decision. You have to think that’s the veteran savvy of Malegarie at work, not wanting to potentially injure himself or show too much of what he can do before he gets into the house.

El TigreAlas, he does not celebrate by yelling out “I’m a Mac, bitch!” in Portuguese.

Winner: El Tigre via decision

BG:

Fight 5 (Bantamweight): Matheus Nicolau (10-1-1) v. Mateus “Pitbull” Vasco (12-1)

Matheus Nicolau moved out of home, to live in a slum, so he could be next door to the gym he trains at. He also has very pretty eyes.

Pitbullis our season’s token Pitbull. Given that he is yet another Pitbull, I refuse to learn anything about him apart from the fact that he couldn’t think of an original nickname.

The fight’s alright. Matheus “Pretty Eyes” nearly gets caught by an early armbar, but bulls his way out of it. He leaps into Pitbull Version 25.0’s guard, and they grapple around, with Pretty Eyes eventually getting full mount, only to be thrown bodily off. In the resulting scramble, he takes Mr. Worldwide’s back, and it’s only a matter of time before he locks up another RNC.

Matheus NicolauMatheus has been pegged as a potential finalist by Coach Shogun.

Winner: Pretty Eyes via submission

AL: It looks like there’s a bunch of TUF alumni in the building, including Amir Sadollah, Gray Maynard, Uriah Hall, and Heather Clark…either that or I’m being mad racist as usual and all y’all white/black/women folks look alike.

Fight 6 (Lightweight): Raush “Cavalo de Guerro” Manfio (6-1) v. Glaico “Nego” França (12-3)

As his nickname says, Cavalo de Guerro is the “War Horse” of Team Nogueira.

Nego describes himself as a big lanky dude, making him this year’s Corey Hill/James Vick. I’m disappointed when he enters the cage and looks kind of like a normal 155er. False advertising, bro!

What were we talking about? Oh, Nego wins with a rear naked choke.

NegoGleison Tibau might have to sue Nego for rocking that shoulder/arm tattoo.

Winner: Nego by submission

BG: Dude, when we split up the fights, I had no idea that you’d end up recapping so many clipped together fights. This is hilarious to me.

AL: Laugh it up.

BG:

Fight 7 (Bantamweight): Bruno “Bulldog” Silva (8-2) v. Gustavo Sedório (4-0)

Bulldog is a capoeirista and hip hop dancer. Heck yeah! I did capoeira for three years and still love it. He’s the guy that’s been walking around wearing a large chunk of chain and he promises entertainment.

Capoeira ExhibitionThere is just…no possible way this can be useful, right?

Gustavo Sedório trains with Team Checkmat, and had nothing else interesting to say.

Bulldog’s first kick in the fight is a snapping front kick that connects with Gustavo’s face. As we find out later, the kick actually broke his jaw. To his credit, Gustavo fights the whole round out on a broken jaw, but he never comes close to controlling, let alone winning the fight. Bulldog may not have realised the damage he did, as we don’t really see him grinding on the jaw during the fight. Apart from the first kick, and a couple of other fun grappling exchanges, there’s nothing remarkable about this fight. It wasn’t a bad fight by any means, just fairly average.

The fight is waved off when the doctor discovers Gustavo’s injury.

Gymnastics ExhibitionFor real, I’m a check on my opponent after I do my flips.

Winner: Bulldog by TKO

AL:

Fight 8 (Lightweight): Erick “Índio Brabo” da Silva (17-5) v. Gabriel Macário (3-0)

Índio Brabo (roughly translating to “mad Indian”) could not be more indistinct. He says something about being well rounded and zzzzzzz…

Gabriel Macário is both new to the sport and allegedly a rich kid. Sounds like shark bait to me.

Gabriel is in great shape and has hard punches, but Índio Brabo is too well-rounded for him and zzzzzzz…

Indio BraboWinner: Índio Brabo by TKO

We close out the first episode with a clip of Anderson saying we should expect surprises this year. Sad face. Let’s just move on to the week two fights, eh?

BG: So we enter episode two with a few nice fights under our belt, and one very slick K.O. from Korea. I know it’s been a long read so far, but we’re only halfway there (whooaaah, living on a prayer).

Ahem.

Fight 9 (Bantamweight): Matheus “Adamas” Mattos (8-0-1) v. Marcos “Majú” Lima (9-2)

Adamas is here to hammer his opponents into the canvas. His recap/promo video even has him brandishing a sledgehammer, proving that maybe this guy could be a decent WWE heel if this MMA thing doesn’t work out.

AL: Ben, there’s no way that Triple H would allow that blatant gimmick infringement.

AdamasI think they call that “murder”, Adamas.

BG: Majú has been fighting since he was 17, and is not getting a winner’s edit right now. I’ll be surprised if he pulls this one off.

We don’t see this whole fight, but the bits we get are action packed. Adamas shows some great boxing, and Majú appears to gas really hard at the end of the first round. At the start of the second, Matheus is moving better, and way faster than his more tired foe. He backs Majú up against the cage and unloads on him, eventually forcing the TKO stoppage of a crumbling Majú. Matheus is screaming in happiness, T-Rex style, but Dana White’s also impressed by the way Majú WAR’D. He basically promises Majú a spot as an alternate if someone drops out because of injury.

Winner: Adamas via TKO

AL:

Fight 10 (Lightweight): Adilson “Jack Godzilla” Fernandes (11-4) v. Arlen “Benks” Viana (8-1)

JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA JACK GODZILLA

Jack GodzillaJACK GODZILLA

Winner: Jack Godzilla via arm triangle

BG:

Fight 11 (Bantamweight): Reginaldo Vieira (12-3) v. Peter Montibeller (7-0)

Reginaldo Vieira trains out of some guy’s kitchen. It’s hilarious. There are heavy bags hanging next to the fridge. It’s pretty crazy.

AL: They do this sequence of zooming shots that end on a cat for no good reason. I don’t know why, but that killed me.

CatBG: He desperately wants to get into the UFC so that he can fight an American, which is a really weird life goal to have, in my opinion.

Peter Montibeller used to train with his brother, until he unfortunately passed away in a motorcycle accident. Peter got his brother’s face tattooed to his arm, as a memorial piece, and whilst it’s not as bad as the Johnny Cash-esque abomination on Alan Belcher, it’s seriously not great.

Peter's TattooAL: I just want it on the record that my Australian counterpart is a heartless monster. I don’t care how clearly awful that tattoo is.

BG: The first thing Reginaldo does in this fight, is shoot for a takedown whilst he’s up the other end of the cage from Peter. He obviously doesn’t sink it, but isn’t punished enough for such a bad attempt. They strike a bit, with the wild swings of Reginaldo having some decent effect, until Reginaldo grinds his opponent against the cage, and eventually gets him down. They scramble a bit, and Reginaldo catches Peter in a guillotine

Reginaldo ChokeSeconds before this tap, Peter’s corner was telling him he wasn’t in danger.

Winner: Reginaldo Vieira via submission

AL:

Fight 12 (Lightweight): Fernando “Açougueiro” Bruno (15-2) v. Bruno Murata (6-0)

Açougueiro is a new dad, so we all know what he’s fighting for. Bruno Murata, on the other hand, comes off as a cold-blooded killer.

A straight left by Açougueiro knocks Bruno down early. You get the feeling that Bruno never recovered and Açougueiro gets a takedown to clinch the first round. Bruno is able to keep it on the feet in the second round and we’re going to extras. It’s revealed that Bruno broke his hand, which may explain his ineffectiveness in the final period. Açougueiro slams him to the mat and wins with a rear naked choke.

AcougueiroWinner: Açougueiro via submission

BG:

Fight 13 (Bantamweight): Eduardo “Cabelo” Diez (4-0) v. Giovanni “Soldado” Santos (15-1)

Cabelo does pilates for core strength, and has a totally banging MILF for a mother.

AL: I knew you were going to go there. I refuse to provide a screencap.

BG: Soldado fought in the elimination round of TUF: Brazil 1 at featherweight, and got armbarred by John “Macapa” Teixeira, a fighter I thought was going to do way better in his career than he has.

AL: I agree, Macapa looked like a killer to me.

BG: Soldado has the tips of his hair frosted like it’s the early 2000’s all over again. Yeesh.

This fight goes to a decision, and from the few clips we get, it looks like Soldado is a lot stronger than his opponent, and is able to control where the fight goes. He doesn’t seem to ever be in much danger, and pushes the pace accordingly. Cabelo eventually opens up a cut on Soldado, but it’s never big or scary enough to end the fight.

SoldadoWinner: Soldado via decision

AL:

Fight 14 (Lightweight): Alexandre Cidade (11-1) v. Nikolas Motta (6-1)

Alexandre Cidade says he would watch Bruce Lee and then go outside and fight his friends. Good role model.

Nikolas Motta is a straight up baby! I want to just pinch those cheeks!

The highlights don’t give us a good gauge of who is capable of doing what and both fighters look to have their moments. Motta finds a second wind, which helps him to take the third round.

Nikolas MottaPinch!

Winner: Motta via decision

BG:

Fight 15 (Bantamweight): Leandro “Pitbull” Higo (13-2) v. Maycon “Boca” Silvan (7-2)

AL: Now who’s laughing?

BG: Surely we’re past the point in MMA history where a young fighter is seriously willing to call himself “Pitbull”. It’s been done to death, and it’s well past any semblance of uniqueness as a nickname. Boca get about a ten second life preview, so I wouldn’t bet on this guy to take it.

Again, this one is a clip show. Mr. Worldwide fights pretty well, and he’s able to get Boca down in quick order. From there, it’s simple for him to lock up an arm-triangle choke, and win the fight.

PitbullIt doesn’t stop.

Winner: Pitbull via submission

AL:

Fight 16 (Lightweight): André “Dedé” Ricardo (3-1) v. Jeferson “Batata” Negrini (10-0)

Dedé is Anderson’s student and Batata is apparently nobody. Can you guess where this one is headed?

Batata actually makes a good accounting for himself in the short time we get to see him. It’s not like Dedé comes out guns a blazing, though his mentor never does that either so maybe that is the gameplan. Dedé outlasts Batata and finishes him with a nice bodykick.

Dede Body KickWinner: Dedé via TKO

As you can tell from our somewhat sparse fight coverage, everything is starting to blur into this indistinct blob of corner shouting, slow motion replays, and Pitbulls. Let’s get to the finish before someone gets hurt.

Minotauro is on hand for the ceremonial coin toss. It’s a shame they haven’t adopted the tournament format for these international editions yet. I know it made more sense with TUF 20 since you had the top ranked women in the world there, but it’s still a cool way to mix things up.

Shogun wins the toss and chooses to pick the first fight.

To nobody’s surprise, Anderson selects his boy Dedé first overall. He goes with young Motta second, referring to him as “Quejinho”. Did he pick up that name between the fights and the team selection? A quick Google search reveals that Quejinho is some kind of cheese. Let’s stick with Motta for now until the nickname gets more traction.

Jack Godzilla is the last lightweight picked! Gah! Even worse, Shogun calls him “Jack Fernandes”, as if he is refusing to acknowledge that redonkulous nickname. He’s probably just jealous of it.

Adamas is the first bantamweight picked and I have to point out that they did a really poor job of emphasizing who is in what weight class and they don’t make a big deal out of where guys are picked. I’m disappointed in the coverage of the fighters overall, especially since the only reason for TUF to exist these days is to give character exposure to young up and comers.

Soldado is the last bantamweight remaining and Shogun says he picked him because he’s a great cheerleader. You didn’t have a choice!

Team Anderson

Lightweights

  1. Dedé (1)
  2. Nikolas Motta (3)
  3. Índio Brabo (5)
  4. Açougueiro (7)

Bantamweights

  1. Adamas (1)
  2. Pitbull (3)
  3. Reginaldo Vieira (5)
  4. Bulldog (7)

Team AndersonTeam Shogun

Lightweights

  1. El Tigre (2)
  2. Nego (4)
  3. Netto BJJ (6)
  4. Jack Godzilla (8)

Bantamweights

  1. Matheus Nicolau (2)
  2. Dileno Lopes (4)
  3. Korea (6)
  4. Soldado (8)

Team ShogunNext week: Team Shogun’s Matheus Nicolau v. Team Anderson’s Reginaldo Vieira. Also, they’re bringing back the Ring Girl Competition! Because that produced such memorable results last time.

CatAnd remember…the cat is watching…the cat is ALWAYS WATCHING.

Triskaphobia – Why Is The UFC Afraid Of Trilogies?

I want to see Joseph Benavidez get another crack at Mighty Mouse.  That’s not a match-up that’s high in demand, but I have my reasons.  There first fight was extremely close.  The second fight ended in the most unexpected manner possible (short of Demetrious Johnson flying off the cage like Vega and decapitating Benavidez…you know what I’m saying).  A one shot kill courtesy of the champ.  Here’s how unlikely that finish was:

  • In 22 career fights spanning 7 ½ years, Benavidez had never been finished much less knocked out.  His 3 career losses had come by decision, two of which were splits in championship fights.
  • Prior to the second Benavidez fight, Johnson’s last knockout occurred on February 10, 2010 when he was still competing at the regional level.  In 11 WEC/UFC appearances, he had never recorded a single knockout.

The narrative of the rematch was clear cut: Johnson should use his uncanny speed and mobility to outpoint Benavidez, while Benavidez should wait for his opportunity to land a power punch.  There are few fighters in the lighter weight classes as adept at stopping his opponents as Benavidez.  Two minutes in, the narrative got torn up, burnt to ashes and cast out into the wind.

Johnson dropped Benavidez with a hellacious right hand that robbed the Alpha Male challenger of his senses before he’d even touched the mat.  It was the hardest, most perfect punch that Johnson had landed and probably ever will land in his life.  The guy who never knocks people out just put down the guy who never gets knocked out.  Two minutes and eight seconds was the official time.  The fastest KO in UFC flyweight history.

And yet I want to see them go at it again.

None of this is to say that Johnson’s punch was a fluke or that the first fight was some sort of robbery and that Benavidez should be the champ.  Johnson won both fights fair and square.  The result of their rematch was countless hours of training and study combined with the champ’s incredible fight night instincts.  That was no lucky punch.  But it would be a situation that would be difficult to replicate.  Were they to fight 99 more times, I wouldn’t bet on a Mighty Mouse knockout happening again.  Not just because of the stated reasons, but because of what Benavidez undoubtedly could learn from this second loss.  Make no mistake; there is always something to be learned from losing, even a shockingly abrupt setback such as this one.

The real issue for me is that the UFC (and, admittedly, most fans) has established this pattern where you get two cracks at the champ and that’s it.  Couldn’t get the job done?  Time to change weight classes, find work in another organization or retire buddy.  Even though fighters like Benavidez, Urijah Faber and even Junior dos Santos (who actually completed a trilogy) are the consensus #2 fighters in their respective weight classes, they are somehow almost completely out of the running for a title shot in the near future.

I should clarify that I understand that the UFC isn’t against trilogies; more logically, they’re against trilogies where one of the fighters has proven to be superior.  To me, that feels like they’re killing off contenders too quickly.

Imagine if Juan Manuel Márquez had never got his third and fourth fights with Manny Pacquiao?  Yes, I’m aware there are stark differences.  The Márquez/Pacquiao series took course over an eight year stretch.  Despite Pacquiao going 2-0-1, the first three fights were all open to interpretation.  And a fifth meeting between the two would do bigger box office than three (maybe more) combined Faber/Barão match-ups.  I get that.

But what if they had never booked that 4th meeting?  The boxing community would have been robbed of what was one of the sport’s most exciting and relevant moments of the year when Márquez put Pacquiao down on his face.  My point is that when you put the best with the best, only good things can happen.  I’d much rather see rematch after rematch than fighters who are not ready for the top spot being shoehorned into title matches.  At the present moment, is there anyone who thinks John Moraga is a better fighter than Joseph Benavidez?

Does it ever need to end?  If the champ keeps winning and top contender is able to hold onto his spot, how many times can you mash those action figures together?  3 times?  4?  7?  Luckily, these situations tend to sort themselves out as the talent cycle naturally creates new contenders.  Though that’s not always the case as we saw with Michael McDonald (who is already dangerously close to contender limbo), Ian McCall and Phil Davis (in his first contender fight against Rashad Evans).  Sometimes the next generation isn’t ready, so why should the UFC be in such a hurry to usher out the current one?

Allow me to discuss the merits (or lack thereof) of a few other trilogy fights where one fighter is already down two sets:

  • Urijah Faber (6-3 UFC, 8-3 WEC, 30-7) v. Renan Barão (7-0 UFC, 2-0 WEC, 32-1 [1 NC])

The most immediate and obvious choice.  Even if you believe that Barão was on his way to a decisive finish of Faber, the early stoppage was as bad as we’ve seen in a championship bout.  Faber’s lack of success in title fights is well documented, but even his most dogged detractors would have to admit that he got a raw deal here.  He looked amazing in his previous fights and he’d rightly earned another crack at UFC gold.  The continued misfortune of Dominick Cruz only made Sean Shelby’s decision easier.

The situation reminded me of Ken Shamrock/Tito Ortiz II, where the second fight ended in what Shamrock perceived to be an early stoppage.  That match was headed down a similarly bad path.  In truth, Shamrock had even less of a case for a rematch than Faber and most would assume that Ortiz had his number no matter how many times they fought.  Still, the powers that be deigned them worthy of an immediate rematch that took place on Spike TV.  It should be noted that UFC had heavily invested in the second fight, including coaching stints on The Ultimate Fighter, so it made good sense for them to continue a feud that still had plenty of juice left.

I don’t see why Faber can’t get one more shot on one of the UFC’s many free fight cards.  It’s not like quality main events are falling from the sky.  If you recall, both Faber/Barão meetings have been the result of injuries to Cruz.  It would be nice to see them face off one more time away from the shadow of the ex-champ.

  • Anderson Silva (16-2 UFC, 33-6) v. Chris Weidman (7-0 UFC, 11-0)

From a competitive standpoint, this might be the least appealing rematch.  Make whatever excuses you want, Weidman clobbered Silva and took his belt.  The second fight was tough to watch for obvious reasons.  I haven’t viewed a replay of the finish since that night.  I don’t plan to.

So why am I listing it?  I’m a huge Weidman fan and I don’t even care about the preposterous “he’s never truly beaten a dedicated Anderson Silva before” argument.  At this stage in their careers, Weidman is the better fighter.  It’s hardly worth discussing.

No, the reason I bring this up is because it would still draw enormous bank.  Silva/Weidman I brought in approximately 500,000 buys, while the sequel reportedly cracked a million (with a healthy assist from Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey).  I think it’s fair to say that a third fight could fall somewhere in between.  That would be a boon for the UFC, who are currently struggling to convince the public that they still have plenty of viable PPV stars.  I mean, if Dana White keeps saying Rousey is the biggest star he’s ever had, it has to be true, right?  Speaking of which…

  • Miesha Tate (0-2 UFC, 13-5) v. Ronda Rousey (2-0 UFC, 8-0)

How weird is it that Tate is winless in the UFC, yet still regarded as one of the top challengers?  I’m not disputing it as we all know that you can’t take wins and losses at face value in combat sports.  It just looks funny is all.

This is almost as tough a sell as Silva/Weidman because Rousey’s wins have been so definitive.  Exciting, yes, but definitive.  I know for me, personally, I could watch these two fight a dozen times.  There is such an explosive mix of personalities and styles and a genuine animosity between the two that there is so much for fans of all pedigrees to sink their teeth into.

I am in no way suggesting that Tate get a rematch anytime soon, only that she not be ushered into the “could-a-been” category so quickly.  Let’s say she has a Belfort-esque run of dominant finishes over top ten fighters.  You don’t need much of an excuse to convince people to watch these two go at it again.  I’d hate for the UFC to put off another fight between these two just because we’ve seen it before

  • Benson Henderson (8-1 UFC, 5-1 WEC, 20-3) v. Anthony Pettis (4-1 UFC, 5-1 WEC, 17-2)

As with Tate and Rousey, these two have only had one match in the UFC so it is relatively fresh.  Other than the ninja kick, I’d wager there’s a large portion of fans who have never seen the entirety of their first meeting, which is a shame since that was a brilliant encounter.

The result of the second fight was as shocking as the Benavidez/Johnson finish.  Henderson had only been submitted once before and he’d made a habit of using his incredible smarts and flexibility to escape holds in ways nobody had seen before.  That would explain why the UFC 164 crowd was stunned to see him get caught by a lightning quick Pettis armbar.

Somehow, the 25 minutes they spent together in the WEC cage did more to cement Pettis as a champion in my eyes than the 4 minute submission in their rematch.  I felt like Pettis was the better man both times, but that it wasn’t out of the question for Henderson to someday figure out his rival.  After all, he’d done it to pretty much everybody else.

*****

So what do you all think?  Did I leave any matches out?  Am I completely crazy?  Are these fights unpalatable at this point?  Will they ever be marketable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Bigger They Are

If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything…it’s that you can kill anybody.

It was billed as one of the most intriguing title contests in recent memory and to say that Chris Weidman/Anderson Silva lived up to the hype would be an understatement.  That is not to say it was a great fight, it was a rather bizarre affair and an inarguably disappointing performance from Silva.  I give all the credit in the world to Weidman who I see as someone who will have several successful title defenses, but to say that Silva’s behaviour had nothing to do with the title changing hands would make me look more foolish than the man himself.  I’d even go as far to say that a Silva in his prime might have actually been able to get away with that kind of chicanery.

As I stressed in my main card preview, there were just too many factors working against Silva and in Weidman’s favour to view this as another routine defense for Silva.  So much of what I was reading and hearing revolved around Weidman’s virtues, with the arguments for Silva mostly comprised of He’s Anderson Silva!  Two or three years ago, that argument might have held weight.  In the here and now, we’re reminded of the harsh reality of professional sports.

If Silva, arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, can lose…then who might be next?

*****

The UFC has taken a lot of deserved criticism for their recent handling of title matches.  Jon Jones has had to defend his belt against two middleweights.  Georges St-Pierre talked the matchmakers into granting him his (highly profitable) grudge match with Nick Diaz, who was coming off a loss and a year-long drug suspension.  José Aldo faced Frankie Edgar, who was 1-3-1 in his last 5 fights.  There were perfectly valid reasons (injuries, intrigue, incompetence) for making those match-ups, but none of them involved the challenger legitimately earning their spot.

With all that nonsense out of the way, there is now at least some semblance of a meritocracy.  Antonio Silva was granted a second shot at Cain Velasquez based on the fact that he knocked out Alistair Overeem, the presumed number one contender.  It didn’t go well for Big Foot, but the logic was sound.  The UFC wanted to set up a rematch between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, but Cat Zingano ruined their plans with a 3rd round comeback finish (due to a Zingano injury, Tate would later get the title shot anyway along with a juicy TUF coaching spot opposite Rousey).  Those are a couple of minor examples where the UFC did right by its winners.  Four more upcoming match-ups not only feature the worthiest of challengers but the possibility that a group of nigh invincible champions will fall.

In order of least likely to most likely to see a title change:

Light Heavyweight Title Bout: Alexander Gustafsson (7-1 UFC, 15-1) v. Jon Jones (Jon Jones (12-1 UFC, 18-1)

September 21, 2013 – UFC 165

How Gustafsson got here:

…by growing up.  Gustafsson’s only career loss came against Phil Davis in a fight that he was winning until he decided to take it to the ground.  Davis, a stronger grappler, was able to reverse the situation and sink in a match ending anaconda choke.  Since then, Gustafsson has fought a lot smarter, dominating when he’s supposed to and playing to his strengths to overcome the likes of Thiago Silva and Shogun Rua.  The victory over Shogun was a signature win and enough to cement Gustafsson as the number one contender, something many fans and critics had been clamoring for.

The match-up will also do wonders for dispelling the notion that Jones is only getting by on his physical gifts and that he is only capable of beating fighters who are past their prime.  Neither criticism is particularly valid, but a win over Gustafsson should be hater-proof.

Why Gustafsson could win:

I’m honestly not sure he can.  The only reason I added this match is because my uncle was working hard to convince me that the Swede is a live underdog.  I’m not seeing it.

If I had to make an argument for Gustafsson, it would go beyond just the fact that he can match the champ’s reach.  With every fight, Gustafsson gets better and better at using his range to score points and keep his opponents off balance.  When you can sweep the scorecards against Shogun, the most aggressive light heavyweight around, you have to be doing something right.

Another department that Gustafsson has improved in is his takedown defence and controlling scrambles.  They will have to stress this in his training as Jones has a good shot and an array of throws with which to set up his merciless ground and pound.  His best chance remains on the feet.

Let’s not forget that Jones had trouble with Lyoto Machida in the first round of their match.  If Gustafsson can do a reasonable job of emulating Machida’s tactics, an upset could be in order.

Why Gustafsson could lose:

As much as people talk about Jones never facing someone built like him, the same could be said for Gustafsson.  Does anyone think Gustafsson would have been able to pick apart Thiago Silva and Shogun so efficiently without those freakish limbs?  If all things are equal body-wise, I’m not sure there’s any area skill-wise that Gustafsson can claim an advantage.  Jones is faster, more explosive, more creative with his strikes and a monster on the ground.  Gustafsson should be able to go the distance, but expect Jones to take all five rounds.

Featherweight Title Bout: Chan Sung Jung (3-0 UFC, 0-2 WEC, 13-3) v. José Aldo (4-0 UFC, 8-0 WEC, 22-1)

August 3, 2013 – UFC 163

How Zombie got here:

…as much as anything, we’re the ones who have put Jung in this spot.  The Korean Zombie became an instant sensation in his WEC debut against Leonard Garcia.  I remember showing that fight to everyone I knew, not caring if this was a legit new star or an oddity.  Thankfully, he’s turned out to be the former and his distinct, exciting style carried over to the UFC where he found the wins to match the adulation.  A submission win in a rematch with Garcia removed any doubt that he was the better fighter.  He followed that up with an astonishing 7 second knockout of Mark Hominick (who had previously fought Aldo) and by coming out on top in another fight of the year candidate against Dustin Poirier.

When Anthony Pettis suffered an injury, there were two possible replacements for UFC 163: Ricardo Lamas and Zombie.  Despite his last three wins all coming against top ranked featherweights, Lamas remains relatively unknown.  The UFC sees dollar signs with the Jung-Aldo match so the Zombie gets to feast.

Why Zombie could win:

If he lives up to his moniker, there’s a chance he could outpace Aldo.  People often point to a difficult weight cut as to why Aldo faded in the Hominick fight.  What they forget is how Hominick stayed aggressive and even though he lost the majority of the rounds, it wasn’t as one-sided as the scores suggested.  Zombie doesn’t have Hominick’s consistency; rather, I expect his scrappy and unpredictable nature to work to his advantage.

There’s also the issue of Jung’s resiliency.  He’s only been finished once in his career (a picture perfect head shot courtesy of George Roop).  That stat is made even more incredible by the fact that he regularly engages in all-out wars that are undoubtedly shortening his lifespan.  Aldo is no stranger to decisions, having gone the full five rounds with Hominick, Kenny Florian and Frankie Edgar.  Neither Florian nor Edgar known for their risk-taking, so it should be interesting to see how Aldo reacts to an opponent who has no regard for his own well-being.

Why Zombie could lose:

As mentioned above, the UFC couldn’t wait for an excuse to put Zombie in the cage with Aldo.  He’s an international property and he’s got a cool gimmick that has caught on like wildfire in North America.  You could easily make an argument that his popularity exceeds his credentials.

It’s always fun to look at results and say that one guy is finishing his opponents while the other guy is winning by decision, but that doesn’t tell the story of Aldo’s dominance at 145.  Facing a murderer’s row of opponents (Urijah Faber, Hominick, Florian, Chad Mendes, Edgar), Aldo has rarely been in danger.  A lack of finishes speaks to how high the level of competition is when you reach Aldo’s level.  He’s soundly beaten elite strikers, elite jiu-jitsu practitioners and elite wrestlers.  That’s not a good sign for Zombie, who is more of a jack of all trades.

Welterweight Title Bout: Johny Hendricks (10-1 UFC, 15-1) v. Georges St-Pierre (18-2 UFC, 24-2)

November 16, 2013 – UFC 167

How Hendricks got here:

…by smashing just about everyone who got in his way.  Nobody on this list has been waiting longer or had a stronger claim to a title shot than Hendricks, who was egregiously passed over as a challenger in favour of Nick Diaz.  While the Stockton bad boy was losing to Carlos Condit and getting lifted, Hendricks was tearing through the division.  From March 2011 to March 2013, Hendricks had one of the most impressive runs in welterweight history.  A riveting win over Condit capped off a six-fight streak that displayed Hendricks’ guts (close split decision wins against Mike Pierce and Josh Koscheck) and sheer supremacy (finishing Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann in less than one total minute).  Bigg Rigg might not have the name recognition or a squeaky clean look, but the UFC couldn’t ignore his results any longer.

Why Hendricks could win:

Anyone who has seen a St-Pierre title fight is familiar with the image of the champ scoring a takedown, establishing top position and neutralizing his victim for 25 minutes.  That’s how you defend your title in the toughest division in the UFC.

It’s hard to imagine Hendricks suffering the same treatment.  He’s lived up to the hype of being a 2-time national champion wrestling for Oklahoma State University.  That background has forged him into a mini-Iceman, able to control where the fight goes and set his opponents up for his infamous left hand.  A dream scenario sees GSP relying on a takedown heavy gameplan that Hendricks is able to stifle until the champ makes a rare mistake that leads to him getting laid out.

It’s somewhat unfair to bring it up, but St-Pierre’s ability to take a punch has been in question since his last loss to Matt Serra.  Since then, you can count on one hand the number of times he’s actually been rocked but people still insist that he’s always one solid punch away from losing the strap.  If there’s any credence to that theory, Hendricks is surely the one to prove it.

Why Hendricks could lose:

Hendricks’ only career loss was to Rick Story and surprisingly it was a match in which he was out-grappled.  While that loss clearly made him a better fighter, it’s worth noting that he is not unfamiliar with being put in bad positions.

On paper, Hendricks presents a lot of the same problems as Josh Koscheck, who boasted that he had the advantage as long as he could keep the fight standing against St-Pierre in their rematch.  St-Pierre was able to pick Koscheck apart with stiff jabs and was never in any real danger for the duration of their bout.  There is no evidence that Hendricks is uniquely equipped to deal with the latter.  Against a similarly gifted striker in Condit, Hendricks relied on his chin to absorb damage so he could get in close and attack.  He didn’t shut Condit down, he was able to land more consistently and land harder.  Getting St-Pierre to engage in a firefight like that is a near-impossibility.  Even with 25 minutes to work with, Hendricks will have to avoid getting desperate and focus on winning rounds if he cannot finish St-Pierre.

Lightweight Title Bout: TJ Grant (8-3 UFC, 21-5) v. Ben Henderson (7-0 UFC, 5-1 WEC, 18-2)

August 31, 2013 – UFC 164

How Grant got here:

…he went on a diet.  Fighting at 170, Grant had a respectable 3-3 record in the UFC, but there was no indication that he’d be challenging GSP anytime soon.  Changing weight classes is a popular move for fighters who appear to be stuck in a rut and it’s hard to name anyone who has made it work out better than Grant.  This wasn’t a big name moving down in the hopes of getting an immediate title shot.  No, Grant made the decision to jump into the increasingly deep lightweight waters.  The results speak for themselves: Five straight wins including a first round TKO of Gray Maynard, the only person to ever dispatch him that early.  He’s an exciting fighter and a proven finisher, leaving fans starving to see him test Henderson who has been criticized for being too safe.

Why Grant could win:

To understand why Henderson always seems to go to decisions, you have to look at his last few fights.  As great as Clay Guida, Edgar and Gilbert Melendez are, none of them are known for their finishing prowess (there was also Nate Diaz, but Henderson had an overwhelming physical advantage that he won’t have with the sizeable Grant).  If you know that your opponent doesn’t have the tools with which to put you away, it affords you certain luxuries.  Luxuries that Henderson won’t have against Grant.

This is not to say that Grant is necessarily better than the aforementioned names, only more likely to look for a finish.  The Maynard fight stands as proof.  Canadian MMA aficionado “Showdown” Joe Ferraro expressed his dismay at seeing his friend Grant willingly trade punches with Maynard.  One mistake and the fight easily could have gone the other way, but it is Grant’s temerity that has got him this far.  Don’t expect him to change his approach now that he’s this close to being the best in the world.

Why Grant could lose:

It’s a hard thing to quantify, but Henderson definitely seems to have the same gift as St-Pierre for attacking an opponent’s weaknesses.  This is likely why both men are maligned as “point fighters”.  I’ve never been a fan of using that term in a derogatory fashion because the last time I checked scoring points was how you won games.  Henderson wins games.

To draw another St-Pierre comparison, Henderson is unparalleled as an athlete in the lightweight division.  He’s incredibly strong and agile and he has an unlimited gas tank.  Grant has assured everyone that he normally trains for five round fights, but it’s an entirely different beast once you actually reach those championship periods.  Fighting Henderson can be a frustrating experience and Grant’s mental strength is going to be as important as his physical ones.  The last thing Grant wants is to go to the scorecards with Henderson, who has shown a knack for pulling out close decisions.

*****

As fun as it is to say, upsets are not contagious and the fall of Silva has no metaphysical impact on the rest of the title holders.  However, for the first time in a while you get the feeling that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the titles did change hands.  It remains to be seen if MMA will be like every other sport, with competitors being inextricably attached to each other in their respective eras: Spouting off names like Liddell-Ortiz-Couture or Minotauro-Cro Cop-Fedor or Silva-St-Pierre-Jones can conjure up unmistakeable images and provide timestamps for the most important events in this young sport.  Perhaps one of Gustafsson, Zombie, Hendricks or Grant will be the first to take their place in the world that’s coming.

Return to Rio – An Analysis of UFC 153

I won’t bother rehashing the series of calamities that lead to Stephan Bonnar headlining a major UFC event in the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve because the end result turned out to be a night of blistering action.  The only major disappointment is that this is their second trip to Rio de Janeiro and there hasn’t been a single Duran Duran reference.  It’s a good thing that I’m around to fix this egregious omission.

Couldn’t one fighter come out to “Hungry Like The Wolf”?

Lightweight Bout: Cristiano Marcello d. Reza Madadi via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

What you need to know: Marcello is a widely respected BJJ practitioner who finally got a shot at the big time with an appearance on TUF last season.  He was eliminated in by Justin Lawrence and then lost his official debut against Sam Sicilia at the finale.  Madadi came into the UFC with wins over Junie Browning, Carlo Prater and Rich Clementi before submitting Cuban prospect Yoislandy Izquierdo at UFC on Fuel TV 2.

How it went down: I didn’t actually watch, but from what I’ve read it sounds like Madadi was the aggressor the entire fight.  Counterstriking and a late takedown in the second appeared to be enough for Marcello to steal a decision.

What’s next for Madadi: (1-1 UFC, L1) At age 32, Madadi is tough to gauge.  He’s never been finished, but he’s also yet to make an impression.  Justin Salas has almost identical experience and his wrestling would be a good challenge for Madadi.  A match-up with Massaranduba (who fought later in the card) also makes sense.

What’s next for Marcello: (1-1 UFC, W1) Despite his vaunted ground game, all Marcello has shown me is mediocre kickboxing.  A match with Marcus LeVesseur could showcase his grappling or he could face TUF 15 housemate Myles Jury.

Middleweight Bout: Chris Camozzi d. Luis Cané via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

What you need to know: Camozzi has been under the radar in this division (I had him as my 22nd ranked middleweight going into this event) and looked to be a stiff test for Cané, who was dropping to 185 after a disastrous four fight stretch that included three first round TKOs.  Those outcomes tell me it’s more than a weight class issue.

How it went down: Cané showed off some of the power that made him a hot prospect at 205, but Camozzi out struck him with combinations in the 2nd and 3rd to win comfortably.

What’s next for Cané: (4-5 UFC, L2) A possible pink slip with his fourth loss in five appearances.

What’s next for Camozzi: (5-2 UFC, W3) A spot in the top 20 and a chance to increase his standing even further against the likes of Ronny Markes, Ed Herman or Rousimar Palhares.

Welterweight Bout: Sergio Moraes d. Renee Forte via Submission (3:10, R3)

What you need to know: “Serginho” was the most *ahem* adorable member of the TUF: Brazil cast, which says a lot considering how warm and fuzzy those guys were.  Forte didn’t show much on the program, earning criticism from coach Wanderlei Silva for a perceived lack of effort in his fight.

How it went down: Neither man looked impressive on the feet, but Forte did an excellent job defending Serginho’s takedowns and submission attempts.  Forte eventually tapped to a well earned rear naked choke in the third, at which point Serginho gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

What’s next for Forte: (0-1 UFC, L1) A ticket back to Fortaleza.

What’s next for Moraes: (2-0 UFC, W1) The popular Brazilian might never be a contender, but he should continue to entertain if given the opportunity.  He’d be a good opponent for scrappy TUF 11 contestant Justin Edwards, white hot Gunnar Nelson or striker Che Mills.

Featherweight Bout: Diego Brandao d. Joey Gambino via UD (30-27 x3)

What you need to know: Brandao was a fireball in his TUF season, blowing through the competition and taking the title with a stunning armbar finish of Dennis Bermudez.  Unfortunately, he fell flat losing a decision to Darren Elkins, putting him in dubious company with Joe Stevenson, Amir Sadollah, James Wilks and Jonathan Brookins as TUF winners who lost their first post-tournament matches.  Gambino is a TriStar product who was undefeated before being submitted by Steven Siler in his UFC debut.

How it went down: Brandao failed to finish, but he soundly won all three rounds and displayed the aggressive striking that had so many people talking about him on the show.

What’s next for Gambino: (0-2 UFC, L2) At 23, he has plenty of time to improve, but it will likely be in the minors for now.

What’s next for Brandao: (2-1 UFC, W1) A fight with Nam Phan or the Antonio Carvalho/Rodrigo Damm (UFC 154, November 17) winner would help his ranking and be tons of fun.

Lightweight Bout: Gleison Tibau d. Francisco Trinaldo via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

What you need to know: Tibau and “Massaranduba” are two of the biggest lightweights I’ve ever seen.  Straight diesel.  Massaranduba has been a rising star in Brazil for years, but as he explained on TUF: Brazil, there are times where he barely has enough money to eat much less train.  Amongst active fighters, Tibau is tied with Jim Miller for the most wins in the UFC lightweight division.

How it went down: Tibau won the first with his usual takedown heavy game plan.  However, Massaranduba rocked him with a left hook in the second and nearly earned a submission.  The fitness issues that plagued Massaranduba on TUF reared their ugly head and Tibau clinched the third with takedowns again.

What’s next for Trinaldo: (1-1 UFC, L1) Considering his situation, I have to wonder if he’ll remain a local attraction especially with the UFC’s plans to frequent Brazil more often.  As I mentioned above, he could fight Madadi, Salas or fellow TUF refugee Al Iaquinta.

What’s next for Tibau: (11-6 UFC, W1) A crack at the top 10?  That would likely mean going through TJ Grant (who has been phenomenal since dropping to 155), “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone or Matt Wiman (another veteran just short of greatness).

Featherweight Bout: Rony Jason d. Sam Sicilia via TKO (4:16, R2)

What you need to know: Jason won the inaugural season of TUF: Brazil, though he put on a poor showing at the finale.  He was looking to regain his reputation for exciting finishes against Sicilia, the best friend of TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa.  Sicilia has devastating hands, having finished 6 straight opponents in the first round before TUF (the last 3 lasted less than 30 seconds each).  It took him all of 8 seconds to knock out his opponent to earn a spot in the house and though he fell short, he re-established himself with a KO of Marcello in June.

How it went down: Jason scored early with some incredibly crisp and quick jumping knees, but Sicilia just kept on coming.  It wasn’t the crispest striking I’ve seen, but you could see why the Sikjitsu product has such a ridiculous finishing rate.  He shoots to kill.  Jason’s solid chin and technical striking kept things from getting out of hand.  The finish came when he caught a wild kick and then splattered Sicilia with a standing elbow.

What’s next for Sicilia: (1-1 UFC, L1) A lucrative career filled with Fight of the Night bonuses.  Let’s throw him in there with Leonard Garcia, Maximo Blanco or Cody McKenzie and watch them make some money.

What’s next for Jason: (2-0 UFC, W7) His career is booming, but he’s still unknown in North America.  The time is now to fly him into Vegas and put him on a main card (either free TV or PPV) with countryman Felipe Arantes or Matt Grice, both fights that would be good for his development.

Welterweight Bout: Demian Maia d. Rick Story via Submission (2:30, R1)

What you need to know: Even though his first fight at 170 against Dong Hyun Kim ended with his opponent suffering a muscle spasm, Maia’s clinch takedown that caused the injury hinted at how effective his grappling could be at a new weight class.  Story recently defeated overmatched Brock Jardine, but previous losses to Charlie Brenneman and Martin Kampmann have left him in limbo.

How it went down: Story is as tough as they come and Maia ran right through him, dragging him to the mat before methodically taking the back.  When Story went to defend against the choke, Maia reversed polarity and turned it into a neck crank, causing blood to squeeze out of Story’s nose.  Yuck.  Story tapped, but I have to wonder why neck cranks aren’t illegal.  A choke can cause a fighter to pass out, an arm or leg lock could break a limb, but a neck crank could kill someone, couldn’t it?

What’s next for Story: (7-4 UFC, L1) Despite his 3rd loss in 4 fights, I still feel like Story is an elite welterweight.  I wouldn’t mind seeing him rematch Thiago Alves, though fresh pairings with Erick Silva, Brian Ebersole or the Kim/Paulo Thiago loser await.

What’s next for Maia: (11-4 UFC, W2) It’s a testament to his BJJ expertise that he was able to dominate much bigger fighters at middleweight, so imagine what he’s capable of now.  Welterweight is a division of wrestlers, but why would you even think of rolling with him?  I say give him Jon Fitch.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Phil Davis d. Wagner Prado via Submission (4:29, R2)

What you need to know: Davis was in dire need of a win after looking decidedly mediocre against Rashad Evans.  The UFC chose to feed him Prado, a powerful but completely unproven 24 year old from Sao Paulo.  This is actually their second encounter, after the first ended in an accidental eye poke.  At the weigh-ins, Prado previewed his new defence:

Nyuck nyuck nyuck.

How it went down: As expected, Davis dominated with his wrestling successfully landing all 4 of his takedown attempts.  If he’d been working on his stand-up, he didn’t get a chance to show it.  Prado escaped a tight arm triangle, but Davis transitioned flawlessly into an anaconda choke for the win.

What’s next for Prado: (0-1 UFC, L1) Cult stardom.  Seriously, the man is one of the most expressive fighters I’ve ever seen, wearing every possible emotion proudly on that fat face of his.  Roger Hollett and Fabio Maldonado are logical match-ups, but I’d love to see him fight Joey Beltran (should he defeat Anthony Perosh in December).

What’s next for Davis: (6-1 UFC, W1) Better competition.  This was a good confidence builder and a reminder of how dangerous his wrestling savvy can be when combined with his knack for submissions, but it doesn’t do a lot to improve his standing.  A fight with the Chad Griggs (who Prado replaced)/Cyrille Diabaté winner is a possibility, but if the UFC were willing to risk their prospects, the best possible opponent is Glover Teixeira.

Welterweight Bout: Jon Fitch d. Erick Silva via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

What you need to know: Nearly unbeatable for most of his career, it was shocking to see Fitch without a win since August 2010.  Silva is the hottest welterweight prospect in the business, having annihilated his first three UFC opponents (including a dubious disqualification loss to Carlo Prater).

How it went down: Silva seemed oblivious to his opponent’s reputation, refusing to get stuck to the mat and taking the fight to Fitch in the second round.  I was rooting for the Brazilian, but this encounter was a testament to Fitch’s skill and determination.  Even when Silva sank in a deep choke that would have finished any other fighter, Fitch stayed calm and eventually worked his way to a dominant position.  Fitch is rightfully criticized for playing it safe, but he did everything humanly possible to pound out Silva.  The man is tough.  These two earned every penny of their Fight of the Night bonus.

What’s next for Silva: (2-2 UFC, L1) Living and learning.  He has nothing to be ashamed of and from what I’ve seen a championship is still in his future.  He could face another prospect in Siyar Bahadurzada or the winner of the Seth Baczynski/Kyle Noke fight at UFC on FX 6.

What’s next for Fitch: (14-2-1 UFC, W1) John Hathaway, Mike Pierce or the loser of the St-Pierre/Carlos Condit title match.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Glover Teixeira d. Fabio Maldonado via Doctor Stoppage (5:00, R2)

What you need to know: With one win in the UFC, Teixeira quickly became the guy that nobody wanted to fight.  It probably has something to do with his 17 fight win streak that includes a litany of well known mixed martial artists.  Shogun ducked him and Rampage got injured, so Maldonado stepped up.

How it went down: Teixeira showed why he’s so highly regarded, effortlessly mixing up his striking and his wrestling.  He bludgeoned Maldonado on the ground, though he looked tired at the end of the first and was wobbled by a left hook.  Made painfully aware of Maldonado’s boxing prowess, Teixeira took him down again in the second and resumed the assault.  The referee could have called it on several occasions, but I was more disturbed by Maldonado’s corner not throwing in the towel.  Protect your fighter.

What’s next for Maldonado: (1-3 UFC, L3) He seriously needs to drop a weight class.  It’s just too easy for him to get taken down at 205.  He could be a force at middleweight.  I’m predicting he’ll drop and face someone like Brit Tom Watson.  Why?  Because it’s my blog, that’s why!

What’s next for Teixeira: (2-0 UFC, W17) A top ten opponent.  The UFC has to strike while the iron is hot and there’s enough mystique surrounding Teixeira to sustain his push.  Rampage remains an option when he recovers or they could pull the trigger with Davis.  If they want to play it safe, pair him up with Aussie slugger James Te-Huna.

Heavyweight Bout: Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira d. Dave Herman via Submission (4:31, R2)

What you need to know: The last time they were in Brazil, Big Nog rejuvenated his career with a knockout of Brendan Schaub.  He would then have his arm broken by Frank Mir, but after less than a year he made his emotional return.  Herman did a great job of hyping the fight, claiming that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu didn’t actually work.

How it went down: Herman used low kicks to stay at range but Minotauro was relentless in his pursuit, continually pressing forward with straight punches.  Eventually, the fight made its way to the ground and Herman showed his respect for Jiu-Jitsu by defending himself well.  In the second, Nogueira searched for multiple submissions before finally securing an inescapable armbar.

What’s next for Herman: (1-3 UFC, L3) A pink slip, normally…but every guy Herman lost to is either in or near the top 10 so can he really be blamed for that?  I say he gets another shot, likely against Shane del Rosario, Christian Morecraft (currently dealing with some legal issues) or Stipe Miocic.

What’s next for Nogueira: (5-3 UFC, W1) Am I the only one who would be happy seeing this guy fight forever?  Just a class act through and through.  I tweeted that he made an effort to shake the hands of everyone at the weigh-in, even Arianny, which struck me as something only he would do for some reason.  He has no interest in a title run as long as his boy Junior dos Santos has it, so the UFC is free to book him based on entertainment value.  Stefan Struve, anyone?

Light Heavyweight Bout: Anderson Silva d. Stephan Bonnar via TKO (4:40, R1)

What you need to know: Some fights are made for the sake of competition.  Some fights are made to sell PPVs.  Some fights are made for championships.  I have no idea why this fight was made, but as the date neared I inexplicably became more and more excited for it.  It helps that Bonnar is one of the most hard-working and endearing fighters in the MMA community and seeing him get one more big money fight is wonderful.  Add in the fact that it was made to save the card after a featherweight title fight was erased by injuries and how could you not appreciate this?

How it went down: Exactly as you’d expect.  Bonnar had the perfect strategy, charging Silva from the opening bell and holding him against the cage.  In my opinion, this was his only chance of winning this fight: pressure and neutralize.  Silva counter wrestled, fighting for underhooks and managing to push Bonnar away.  That’s when things got weird.  Rather than circling away from the cage, Silva dropped his hands and planted himself against the cage.  Bonnar started to wing punches and Silva went into Matrix mode.  At one point, he side-stepped a spinning back kick from Bonnar and then moved back to the spot where Bonnar’s foot landed.  That was some David Blaine s**t.  A trip had Bonnar scrambling and Silva hounded him like the Predator, launching a high knee that might have shattered The American Psycho’s sternum.  And yes, I’m aware I threw three allusions in there.  I regret nothing.

(click to enlarge)

What’s next for Bonnar: (8-7 UFC, L1) Before facing Silva, he was unofficially retired so could it be time for the real thing?  I hope not.  For whatever reason, Dana White seems to be against the idea of having Bonnar and Griffin coach a season of TUF (though they might not want to either), but I think it’s only fitting that they conclude their careers with one more meeting.

What’s next for Silva: (16-0 UFC, W17) Immortality.  Though he may have already achieved it.

The champ and Conan O’Brien fanatic Izabel Goulart.

Theatre of the Bizarre – An Analysis of UFC 148: Silva v. Sonnen II

That was a strange night of fights, wasn’t it? Calling UFC 148 bizarre is probably being kind as I’ve seen the words the words “disappointing” and “boring” used too. To start off, we had a preliminary card that looked so promising on paper that I deemed it to be more PPV worthy than the UFC 147 (a glorified Ultimate Fighter finale). Shane Roller was a WEC standout, Costa Philippou is a rising star in the middleweight division and Gleison Tibau and Melvin Guillard are two of the UFC’s most experienced fighters. Yet the preliminaries fell flat. There were some sparks (Philippou’s flurries, Fabrício Camões’ reckless attempts to drag Guillard to the ground), but nothing close to a flame. I’m not a viewer who immediately dismisses decisions as boring, but these fights were lacking.

That feeling carried over onto the first fight of the main card between Ivan Menjivar and Mike Easton, a solid matchup that never got out of the gates. That letdown was followed by two strange TKOs, both seeming to involve rib injuries. Cung Le and Patrick Côté provided some excitement with a good back and forth battle, but that was quickly forgotten in the wake of the listless third meeting between Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz. The fight was fine (if a little monotonous), but Griffin’s post-match antics were strange and, frankly, dick-ish. What was supposed to be a send-off for Ortiz turned into yet another episode of “What the F**k is Wrong With Forrest”?

Even the main event had a touch of controversy. It’s hard to say what caused more of an uproar: a seemingly illegal knee by Silva or the cartoonish spinning back fist attempt by Sonnen that preceded it. The referee stoppage was spot on, but admittedly a tad anticlimactic in lieu of all the hype. Anticlimactic: another word that could sum up the event.

Let’s dig deeper starting with the first televised fight:

Lightweight Bout: Roller d. Alessio via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

How it went down: Alessio took the first round with takedown defense and effective striking, but Roller’s elite wrestling dictated the rest of the action. After the fight, Alessio looked annoyed at having been held down, but this was hardly lay and pray. Roller punished him with short punches and elbows from top control. A finish would have been great, but the former Division-I All American did more than enough to win and keep his job.

They may as well have put one of these on a pole.

What’s next for Alessio: (0-5 UFC, Lost last 1) A release, unfortunately.

What’s next for Roller: (2-3 UFC, Won last 1) The guarantee of another paycheck! Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing him matched up with Rafaello Oliveira (who picked up a win on the Facebook prelim). If that’s too obvious, Roller would make a good test for one of the recent TUF 15 contestants, like Daron Cruickshank (who has a similar style) or the undefeated Myles Jury.

Middleweight Bout: Philippou d. Fukuda via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

How it went down: This had all the makings of a brawl, but Fukuda smartly stayed away once he felt the power of Philippou. Philippou, on the other hand, did everything he could to force the action while defending takedown attempts. A nasty eye poke derailed any chances of a finish in the closing moments, but he pressed forward anyway. Costa would later say that the thought he “lost his eye”.

What’s next for Fukuda: (1-2 UFC, L1) That record should read 2-1. In his UFC debut against Nick Ring, Fukuda was screwed over so egregiously by the judges that Dana White paid him his win money anyway. With the exception of a decent dust-up against Steve Cantwell, Fukuda is struggling to find his niche. Look for him to be matched up with the likes of Magnus Cedenblad, Caio Magalhaes or Clifford Starks as the UFC figures out just what to do with this talented Japanese fighter.

What’s next for Philippou: (4-1 UFC, W4) While a win over Fukuda doesn’t affect his standing dramatically, his current streak guarantees that he’ll be booked against a higher ranked opponent. It would be great to see him matched up with the dormant Ronny Markes or even Alan Belcher should that Belcher-Bisping encounter not materialize.

Lightweight Bout: Nurmagomedov d. Tibau via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

How it went down: I greatly underestimated Nurmagomedov’s grappling acumen as he actually attempted more takedowns than Tibau. He didn’t complete a single one, but he clearly got points for trying. This match was scored in a similar fashion to the Kampmann-Sanchez fight, except that Tibau isn’t the counter striker that Kampmann is. The Eagle’s constant pressure was the deciding factor in this considerable upset.

What’s next for Tibau: (10-6 UFC, L1) He just can’t get ahead. The UFC has given him more than enough opportunities to step up, but he’s lost against every top ten opponent he’s faced. Now he’s lost to a prospect, all but confirming his status as a stepping stone. I could see him in competitive bouts with Jacob Volkmann or Sam Stout, but I’d like to see him face Edson Barboza so we can see how these two bounce back from tough losses.

What’s next for Nurmagomedov: (2-0 UFC, W18) I thought Tibau was already a pretty big leap in competition, so if they’re going to throw him to the wolves why not give him Melvin Guillard?

Lightweight Bout: Guillard d. Camões via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

How it went down: The score above doesn’t reflect how close some of these rounds were. Guillard predictably dominated the striking for the duration of the bout, but I thought Camões stole round one when he managed to reach full mount and land some brief, but vicious ground and pound. Then again, that round also ended with him whiffing on a takedown attempt and eating some punches himself. The second round had an almost identical ending. Camões’ clumsy takedowns sealed his fate.

What’s next for Camões: (1-2-1 UFC, L1) Like I said, he really didn’t look as bad as that score suggested. He really needs to work on his striking and takedowns though. His jiu-jitsu is at an elite level, but it’s extraordinarily difficult to win at this level with only one skill set. The days of Royce Gracie are long gone. I’d like to see how he’d fare against TUF 15 runner-up Al Iaquinta, equally one-dimensional kickboxer John Makdessi, or veteran Carlo Prater.

What’s next for Guillard: (11-6 UFC, W1) If they think it’s too soon for him to face Nurmagomedov, I wouldn’t mind seeing him face off with Clay Guida.

Bantamweight Bout: Easton d. Menjivar via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

How it went down: Along with the Philippou-Fukuda fight, I thought this had serious Fight of the Night potential. Neither even came close. Menjivar was wary of the massive hands of Easton. He was determined to land a definitive counter-punch, but with only fifteen minutes to work that opportunity doesn’t always come in an MMA bout. Easton showed great footwork and refused to give Menjivar any convenient angles. It’s a shame these clashing game plans made for an unappealing fight.

I mentioned the hands, right?

What’s next for Menjivar: (3-2 UFC, L1) He had an off-night, but he remains near the top of the bantamweight rankings and a couple of solid wins would put him back on track. Most of the marquee names are already booked, so the UFC might ask him to provide a rude welcome to incoming talents like Mitch Gagnon or Azamat Gashimov. Otherwise, it would be a treat to see him fight Brian Bowles whenever the former bantamweight champ returns from injury.

What’s next for Easton: (3-0 UFC, W8) His win over Menjivar makes Easton one of the ten best bantamweights in the world. After his fight, Easton told Ariel Helwani that he would be open to facing his teammate Dominick Cruz should that opportunity arise in the future. He stated that it would be insulting to Cruz if he refused to fight him, commending his warrior’s spirit. If he can get past the resurgent Eddie Wineland or the explosive Michael McDonald, we might soon see an all Alliance championship bout.

Featherweight Bout: Mendes d. McKenzie via TKO (:31, R1)

How it went down: Man, who could have seen this one coming? Oh right, everyone in the world except for this blogger. I admit to falling into the trap of fandom and talking myself into the whole “once you step into the cage anything can happen” mindset. There’s a reason I don’t gamble. McKenzie didn’t look right from the beginning. This is purely my opinion, but it looked like he didn’t cut weight the right way. Some guys can change weight classes and look more or less the same as they did before, but McKenzie looked drawn out and he was already a gangly lightweight. This suggests to me that he just starved or severely dehydrated himself to make weight as opposed to making the necessary changes to his diet. Again, this is purely speculation. As for the fight itself, Mendes took care of business. He caught an errant kick, nearly punched McKenzie’s rib cage out of his torso and finished with ground strikes.

Like this, but even harder.

What’s next for McKenzie: (2-3 UFC, L1) Hopefully a smoother weight cut and an easier opponent. Body shots were also his undoing when he lost to Nam Phan in the quarterfinals of TUF 12, so he needs to work on protecting that area. With his crowd pleasing style and unique look, it would be ideal for the UFC to feature him on one of their free cards in the near future. Possible opponents include fellow string bean Pablo Garza, former TUF housemate Jonathan Brookins or TUF: Brazil runner-up Pepey.

What’s next for Mendes: (3-1 UFC, W1) People are already saying that he’s destined to become the Jon Fitch of the featherweight division. He’s the clear cut second best featherweight, but was handled so easily by the champion that he’s a tough sell to main event again. I wouldn’t be against a rematch. Mendes got caught in a bad position and ate a knockout kick from José Aldo. There’s no shame in that. He’ll need to reclaim his place in line by beating upstarts Erik Koch, Ricardo Lamas or Chan Sung Jung. If the UFC doesn’t want to risk halting the momentum of one of those young stars, Cub Swanson would be a fun matchup as well.

Welterweight Bout: Maia d. Kim via TKO-Injury (:47, R1)

How it went down: Continuing the mystifying action, Kim was finished in under a minute after suffering what appeared to be a crippling rib injury. Maia looked good dropping down to 170, doing what he does best: grappling. Despite Kim having excellent takedown defence, once Maia got a hold of him he wasn’t letting go until he brought the fight into his world. The injury might have been a fluke, but Maia did exactly what he wanted do and was rewarded for it.

What’s next for Kim: (6-2 [1 NC] UFC, L1) It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, Kim was facing off against Carlos Condit in what was essentially a no. 1 contender’s bout. Stun Gun is a long ways from those lofty heights now. He finds himself stuck in the middle of the pack with the likes of Thiago Alves, Diego Sanchez and Paulo Thiago, all marketable names who might have to climb over each other to stay relevant.

What’s next for Maia: (10-4 UFC, W1) GSP was in the building and if I were Maia, I would have called him out. Then again, Maia is a professional fighter and not a moron like me, so I guess you can see why he might not do that. Maia’s going to be tough to book because he’s a former middleweight title contender, but still an unknown property at welterweight. This fight didn’t answer many questions. I’d like to see how he’d fare against grinders like Mike Pierce or Rick Story, but Mike Pyle would make for the most exciting fight.

Middleweight Bout: Le d. Côté via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

How it went down: Another fight that was closer than the scorecard suggests. Côté actually came into this fight as the favourite, which is fair considering he’s fought for the title before and was riding a four fight win streak outside of the UFC. Le, on the other hand, snatched a Fight of the Night bonus with Wanderlei Silva, but it’s fair to say that he’s getting up there in age. Côté has improved his wrestling a lot, but he found himself on his back more than once thanks to some beautifully timed trips by Le. The Sanshou master’s arsenal of kicks was on full display and he landed several nice shots to the leg and body from angles that most fighters wouldn’t attempt. To Côté’s credit, he fought hard to the end and made Le earn every round.

What’s next for Côté: (4-8 UFC, L1) He did the boss a solid by stepping in for a Rich Franklin (who had to step in for an injured Vitor Belfort at UFC 147) and he looked sharp too. He’s now in a similar situation to the aforementioned Riki Fukuda, so expect him to be slotted with the same level of opponents or maybe even Fukuda himself.

What’s next for Le: (1-1 UFC, W1) Were he ten years younger, there would be a plethora of choices but at this stage in his career there’s only one fight that makes sense: his originally scheduled opponent Rich Franklin.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Griffin d. Ortiz via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

How it went down: Much like W. Silva-Franklin II, this was another fight that was labelled as irrelevant by fans. Unlike Silva and Franklin, these two failed to deliver. This match was almost identical to their last encounter except that Griffin and Ortiz looked diminished. Ortiz no longer has his dynamite takedowns and Griffin’s pitter-patter shots looked pitter-patterier than ever. Griffin out-struck Ortiz by a wide margin, but Ortiz rocked Griffin and the crowd was firmly behind him by the time the final bell rang. Griffin then proceeded to make an ass of himself. First, he ran out of the octagon as if anticipating an unfavourable decision and then he ruined Ortiz’ chance to have a closing interview with Joe Rogan by conducting the interview himself. He also took some odd cheap shots at Ortiz while talking to him. It was a classless move by such a likeable fighter and regardless of how you feel about Ortiz that should have been his moment to enjoy.

What’s next for Ortiz: (15-11-1 UFC, L3) A well deserved retirement. I remember him walking to the ring when he was facing Ryan Bader and just looking solemn. I don’t think his belief in himself ever wavered, but he definitely was aware that fans were prepared to say good-bye. He scored a miraculous win that night and three fights later he can finally walk away knowing that he left it all in the octagon. He carried the torch for the UFC during their darkest days, never attempting to distance himself even as fair-weather fans and the mainstream media vilified the sport he loved. He may have been motivated by his own interests, but he paved the way for increased fighter salaries (an ongoing battle) and widespread acceptance. He was a cocky punk and an ambassador all at the same time. Tito Ortiz has a comfortable perch amongst the legends of mixed martial arts.

What’s next for Griffin: (10-5 UFC, W1) A psychiatrist, perhaps?

Middleweight bout: Silva d. Sonnen via TKO (1:55, R2)

How it went down: Round six started off the same as rounds one through five. Sonnen walked Silva down, eating a couple of shots before getting a grip around Silva’s waist and taking him down. Right away, you could see a change in Silva’s strategy. Rather than waste energy attempting to get up or apply submissions, Silva held on and didn’t allow Sonnen to posture up. Sonnen remained active enough to avoid being stood up, but he wasn’t able to land anything substantial other than a few glancing elbows. The challenger took round one easily and it seemed like everything was going his way except for the fact that Silva wasn’t really hurt.

In the second round, it took a little longer but Sonnen took Silva down again. This time they were pressed against the cage giving Silva the opportunity to wall walk up, which he eventually did while blatantly grabbing on to Sonnen’s shorts. Referee Yves Lavigne was reluctant to intervene for some reason, allowing Silva to maintain his illegal hold while peppering Sonnen with straight rights. It’s at this point that Sonnen might have been seriously hurt, though it’s unclear. It’s the best explanation for what happened next though. As Silva was backed up against the cage again, Sonnen threw a preposterous spinning back fist, a move that nobody had ever seen him use before. I could be wrong, but you’re not supposed to end up flat on your ass after throwing one of those, right?

Smelling blood, Silva pounced immediately landing effective strikes as Sonnen struggled to get back up. He fell again and Silva threw what looked to be knee to the head of a downed opponent. Further angles showed it being buried deep into Sonnen’s chest. As Sonnen was being pummelled, Lavigne made the wise decision to call the fight.

One last note: There’s no way Silva was aiming for Sonnen’s head with that knee. It’s one thing to grab onto the shorts and risk a point deduction; it’s another to risk getting disqualified and lose your title. Also, considering how much damage that knee did, I have a hard time believing that it didn’t land exactly where it was supposed to. Anderson is the best striker mixed martial arts has ever seen. He knows what he’s doing.

I mean, come on, this isn’t Malaysia.

What’s next for Sonnen: (6-5 UFC, L1) A well deserved retirement…oh, wait no. Despite the brilliant challenge he laid down against Silva, swearing to leave the UFC forever if he lost, he remains highly marketable and it would suck to see Sonnen hang it up. He made a healthy pay day (only $50,000 to show, but I guarantee he’s getting a cut of the PPV money that should put him past seven figures) and he deserves to take some time off to rest after working his ass off to build up this fight. A move to light heavyweight has been discussed, but it’s better for Sonnen to take a few more big money fights before he retires. Depending on how some key middleweight matchups go over the next few months, Sonnen could find himself facing off with Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort or Jake Shields.

What’s next for Silva: (15-0 UFC, W16) As always seems to be the case with Silva, there is no immediate challenger to his throne. Mark Muñoz is the most likely option if he can get past Chris Weidman on Wednesday, but don’t expect Weidman to be picked if he manages to upset The Filipino Wrecking Machine unless he does it in spectacular fashion. The same goes for Hector Lombard who should reasonably be two fights away, but a decisive defeat of Tim Boetsch might get him the nod, especially considering he’s unbeaten in twenty-five straight contests. Boetsch is also a legitimate threat and a win over Lombard would make him 4-0 in the middleweight division. Lastly, there’s Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher. Bisping has an 8-3 record at middleweight, with Dan Henderson being the only man to beat him definitively. Love him or hate him, he was arguably the division’s second biggest name before Sonnen’s campaign and a match between he and Silva would draw. Belcher would be my choice, as he’s 6-1 in his last seven fights including a controversial split decision loss to Sexyama. Bisping and Belcher have been begging to have a crack at each other and whoever wins would be more than worthy of a main event slot opposite the Spider. I’ve championed Belcher for a long time as the man to topple Silva, but that’s an article for another day.

Another one of my sterling predictions.

Walk Into My Parlor – UFC 148 Preview & Predictions

For whatever reason, I’ve been skeptical that UFC 148, headlined by the second meeting between Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva, will crack one million PPV buys. The last card to hit that number that didn’t involve Brock Lesnar was UFC 114: Rampage v. Evans. That fight had the benefit of a full season of The Ultimate Fighter to hype it up and the lure of two former light heavyweight champions who both excel at hyping fights. I also think that the image of two cocky, powerful and black American prizefighters evokes fond memories of marquee boxing matchups. Of course, I don’t see colour so I don’t know why I’m even mentioning that sort of thing.

After reading a couple of well-reasoned Tweets and thinking about it a bit more, this PPV is probably a safe bet to hit that magical mark. I’ve underestimated just how much coverage the fight has received outside of the usual venues. Much of the credit has to go to Sonnen, who has been on a mission to destroy not only Silva, but his reputation. Prior to defeating Nate Marquardt to earn the title shot, Sonnen was already calling out Silva as a “fraud”. All of this talk about how nobody ever calls Silva out is nothing new. Sonnen has been playing that angle for over two years now. Say what you want about his outlandish insults, at least he’s consistent.

The fact that Silva finally fired back is almost quaint. His response was not only unnecessary (as he’s fine playing the quiet assassin), but also a little awkward. Nevertheless, it was different and it was a sign that the stakes are considerably larger, as it should be with any good sequel. Yeah, this one is going a milli.

*The number next to the names are their placement in my unofficial (and as of yet, unpublished) UFC rankings. (c) = champion.

*****

Lightweight Bout: Rafaello Oliveira (47) v. Yoislandy Izquierdo (63)

What you need to know: Loser leaves town match! Oliveira is a game veteran who just hasn’t had a lot of luck in the octagon, going 1-4 in five UFC appearances. Despite being only two years older than Izquierdo, he actually started fighting back in 2004 and he has a lot more experience against name opponents. Izquierdo is still an unknown property. He lost his debut fight against fellow prospect Reza Madadi.

How it’s going down: I’d love to pick Izquierdo, but I’ve honestly never seen him fight and he just doesn’t have a convincing resume. I think Oliveira’s experience pays off and he gets off the schneid here.

The pick: Oliveira

Lightweight Bout: John Alessio (54) v. Shane Roller (48)

What you need to know: Loser leaves town match number 2! I know it’s a rude thing to say, but if you’re fighting in one of the lighter weight classes in the UFC, you can’t afford to go on a losing streak of any kind. Alessio lost his last fight against fellow Canadian Mark Bocek and Roller is actually winless in his last three matches. Neither is really a fan favourite and while they’re tough fighters, this booking is a reward for both guys stepping in for injured fighters in their previous appearances.

How it’s going down: Roller looked good in the WEC and had one shining moment in the UFC when he beat Thiago Tavares with a flash knockout. I loved that finish because Roller’s striking looked comically bad that whole fight before a wild shot put Tavares on his ass. That said, Alessio is the more well rounded fighter and I see him avoiding takedowns while picking Roller apart in the stand-up.

The pick: Alessio

Middleweight Bout: Constantinos Philippou (17) v. Riki Fukuda (36)

What you need to know: Well, what you really need to know is that I have an inexplicable bias for Serra-Longo fighters. Let’s establish that now. After a disappointing submission loss in the qualifying rounds of TUF 11 and a decision loss in his UFC debut against Nick Catone, Costa finds himself on a surprising three fight win streak. A win over Fukuda would likely earn him a fight against a top 15 opponent. Fukuda won an entertaining slugfest against Steve Cantwell at UFC 144. Philippou is a willing brawler and if Fukuda brings it like he did last time, this could be the Fight of the Night.

How it’s going down: This is a difficult fight to pick because these two are likely to just wail on each other. The resulting knockout or close decision could go either way. Like I said, I don’t bet against Serra-Longo.

The pick: Philippou

Lightweight Bout: Melvin Guillard (11) v. Fabrício Camões (37)

What you need to know: This is an absolutely terrible fight for Guillard, who I still believe has a title shot in his future if he ever puts it all together (surely, this has never been said about Guillard before). Camões only has three UFC fights under his belt, with one win, one loss and one draw. I have to give Guillard a lot of credit for even taking this fight as he really has nothing to gain other than an easy win…

How it’s going down: …the problem with that is Camões is known for his elite ground game. While it’s doubtful he’ll be able to get the massive Guillard to the ground, should the fight go there for any significant period of time an upset is likely. Guillard has shown himself to be vulnerable to chokes (surely, this has never been said about Guillard before) and it could be argued that Camões has the best jiu-jitsu out of anyone he’s ever faced. I trust him to use his range and athleticism to stay out of trouble.

The pick: Guillard

Lightweight Bout: Gleison Tibau (10) v. Khabib Nurmagomedov (38)

What you need to know: Despite the disparity in rankings being slightly higher than the Guillard-Camões bout, this is actually a less dangerous fight for Tibau. The hulking Brazilian is returning from a short layoff and a tune-up fight is in order. Not only that, but Nurmagomedov is a white hot prospect entering this fight 17-0. Both fighters have a lot to gain as a win for Tibau could be the start of a long overdue run at the lightweight title, while an upset would vault Nurmagomedov into the top 20 and earn him a big ticket fight.

How it’s going down: Tibau is going to have a strength advantage over almost every lightweight he faces and the Nurmagomedov is no exception. The wiry Russian is a great athlete, but his stand-up looked uneven in his UFC debut against the equally sloppy Kamal Shalorus. He got away with being wild there, but I don’t think that’s going to work against the punishing Tibau. Expect something similar to the Josh Neer fight, with Tibau taking down Nurmagomedov repeatedly for fifteen minutes.

The pick: Tibau

Bantamweight Bout: Ivan Menjivar (9) v. Mike Easton (14)

What you need to know: With only one loss on his record and having fought two exciting fights in the UFC so far, Easton is emerging as a dark horse contender in the bantamweight division. Unfortunately, he’s training partners with Dominick Cruz and has taken the expected oath to never battle his buddy. Menjivar has been on the MMA scene for over a decade, but dropping to bantamweight has made him look like an entirely new fighter. He’s won three straight, including first round finishes of Charlie Valencia and John Albert. A win here puts both fighters on the short list for the next title shot (Cruz could be out for a while after knee surgery, so the door is now open for Easton).

How it’s going down: Technique vs. power. I like Mike Easton a lot. He’s got swagger. He acts like someone who believes he can beat anyone and that’s the kind of attitude a UFC fighter has to have. Every punch is thrown with savage intent. That said, Menjivar has looked incredible at 135. He’s a testament to the UFC’s choice to implement the featherweight and bantamweight divisions as his talents were often overshadowed by the significant poundage he was usually giving up. His movement is going to cause Easton fits and if it goes to the ground he’ll definitely have the advantage.

The pick: Menjivar

Featherweight Bout: Chad Mendes (2) v. Cody McKenzie (-)

What you need to know: This is an overdue and welcome drop to the featherweight division for McKenzie who always looked a little doughy at lightweight. He actually won his last fight, but made the wise decision to change divisions before he ran into a monster like Tibau or Gray Maynard. The bad news is that they’ve matched him up with Mendes who is the second best featherweight in the world and who just fought against José Aldo for the title. It’s a curious match to make, which makes me wonder if they’re looking to get Mendes back in the W column or if there’s more to this match than meets the eye.

How it’s going down: I’m an unabashed McKenzie fan, so I would love to say this is going to turn out just like his other fights against wrestlers have gone: He charges in, gets taken down, applies a guillotine choke variation and wins by submission. Sounds plausible, right? So why is he an 8-1 underdog? Mendes has outstanding top control and has rarely been close to being submitted. His last win was against Rani Yahya, owner of 14 submission victories and he won that fight handily. Add in the fact that the guillotine choke is also the specialty of Mendes’ camp, Team Alpha Male, and there’s no way anyone in their right minds would pick McKenzie.

The pick: McKenzie

Welterweight Bout: Dong-hyun Kim (13) v. Demian Maia (-)

What you need to know: Kim was on his way to earning a title shot that nobody was looking forward to when he was mercifully derailed by an unstoppable Carlos Condit. He bounced back with a solid win against Sean Pierson and now faces a former middleweight title challenger in Maia. Maia, after an ugly performance against Chris Weidman, is looking to revitalize his career in the welterweight division.

How it’s going down: I’m concerned for Maia. He looked uncharacteristically exhausted against Weidman and I’m not sure how dropping another fifteen pounds is going to help him. He’s a private fellow, so I’m going to assume that he has undergone all kinds of fitness and dietary changes in preparation for the weight cut and has chosen not to share that information. Kim’s strength usually allows him to manhandle most of his opponents at welterweight, but he definitely won’t want to grapple with Maia. I predict that Maia will be able to do just enough on the feet to get into a position where he can take the fight to the mat. After that, it’s over for Kim.

The pick: Maia

Middlweight Bout: Cung Le (28) v. Patrick Côté (-)

What you need to know: Something about Côté has always rubbed me the wrong way. He’s a solid striker with good pop and an excellent chin. He even seems like a nice enough dude. I just don’t like him. His run to the title was infuriatingly dull as was the ensuing fight with Anderson Silva, which ended with him suffering a bizarre knee injury. Cung Le, on the other hand, won me over with a wicked brawl against Wanderlei Silva in which he withstood a lot more punishment than I thought he could handle. He’s getting up there in age and his chance at tasting UFC victory is getting slimmer by the day.

How it’s going down: I’d like nothing more than to see Côté get his head kicked in, but I don’t see that happening. He is smart enough to avoid Le’s early onslaught and it’s only a matter of time before the Sanshou practitioner starts to run out of steam. Look for Côté to capitalize and punch his ticket back to the big show.

The pick: Côté

Light Heavyweight Bout: Forrest Griffin (8) v. Tito Ortiz (19)

What you need to know: Lost in the main event hype is the culmination of this less-than-epic trilogy. The stakes never felt that high between these two so it’s understandable that Griffin-Ortiz doesn’t carry the same cache as Liddell-Couture, St-Pierre-Hughes or even Edgar-Maynard. Neither fight was for a title nor did either fight occur when both men were ranked in the top 10. There’s also no real storyline, other than the other two fights being competitive (both ended in split decisions) and the fighters openly discussing retirement. Not exactly the stuff of legends. Still, it would be nice to see a definitive finish between these two. Griffin and Ortiz are pioneers of MMA in North America and they deserve this co-main event. They’ve earned it and I’m sure when the dust has settled, they’ll have vindicated the matchmakers.

How it’s going down: Ortiz’ body seems to be breaking down with every fight. Before his last two TKO losses, he’d only lost in that fashion twice before in his fifteen (!) years of fighting high level competition. He simply cannot take a body shot anymore. Griffin, despite a disappointing performance in his rematch with Shogun, still looks to have a little left in the tank. He’s pummeled Ortiz in the stand-up in every encounter they’ve had and Ortiz doesn’t have the explosive takedowns that he used to. If Griffin starts to work the body, this one is over.

The pick: Griffin

Middleweight Championship Bout: Anderson Silva (c) v. Chael Sonnen (2)

What you need to know: Seriously, what do you need to know? Silva is the reigning champ having gone undefeated in fourteen UFC contests, including nine consecutive title defences. Sonnen is the last man to even come close to defeating him. In their first meeting, Sonnen out-struck, out-wrestled and flat out whupped the champion before getting caught by a last minute triangle choke. Sonnen politely asked the champion for a rematch (throwing in some kind words for Silva’s family and the people of Brazil) and Silva happily granted it.

How it’s going down: Chael is toast. Add me to the Silva supporters who are willing to believe that a rib injury greatly affected their last fight. I also think that Silva didn’t take Sonnen seriously, which was a dumb mistake. Still, Silva didn’t look like himself. Nobody can argue that. He’d had trouble with wrestlers before (Travis Lutter and Dan Henderson), but Sonnen was also getting the better of him in the striking department and the only reasonable explanation is that Silva was off that night. Sonnen had never shown elite stand-up against anyone and if you think he’s suddenly going to outbox the best striker in MMA, well…there’s really no helping you, is there?

In the first fight, Sonnen put on a brilliant, brutal performance. He absolutely kicked Silva’s ass for over twenty minutes and what made it more extraordinary was that he did exactly what he’d been saying he was going to do for months. Sonnen famously proclaimed himself to be a “hammer” and he certainly looked the part as he pounded Silva into the mat. Styles make fights and Sonnen’s resilient chin and relentless attitude make him the perfect foil for The Spider. I fully expect him to start the fight on fire, constantly pressuring Silva, denying him any opportunity to get into one of his trademark rhythms.

It won’t matter. Silva is mad and unlike a lot of athletes, he only gets better when he’s angry. I can think of two other instances where he was openly disdainful of his foes: Maia and Belfort. He made an ass of himself against Maia, but that was only because he was so clearly dominating the fight that he felt like it was okay to fool around as the fight wound down. It wasn’t, but the embarrassment of Maia (and the UFC to some degree) was the first episode where we saw what happens when you make Silva angry. He also had a personal beef with Belfort and that ended with Belfort taking the top spot in Silva’s personal highlight reel. You just don’t piss this guy off.

There have been some murmurs of a possible knee injury that Silva’s trying to hide and if that’s the case, I fully expect Sonnen to capitalize and take that UFC title. Again, that’s not taking anything away from Sonnen. Everybody goes into the octagon with some kind of lingering injury. It’s the nature of the game. If Sonnen wins, he’s the better man. Period. However, we can’t forget that Sonnen is still the one with something to prove. As much as he boasts about being the true champion and all that, he lost that first fight. It doesn’t matter how long he was winning for because he didn’t win. There are plenty of folks out there who are betting that this fight will look a lot like the first. I agree, especially the part where Silva’s hand gets raised at the end.

The pick: Silva