MMA Review: #602: UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway

-Despite having arguably the best main event on paper of any UFC card thus far this year, this show felt like it was flying a bit under the radar – probably because it was following the card they were pushing as the biggest one of 2017 in UFC 211. Still, despite a lesser undercard I was hyped. It’s Brazil, dude, and those cards almost always rule.

UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Brian Stann and Dominick Cruz.

Welterweight Fight: Erick Silva vs Yancy Medeiros

Well, given Silva is a bit of a busted prospect at this point and Medeiros was coming up from 155lbs where he’d been largely middling, I was a bit annoyed that this made the main card over the UFC debut of Marlon Moraes, but then Moraes/Assuncao ended up as nothing special anyway. I was personally hoping Silva would recapture his 2012 form for this one but you just never know with that guy.

Round One begins and they circle before Medeiros lands with a body kick. A spin kick misses for the Hawaiian and this is about as patient as I can ever remember Silva fighting! Left hand glances for him but he continues to be patient. Combo from Medeiros drops him though and he goes down into guard before kicking Medeiros away. Silva pops back up and manages to avoid a follow-up combo, and it seems like he’s recovered. Good leg kick lands for Silva. Spinning backfist from Medeiros is blocked as both men still seem quite tentative. Body kick from Silva is answered by a Medeiros right hand. Spin kick to the body from Silva sets up a clean left hand and a hard body kick that have Medeiros hurt a bit. Some wild swings respond for Medeiros but don’t land cleanly. Nice right hand comes over the top for Silva. Chopping leg kick follows and almost drops the Hawaiian. He fires right back with a combo though to back Silva up. Another leg kick hurts him though and then a head kick glances for Silva too. Another leg kick connects for Silva before he clinches and drops Medeiros with a knee! Medeiros pops right back up and shakes it off though and the round ends there. Fun stuff; 10-9 Silva for me by a hair but it could’ve gone either way.

Round Two and Medeiros comes out swinging with an overhand right and follows with a body kick. Silva fires back with a quick combo and then lands a hard body kick of his own. Wild spin kick misses for Silva and almost allows Medeiros to land a right hand, but it misses too. Left hands glance for both men. Low kick again lands for Silva. Nice right hand lands for Medeiros but Silva comes back with a glancing combo. Nice counter right hand connects for Silva in an exchange. Big combo from Silva backs the Hawaiian up and he takes another leg kick, but Medeiros comes back with a BIG LEFT HOOK that drops Silva hard! He looks to be recovering as Medeiros pounces and lands some follow-ups, but referee Eduardo Herdy decides to call it there and stops it.

Post-fight the crowd are furious with the stoppage and so is Silva; replay seems to show he’s got a point too as while he looked out when he went down, he did seem to be working for full guard when Herdy stepped in. With that said, these refs have a tricky job and have to err on the side of caution so I don’t have a massive problem with it. Fight was a lot of fun throughout really as they went for it and justified their spot on the card. Big win for Medeiros although it must be said that Silva remains one of the most disappointing fighters in UFC history to me in terms of not reaching his potential.

Middleweight Fight: Paulo Borrachinha vs Oluwale Bamgbose

This one looked like a real battle of strikers, with Bamgbose – the man with the coolest nickname in the sport in ‘Holy War Angel’ – taking on TUF Brazil’s Borrachinha, who had debuted in the UFC after reeling off eight stoppages on the regional scene despite not doing that well on TUF. The hype on him was pretty big although a lot of it seemed to be on how hench he is. Despite Bamgbose having more UFC experience I was going with Borrachinha here after a firefight based purely on the fact that he’s a lot bigger and on TUF I’d at least seen some decent grappling from him.

Pre-fight Bamgbose does his best to try to intimidate Borrachinha, getting in his face right as he gets inside the cage and then again during the introductions. Like anyone could intimidate a guy who looks like Borrachinha, come on!

Fight begins and Bamgbose looks like he’s taken some speed prior to the fight as he’s literally all over the place and he comes wading in with a big right hand from the off. Dude is just moving like he’s a giant Demetrious Johnson or something. Couple more wild swings miss for Bamgbose as Borrachinha looks a bit confused by the style. Single leg attempt from Bamgbose and he gets the Brazilian down for a second and then lands a heavy right to set up another takedown when Borrachinha stands. Bamgbose tries to leap onto the back, but the Brazilian shrugs him off and then blocks a big head kick. Leg kick lands for Bamgbose but he looks to be slowing down already. Big head kick glances for him though. Takedown attempt is unsuccessful again and then he throws a spin kick that glances. Low kick causes Borrachinha to slip but he pops back up instantly. Big body kick lands for Borrachinha and Bamgbose might be gassed here. Another body kick glances for the Brazilian and he’s stalking now. Couple of heavy shots glance for Borrachinha but Bamgbose comes back with some short punches from close range. Big high kick answers for Borrachinha and Bamgbose may be hurt. Body kick sets up some power shots and a huge leg kick and Bamgbose is in trouble. He manages to survive the onslaught though despite taking some horrendous shots to the body. Crowd are going crazy for Borrachinha as he lands a big knee and an elbow. Bamgbose is exhausted. Takedown attempt goes wrong for Bamgbose but he drives the Brazilian into the fence to try again. He manages to get Borrachinha down, and that’s enough to give both men a breather. Round ends with Borrachinha working to his feet. 10-9 Borrachinha as he weathered that early storm and did some major damage late on.

Into the 2nd and Borrachinha stalks forward from the off, avoiding a spin kick and then a DOUBLE AXEHANDLE from Bamgbose. Borrachinha catches him with some strikes to pop the crowd, but Bamgbose comes back with a combo and then a body kick, but slips to the ground and suddenly he’s in trouble as Borrachinha drops some BOMBS over the top! More shots have Bamgbose going foetal and the ref has to stop it there.

Well, that was quite something. Bamgbose just came out way too wild and emptied his gas tank within like, two and a half minutes, and after that it was basically all Borrachinha as he displayed calm under fire and then took his gassed opponent apart until the finish. Looks like he has all the potential in the world, but I think the UFC need to build him carefully and not throw him to the wolves to soon, and if they can do that then they likely have a future star – maybe the new Vitor – on their hands. As for Bamgbose, he also has potential but I think he should’ve spent more time on the regional scene before coming to the UFC and he probably ought to head back there for a while now. Hell of an exciting fight though!

Middleweight Fight: Vitor Belfort vs Nate Marquardt

After Vitor’s one-sided loss to Kelvin Gastelum in March – his fourth in a row – the word was that he wanted one more fight and then planned to retire, so facing the equally past-his-prime Marquardt here made a lot of sense. In the week leading to the fight though Vitor started talking about fighting five more times so who knows? As far as a pick went I figured that even though Vitor’s pretty much shot, he’d shown slightly more than Marquardt had recently and so I went with him.

First round begins and both men look quite tentative as they circle around, measuring each other up. Right hand from Marquardt sets up a clinch and he trips Vitor down into full guard. Vitor holds on as Nate drops some shoulder strikes, and the action slows down enough for referee Osiris Maia to call a restart. Clinch attempt from Marquardt is shrugged off but Vitor can’t take advantage. Left hand connects for Vitor and causes Marquardt to stumble, and the Brazilian quickly follows with a glancing head kick, but Nate seems fine. Couple of low kicks glance for Marquardt as Vitor still seems overly patient. Right hand lands cleanly for Marquardt. This has been a pretty bad round. Low kick lands for Nate. Seconds to go and a combo misses for Nate but still backs Vitor up. Head kick is blocked by Nate and that’s the round. 10-9 Marquardt for me as Vitor just didn’t do much at all.

Second round and Marquardt presses forward a little, as Vitor still looks super tentative. Front kick glances to the chest for Nate. Few more glancing strikes land for Nate and he catches the Brazilian with a nice left head kick. Right hand follows and lands well too. Another one misses though and Vitor comes back with a left uppercut that stuns Marquardt for a second. Nate tries to shake it off, but Vitor senses he’s hurt and comes in with a big left head kick and a VICIOUS FLURRY that has Marquardt covering up! Nate manages to fire back with a knee, but he takes a left hook and he’s still in some trouble. Big body kick lands for Vitor. Marquardt manages to circle out to safety though and the action slows down again. Couple of jabs and a decent right hand connect for Marquardt as Vitor looks like he’s definitely slower. Head kick glances for Nate. Jumping kick misses for Nate but he’s using low kicks quite well to keep his distance. Vitor’s bleeding pretty badly from above his left eye. Few more nice strikes land for Marquardt and he clinches briefly but Vitor quickly breaks off. Head kick lands for Vitor but Nate takes it well and fires back with some strikes of his own. Nice right hand snaps Vitor’s head back right at the end of the round. Close round to score as the high point was Vitor’s flurry, but then Marquardt controlled the rest. 10-9 Marquardt I guess.

Third round and Vitor pops Nate in the early going with a left hand, but doesn’t really follow it up and it’s another tentative start. Low kick and a hopping front kick glance for Marquardt. Crowd would probably be booing this like crazy if it were anyone other than Vitor Belfort basically. Couple of jabs and a head kick glance for Nate as Vitor just seems frozen for some reason. Brief exchange sees both men land glancing shots before Nate backs out and lands with a high kick. Two minutes to go and Nate lands with a solid left hook. Right hand connects for Belfort but he doesn’t really follow it up. Left hand sees the same result. Head kick lands for Vitor and Marquardt looks a bit stunned, but he manages to recover quickly until another head kick follows and backs him up. Big right hand from Vitor and Nate shoots, but the Brazilian stuffs it. Less than a minute to go and another head kick into a combo connects for Vitor and Nate is bloodied up. Clinch from Marquardt but Vitor shrugs him off. Seconds to go now and Vitor’s finally outlanding him. Nate walks into an uppercut and can’t close the distance, and they circle off to end the fight. 10-9 Belfort but too little, too late in my book.

Judges all have it 29-28 for Vitor Belfort, surprisingly enough. I guess they weighted his flurry in the second round more than Marquardt’s volume work which to be fair is fine because it’s not like Nate did a ton of damage or anything. Crazily enough this was Vitor’s first ever decision win in the UFC after twenty years of fighting there! And then post-fight he tells Brian Stann he wants five more fights, which is equally insane as he could’ve retired here on a high note. I don’t get it really but it’s his decision. Fight largely stunk despite the crowd interest as both men fought really tentatively, but I guess it wasn’t the worst of all time.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Claudia Gadelha vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz

This was a pretty excellent semi-main event – a fight between two proven top five fighters, albeit two fighters who’d already lost to champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Kowalkiewicz hadn’t fought since that loss in November while Gadelha had bounced back from her loss to the champ by beating Cortney Casey in September. It was a close one to call, too – Kowalkiewicz’s clinch work, technical striking and cardio against Gadelha’s stronger wrestling game, harder-hitting strikes but likely lesser gas tank. I was taking Gadelha but figured if it got into the later rounds then Kowalkiewicz might take over.

Round One begins and they circle and exchange some early strikes with Kowalkiewicz landing a quick combination. Overhand right glances for Claudia. Exchange sees both girls land before Gadelha lands with a body kick. Clinch from Gadelha and she lands with a nasty elbow as Kowalkiewicz breaks off. Head kick is blocked by the Polish fighter who continues to circle around. Combination glances for Karolina and she follows with a pair of right hands, but Gadelha gets to a bodylock and trips her down. Gadelha lands in side mount and from there Kowalkiewicz makes the fatal error of giving her back in an attempt to get up. Claudia manages to slap both hooks in and Karolina is in trouble, and sure enough Claudia manages to slap on the choke and tighten it up for the tap!

Tremendous performance from Claudia Gadelha; not only was this her first finish inside the UFC but outside of Joanna it was against her toughest opponent, too. It was basically a flawless performance too as Kowalkiewicz only landed a few shots and just made one big mistake on the ground and it was over. The big problem for Claudia is that she’s now in the Joseph Benavidez zone where she’s already lost twice to the champ, so it’s likely she’ll end up fighting other contenders for a while yet – at least until Jedrzejczyk has gone through any other possible challengers first (i.e. Rose Namajunas). Maybe a fight with Jessica Andrade would work? Tough break for Kowalkiewicz but I still think she handles anyone else in the division basically so she’ll most likely bounce back. Quick finish but boy was it decisive.

UFC World Featherweight Title: Jose Aldo vs Max Holloway

First off this was a GREAT main event on paper – by far the best one put together by the UFC thus far this year – although you could argue it should’ve happened in December rather than Holloway having to beat Anthony Pettis for an Interim title, but whatever. At least we were finally getting the fight, and in turn, a chance for the 145lbs division to move away from Conor McGregor who clearly isn’t coming back any time soon. Although Aldo was by far the best opponent Holloway had ever faced, something just told me that this was Holloway’s time and I ended up picking the Hawaiian to pull off the win.

Round One begins and Aldo takes the center of the cage as Holloway circles on the outside, stalking forward slightly. Big crowd chant for Aldo as Holloway paws out with some punches that largely miss. Holloway looks really chilled out here. Couple more punches miss for the Hawaiian before Aldo glances on a right hand. Both men graze with some more punches before a brief clinch is broken by a Holloway left hook. Big left hook suddenly lands for Aldo and stuns Holloway, and the Brazilian SWARMS on him, rocking him again with a right hook and then opening up with some big shots including a nasty knee! Crowd go crazy as Holloway manages to circle out, his chin holding up, but he definitely got hurt there. Left to the body lands for Holloway and he follows with a right hand to counter Aldo’s first leg kick. Aldo flicks out some jabs and then narrowly misses on a right hand counter as Max comes forward. One minute to go and Aldo lands with another heavy combo, but Holloway takes it well again. Counter combo misses for the Hawaiian though. Good left hook lands for Aldo. Spin kick misses for Holloway and the round ends there. 10-9 Aldo; excellent round for him as Holloway looked a bit nervy and got hurt by that flurry.

Round Two and Aldo opens with a sweeping left to the body. Left hand lands for Holloway and backs Aldo up a little. Exchange sees both men land punches. Combination glances for Holloway before Aldo comes over the top with a hard right hand. Another nasty combo connects for the Brazilian but again Holloway takes it well. Two more left hands also get through for Aldo. Left hook replies for Max though. Combination finally lands cleanly for Holloway, his best of the fight thus far. Holloway definitely seems to be getting more confident now. Big combination lands for him before Aldo replies with a right hand to the body. Nasty combo lands for Aldo as Holloway pushes forward. Holloway’s face looks pretty marked up now. Nice counter right hand connects for Aldo. Right head kick glances for the Hawaiian and he’s really pushing the pace suddenly. Stiff jab lands for Aldo but Holloway comes back with a body kick and now he starts to taunt the Brazilian, flicking out jabs and telling Aldo to bring it on when he lands a jab of his own. Big combo from Aldo but Holloway nods his head and then completely taunts him, channelling his inner Diaz brother before firing right back! Spin kick misses for Aldo but a big right lands and that’s the round. Aldo’s round as he landed the better strikes, but that taunting at the end almost felt like a turning point to me.

Round Three and Holloway continues to push forward. Nice low kick lands for Aldo but Holloway continues to pressure him. Right hand to the body lands for Holloway and he dances around a bit before firing off a one-two. Big right hand lands over the top of the jab for Holloway and he follows with a combo. Jab responds for Aldo but Holloway is outlanding him for sure now. Exchange continues and Holloway shrugs off a brief clinch. Nice right hand from the Hawaiian. Both men land jabs before a BIG ONE-TWO sends Aldo crashing down! He appears to be out as he hits the ground but snaps back into consciousness, only for Holloway to mount him! Big shots land for Holloway as Aldo kicks him off, but he can’t recover properly and Holloway mounts him again for a second and continues to land! HUGE SHOTS bounce Aldo’s head off the ground and then Holloway takes the mount and drops some bombs before Aldo gives his back! Rear naked choke doesn’t work so Holloway stands up and then continues to drop shots on him, and holy shit I can’t see Aldo taking much more. Mount follows again and Holloway continues to smash him, and finally Big John McCarthy calls a stop to it. Unbelievable finish.

Post-fight the crowd are naturally horrified. Aldo seems to be angry with the stoppage but there’s just no way, he was taking an insane amount of punishment there and McCarthy could’ve stopped it twice before he actually did I think as he looked to be gone a couple of times. This was just an amazing performance from Holloway and forget McGregor for a second – this looked like a proper changing of the guard moment as Holloway took some early punishment, then suddenly appeared to realise late in the second that he had Aldo’s number somehow and taunted him before putting him away violently. It reminded me of like, GSP over Hughes in 2006 or Jones over Shogun in 2011. That sort of changing of the guard. Frankie Edgar’s probably next I guess but yeah, I don’t see anyone dethroning Max any time soon. He’s been on a ridiculous journey over the past few years and has developed maybe more than any other fighter in MMA, without a hint of anything like PEDs too. The guy is just brilliant and I hope he becomes a star now because lord knows he deserves it.

-We end with some previews of the upcoming shows and a highlight reel, and that’s it from Rio.

Final Thoughts….

After a run of stinkers and a decent show in UFC 211 they were due a really good PPV and delivered completely with this one, as we got four exciting fights out of five with some really cool finishes and a hell of a main event to end the night. Belfort/Marquardt was horribly slow but the atmosphere for the fight made it feel better than it was and Borrachinha, Gadelha and Holloway’s stars clearly rose with their performances too. It’s a thumbs up for sure then for UFC 212.

Best Fight: Aldo vs. Holloway
Worst Fight: Belfort vs. Marquardt

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: