MMA Review: #352: UFC 134: Silva vs. Okami

-Even in a year as massive as 2011 this was perhaps the biggest UFC show of them all – the return to the birthplace of MMA, Brazil – after an absence of almost thirteen years. And Zuffa definitely pulled out all of the stops for the card, giving the Brazilian fans a massive triple main event featuring three Brazilian legends (Silva, Rua, Nogueira) against three top opponents, as well as stacking the card with other home country heroes such as Palhares, Cane and Barboza. Basically they don’t come much bigger than this one.

UFC 134: Silva vs. Okami

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian and HOLY SHIT are the crowd loud, even before the first fight’s started. Good God.

Bantamweight Fight: Yves Jabouin vs Ian Loveland

This was the lone fight on the card not to feature a Brazilian, with Canadian Jabouin dropping to 135lbs for the first time to take on Loveland, who was looking for his second UFC win after losing to Joseph Benavidez in March.

Round One and Loveland comes charging right out with a right hand, forcing Jabouin to go on the retreat a little. Spinning backfist misses for Jabouin and Loveland lands a body kick. Into the clinch but Jabouin quickly breaks it off. Side kick lands for Jabouin but Loveland grabs his head and delivers three uppercuts. Takedown for Loveland off a high kick, and he lands in half-guard. Loveland postures up to deliver some ground-and-pound, but that allows Jabouin to get a full butterfly guard. Loveland passes back into half-guard and he looks for a keylock, but gives up on it as Jabouin defends. Decent elbows from the top for Loveland but the referee decides to call a stand-up. Actually looks like Marc Goddard’s called time to cut some tape off Loveland’s glove. They restart standing though and Loveland comes in wildly swinging and forces Jabouin onto the offensive again. Nice body kick connects for Jabouin. Rushing right hand answers for Loveland as the action slows a little. Loveland quickly speeds it back up by rushing in with a combination that largely misses. Leg kick by Jabouin is countered by a right from Loveland. Spinning back kick misses for Jabouin but a right hand connects flush and wobbles Loveland! Jabouin comes flying in with a knee and looks to open up, but Loveland grabs onto a single leg to slow him down and ends the round with an elbow to break the clinch. Close round but I give it to Ian Loveland.

Round Two and on a side note Loveland’s cornerman looks like Frank Campana from Warrior. Feel the Beethoven!~! Loveland comes right out with a takedown and lands in side mount. Beautiful sweep from Jabouin puts him on top though and they come back to their feet before he hits a takedown of his own and lands in Loveland’s guard. Solid elbow from Yves and he looks to pass the guard. Armbar attempt from Loveland, and he uses it to sweep into top position in guard. He passes to half-guard and begins to work Jabouin over with elbows before a scramble brings the action back to the feet. Good body kick from Jabouin and he backs Loveland up with some strikes before following with the spinning back kick to the body. Another attempt….lands right in the groin in a DISGUSTING VISUAL. Apparently Loveland has BALLS OF STEEL though as they restart instantly. Good leg kick from the Canadian and it looks like he’s got Loveland’s odd rushing punch style down now. Spinning backfist connects for Jabouin. Takedown attempt from Loveland but Jabouin sprawls out and then decides to fall back for a guillotine, but instead he lets it go and stands. Wild shots miss for both men. Big right head kick lands glancingly for Jabouin. Right hand into a knee from Loveland. Takedown from Jabouin with seconds to go and that ends the round. 10-9 Jabouin methinks.

Round Three and Jabouin opens with a leg kick, countered by a trio of right hands from Loveland. GSP-style superman jab from Jabouin and it looks like he’s ready for some sort of spin attack again. Instead he lands with a nasty leg kick. Jabouin shrugs a takedown off easily and Loveland looks a bit gassed to me. Takedown from Jabouin but Loveland pops right back up. Crane kick narrowly misses for Jabouin. Jabouin fires off with some jabs and he’s clearly the aggressor now. Loveland shrugs off a takedown and lands a jab, but he’s definitely tired. Spinning backfist glances for Jabouin. He avoids another takedown attempt too. Pair of high kicks glance for Jabouin. Body kick connects flush and Loveland is so much slower now it’s incredible. Another body kick lands for the Canadian. Takedown attempt by Loveland is stuffed. Chopping leg kick from Jabouin. Jumping spin kick ala David Loiseau connects with Loveland’s body and Jabouin follows with a glancing head kick. Takedown attempt from Jabouin and he gets Loveland down for a second before he pops up. Seconds to go and Loveland tries to push forward, but he takes some sharp counters from the Canadian, who ends the round with an unsuccessful takedown attempt. I’ve got this 29-28 for Yves Jabouin.

Judges have it 30-27 Loveland (!), 29-28 Jabouin and 29-28 for Yves Jabouin to take the decision. Decent fight but nothing spectacular, and whichever judge scored it 30-27 for Loveland needs his fucking eyes testing as there’s NO WAY he won the 2nd or 3rd.

Featherweight Fight: Yuri Alcantara vs Felipe Arantes

Originally this would’ve seen Alcantara fighting highly touted newcomer Antonio Carvalho, but Pato got hurt in training and so Arantes stepped in on short notice having won nine in a row. Alcantara had impressed in the WEC with a vicious knockout of Ricardo Lamas though and had quite the reputation from his days in Jungle Fight, so I was excited to see him debut in the UFC.

Fight begins and Alcantara presses the action with some early kicks, walking Arantes down. Combination from Alcantara and he follows with a couple of knees from the plum and a quick flurry that puts Arantes on the retreat. Spinning back kick lands for Arantes. Big left elbow from Alcantara backs Arantes up. Leg kick from Arantes is countered by a left hand over the top. Good body kick from Alcantara. Low kick from Arantes is caught and Alcantara gets a takedown to guard. Yuri works to pass and steps into half-guard. He lands a couple of short shots from the top and then catches Arantes with a really hard elbow from the half-guard. More good punches follow as Arantes is forced to cover up, and from there Alcantara passes into side mount. He goes for full mount but Arantes scrambles and attempts a leglock. Alcantara avoids and ends up back in half-guard. More solid shots land for him before Mario Yamasaki calls a stand-up. Arantes comes in swinging, leaping in with a flying knee, but a heavy left elbow puts him back on the defensive. Van Damme helicopter kick misses for Arantes right as the round ends. 10-9 Alcantara.

2nd round and both men have to block early head kick attempts. Side kick misses for Arantes and Alcantara shoots and tackles him to the ground in half-guard. More elbows from Alcantara but Arantes scrambles into full butterfly guard. He manages to kick Yuri away for a moment, but Alcantara quickly gets back on top of him and works to pass. Into side mount for Alcantara and he hits a beautiful stepover into full mount after faking a kimura. Short punches and elbows land for Alcantara and he looks to get a mounted triangle, but Arantes avoids it and Alcantara stands back up over him. He drops back into the butterfly guard but Yamasaki calls another restart. Few kicks land for Arantes but nothing that really hurts Alcantara, who stalks forward and takes a knee to the ribs en route to getting another takedown. Yuri passes into half-guard and then tries to pass that, getting almost to full mount as the round ends. 10-9 Alcantara again.

Final round and Alcantara catches a kick and tosses Arantes to the ground, then quickly pounces and takes the back with both hooks. That was a pretty sick transition. Good job from Arantes though of turning into him and he takes top position in the guard for the first time in the fight. They exchange some short shots inside the guard before Arantes begins to land with some elbows. Arantes stands over him and drops a big right hand, then stands again to kick at the legs. Diving punch fails and Alcantara wraps him up in full guard again. They continue to exchange in the guard with Arantes avoiding a triangle attempt, but Yamasaki decides to call a restart. Flying knee from Arantes is caught and Alcantara dumps him to the ground in full guard. Solid ground-and-pound from Alcantara and he looks to pass the guard, getting into half-guard again. Arantes looks pretty frustrated but what can he do? One minute to go and he gets full guard back, and another stand-up is called. They exchange some strikes before Alcantara hits another single leg into guard. Seconds to go and Arantes looks to be going for the rubber guard, but Alcantara passes into full mount right as the buzzer sounds.

Got to be Yuri Alcantara’s decision and the judges agree, giving him scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Good fight as Arantes really tried, but he was pretty firmly beaten in all areas really by a better fighter. I’m a big fan of Alcantara and look forward to seeing what he can do in the Featherweight division as it isn’t all that packed with contenders in my opinion.

Welterweight Fight: Erick Silva vs Luis Ramos

Newcomer Silva – a member of Team Nogueira and one of the most talked-about prospects at 170lbs – was initially pegged to fight Mike Swick here, but Swick had to withdraw with another injury, and so Shooto Brazil champ Ramos stepped in to replace him. After seeing some footage online of Silva I was convinced this guy could be the real deal, and so I was hoping to see something special from him here.

Round One gets underway and they circle before Silva misses a takedown and has to dodge a Ramos flurry. Leg kick lands for Ramos. Silva circles out and ABSOLUTELY CRUSHES HIM WITH AN OVERHAND RIGHT!~! Ramos goes down HARD and a few more shots finish him for good.

Holy shit that was vicious. Phenomenal knockout. Silva lived up to all the hype here and he’s since gone on to prove even more so that he’s the real deal. Personally I think he’s the top prospect in the world at 170lbs. Plus he has a Justin Bieber haircut, what’s not to love? One of the best knockouts of the year.

Bantamweight Fight: Raphael Assuncao vs Johnny Eduardo

This was another one with a late replacement, as Assuncao’s Bantamweight debut was meant to come against Darren Uyenoyama, but a contract issue meant that he couldn’t compete and so the largely unknown Eduardo stepped in. I had high hopes for Assuncao at 135lbs though and expected him to win regardless.

Round One and both men look tentative early as they circle around and throw some feeler strikes. Good counter from Eduardo wobbles Raphael off a leg kick counter, but he shakes it off and seems fine. Front kick misses for Assuncao. Takedown attempt from the WEC veteran and he grabs a single leg and drives Eduardo into the fence. Eduardo works to defend it, but Assuncao drags him to the ground and lands in full guard. Solid short elbow from Assuncao and he works to the body and head with some decent ground-and-pound. Ref Marc Goddard calls a stand-up, and Eduardo pushes forward with a combination, but doesn’t really land cleanly. Round peters out on the feet. 10-10 I’d say as Assuncao’s ground work was matched by Eduardo landing the better strikes.

Round Two and they continue to exchange strikes before Eduardo ends up on top off a scramble. Assuncao gets a reversal though and grabs a leg en route to standing back up inside the clinch. He forces Eduardo into the fence and goes for a single leg, but Eduardo blocks well only to take a knee on the way out. Good right hand for Eduardo. Takedown attempt by Assuncao but Eduardo stuffs it, only to be forced back into the cage. They muscle for position and Assuncao breaks with a right hand. This is a bit of a dull fight actually. They trade with some strikes with Assuncao landing the overhand right nicely, and he follows by landing it again on his way forward. Back into the clinch and Assuncao takes a rear waistlock and looks to drag him down. He slaps both hooks in and looks to flatten him out for the choke, but he can’t finish it before the fight ends. 10-9 Assuncao.

Round Three and Assuncao opens with a nice jab. Eduardo pushes forward aggressively, but takes another stiff jab for his troubles. Chopping leg kick lands for Assuncao too. Good combo from Eduardo but Assuncao is actually outstriking him here with the jab and leg kick. Single leg attempt from Assuncao and he gets Eduardo down, but almost falls right into an Achilles lock. Assuncao avoids it though and drops some punches from above as Eduardo tries to secure the leg again. Good punches land for Assuncao before he lets Eduardo up with just over a minute left. Eduardo pushes forward swinging, but he needs the knockout to win and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get it. They exchange some strikes that don’t really land and that’s the fight. I’ve got it 30-28 for Raphael Assuncao.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Raphael Assuncao. Good win for him in his first fight at 135lbs, but it wasn’t the most entertaining fight ever. Not a bad one by any means to be fair, but it really lacked in any truly explosive moments, you know?

Welterweight Fight: Paulo Thiago vs David Mitchell

This was Thiago’s first fight since his UFC 121 loss to Diego Sanchez and HOLY GOD is he over with this crowd. I guess battling drug dealers on the streets of Brasilia will do that for you. Mitchell hadn’t fought in almost a year either, but if I’m honest I’ll say I was rooting for him purely because he’s a DAVID TERRELL!~! protégé.

Fight begins and the crowd are so loud it’s ridiculous. Good leg kick from Thiago as he stalks forward. Mitchell looks to close the distance, but Thiago circles his way out. Another nice leg kick lands for the Brazilian. Takedown from Thiago gets a monster pop and he lands in side mount. It looks like Thiago’s trying to set up some sort of choke attempt as Mitchell tries to escape the position, but he winds up letting Mitchell stand instead. Spinning back kick narrowly misses for Thiago. Mitchell looks stiff on his feet and hasn’t really landed anything yet. Takedown attempt from Thiago and he transitions to a rear waistlock and suplexes Mitchell down. Side mount for Thiago and he works his way into the mounted crucifix, but Mitchell slips free before he takes any punishment. Scramble from Mitchell almost puts him into a D’Arce choke, but he ends up on the bottom of side mount instead. They end the round by coming back to their feet and exchanging some punches. 10-9 Thiago.

TERRELL SIGHTING!~! He’s cornering Mitchell, duh. 2nd round and Thiago cracks him with a body kick. Good combination from the Brazilian on the counter but Mitchell catches him coming in and forces him into the fence in the clinch. Takedown from Thiago though and he lands in half-guard. He looks to pass, but end up standing when Mitchell attempts a reversal. A kick is caught by Paulo though and he gets the takedown again and easily avoids a triangle attempt. He chooses to stand again, and Mitchell presses forward before Thiago takes him down again, back into side mount this time. Mitchell works back into guard, so Thiago stands back up again. Good lead uppercut from Thiago. Nice body kick from the Brazilian too. Mitchell continues to come forward aggressively, but he can’t get anything going really. Round ends on the feet, and it goes to Paulo Thiago again.

3rd round and the crowd are STILL deafening. Good right hands from Thiago to open the round and he backs Mitchell up. Nice left hook lands cleanly for Thiago. Mitchell clinches and looks for the takedown, but Thiago hits a beautiful trip right down into half-guard. Mitchell eats some punches and then looks to use a leglock to sweep, but Thiago pulls free and stands. Combination backs Thiago up, but he fires back with a left high kick. Solid right hand lands for Thiago on the counter. Exchange continues and Mitchell has a little more success, but he needs a finish to win here with a minute remaining. Good left hook from Thiago pops the crowd hugely and a right forces Mitchell to clinch up. Thiago gets the dominant position though and grabs a rear waistlock. He drags Mitchell down with both hooks in, and it looks like he’s got the choke sunk in, but the round ends before he can finish. Clear-cut decision for Paulo Thiago, surely.

Judges all score it 30-27 for Paulo Thiago and the crowd go BATSHIT. Fight actually wasn’t that great, but the crowd totally added another dimension and made it feel much more important than it really was, which is the beauty of this show really! Good win for Thiago to return to his home country with.

Middleweight Fight: Rousimar Palhares vs Dan Miller

I couldn’t wait for this one, naturally, as Toquinho is one of my favourite fighters at the minute. You have to feel for Miller really as this was like, the first fight he’d taken in a while on proper notice, and yet he was matched with TOQUINHO, a horrendous match for him on paper as the Brazilian’s a better grappler and probably an equal striker and has better takedowns than Dan too.

Round One and the crowd are chanting for Toquinho before anything’s even happened. They circle around before Toquinho lands a leg kick which Miller counters with a right hand. Good right from Palhares and he follows by clinching and pulling guard. He immediately locks up an arm and goes for the armbar, but Miller manages to avoid it and chooses wisely to stand back up. Leg kick from Toquinho and the crowd are wildly chanting for him. Stiff jab lands for Miller. Wild overhand right misses for Toquinho but a front kick lands flush to the face and knocks Miller down! He pops up as Toquinho charges in, and the Brazilian elevates him and drops him with a big slam. Miller pops up and hits a takedown of his own into the guard, where Palhares lands some elbows from his back as it looks like Miller is just looking to slow things down so he can recover. Miller stands up again and lets Toquinho join him, and the Brazilian lands a solid right hook and a leg kick. Pair of right hands land for Toquinho and he follows with a knee. His striking looks much improved from previous fights. Miller counters a leg kick with a combo, but Palhares comes back with a MASSIVE RIGHT HEAD KICK THAT FOLDS MILLER UP! He pounds away and looks to finish….and in the single strangest moment I can ever remember in the UFC, decides to stop and climb the fence to celebrate….even though referee Herb Dean hasn’t actually stopped the fight. Cue total confusion as Miller staggers around and then realizes the fight’s still on, while poor Herb has to somehow get Toquinho to climb back down so they can resume. The look of confusion on Toquinho’s face is quite the sight. Miller still looks out of it, blood pissing out of his left eye. They restart….and now Miller DROPS TOQUINHO WITH A COMBO! Holy SHIT. Toquinho recovers quickly though and reverses position as Miller tries to pound him, slamming him down to the ground and adding a blatantly late punch for good measure. INSANITY. Got to be a 10-8 for Toquinho given how close he came to finishing and while he definitely fucked up with the premature celebration, I’d argue the fight probably should’ve been stopped anyway.

Round Two, amazingly enough, and they trade some wild strikes right off with Miller claiming he’s been poked in the eye. Toquinho doesn’t give a flying fuck though and he comes charging in with knees before lifting Miller HIGH in the air and getting him down with a single leg. This dude is an animal. Triangle attempt from Miller but Toquinho slams his way out and gets into side mount. Miller scrambles, but Toquinho basically throws him into the cage and begins to bomb on the head as Miller desperately tries to grab an ankle. Big hammer fists from Toquinho as Miller looks to take him down, and then he gets on top in guard and continues to smash the hell out of poor Miller. Another triangle attempt is shrugged off and Toquinho keeps on landing with punches. It’s like watching a small gorilla fighting. Finally he slows up a little and settles into Miller’s guard with some short elbows. It’s only for a moment though as he stacks back up and begins to bounce Miller’s head off the ground with punches again. Miller looks on the verge of being stopped here as he’s taking SO MUCH PUNISHMENT. He tries to kick Toquinho away to no avail but it at least slows the onslaught up. Seconds to go and Herb Dean outright tells Miller he has to defend or he’ll stop the fight. Miller, being as tough as they come, manages to roll and avoid the stoppage, but his face is a mess and he’s in big trouble going into the third. I’d call that another 10-8 for Toquinho.

Round Three and Toquinho looks slightly tired, his punches coming much slower than they were doing earlier. He does work some jabs though to keep Miller at bay. Miller comes back with a couple of jabs of his own, but he looks pretty exhausted too and with good reason. Good leg kick from Palhares. Both men are punching really slowly at this stage. One-two connects for Miller. Couple of hooks glance for Palhares and a leg kick follows. This is a tough round to score. The striking exchange continues and I’d give the edge very slightly to Dan Miller. Nice body shot from Toquinho though. Overhand right glances off the jaw of Miller and another one lands on the temple. Seconds to go and a left hook connects for the Brazilian too. Round ends with Palhares pushing forward. You could perhaps argue the last round was Miller’s, but even then with my scoring that’d be 29-26 for Toquinho.

Scorecards read 29-27, 30-27 and 30-25 for Rousimar ‘Toquinho’ Palhares. Crowd go wild for this and it seems like a star has been made. Third round of this fight got a little slow but the first two were perhaps the craziest pair of rounds I’ve ever seen in the UFC, particularly the first with the wild false stoppage moment and everything. I mean, to me Toquinho was always a must-see guy anyway but this just took that to a totally different level, as you just get the feeling literally anything could happen when he gets in the cage. Miller tried but Toquinho is a fucking savage. Crazy fight to watch and hugely entertaining too.

Lightweight Fight: Thiago Tavares vs Spencer Fisher

This was an interesting one on paper as Tavares is one of those guys who’s shown flashes of absolute brilliance in the past but up to this point just hadn’t shown the consistency to be considered a real contender, while Fisher had looked like he was on his way out after losses to Joe Stevenson and Dennis Siver, but then turned back the clock to beat Curt Warburton in impressive fashion before taking Ross Pearson to a close decision in his last outing. Being a fan of Tavares’ though I was taking him to pick up a much-needed victory in his home country.

First round begins and it’s suddenly noticeable that Fisher is a TINY 155lber. It’s odd because when he first dropped to Lightweight back in 2006 he never looked outsized. I guess he’s lost muscle mass as he’s gotten older. Fisher pushes the action early and Thiago slips to his back off a missed head kick but pops right back up. Body kick connects for Tavares. Takedown attempt from Tavares and he drives Fisher across the cage and gets him down. He drags Spencer away from the cage to try to keep him down, then passes into half-guard and looks to use some short strikes. Fisher tries to wall-walk to his feet, but Tavares does a very good job of keeping him down, although he isn’t doing much damage with the position either to be fair. Both men land some short shots from the position until referee Marc Goddard decides to stand them back up. Fisher blocks a high kick twice and pushes forward, but Thiago goes for the takedown and forces him into the cage again. Spencer defends it well this time and lands a couple of knees to the body, but Tavares manages to get him down eventually, back to the seated position against the fence. Good short elbows from Tavares in the guard this time to mark up Fisher’s face. He passes into half-guard and looks to advance into full mount, and then takes the back when Fisher tries to turn. He only has one hook though and that allows Fisher to work back to his feet and land a solid back elbow before the round ends. 10-9 round for Tavares.

Second round and Tavares fires off some kicks that Fisher blocks before shooting for the takedown. Fisher tries to defend it again but Tavares elevates him and drops him down into guard. Tavares looks to advance position again and gets to half-guard, but Fisher moves the butterfly guard back in only to take some solid punches. Good job done by Tavares to prevent Fisher wall-walking up to his feet, and then he hops into side mount and looks to step over to take the back. Fisher tries to scramble, but Tavares slaps both hooks in and begins to bomb away with some vicious punches. Fisher turns and gives his back fully, taking some nasty shots, and then rolls onto his side where Tavares continues to punish him until Marc Goddard steps in.

Tremendous showing from Thiago Tavares – probably his most impressive UFC performance in fact when you consider that Fisher is a tough guy who’s difficult to finish even if he’s realistically past his prime at this point. Spencer was just never given the opportunity to uncork his striking here, as Tavares got him down and kept him there and once he got a dominant position the end came swiftly and violently. Good stuff overall.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Luiz Cane vs Stanislav Nedkov

Bulgaria’s Nedkov had been scheduled to make his UFC debut about a year prior to this, but Visa issues had prevented it, while Cane had bounced back from a couple of disappointing showings to stop Eliot Marshall in vicious fashion back in March. Home court advantage – plus the fact that Nedkov’s pre-UFC career hadn’t really impressed me – made me take Banha for the win.

Round One begins and the crowd are still as amped as they have been all night. Best crowd in UFC history, easily. Cane pushes forward as Nedkov wings an overhand right like he’s Chuck Liddell, but he can’t land early and Cane hits him with a nasty leg kick. Pair of left hooks land for Cane as Nedkov tries to close the distance. Banha manages to keep his distance though and lands another leg kick and a combination. Good left hand from Cane as Nedkov wings the right hand counter but can’t seem to solve the issue of Cane’s longer reach. Good low kick connects for Cane and he avoids the counter. Head kick misses and Cane slips, but he gets out of the way of a bulrush from the Bulgarian. Good counter left lands for Cane and he follows with a combo that looks to have Nedkov a little wobbled. Right jabs from Cane and he shrugs off the takedown. Nedkov’s nose is looking bloody. Another heavy left hand lands for Banha. Leg kick drops Nedkov for a second but he pops back up. Cane looks supremely confident now, using the straight right to set up the left cross. He gets a little too confident though, and suddenly Nedkov turns the tables and cracks him with a left hand! Cane’s legs go out and cause him to RUN ACROSS THE OCTAGON AND CRASH INTO THE FENCE! Oh God. Nedkov follows with a BIG FLURRY that drops him and the Bulgarian quickly finishes him on the ground. Cue the most awkward silence I’ve ever heard in the UFC as the crowd just completely shut up, probably in shock that their boy just got KOd from nowhere in a fight he was dominating.

Replay shows the big left hook just fucked Cane’s equilibrium and he was never able to recover. That’s got to be gutting for him as up to this point on the card he was the only Brazilian to lose to a foreign fighter. And I mean, he was completely owning Nedkov at that point too, picking him apart easily while avoiding the Bulgarian’s wild counters. Just goes to show it only takes one heavy shot to change things around in MMA. This was one of my favourite knockouts of the year in fact, if only for the comedy factor of seeing poor Cane run headlong into the cage.

Heavyweight Fight: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Brendan Schaub

After over a year on the shelf following hip surgery (which I always thought was reserved for the elderly, confirming the theory that Nog is the oldest thirty-something dude in the entire world) Nogueira apparently requested to be given a fight on this show as he’d never actually fought in his home country before (!) despite still not being 100% healthy. That seemed like a recipe for disaster – particularly as he was fighting Schaub, a guy who was becoming known for making his name off the back of legends at this point, most notably with his super-vicious knockout of Mirko Cro Cop. While the smart money seemed to be on the Hybrid, then, much to the sadness of longtime Nog fans like myself, just a month before this we’d seen Tito Ortiz beat Ryan Bader, so hey, the possibility of a return to glory for the ex-PRIDE star was always there….

First round begins and Nog presses forward into an early clinch. Schaub muscles him into the fence as the crowd begin to chant for Nogueira. They break off quickly and exchange some punches before Nog looks for the takedown. Schaub stuffs it and they end up clinched again, exchanging short punches from close range. They break off and Schaub looks to work his jab, then lands a solid left hook. Good right hand from Nogueira but Schaub returns fire with a hard uppercut. They clinch briefly but break off again and Schaub lands with a low kick. They exchange jabs and it seems that Nogueira is the aggressor, pushing forward before landing a one-two. They continue to exchange and go into basically a trade-off with Schaub landing some solid punches, but Nogueira manages to use some nice head movement to avoid getting really stunned. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Schaub but Nog continues to come forward. Combo from Nogueira and a BIG ONE-TWO WOBBLES SCHAUB! Schaub looks in BIG TROUBLE as Nogueira opens up on him, and a left sends him down face-first! Nogueira follows with some punches and it’s ALL OVER!~! Cue ABSOLUTE MAYHEM as the crowd go completely wild, and even though the sound doesn’t do it justice, you can literally see people leaping around in the crowd, hugging each other and stuff. I’ve heard this was the biggest crowd pop in UFC history and I won’t argue with that.

Well, to put things into perspective with a bit of hindsight, this wasn’t the ‘old Nogueira’ being back as such as physically he looked more like the Nog who fought Sylvia and Velasquez than the PRIDE Nogueira or even the Nog that fought Couture, and he’s never been known for his knockout power which suggests Schaub’s chin is just super-dodgy, but let’s be honest….who the fuck cares? This was a massive win for an absolute legend in his hometown, and if anyone deserves the biggest crowd reaction in UFC history it’s Rodrigo Nogueira, who’s never given anything but 110% in every single one of his fights even when he was taking a beating, and who comes off as the nicest guy in the world to boot. As a fan of Nog’s since I first saw him fight and tap out Mirko Cro Cop back in 2003, this was GOLDEN, one of the best moments of the year, up there with Tito’s miraculous comeback a month beforehand. Phenomenal stuff and the wild crowd reaction just added to the moment. One of the most memorable fights in UFC history.

Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza vs Ross Pearson

This one on paper guaranteed excitement, as I can’t recall either guy being in a dull fight. Barboza was seen as the hot prospect coming in on the back of two UFC wins, but I was actually favouring Pearson simply due to British bias and the fact that he’d moved to train with Alliance MMA (Cruz, Vera, Davis, Gustafsson et al) at the beginning of the year.

First round and Pearson pushes forward, looking to use his jab to counter the leg kicks of the Brazilian. Combination from Pearson but Barboza backs out and manages to keep his range. Good shots from Pearson coming forward and he doesn’t seem to be having an issue with the reach of Barboza. Sharp leg kick lands for the Brazilian but Pearson comes back with a left hook and then clinches. Nice knee to the body breaks for Barboza though. Both men land some good punches in close before Barboza backs out and lands a glancing front kick to the face. Pearson continues to push forward with a one-two and then he clinches again before Barboza breaks off and delivers a nice spinning back kick to the body. Leg kick connects for Pearson. Good left hand from Pearson backs Barboza up, and the Brit lands with a body kick. Head kick is narrowly blocked by Pearson. Pearson continues to push the action, landing with a couple of combos, and then he drops for a takedown. Barboza works to block it and they break off just before the round ends. I’d give that round to Pearson as he pushed the action and landed the better shots, but it was close.

Second round and Pearson comes forward with a body kick, but Barboza fires right back with one of his own and then drops the Brit face-first with a HARD RIGHT HAND! Pearson shows a solid chin and pops right back up, but he must be hurt and he’s clearly a bit more tentative coming forward. Barboza lands a nice body kick and then shrugs off a takedown. Head kick is blocked by the Brit. Pearson begins to push forward again now, landing a decent jab and a left hook to back the Brazilian up. Good right hand lands for Barboza to counter Pearson coming in. Leg kick from the Brit and he continues to come forward. Pearson is beginning to get his timing right now and lands with the left hand a couple of times. Good sprawl from Barboza allows him to avoid the takedown. Nice combination lands for Barboza to slow Pearson up for a moment. Two minutes to go and Barboza lands with a heavy combination. Spinning back kick forces Pearson back but it doesn’t seem to hurt him. Good body punch from Pearson. Superman punch glances for the Brit. Head kick and a spin kick are just about avoided by Pearson. Flying knee misses for Pearson and he eats a hard knee to the body from the clinch. They break off and Pearson ends the round with a left. Close round but you’d have to give it to Barboza for the knockdown, making it even going into the third.

Third round and Pearson looks the fresher man, walking forward and landing with a solid left hand. Good combo leads to the clinch but Barboza breaks off quickly. Spinning back kick to the body lands for Barboza. Nice body kick follows. Flying knee lands for Barboza and he avoids an attempt at Pearson taking him down. Pearson’s cardio must be fantastic for him to be pushing the pace like this so much. He continues to come forward with the jab and then looks for the takedown, but Barboza stuffs it and breaks off with another hard knee to the body. Leg kick lands for Pearson and he follows with a rushing right hand. Jumping knee glances for Pearson. Takedown attempt comes way from the outside and Barboza easily stuffs it. Good leg kick from Pearson. He continues to push the pace although the exchanges look pretty even here. One minute to go and Pearson lands a nice left hand. Leg kick from Barboza. Combo from Pearson puts Barboza on the run for a moment. Big trade sees Barboza nail the Brit with a one-two. Pearson keeps charging forward but his left eye looks freakishly swollen. Spinning back kick connects with the Brit’s body but doesn’t stop him from pushing the pace until the buzzer. Super-close round and you could argue either way I think. I’d lean towards Pearson but we’ll see.

Judges have it 29-28 Barboza, 29-28 Pearson, and 29-28 for Edson Barboza, split decision win. Definitely a close fight and although I gave it to Pearson it’s because I tend to go for the aggressor, and you could argue that Barboza landed the better

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Mauricio Shogun Rua vs Forrest Griffin

For those with their heads buried somewhere for the past few years, this was of course a rematch from the legendary September 2007 fight – the fight that pretty much destroyed the myth of PRIDE’s fighters being better than their UFC counterparts for good, as Shogun came in with all the hype and was thoroughly beaten by Griffin who at the time wasn’t seen as a top-level fighter. Since then though they’d seen differing fortunes, as after his brief title run Griffin had been on a bit of a slide, although he was coming off a good win over Rich Franklin, while Shogun had returned from some knee surgeries to win the LHW Title before dropping it to Jon Jones in a one-sided beating. Despite the fact that the Jones fight had been so one-sided I was still picking Shogun in this one, as he’d come back from another knee op before the Jones fight and never tends to fight to his best in his first fight back. Plus Griffin had all sorts of distractions coming in – his wife was due to give birth at some point around the day of the show – which can’t have helped his preparations.

Round One and Forrest presses forward throwing some kicks as Shogun stays on the outside. Couple of right hands back Forrest up a little. Forrest keeps coming forward, but walks into a sharp uppercut from Shogun that stops him in his tracks. One-two from Forrest but Shogun comes back with some wild hooks that don’t quite land. More kicks from Forrest are avoided, and Shogun lands with a flurry that seems to have Forrest stunned. He stumbles down face-first and Shogun quickly gets on top and BOUNCES HIS HEAD OFF THE GROUND WITH HAMMER FISTS!~! Ref steps in as Forrest looks like a flailing mess. Nasty stuff.

Replay shows that Shogun landed with a right hook, a left hook to the back of the head and a swiping right to the temple that stunned Forrest and once they hit the ground it was basically over. Big win for Shogun to come back from the loss to Jones and to erase the memory of the first fight, but if Shogun could argue that he was banged up going into the first fight between the two, Forrest could also argue that his head wasn’t in the game for this one as he never looked comfortable from the off and given his family situation probably shouldn’t have been fighting. Some you win, some you lose though. This was a big highlight reel win for Shogun at any rate.

UFC World Middleweight Title: Anderson Silva vs Yushin Okami

This one had been a LONG time coming as people had talked about Silva rematching Okami since the Japanese fighter made a name for himself in his early UFC days back in 2007. For those who don’t know, Okami was responsible for Silva’s last “loss”, albeit a controversial one as Anderson had actually knocked him out with a questionable upkick and got himself disqualified. Originally it was meant to happen at UFC 90, but Okami got injured and so the shot went to Patrick Cote, and after that tons of stuff happened to prevent it – another injury to Okami, the loss to Chael Sonnen, the return of Vitor Belfort, and so forth. Finally though Okami beat Nate Marquardt at UFC 122 and was given the shot. Despite his style being similar to that of Sonnen, who had of course given Silva a lot of problems, the majority of fans – myself included – weren’t giving him much of a chance. I mean come on, he was fighting Anderson Silva in his home country!

Entrances are very telling here as Silva just looks totally relaxed, while the usually calm and focused Okami looks like a man walking into his own execution.

Fight begins and Silva dances on the outside as is customary for him, while Okami takes the center of the cage. Okami tries to close the distance, but can’t land anything as Silva circles away. Clinch attempt from Okami but Silva quickly slips away. One-two glances for Silva and Okami lands with a solid jab. Silva dances around some more before Okami manages to clinch and land a couple of uppercuts inside, but Silva looks unconcerned. Knee to the body from Anderson and he stops Okami from getting a bodylock to look for the takedown. Couple of short uppercuts land for Okami and he drops for a single leg, but Silva avoids it with a knee strike to the body. One minute to go in the round and they break off. Okami presses forward with the right jab, but Silva dodges it and lands a leg kick. Seconds to go and Anderson wobbles him with a head kick right before the buzzer. Bit of an odd round as there wasn’t that much action, actually.

Into the 2nd and Okami pushes forward swinging, but takes a counter combo from the champ ending in a leg kick. Silva starts to do the terrifying hand-movement deal and you know Okami’s in trouble now. Silva drops his hands to his waist and starts leaning out of the way of punches ala the Forrest Griffin fight, and as Okami lunges in with a jab Anderson leans back and DECKS HIM WITH THE RIGHT COUNTER! Okami is hurt but Silva just steps back and calls him up. Low kick from Silva and he forces Okami to come forward again, taunting him with his hands at his waist. Big swing misses for Okami and Silva shows some RIDICULOUS TIMING to drop him with the right again. This time he smells blood and follows Okami down, and some shots on the ground finish off the Japanese challenger.

Not much to say outside of the fact that Anderson Silva is a virtuoso and a fighting artist. The punch he used to drop Okami here has been compared to Muhammad Ali’s legendary ‘anchor punch’ against Sonny Liston, and really there aren’t many other people who could pull that off. Evidently, Silva is one of them. It just takes ridiculous timing and skill to do such a thing and to be able to pull it off like this takes a special fighter. Remember that Okami is a legitimate top challenger and yet he couldn’t even come CLOSE to doing a thing to Anderson here. Incredible performance to cap off the night and this pushed Silva from “star” to “legend” territory in Brazil. Phenomenal stuff and even for a uber-GSP fan like myself it’s becoming hard to argue with Silva as the greatest of all time at this stage.

-Highlight reel runs and it’s goodnight from Rio.

Final Thoughts….

Although there were a couple of slower fights here (Assuncao/Eduardo and Thiago/Mitchell mainly) none of them were bad per say and the sheer amount of highlight reel finishes – the two Silvas, Nedkov, Nogueira, Shogun – as well as a pair of great fights in Barboza/Pearson and Toquinho/Miller, coupled in with the best crowd in UFC history means that this is the second show of 2011 I’m giving the full monty to. I guess some could argue I’m overrating it, but to hell with them. This was, point blank, one of the most memorable shows in UFC history for all the right reasons. Highest recommendation.

Best Fight: Palhares vs. Miller
Worst Fight: Assuncao vs. Eduardo

Overall Rating: *****

Until next time…