MMA Review: #428: UFC Fight Night 28

-This one had initially been scheduled to take place in Brasilia, but the booking got changed for whatever reason and so it ended up in Belo Horizonte, which had hosted UFC 147 in 2012. Pretty good card for a Fight Night, too, with the top three fights in particular being PPV-worthy fights featuring six top ten fighters.

UFC Fight Night 28

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Flyweight Fight: Ali Bagautinov vs Marcos Vinicius

TUF Brazil’s Vina was making the drop to 125lbs for the first time here after he’d lost to Johnny Bedford back at the TUF 16 Finale in 2012. His opponent was newcomer Bagautinov – yet another supposed badass coming out of Dagestan. Given how good the previous imports from there (Khabilov, Nurmagomedov) had looked I was picking him to win and upset the Brazilian crowd. Side note but Ali doesn’t have a banner behind him during the introductions, which looks odd as fuck.

Round One begins and Ali pushes forward as Vina circles on the outside. Good lord does Vina have a massive size advantage. Like, they don’t look close to being in the same weight class. No action at all in the first minute before Ali wades in with a flurry of punches that sets up the clinch. Vina works to defend a possible takedown and the action slows down somewhat, before a BIG RIGHT HAND TO THE TEMPLE drops the Brazilian hard! Bagautinov pounces looking to finish, landing tons of punches, but Vina manages to survive and rolls into half-guard. Ali continues to slug away though, somewhat wildly before he grabs a guillotine and drops back to guard. Vina manages to slip his head free though and now he’s on top in side mount. Ali flips him over from there, but Vina scrambles and takes the back with one hook. Awesome exchange on the ground. Second hook is in for Vina and he lands a couple of shots, but Bagautinov seems pretty calm to be honest. One minute to go and Vina remains in control, but he hasn’t really come close to a choke or anything. Ali stands and it looks like Vina’s going to float over into an armbar, but instead the Dagestani drops back down and keeps Vina on his back. Armbar attempt from Vina fails and Ali escapes, but the Brazilian gets a takedown on the buzzer. Tight round but I’d go 10-9 Bagautinov as he had Vina in more trouble with the knockdown and guillotine.

Round Two and they circle before Ali counters a low kick with a pair of right hands. Body kick connects for the Dagestani. He’s really aggressive with his strikes. Nice left hook lands for Bagautinov. Big right hand backs Vina up too. Vina just isn’t using his size advantage at all. Single leg from Ali and he drives Vina into the cage and then dumps him onto his back in butterfly guard. Sweep from Vina and he gets back to his feet in the clinch, landing a solid knee to the body, but Ali tackles him back to guard. Vina looks to be going for a possible oma plata, but Ali shows a strong base and avoids it nicely. Vina’s work from his back is allowing him to avoid damage though at least. Nice shots from the bottom land for Vina and Bagautinov decides to stand and let him up. One-two glances for Ali in an exchange. One minute to go and a nice counter right lands for Ali. Ali is swinging some heavy shots here. Low kick lands for Vina. Vina is keeping his chin really high though which is worrying even if his height is allowing him to slip some of Bagautinov’s punches. Round ends with another takedown for Bagautinov. 10-9 Ali again.

Round Three and both men look somewhat tentative to start off, with Vina dodging Ali’s punches early on. Two minutes in and not much has happened in this round. Low kick is caught by Ali and he looks for a single leg, but Vina defends and they wind up clinched on the fence. Good takedown defense from Vina here actually. Referee Mario Yamasaki separates them with two minutes remaining and Vina lands with a nice leg kick. He comes forward, but walks right into a CRUSHING RIGHT HAND from Bagautinov that puts him DOWN, and a few punches over the top knock him silly for the stoppage.

Very good fight and holy shit what a finish. Outside of John Dodson I don’t think I’ve seen a Flyweight throw punches with so much power as Ali – he knocked Vina into next week with those shots. Basically I’m convinced Dagestan contains a conveyor belt just producing badass after badass at this point as it seems to be the UFC’s go to place for prospects all of a sudden. I think Bagautinov is a title contender for sure based on this and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get a title fight in 2014.

Middleweight Fight: Rafael Natal vs Tor Troeng

‘Sapo’ Natal had been on a quietly consistent run for the first time in his UFC career coming into this one, winning four of his last five and already going 2-0 in 2013, while Sweden’s Troeng had come off a disappointing TUF run to pick up a solid win in his official Octagon debut. I’ve never been massively high on Natal so I was taking Troeng in a mild upset based on his reputation coming into TUF.

Fight begins and they circle before Sapo lands a snapping leg kick. I’m wincing at Sapo’s terrible neon shorts, personally. Another good leg kick connects for Sapo. Right hook drops Tor and he’s in trouble. He manages to get guard though as Natal looks to follow up and ties the Brazilian up in order to survive. Guard pass from Natal and he’s into half-guard. Tor looks like he’s going for a sweep, but Natal prevents that and peppers the body with short punches. Looks like he might be prepping a guillotine too and sure enough he rolls to his back, but Troeng escapes and stands over him. Couple of upkicks from Sapo but Troeng drops a solid left hand down onto him. Sick sweep from Sapo follows though and he’s back in top position in half-guard. This is quite a pace in the first round. Troeng almost reverses him from the bottom but Sapo avoids and remains on top. Another attempt allows Tor to flip over and go for his own takedown, but Sapo reverses that and then ends up in side mount off a scramble. Great sequence right there. Sapo goes for north/south and looks to set up for a kimura, but he bails on that to go for the mounted crucifix instead. Troeng manages to hip escape and get half-guard back, and from there he hits a sweep and gets on top in Natal’s guard. This is a great round. One minute to go and Tor decides to stand, dropping a hard left hand down onto the Brazilian. Natal sits up and goes for a single leg, but Troeng spins onto the back and slaps a hook in. Sapo flips his way out though and gets to half-guard. Round ends with Tor on top, but I’d call it 10-9 Natal. Absolutely spectacular stuff though.

Into the 2nd and they exchange a couple of strikes before Natal lands a BRUTAL RIGHT HOOK that sends Tor crashing down! Florian thinks he’s out as Natal pounces and lands a ton of hammer fists, but somehow the Swede gets to full guard and manages to survive. Looks like the ref is on the verge of stepping in, but somehow Tor’s still in this fight. Natal passes into half-guard and lands some elbows to the side of the head, then goes for a guillotine and drops to his back. Tor manages to free his head though and now he’s on top in side mount! Jesus this guy is tough. Natal gives his back and Tor gets one hook, but Sapo explodes to his feet before he can get the other. Sapo turns into him and Tor slips to his back off something, and Natal drops a right hand into the guard. Into half-guard for Sapo but Tor quickly gets a butterfly hook back in. Couple of elbows land for Sapo as he works to pass and does so, getting into side mount. Reversal from Tor puts him back on his feet, and he forces Natal back into the fence with a clinch. Sapo switches and Troeng decides to drop for a kimura, but he can’t get it and they stand back up. Takedown attempt from Natal but Troeng defends decently. Good left to the body from Tor and he drops for the takedown, but Natal grabs a guillotine and pulls guard. Tor manages to avoid and comes back to his feet where he goes for the takedown again, but he can’t get it before the round ends. 10-9 Sapo for sure.

Third and final round and both men miss with some early strikes. Tor in particular looks tentative, I guess with good reason as he’s been cracked in both previous rounds. Takedown attempt from the Swede but Natal grabs a front facelock to defend. He jumps for a guillotine and really squeezes to attempt a finish, and for a second it looks like Tor’s out as he winds up on his back with Sapo mounting him. Somehow Tor survives and ends up on top in half-guard, and Natal holds onto the guillotine before finally letting it go as Tor punches the body. Sapo decides to go for a leglock, but Tor defends and drops some punches. Reversal by Natal follows and he ends up on top in half-guard. Looks like Sapo’s going for the guillotine again but once more Tor manages to avoid it. He gives his back this time though and Sapo gets both hooks in. Seconds to go and Natal continues to look for the finish, but Tor again escapes and ends up with half-guard. Fight finally ends with Natal on top in guard. Got to be a 30-27 for the Brazilian.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 all for Rafael Natal. Good win for Sapo as he dominated for large portions of the fight, but man, you have to admire Troeng’s sheer toughness as the two knockdowns he took would’ve put most fighters out – particularly the right hand in the second round – and yet he never stopped looking for reversals on the ground even when he was in awful positions. Too sloppy to be considered like a FOTYC or anything but some of the ground sequences here were absolutely tremendous and the action rarely slowed down from the opening second to the final one. I wasn’t expecting much from this one going in and got a great fight, so what’s not to love?

Lightweight Fight: Francisco Trinaldo vs Piotr Hallmann

This was an interesting fight as the word on Hallmann was that when he’d signed with the UFC, Joe Silva wanted him to drop to 145lbs immediately, and when he said no, he was matched with one of the biggest 155lbers out there in Massaranduba. Despite Hallmann bringing a good reputation in, after seeing Massaranduba throw around guys like Mike Rio and give Gleison Tibau a run for his money I was firmly behind him.

Round One and man is Massaranduba over with this crowd. Hallmann circles on the outside to begin as Trinaldo takes the center of the cage. Left counter lands for Massaranduba. Another one follows in a brief exchange, connecting to Hallmann’s body. Combo glances for the Pole. Left counter again lands for Trinaldo. Left hook has Hallmann’s legs slightly wobbled. Flurry glances for Hallmann. HARD body kick lands for Massaranduba and Hallmann visibly winces and steps back. He tries to fire back but he’s in trouble here as Massaranduba closes him down and glances on another kick. Hard left hook connects for Trinaldo and another body kick puts Hallmann down. Massaranduba lets him back up and continues to push the action, throwing the left kick again. Big left hook to the body from Trinaldo and then he pins the Pole into the fence in the clinch. Hallmann breaks but he’s having a really hard time striking with Massaranduba. Once again he lands the kick to the body, but Hallmann comes back this time with a nice low kick. Couple of shots land for Hallmann but Trinaldo hurts him again with another body shot. Kick lands to the body and a left hook lands to the head for the Brazilian and with seconds to go he gets a takedown. Hallmann manages to get onto his knees, then up to his feet, but Trinaldo stays on him to end the round. Clear 10-9 for Massaranduba.

Round Two and to his credit Hallmann comes out looking willing to trade. Head kick from Trinaldo is caught and Hallmann gets him on his back in half-guard. Trinaldo immediately looks to set up for a sweep, then gets a reversal and trips Hallmann down himself. The Pole squirms free though and pops back up to his feet. Takedown attempt from Hallmann and he gets it, but Trinaldo rolls into a kneebar attempt. Hallmann frees himself though and gets up, but Massaranduba grabs a single leg and looks to get him back down. Nice elbows to the head from Hallmann as he defends, and he manages to get up to the clinch. Massaranduba continues to try the takedown and Hallmann defends with more elbows, gaining a warning from the referee for some that hit the back of the head. A slip from Trinaldo on the takedown attempt puts him on his back, and he gets full guard as Hallmann drops down on top. Into half-guard for Hallmann and he lands some elbows, and Trinaldo looks like he’s breathing heavily. Really nice elbows connect for Hallmann and he’s got Massaranduba’s left arm trapped for good measure. He begins to work for a kimura on the right arm, and in a surprisingly slick move he gets his leg over the head and forces it up….and Massaranduba taps. Cue ABSOLUTE SILENCE from the Brazilian crowd who are HORRIFIED at this.

Amazing turnaround from Piotr Hallmann as he looked in serious trouble throughout the first round, but was able to gut it out and once Trinaldo began to slow down late in the second he took over big time, landing some serious elbows before securing the kimura. To see him tap Massaranduba was surprising too given the Brazilian is an excellent BJJ black belt. I guess Hallmann is for real as I don’t think Massaranduba is an easy out for anyone at 155lbs and I look forward to seeing what he can do in the future. As for Massaranduba I doubt he’ll be a title contender any time soon, but he’ll likely stick around for some time due to his sheer popularity in Brazil. Awesomely fun fight from start to finish.

Flyweight Fight: Joseph Benavidez vs Jussier Formiga

This was a big, big fight in the Flyweight division as Benavidez was looking for another title shot and had knocked off a pair of tough opponents in Ian McCall and Darren Uyenoyama in 2013, while Formiga had bounced back from a loss to John Dodson to beat Chris Cariaso in an impressive showing in May. Despite Formiga having the grappling and home field advantage I was taking Benavidez as he’s pretty similar to Dodson, and Formiga never came close to taking Dodson down and got lit up on the feet in that fight.

Round One and they circle with Benavidez pushing the action early on although he doesn’t land anything cleanly in the first minute. Clinch attempt from Formiga is easily shrugged off and Benavidez glances on an overhand right. Good left hand connects for Formiga in an exchange. Another clinch is shrugged off by Benavidez. Good left hook again lands for Formiga. Left hand connects for Benavidez. Head kick is blocked by Formiga. Combination glances for Benavidez but Formiga counters right back. Overhand right glances for Benavidez and Formiga fires back with a spinning back kick to the body. Combo from Benavidez rocks Formiga and his legs wobble, and Benavidez follows with a BIG KNEE and a HARD RIGHT and down goes Formiga! He turtles up and Benavidez pounces with a few shots and that’s that. Crowd are again stunned into silence.

Fight went pretty much exactly how I expected as Formiga just didn’t come close to getting Benavidez down and although he looked improved standing and landed a couple of decent shots, Benavidez was clearly the more polished striker and it seemed only a matter of time before he landed big. And when he did, boom, the fight was over. Total highlight reel stuff for Joseph Benavidez.

Middleweight Fight: Ronaldo Souza vs Yushin Okami

This one was a massively intriguing fight as it was the first real elite test for Jacare after he’d come over to the UFC from StrikeForce. Okami had arguably looked a little past his best in his recent fights but he’d still dealt with both Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard – two fighters with considerable hype behind them – and was generally seen as a top ten, if not top five contender in the division. With Jacare’s more offensive arsenal (better top game and a harder hitter standing) I thought he had the potential to win, but to see Okami grind out another decision wouldn’t have surprised me.

Fight begins with both men throwing out a ton of feints. Body kick lands for Jacare. Inside leg kick follows before Okami clinches. Right elbow breaks for Jacare and he lands a right hand that stuns Okami. Okami ends up stuck against the fence and Jacare flurries on him with some right hands before looking for a takedown. They go down but Okami pops right back up. Jacare is being unbelievably aggressive here. Okami looks recovered and begins to push forward again, throwing out a couple of jabs, but Jacare quickly gets him backing up again a bit. They exchange punches and suddenly a BIG COUNTER RIGHT lands for Jacare and drops Okami hard! Okami looks just about out and Jacare drops down and continues to smash him with punches until the ref steps in and stops it. Amazing stuff!

Well, I thought Jacare had the ability to put Okami away but I did not expect it to be quite so quick and devastating. Jacare with proper knockout power on the feet – enough to knock out elite-level contenders I mean – is a scary prospect and I’d love to see him against Chris Weidman for the title in 2014 – a fight I fully expect to see at some point in the year actually. Okami for his part was cut from the UFC after this loss and while I don’t necessarily agree with that move I do understand why they’d do it. Biggest win of Jacare’s MMA career? I’d say so, yeah, and it was in the most memorable fashion possible, too.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Glover Teixeira vs Ryan Bader

This one had initially been scheduled for UFC 160, but Bader pulled out with an injury and so Teixeira choked out James Te Huna there instead. This was for all intents and purposes the final test for Glover before he got a title shot – a match against the one style he hadn’t faced in the UFC yet, a top amateur wrestler. Despite the question marks around Glover’s takedown defense and the fact that I’ve been a Bader fan since day one, I was still taking the Brazilian, as I just felt he hit too hard and over five rounds he’d have a chance to put Bader away, and if nothing else Glover is a sick finisher.

Fight begins and Bader opens with a quick jab. He shoots on a single leg but Glover blocks it. Overhand right misses for Bader and Glover misses with one of his own. Bader grabs a front facelock off a failed takedown attempt from Teixeira and drops for a guillotine, but Glover pops right out and then pins him into the fence. Glover really goes for the takedown, managing to get Bader on his back by the fence, but Bader right away works to his feet. They exchange some short shots inside the clinch before Bader drops for a takedown. Glover blocks with a guillotine of his own and Bader has to work free back into the clinch. They break off and exchange punches, with both men also missing head kicks. Takedown attempt is avoided by Bader. Glover wades forward, but walks right into a left hook that DROPS HIM TO A KNEE! Bader smells blood and SWARMS, opening up with a wild flurry and Glover looks on the verge of going out…before UNCORKING A RIGHT-LEFT COMBO THAT PUTS BADER TO SLEEP!~! Holy fuck.

Well, talk about an ending. That was probably up there, in terms of the ending, with the best one-round fights I’ve ever seen – stuff like Hughes vs. Trigg, Cerrone vs. Guillard, Kongo vs. Barry, Levens vs. Smith, etc. Bader basically had Glover out on his feet at the end but made a major error in that rather than pick his shots, he went wild on him and Glover had just enough in him remaining to spot an opening and capitalise on it. That in itself is a pretty remarkable feat, especially when you consider how hard Bader hits, and I think any questions about Glover’s chin were answered here, but on the bad side for him, if he’s leaving himself open to be tagged by Ryan Bader I don’t think that bodes well for his chances against Jon Jones, who probably doesn’t hit quite as hard as Bader but is in my opinion a sharper and more accurate striker. Still, Glover’s not had a dull fight in the UFC yet which means I’m excited to see him try to dethrone the champ.

-Show ends as the Fox Sports studio crew – Chael Sonnen and Daniel Cormier in a fun double-act – wrap up the action. Gotta love Chael!

Final Thoughts….

What can you say? Five of the six fights ended in spectacular fashion, and the one fight that went the distance was tremendous. Throw in awesome comeback wins from Hallmann and Teixeira after they were in serious trouble, and the debut of a legit contender at 125lbs in Bagautinov and I’d say you’ve probably got the best Fight Night card of 2013 right here. If you haven’t seen this one track it down stat. Viva Brazil!

Best Fight: Natal vs. Troeng
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: