MMA Review: #416: UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold

-This was the UFC’s second visit to Brazil in 2013 and it’s interesting that they seem to be looking to break into new Brazilian states regularly now like they were doing in the US around 2007-9. Good idea as the country is HUGE and such a hotbed for MMA. This one had a few shitty changes due to injuries but the main event of Vitor Belfort taking on the final StrikeForce champion Luke Rockhold still looked fantastic.

UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold

Jaragua do Sul, Santa Catarina

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Middleweight Fight: Rafael Natal vs Joao Zeferino

I personally would’ve moved this off the main card after injuries shafted the originally planned Cezar Ferreira/Chris Camozzi fight and gave us this instead, but I guess Zuffa wanted to throw Natal a bone for taking the fight on short notice. Newcomer Zeferino had come in even later than that, and so Natal with all his UFC experience (despite some of it being bad) was the clear favourite.

Round One and they circle before Zeferino wobbles Natal with a wild overhand right. He doesn’t really follow it up though and that allows Sapo to recover. A couple more overhand rights miss before Zeferino glances on a head kick. Flurry from Zeferino but he walks right into a sharp counter right from Natal, who follows by clinching and forcing Zeferino into the fence. Trip attempt is botched by Natal and Zeferino ends up on top. Natal hits a reversal and goes for a leglock and suddenly we go into the classic duelling leglock position with both men looking for the heel hook. Looks like Zeferino’s got something, but Natal manages to avoid it as he looks for his own straight Achilles lock. Zeferino goes for an Achilles lock of his own, but Natal drops some heel strikes with his free leg as they continue to risk it all going for the leg. Zeferino keeps looking for the footlock and he rolls into it, but Natal rolls with him and we’re back to square one. Crowd aren’t liking this but I think it’s awesome personally. Seconds to go and the ref calls a stand-up, but the round peters out there. 10-9 Zeferino for me as he came closer with the leglocks plus landed the better shots standing.

Round Two and they circle and exchange some strikes, with Zeferino still choosing to wing punches over the top at Natal. Brief clinch from Zeferino is shrugged off, but he shoots and hits a double leg instead. Natal pops back up though and forces Zeferino into the fence. They break off pretty quickly and from there the action slows up as Natal stalks forward and lands a heavy leg kick. Zeferino suddenly looks gassed. He shoots in but Sapo stuffs it and grabs a front facelock to control the newcomer. Zeferino decides to drop to his back but Sapo’s having none of that and forces him back up. Good right hand from Natal but Zeferino comes back with a combo. He’s clearly slowed down a ton though and Natal is really stalking now. Spinning backfist misses for Natal and Zeferino tries to grab him before just flopping to the ground. Right hand from Natal drops him into the guard where he lands some decent ground-and-pound. Into half-guard for Natal and he continues to chip away until the round ends. 10-9 Natal.

Round Three and Zeferino looks exhausted, but still manages to land an early right hook. Good leg kick from Natal as he pushes forward. Takedown attempt from Zeferino but Natal transitions into a rear waistlock and he lands a flurry before breaking off. Body kick connects for Sapo. Right hand answers for Zeferino. Action slows down a bit as Natal stalks but doesn’t land anything. He throws a side kick but Zeferino catches it and goes for a takedown. Natal stuffs it and reverses though, landing on top in half-guard. Sapo works to pass, looking for a possible arm triangle choke, but Zeferino reclaims full guard. Sapo passes back into half-guard and then into side mount, and Zeferino could be in trouble. He doesn’t take many shots though, only some chipping blows. Mount from Sapo with less than a minute to go and Zeferino gives his back. Big punches land for Natal and they force Zeferino to roll over back to mount. He takes some more solid punches before giving his back again, and you could probably make a case for stopping this. Buzzer saves Zeferino though and we’re going to the scorecards. I have it 29-28 for Natal.

Judges score it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Rafael Natal to take the unanimous decision. Fight was okay-ish and started off fun, but once Zeferino gassed early in the second round it became largely one-sided in favour of Natal. Nothing wrong with it technically but I don’t think it belonged on the main card of a UFC show, no offense to either man.

Lightweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Evan Dunham

This one looked like an exciting fight on paper as Dunham is an animal who never has a bad fight and Dos Anjos had been on a hot run of his own, winning three straight in 2012 including an excellent win over Mark Bocek. I’m a big fan of Dunham’s though and still think he’s got the potential to be a top ten Lightweight, and so I was taking him to win.

First round begins and they circle before Dos Anjos lands a vicious leg kick. Dunham backs him up a little with combos, but a head kick glances for the Brazilian. Nice exchanges see both men landing good shots. Body kick lands nicely for Rafael. Exchange continues and it’s hard to give the advantage to either really. Maybe Dos Anjos by a hair as he seems to be landing the slightly better strikes. Beautiful left to the body for Dos Anjos and he follows with a knee from the clinch. Leg kick follows but he slips and Dunham finds himself in top position inside the guard. They exchange from the guard with Dos Anjos using some nice short elbows. He’s continually shifting his hips too but doesn’t really attempt anything. They come back to their feet with seconds remaining but neither man lands anything flush. Really tight round but despite Dunham spending time on top I’d go 10-9 Dos Anjos as he landed the slightly better strikes, plus Dunham didn’t outright TAKE him down as you’d think.

Second round and they come out trading right away with both landing before Dunham hits a takedown. Dos Anjos reverses right away though and comes up to his feet in the clinch. Dunham keeps trying for the takedown but RDA forces the break. Hard right hook to the body from Dos Anjos. Takedown attempt follows for the Brazilian and then he switches from a double leg to a single leg, but Dunham shrugs him off nicely. Action continues standing and they’re pretty much going strike-for-strike here, making it a really tricky one to score. Good combo connects for RDA. Dunham fires back with one of his own and Dos Anjos appears to be cut around his right eye. Takedown attempt from Dunham is stuffed by Dos Anjos again. Uppercut lands for RDA as Kenny informs us that an accidental clash of heads opened the cut. Nice combinations from Dunham and it looks like he’s beginning to take over a little late on in the round. Seconds to go and Dunham continues to play the aggressor, but he eats a counter from Dos Anjos on his way in. Takedown attempt from Dunham and he sweeps RDA’s leg from under him to take him down at the end of the round. 10-9 Dunham in a close one but the replay does indeed confirm the cut was caused by the head clash.

Third round and the exchange continues, with Dunham pushing the action and RDA catching him with counters coming in. This is a horrible fight to score. Low single leg from Dunham but Dos Anjos shows good defense and blocks it, forcing Dunham into the cage. They muscle for position and trade inside the clinch, but RDA breaks off. Hard body kick from RDA and it slows Dunham down a little. Another one follows for RDA after another exchange of combinations from both men. Dunham seems to be getting very slightly tired. Great exchange sees both men land clean and hard. Two minutes left and this could still go either way. Couple of good counters land flush for RDA but Dunham continues to play the aggressor and backs him up to set up a single leg. Again though RDA stuffs it. This time Dunham does some good work inside the clinch though, working the body with hooks. RDA comes back with a knee to the body before breaking. Crowd are way into this as Dunham waves RDA on as he pushes the action. Dos Anjos is happy to oblige and they continue to trade off before the round ends. Incredibly tight to score. I’d probably lean for 29-28 Dunham but 29-28 Dos Anjos would be fair too.

Official scorecards have it 29-28 all round for Rafael Dos Anjos. Got to feel a little bad for Dunham as he pushed so hard, but it was such a close fight that I don’t think he could claim a robbery or anything. Really good fight at any rate as both men worked hard and went for it. Could’ve used a close finish from either side to push it into the bracket of ‘great’, but I’m not complaining about a fight like that regardless. Good win for Dos Anjos whose hot streak in 2013 shows no sign of letting up just yet. I don’t think Dunham lost anything despite coming off on the wrong end of the decision either.

Middleweight Fight: Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza vs Chris Camozzi

Originally this was supposed to see Jacare debut against fellow top ten fighter Costa Philippou, but Costa got injured and so Chris Camozzi – who was originally set to face Cezar Ferreira and then Rafael Natal – moved up to replace him. With Camozzi being a solid brawler but not really a truly great fighter I figured this would be a fine introduction for Jacare in the UFC and took him to win by submission.

Fight begins and good lord is Jacare over with this crowd. Total superstar reaction. Camozzi circles and throws out some jabs but Souza connects on a low kick. Flurry misses for Camozzi. Right hook connects nicely for Jacare and he clinches and forces Camozzi into the fence. Camozzi looks to break off, and blocks a trip. Big right hook backs Camozzi up and Jacare follows with a trip to guard. He postures up and avoids some upkicks to drop a couple of right hands, setting up a pass into half-guard. Camozzi fails to regain full guard and takes some heavy right hands from the Brazilian. More big shots land cleanly for Jacare but Camozzi does manage to get full guard. Nice upkick from Camozzi but Souza works to pass the guard and gets into side mount. From there he goes to knee on belly and then scrambles into an oma plata as Camozzi looks for a reversal. Camozzi has to roll, and that puts him on his back again with Souza in side mount. This is a clinic from Jacare. Arm triangle attempt follows and he gets it locked up, and literally within SECONDS of the choke being on Camozzi passes out before he can even tap. Jesus.

Total squash for Jacare and while I did think he’d get past Camozzi with ease I didn’t expect him to outclass the guy quite that badly. Camozzi had nothing for the Brazilian in any area really and from like, the first thirty seconds it felt like only a matter of time before Jacare got his arm raised. One of the most impressive UFC debuts in recent memory, up there with stuff like Tyron Woodley KOing Jay Hieron and Alistair Overeem kicking the hell out of Brock Lesnar.

Middleweight Fight: Vitor Belfort vs Luke Rockhold

Despite a lot of controversy around Belfort due to his TRT use, there was no denying he’d looked awesome in his win over Michael Bisping and so to see StrikeForce’s champ Rockhold debut against him was very exciting indeed. Although Belfort had the home country advantage and somehow appeared to be in even better shape than he’d been for the Bisping fight, I was leaning towards Rockhold, as his cardio, striking and movement is excellent and I thought he’d be able to pick Belfort off and gas him out over the longer five round fight.

We get underway and early on Rockhold slips to the ground off a missed head kick, but pops back up. Crowd are deafening chanting for Vitor. Rockhold continues to press forward as it looks like Vitor is in counter mode. Spinning back kick misses for the Phenom. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Belfort and he opens up with a flurry that forces Rockhold into the fence. They break quickly and Rockhold continues to stalk forward. Leg kick glances for the StrikeForce champion. More kicks from Rockhold but Belfort blocks them. Combo glances for Vitor. Rockhold catches him with a right hook coming forward. Leg kick from Vitor. Left and a leg kick from Rockhold but Belfort DECKS HIM WITH A SPINNING HEEL KICK!~! Rockhold sits up, but eats some CRUSHING FOLLOW-UP PUNCHES and he’s DONE. Crowd go batshit and for good reason. EPIC KNOCKOUT.

Replay shows the kick landed PERFECTLY on the jaw of Rockhold and really he was done when he went down and the punches were just academic. Maybe the best knockout in Vitor’s MMA career which is obviously saying something. Unbelievable stuff. Can’t really say much about Rockhold’s showing as he got caught and finished before he fully got out of the gates, but holy shit what a victory for Belfort. I know people dog on him for the TRT issue but no amount of testosterone can get you throwing Van Damme-esque kicks like that. Absolutely unbelievable way to end the main event.

-Show ends with a highlight reel and a couple of plugs for some upcoming movies on FX.

Final Thoughts….

For a four-fight card this was pretty damn good, as while Natal/Zeferino wasn’t great, Dunham/Dos Anjos was a lot of fun and then the two big fights ended with highlight reel finishes, particularly Belfort/Rockhold which is up there with the best KOs of 2013 if not the best of all time. Definitely worth a look for the Belfort kick alone, so thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Belfort vs. Rockhold
Worst Fight: Natal vs. Zeferino

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: