MMA Review: #436: UFC Fight Night 32

-This was the UFC’s 7th event in Brazil in 2013 and the first one in the state of Goias. For the record I think Zuffa are doing an awesome job in Brazil by moving the events all over the place – I just wish they’d get back to doing the same in the US and do places like St. Louis, Phoenix, Albuquerque, et al. Anyway this one had probably the biggest main event of the Brazilian Fight Night cards – the rematch between Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson, as well as a semi-main of what should’ve been the final of the first season of TUF Brazil – Cezar Mutante vs. Daniel Sarafian.

UFC Fight Night 32

Goiania, Goias

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Featherweight Fight: Jeremy Stephens vs Rony Jason

After dropping to 145lbs in May with a win over Estevan Payan, Stephens wasn’t exactly given an easy out for his second fight there – facing off with TUF Brazil winner Rony Jason in his home country where he’s as beloved – if not moreso – than Forrest Griffin was in the US in like 2006. Despite Stephens’ hard-hitting style I felt like Jason was more well-rounded and technical, and had more ways to win, so I was taking him.

Round One and Jason comes out looking incredibly intense. Stephens presses forward early, and narrowly avoids a flying knee only to take a glancing uppercut. Couple of kicks are thrown by Jason but don’t land cleanly. Crowd are super-hot for Jason. Wild right hand misses for him. Big right hand from Jason again but Stephens COUNTERS WITH A CRUSHING HEAD KICK AND JASON IS OUT! Stephens adds another BRUTAL SHOT in for good measure before the ref can stop things. Cue absolute SILENCE from the Goiania crowd as they’re just horrified with what’s gone down.

Well, first off that was a great knockout from Jeremy Stephens even if the last punch was needless. Tremendous win for him and I think he might be a contender at 145lbs. Jason though found out the hard way that you can’t go dropping your hands and just swinging against anyone – particularly not a guy who hits as hard as Jeremy Stephens. Disappointing for him but he’ll be back I think. Highlight reel stuff even if it wasn’t nice for the crowd.

Welterweight Fight: Ryan LaFlare vs Santiago Ponzinibbio

The largely unheralded LaFlare had grinded out a win over TUF veteran Benny Alloway in his UFC debut and for his second outing he was faced with another TUF fighter – the Argentine, Santiago Ponzinibbio, who had actually made the finals of TUF Brazil 2 but was forced out with an injury. Despite most people on the web taking LaFlare based on his wrestling, I was going with Ponzinibbio as he’d looked like a killer on TUF and got over with the crowd, and so I thought Joe Silva might’ve wanted to match him favourably for his UFC debut.

Round One and they circle a little before Ponzinibbio lands a front kick to the body. LaFlare catches it and goes for a takedown but Santiago avoids, only to eat an overhand right on his way out. Superman punch into a leg kick lands for LaFlare. Takedown follows and he gets Ponzinibbio down and lands right in full mount. Beautiful stuff. Looks like there’s an arm triangle open but he’s not really going for it. Good shot from LaFlare with the left hand but it allows Santiago to shift into full butterfly guard. Crowd are chanting loudly for Santiago. He almost reverses to his feet, but LaFlare keeps him down in half-guard this time. Full mount again follows and Santiago might be in trouble. Good control from LaFlare and he begins to open up with some heavy elbows. Santiago gives his back, and then rolls back to mount. He seems stuck here. LaFlare begins to work for an armbar and floats over the top in an attempt to finish, but Ponzinibbio slips out to a monster pop. He almost gets to mount himself, but LaFlare reverses that into full guard. Good job by Ponzinibbio to kick LaFlare away but he eats a right as he stands. Good body kick from Santiago but LaFlare catches it and hits another takedown to guard. Ponzinibbio looks tired. Good upkick lands for him as LaFlare stands over him before dropping back into the guard. Back to the feet and LaFlare misses a wheel kick. Round ends on the feet with neither man landing anything big. 10-9 LaFlare.

Round Two and LaFlare looks much fresher than Santiago coming out of the corner. Couple of body kicks glance for LaFlare early. Spinning attempt misses for Santiago. Body kick lands for the Argentine. Takedown attempt from LaFlare and he gets him down and takes the back. No hooks but he lands some punches before landing knees to the body as Santiago uses the fence to stand. Combination lands for LaFlare but Ponzinibbio answers with a right hand. Takedown attempt is defended by Santiago. Body kick from LaFlare. Head kick is blocked by LaFlare. LaFlare is beginning to slow down now too. One-two lands for LaFlare. Leg kick from Ponzinibbio. They trade some punches with both men landing albeit not cleanly. Good combo from Santiago and LaFlare is on the run. He looks in deep trouble as Santiago swarms on him, but he fires back and tags Ponzinibbio with some punches of his own. Santiago is clearly outlanding him though. Crowd are going crazy as the Argentine keeps coming forward, but he walks into a sharp left hand that slows him down a little. Nice takedown from LaFlare and he gets into half-guard. Crowd begin to boo as LaFlare’s not doing much with top position, but he remains there until the round ends. Ponzinibbio’s round, so 19-19 going into the third for me.

Round Three and LaFlare opens with a hard body kick. Ref Mario Yamasaki calls time for a second as LaFlare takes an eye poke, but he says he’s fine to continue and they restart almost immediately. Both guys look gassed quite badly as they exchange some strikes. Nice inside leg kick from LaFlare. They continue to trade shots before Ponzinibbio tries a spin kick, but LaFlare catches it and slams him right down, landing in side mount. Good control from LaFlare and he drops a knee to the body and seems to be setting up for a mounted crucifix. Couple of good elbows land for him too. Ponzinibbio decides to give his back in an attempt to escape, but LaFlare scrambles with him and keeps him grounded. He works back to his feet and they trade wild punches before LaFlare backs out. Two minutes to go now and LaFlare drops Ponzinibbio with a nasty knee. LaFlare pounces to look for the finish, getting into side mount and landing some shots but Ponzinibbio somehow hangs on and survives. Brutal elbows land for LaFlare but Santiago still looks with it and he escapes to his feet! Crowd are going crazy now. They trade some more shots and this time Ponzinibbio decks LaFlare with a left! LaFlare looks in trouble, but Santiago is just too exhausted to capitalise and he just stands over the downed American before dropping a right into the guard. LaFlare immediately uses an oma plata to reverse into top position though, impressing the hell out of Kenny Florian. He ends the fight in side mount. Got to be 29-28 LaFlare I’d think.

Judges score it 30-27 all round for Ryan LaFlare. This was a decent fight actually if really sloppy in parts, as LaFlare pushed an absolutely torrid pace from the off and Ponzinibbio basically couldn’t keep up with him. Sure, LaFlare slowed down himself a lot late in the third but by that point the fight was basically his, as Ponzinibbio was unable to keep the fight standing even when he had some success on the feet. Fun stuff overall and I’d say both guys are worthy of a spot on the UFC roster at the minute.

Welterweight Fight: Brandon Thatch vs Paulo Thiago

Thatch – a guy fighting out of the Grudge Training Centre as well as training with GSP at Tri-Star on and off – was a fighter who I thought could make some waves in the Welterweight division in 2013 and sure enough he’d looked phenomenal in his UFC debut in smashing up poor Justin Edwards. It looked like Zuffa wanted to fast-track him when he was matched here with veteran Paulo Thiago but despite the Brazilian being a big step up and Thatch stepping into hostile territory, I thought ‘Rukus’ would be able to live up to the hype again and knock Thiago out.

Fight begins and they circle with both guys looking to avoid the other’s strikes. Clinch attempt is avoided by Thiago. Body kick glances for Thatch. Thatch is a huge guy for 170lbs. Right glances for Thiago. Thatch charges in with a knee but Thiago hits a takedown. Thatch immediately reverses to his feet and lands a pair of nasty knees from inside the clinch. Another takedown is attempted by Thiago but he can’t get Thatch off his feet and the American separates with a knee. Good combination from Thatch sets up a couple more knees to the body. Thiago gets hold of him and tries a trip, but Thatch breaks with another hard knee. Thiago backs up and Thatch follows him across the cage with a body kick. BRUTAL KNEE TO THE BODY follows and Thiago collapses on all fours and taps out. Holy shit.

That was an incredibly impressive performance from Brandon Thatch. Not only did he blow right through a very tough opponent in Thiago but he made him tap to a strike which is incredibly rare. Not to mention, this was his first televised UFC appearance and he was in hostile territory with a loud pro-Thiago crowd. I think this guy is headed straight to the top and I think he’s a title contender by the end of 2014 for sure. Dude is an absolute monster.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Rafael Feijao vs Igor Pokrajac

Former StrikeForce champ Feijao was looking to bounce back from his disappointing loss to Thiago Silva and pick up his first UFC win here, and I had high hopes for him doing it as Pokrajac, while a tough guy, hadn’t ever shown me anything that made me think he could beat the Brazilian. I was taking Feijao after a likely short firefight.

Round One and Pokrajac tries to rush Feijao, and they trade big punches right away. Pokrajac muscles him into the fence and drops for a takedown, but Feijao stuffs it and they exchange body shots. Good knees from Feijao and then he grabs the plum to land some REALLY VICIOUS ONES. Pokrajac is in trouble and Feijao hits him with more knees and some BIG PUNCHES that drop Pokrajac for the stoppage!

Wow. I expected Feijao to win but didn’t think it’d be that quick and easy given how tough Pokrajac had looked in previous bouts. Finish was reminiscent of Silva vs. Franklin or Saunders vs. Wolff in fact. Really great use of the plum clinch. With Feijao I think it literally comes down to whether he’s in good shape or not – if he is, like he was here, then he’s a tough out for anyone in the world at 205lbs, but if he isn’t then he’s nowhere near as dangerous. Which is the same for any fighter I guess but seems to ring true more with Feijao. I think he’s the dark horse at 205lbs though just because of how devastating he can be if he is in shape. This was another highlight reel knockout on this show.

Middleweight Fight: Omari Akhmedov vs Thiago Perpetuo

This was prelim taped earlier in the night, with TUF Brazil’s ‘Bodao’ Perpetuo returning from well over a year on the shelf to take on yet another Dagestani import in Akhmedov. Despite Akhmedov having a strong record and the current rule being “don’t pick against the Dagestani”, I couldn’t go against Perpetuo just because of TUF Brazil!

First round and Perpetuo opens with some counter punches as Akhmedov throws a couple of leg kicks. Akhmedov comes forward but walks right into a pair of right hands and down he goes. He’s in deep trouble. Perpetuo pounces to look for the finish, landing tons of hammer fists, but somehow Akhmedov survives and grabs onto a single leg. Perpetuo defends by dropping more hammer fists, but Akhmedov gets him down. The Brazilian pops right back up into the clinch and they trade some knees and foot stomps. Perpetuo is a creepy looking dude. Takedown from Akhmedov but Perpetuo reverses back to his feet and cracks him with a big right hand again. The Dagestani dives back in for another takedown and gets Perpetuo down again, and this time he takes the back with both hooks! Rear naked choke attempt looks deep, but Perpetuo manages to defend it. Another attempt follows but Perpetuo manages to spin into him and get to his feet. Now he drops for a takedown, dragging Akhmedov to the ground in full guard. Armbar attempt fails for Akhmedov and that allows Perpetuo to drop some hammer fists from side mount. Akhmedov reverses to his feet and goes for a takedown again, and then he breaks off and lands a combo. Perpetuo comes chasing forward, but walks right into a PAIR OF CRUSHING RIGHT HANDS that knock him SILLY! Holy fuck.

Absolutely tremendous fight. I mean it got sloppy at times but who cares? That was like four minutes of pure action with both men going back-and-forth from the off. Big mistake from Perpetuo was chasing forward with his hands down as I guess he figured Akhmedov had no striking game. How wrong could he be? Looks like we’ve got another potential badass from Dagestan in the UFC. Amazing how many dangerous fighters are coming from that area these days.

-We go back to cageside with Jon and Kenny and this is a random observation now, but Love Hurts by Nazareth is playing in the background. Bit of a weird song for a UFC event but hey, there you go.

Middleweight Fight: Cezar ‘Mutante’ Ferreira vs Daniel Sarafian

For those who have forgotten (or of course, didn’t know in the first place) this was supposed to be the TUF Brazil Middleweight final back at UFC 147, but Sarafian tore his biceps coming in and had to be replaced by Sergio Moraes. Since then, Mutante had beaten Moraes to win the TUF tournament and had followed that with a win over fellow Brazilian Thiago Santos, while Sarafian had lost a close fight to CB Dollaway and then squashed Eddie Mendes. This was a very close fight to call but I was leaning slightly towards Mutante due to a slight size advantage.

First round and Sarafian stalks forward right away. The size difference is pretty blatant here as Mutante is a huge 185lber while Sarafian is more like a 170lber with a ton of extra muscle. Right hand from Sarafian sets up the clinch, as Kenny tells us he’s got an Armenian-Brazilian background. That is fucking terrifying in itself. Ferreira easily blocks the takedown attempt, as the crowd seem to be split between the two. Mutante has some pretty spectacular takedown defense actually. Referee Mario Yamasaki calls a clean break to a big pop. Sarafian again stalks forward and lands a big right hand in an exchange. Mutante rushes him for a low kick and then quickly backs off. Takedown attempt from Mutante but Sarafian defends. Looks like Sarafian might have a possible guillotine too as Mutante leans forward with his head out trying to get a double leg. Sure enough Sarafian drops to guard to attempt the choke, but Mutante slips his legs out for leverage and pops free. Sarafian quickly gets to his feet though before Ferreira can settle into top position. They break off and Mutante lands with a body kick. Head kick glances for Mutante but he misses a wheel kick. Good left hand from Mutante and he gets to the clinch again. Sarafian tries to secure the plum clinch but Ferreira breaks off. Lunging right hand misses for Sarafian and Mutante’s counter right connects. Low kicks land for both men. Front kick to the face glances for Sarafian. Good right-left combo from Sarafian and it forces Ferreira to clinch. They break quickly though and Sarafian looks for another combo to end the round. Close round to score but I’d say Sarafian landed the better shots and was the aggressor, so I’d go for him, 10-9.

Second round and Sarafian opens with a leg kick. He follows with another before Mutante misses with a spinning backfist. Another low kick is caught by Mutante and he hits a double leg to half-guard. Sweep attempt from Sarafian but he can’t get it. It does allow him to escape to full guard though. Mutante isn’t really doing much from the top here. Crowd begin to get restless as he lands the odd punch, while Sarafian attempts to use a potential guillotine sweep. Looks like Mutante’s shorts are coming down too. He works into half-guard to avoid the sweep but Sarafian quickly hip escapes back to full guard. Mutante stands over him, but Sarafian quickly rolls backwards and stands. Nice low kick drops Ferreira to a knee and a follow-up right hand seems to have him stunned! He follows up with another low kick into a left hand. Another takedown stops him in his tracks though and the crowd seem firmly behind Sarafian now as Mutante works into half-guard. Looks like he’s going for full mount, but Sarafian attempts a sweep to get to his feet. Mutante defends that and looks like he’s going for an arm triangle, but he can’t seem to free himself from half-guard and in a surprising move Mario Yamasaki calls a stand-up. Just under a minute to go in the round and Mutante lands with a pair of front kicks. Takedown attempt from Sarafian now but he still can’t get Ferreira down, and the round ends there. Really close round as Sarafian landed the more telling blows, but I’d give it to Mutante for his top control, so 19-19 going into the third.

Third round and Sarafian opens with a right hand. Counter left from Mutante and he lands with a body kick too. Spinning backfist misses though and it allows Sarafian to grab a rear waistlock. He forces Mutante into the fence and then breaks to deliver a vicious combo. Leg kick follows for Sarafian. Beautiful takedown from Mutante and he lands directly into half-guard. It looks quite loose too and he looks to pass into full mount. Sarafian manages to lock down on the leg though to stop that. Sarafian tries to use the fence to reverse and the crowd are not impressed with this at all, I guess disliking Mutante’s tactics. He appears to be setting up for the arm triangle again, but gives it up to land some short punches to the side of the head. Loud boos now with two minutes to go as Sarafian gets to full guard at least. Back into half-guard for Mutante and he works the body over with more punches. Time for a stand-up from Mario Yamasaki and the crowd love that. Ferreira hits an instant takedown from the restart to more boos. This time he manages to take the back with one hook as Sarafian gets to his knees. One minute to go and Sarafian really needs to get out of this if he wants to win. Mutante gets both hooks in as Sarafian stands with the larger man clamped to his back. Both men look a little tired now too. They exchange punches from the position with Ferreira trying for the rear naked choke, but he can’t sneak his arm under the chin and the round ends before he can attempt a neck crank or anything. Clear 10-9 round for Cezar Mutante so I’d have it 29-28 for him overall. Second round could’ve gone either way, however.

Indeed the judges have it a split decision; 29-28 Sarafian, 30-27 Ferreira and 30-28 for Cezar Mutante Ferreira. Crowd are horrified by that and boo the decision out of the building, but I think the right man took it. The difference was basically the takedowns, as Ferreira was too big and strong for Sarafian to muscle down and could easily get takedowns of his own whenever he wanted them, despite not really making them count until late in the third. Fight was perfectly acceptable overall – not the best of all time but not horrible or anything and I think it only got booed because of the popularity of Sarafian and the fact that they wanted to see a brawl and Mutante wouldn’t give it to them. With this out of the way hopefully Mutante can move up the ladder a little as with his size and skills he’s one to watch at 185lbs, while I wonder if Sarafian could make 170lbs where he’d be less undersized.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Vitor Belfort vs Dan Henderson

I was surprised when they put this fight together – particularly at 205lbs – as Vitor had been on an absolute tear in 2013, knocking out both Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold with head kicks, and I thought they’d want to save him for a possible 185lbs title shot in 2014 rather than match him with Hendo, who had beaten him back in 2006 in PRIDE and still had a difficult style for the Brazilian to handle. But I guess they needed a drawing card for this show and hey, if Vitor wants to take on tough guys then good for him. I was actually taking Vitor to win anyway given Hendo had appeared to have slowed down tremendously in 2013 with his two losses to Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. Elephant in the room? Both guys being on TRT but Vitor physically looking like he’d swallowed all the steroids in South America.

Fight begins and both men circle tentatively as the crowd sing for Vitor. One minute in and no strikes thrown yet. Suddenly Hendo rushes him, but walks right into a BIG RIGHT HOOK AND GOES DOWN! Holy shit. Vitor pounces to look for the finish, but Hendo seems to regain some of his faculties and throws his legs up for an armbar as Belfort wails away. Bunch of left uppercuts land as Hendo tries to get up and when he does Vitor SENDS HIM CRASHING DOWN WITH A LEFT HIGH KICK!~! Ref’s seen enough and that’s that. Jesus Christ.

That was a massacre. A stone cold, terrifying massacre. I mean, Hendo didn’t even manage to touch the guy before he was out. Sure, Vitor’s knockout of Luke Rockhold was amazing because of how flashy it was but if anything this was more impressive because shit, it’s Dan Henderson. Nobody had done that or even come close to doing that to him in his whole career and then Vitor comes along and blows him out of the water in a minute. Incredible. I think Chris Weidman vs. Vitor is *the* fight to watch in 2014 and although I’ll be picking Weidman, it’s hard to go against Vitor when you see him doing things like this. Unbelievable main event.

-Show ends there as Vitor celebrates wildly.

Final Thoughts….

After the last Brazil card had been a bit of a disappointment, this one brought things back into the realm of awesomeness, with five of the seven fights on tap ending in spectacular fashion. It’d be tough to pick a best finish really, what with Vitor’s massacre of Hendo, Stephens’ head kick, and Thatch and Feijao’s knee assaults. The two fights that went the distance were also both pretty good although admittedly, Mutante/Sarafian had some slow points and LaFlare/Ponzinibbio got a little sloppy. That means this isn’t the best Fight Night card of 2013, but it’s close, and easily worth a recommendation if you haven’t seen it.

Best Fight: Perpetuo vs. Akhmedov
Worst Fight: Ferreira vs. Sarafian

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: