MMA Review: #402: UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping

-Michael Bisping fans were hoping this would be his last stop on his route to a title shot against Anderson Silva, as he’d beaten the likes of Brian Stann, Mayhem Miller, et al but hadn’t quite cracked the top level to earn himself the shot. Of course, Vitor Belfort would have other ideas. This in itself would’ve made for an intriguing FX card, but being a Brazil card I was super-hyped for the rest of the fights too, as keeping up with Brazilian prospects – like TUF finalist Daniel Sarafian, making his debut here – is one of my specialities in MMA.

UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping

Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Lightweight Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Thiago Tavares

Russian (well, technically he’s from Dagestan, but let’s not go there!) prospect Nurmagomedov had had quite the 2012, picking up wins over Kamal Shalorus and Gleison Tibau, and he was looking for a third UFC victory here over Brazilian veteran Tavares, who hadn’t fought in about a year after outpointing Sam Stout at UFC 142. Interesting point – I remember back in 2006 when Tavares was considered one of the hottest prospects at 155lbs; now he’s an opponent to build newer prospects. My pick? Khabib.

Round One and the crowd are obviously *hot*. Khabib circles on the outside as Tavares takes the center. Kick misses for Thiago early on. Left uppercut lands for Nurmagomedov and he glances on a right hand. Big right hook misses for the Russian. Exchange sees both men glance with shots that could’ve done damage had they landed flush. Right hand from Tavares. Nurmagomedov comes right back with a BIG LEFT UPPERCUT that drops Thiago and he looks done as the Russian follows up with a series of vicious elbows. This goes on FOREVER before referee Dan Miragliotta steps in with a criminal stoppage. Really bad stuff from Big Dan there. Crowd are stunned into almost silence by this, ha.

Khabib looked awesome here; dude is a killer. Tavares has lost plenty of times in the UFC but he’s always put up a hell of a fight and yet Khabib ran right through him like Goldfinger’s laser through metal (sue me, I’ve been watching tons of Bond!). Time for a big step up in competition methinks. I’m talking top ten level too considering the guy’s already beaten uber-gatekeeper Tibau. Fun way to start the show.

Heavyweight Fight: Gabriel Gonzaga vs Ben Rothwell

Both of these Heavyweights had put on surprisingly good showings in 2012, Gonzaga submitting Ednaldo Oliveira in his return to the UFC and Rothwell KOing Brendan Schaub in one of the better knockouts of the year. In terms of style this fight seemed to favour Napao, but I was actually taking Rothwell after seeing him come in in incredible shape for his standards, sporting abs and everything!

Fight begins and they circle with Rothwell glancing on a right hand. Single leg from Gonzaga and he works really hard to get it, forcing Rothwell back into the fence. Good defense by Ben though and he remains standing. Gonzaga continues to look for the takedown, and this time he manages to get a trip before taking the back for a second. Rothwell pops right back up, but he can’t shake Gonzaga off. Another takedown follows and this time he manages to get an over/under as Rothwell scrambles. Couple of punches land inside for Napao but Rothwell again works to his feet. Nice knee inside from Gonzaga. Referee Marc Goddard breaks them with about two minutes remaining. Right hand from Gonzaga sets up another clinch and as Rothwell breaks he eats an overhand right. Rothwell looks tired to me. Good leg kick from Gonzaga. Rothwell lumbers forward with some punches that don’t land clean, and they wind up clinched again. Knee connects low for Rothwell and the ref steps in for a second but Gonzaga is good to go. One minute to go and they break off, and Napao lands a trio of right hands. Rothwell looks unbelievably slow here. Single leg attempt from Gonzaga but again Rothwell defends well. Combination glances for Rothwell. Good right from Gonzaga sets up another clinch. Round ends as they break. 10-9 Gonzaga I guess.

Into the 2nd and Rothwell walks into an overhand right that wobbles his legs a little. Another right hand lands cleanly for Gonzaga and he follows with an overhand right. Brief clinch is broken and a pair of straight rights wobble Rothwell again. Gonzaga follows with a takedown attempt, and then in the scramble he locks up a standing guillotine and pulls guard .Rothwell looks in trouble and after a bit of a struggle he taps out.

Good finish for Gonzaga but the fight wasn’t good at all to be honest as Rothwell looked unbelievably slow, which considering his appearance was a bit of a shocker. By the second round Gonzaga was landing the straight right at will and it seemed only a matter of time before he’d win somehow. Nice to see him continuing to use his grappling though rather than following the same striking path that lead him out of the UFC previously.

Middleweight Fight: Daniel Sarafian vs CB Dollaway

As I mentioned earlier, this was TUF Brazil finalist Sarafian’s official UFC debut, as he was injured for the finale and had to drop out. Facing him was fellow TUF finalist Dollaway, who had most recently beaten Mayhem Miller in one of his better performances. Despite Dollaway’s wrestling advantage I was going with Sarafian here, as the guy had proven himself to be a serious finisher in his TUF run and while Dollaway is an excellent offensive fighter, his defence leaves something to be desired.

Round One begins and they circle before Dollaway paws with a left hand and gets caught on the counter by Sarafian’s own left hand. Leg kick answers for Dollaway. Left hooks miss for both men. Pair of jabs connect for Sarafian. Combination follows for the Brazilian and backs CB up. Body kick lands for CB and he avoids a one-two from the Brazilian. Big right hand to the temple drops Dollaway and he’s in trouble. Sarafian nails him with some more shots and stuffs a desperate takedown attempt from Dollaway before breaking off. CB looks recovered now though, but he takes a glancing overhand right to counter a kick. Exchange follows though and Dollaway lands with a hard left hand. Left hook answers for Sarafian. Front kick to the chest sets up a right hand too. Sarafian seems to have found his range now. Right hand lands again for him. One minute to go and Sarafian glances on a one-two. Crowd are way into Sarafian as a big star. Jab to the body from the Brazilian. Dollaway taunts him and annoys the crowd. Left hook from CB. Lunging left hand glances for Sarafian and that’s the round. 10-9 Sarafian.

Round Two and Dollaway throws out some jabs, but takes a harder pair from Sarafian as they circle. Wild haymakers miss for both men. Good left hand from CB. Wheel kick misses for Sarafian. Into the clinch and surprisingly it’s Sarafian muscling Dollaway into the fence. They break off and Sarafian lands a stiff jab again. Dollaway fires back with a jab of his own. They continue to exchange punches and it’s to Sarafian’s advantage. Big right from Sarafian and he follows with a takedown attempt, but CB shrugs him off only to eat a knee inside. Good body kick lands for Dollaway. He tries another one but Sarafian catches it and counters with a low kick. Another follows and Sarafian trips him down and then lands a kick as CB pops up. Wheel kick misses for Sarafian again and he eats a right for his efforts. Can’t believe Dollaway hasn’t looked for the takedown. Good counter right lands for Sarafian. Right hook connects for Dollaway in response. More jabs land for Sarafian and he almost lands with a haymaker right too. Sarafian looks cut over his right eye. Jumping knee misses and Dollaway makes him pay with a body kick. Sarafian leans in but eats a HUGE UPPERCUT and he goes down face-first! Crowd go SILENT as Dollaway pounds on him looking to finish, and it looks like he might be done! He’s barely defending and CB continues to land BOMBS, but the buzzer goes to save the Brazilian. Damn that was close. 10-9 Dollaway.

Round Three and it’s Sarafian who looks worse for wear now. Both men come out throwing jabs, and CB just misses a big head kick. Big right hand from Sarafian but CB fires back with a one-two of his own. Sarafian looks very tired. He does use head movement to avoid a combo, but eats a body kick from Dollaway. Big right from Sarafian and he shoots, but CB stuffs it and lands a big knee to break. Overhand right connects for Dollaway and he shoots and dumps Sarafian onto the ground. SICK pass to mount from Dollaway and Sarafian’s in trouble. He gives his back, but Dollaway loses position and the Brazilian escapes to his feet. Dollaway stays on him and looks for the double leg again, once more dumping him to the ground. This time he takes the back in a scramble with one hook in. Short punches from Dollaway and then he takes full mount once more before Sarafian gets half-guard. Reversal from Sarafian though and now he’s on top in half-guard! He looks to pass and gets a full mount of his own, then takes the back with both hooks! Crowd are going crazy as he looks for the choke, and Dollaway is bloodied up, too. Dollaway defends and manages to turn into Sarafian’s guard, then passes into half-guard. Sarafian tries for a sweep and gets to his feet where he lands a knee, but Dollaway drives for a takedown and that’s the fight. Unbelievably close round but I think I’d just about lean towards Dollaway, giving him a 29-28 win.

Judges score it 29-28 Dollaway, 29-28 Sarafian and 29-28 for CB Dollaway to take the split decision win. Really good fight and it was close too – Sarafian was firmly in control until that uppercut landed late in the 2nd and from there it was largely Dollaway’s fight outside of Sarafian’s sweep and choke attempt in the 3rd. I still don’t get the hate on CB and still think he could develop into an upper-echelon fighter at 185lbs, and I guess Sarafian’s young enough to do the same too. Post-fight Dollaway gets BOOED OUT OF THE BUILDING during his promo. Absolutely nuclear heat from the crowd.

Middleweight Fight: Vitor Belfort vs Michael Bisping

This was a BIG main event as I alluded to in the introduction, as Bisping was looking at a potential title shot with a win. The plan for Bisping seemed to be to use his speed and movement to pick Vitor apart and force him to gas out over five rounds, but I couldn’t see it myself; Vitor only needs one shot to take you out, he’s got very underrated wrestling and he’s unbelievably fast too. I was looking for Vitor to win this by knockout, but of course I was pulling for the Brit.

Crowd naturally boo for Bisping and give Vitor a monstrous pop, evidently having forgotten all about his heel run on TUF Brazil. And Vitor is looking HUGE for this fight, totally different physique to how he looked against Anthony Johnson or even Jon Jones at 205lbs.

Round One and they circle and throw out some feeler strikes with neither man really landing anything significant in the first minute. Good leg kick connects for Bisping. Lot of movement from both men so far. Head kick narrowly misses for Belfort. Nice counter left from Bisping catches Vitor coming forward. One-two glances for Bisping. Wheel kick misses for Vitor. Left hand lands for Belfort but Bisping seems fine. Big right hand misses for Bisping. Good counter left from Vitor. Leg kick from Bisping. Bisping’s movement has looked excellent so far to avoid anything major from Belfort. Body kick lands for Vitor. Bisping comes back with a left to the body. Snapping jab from Bisping. Couple of one-twos from Bisping but he takes an eye poke and referee Dan Miragliotta calls time. Bisping recovers fast and goes back to where he left off. Wheel kick glances for Bisping! Good left into a body kick from Belfort and that has Bisping backpedalling a bit. Head kick into a series of uppercuts and lefts have Bisping stunned a little but he recovers enough to end the round. Close round as Belfort almost stole it late on, but I’d go 10-9 Bisping by a hair.

Round Two and again Bisping opens with the leg kick. Big left hand misses for Belfort. Two more leg kicks from Bisping and Belfort looks like he’s in counter mode. Jab lands for the Brit. Bisping has a bloody nose. One-two from Belfort. Jabs from Bisping but Vitor LEVELS HIM WITH A LEFT HIGH KICK!~! Bisping looks just about done and some big shots on the ground finish things off.

Wow. Insane highlight reel knockout for Vitor Belfort and I believe it was the first kick knockout of his career. Bisping was doing okay up to that point but towards the end of the first round Vitor’s counters were beginning to land and as I suspected, once he caught Bisping with the big shot it was over. Once again Bisping falls at the final hurdle and it was pretty frustrating to see as a fan of his because a Bisping title challenge would be a ton of fun and would probably draw a decent number too. Of course, this wasn’t without controversy as it later came out that Belfort – who had a previous suspension for a positive steroid test on his record – was on TRT for this fight, but personally I don’t think it made much difference – he’s a bad style match for Bisping point blank. Hell of a way to end the show.

Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza vs Lucas Martins

Don’t normally see extra fights on these FX shows but I guess the main ran quickly here so no complaints from me! This would’ve seen Barboza looking to bounce back from his first career loss at the hands of Jamie Varner against wrestler Justin Salas, but when Salas got injured, young striker Martins stepped in on late notice. With Martins being a natural Featherweight this looked like Barboza’s fight to lose.

Fight begins and of course Barboza opens up with a trio of leg kicks. Martins tries to flurry on him but Barboza gets out of the way and connects with a low blow. Referee Mario Yamasaki immediately calls time to let Martins recover. He does after about a minute and they restart. Good combination from Barboza and it looks like Martins is badly outgunned. Couple of punches glance for Martins but Barboza dodges out of the way and connects on a leg kick. Body kick from Barboza. Quick combo follows. Stiff jab wobbles Martins’ legs a little and a big right hook follows for Barboza. Martins comes in swinging, but a big left hand drops him hard and Barboza pounces and nails him with some big shots that force him to tap out.

Fight was basically as advertised – a squash – but it was also a lot of fun as are all fights involving Edson Barboza. Dude is one of the best guys to watch at 155lbs right now. Short and fun highlight reel finish.

-We end with a quick plug for the upcoming UFC on Fox show and that’s it from Sao Paulo.

Final Thoughts….

Admittedly there wasn’t much of substance here on this short card, but I mean, how can you complain when you get five fights and four of them are finished – two in spectacular fashion – and the one that goes the distance is as entertaining as Dollaway/Sarafian was? Nothing earth shattering and you’ll probably see Belfort’s KO of Bisping on highlight packages for years anyway, but this Brazilian card is still worth a look. Thumbs up.

Best Fight: Sarafian vs. Dollaway
Worst Fight: Gonzaga vs. Rothwell

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: