• Edson Barboza‘s astounding spinning heel kick knockout of Terry Etim. Mike Goldberg might have been exaggerating a bit when he called it “maybe the most spectacular knockout in UFC history,” but it’s certainly the early front-runner for Greatest Knockout of 2012. And props to Joe Rogan for immediately recalling Baraboza’s prior use of the kick against Anthony Njokuani. As Rogan mentioned, it’s an under-utilized technique that we may start to see come in-vogue in 2012, much like the crane kick in 2011.
• Gabriel Gonzaga needed a good performance to provoke any sort of excitement in his return to the UFC’s heavyweight division. Even sweeter than his early finish was his proclamation that we can expect to see him return to the submission base that generated so much interest in his first run at UFC contention.
• After two highly energetic Brazilian shows within a year, the UFC has found its most passionate and dedicated audience. The crowd at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro was loud, enthusiastic, and everything one would expect from a bunch of rowdy Brazilian fight fans. There was a good amount of variation in the chants throughout the night — from “U.S.A., to “Thiago,” to the famous soccer anthem “ole ole ole” — and a surreal crowd-surfing celebration from defending featherweight champion Jose Aldo capped off the incredible fan involvement.
• Referee Dan Miragliotta’s stand-ups in the Belfort/Johnson fight were far too quick. In both instances, Miragliotta should have allowed Anthony Johnson more time to improve his position or inflict some damage from the top. [Ed. note: A Bleacher Report column went as far as to suggest that Miragliotta was paid to make things difficult for Johnson, but the article has since been removed from the site.] If Johnson were in any position to complain, he might have a case; however, nobody wants to listen to any more of this guy’s excuses. Hope the free agent market treats you well, AJ.
• For a channel trying to brand itself as the new home of the UFC, FX did not seem to put much effort into their promo for this Friday’s upcoming UFC on FX 2 card during their prelims broadcast. All they could manage was a promo that featured split-second highlights of Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller and an animated fighter made out of chain-link fence that pretended to punch the screen. Needless to say, it seemed like a missed opportunity.
• Felipe Arantes looked pretty silly jumping on the cage in celebration prior to confirmation that he had edged out a unanimous decision win over Antonio Carvalho, in their card-opening match on Facebook. Obviously, Arantes wanted to soak in what he was sure would be an appreciative hometown crowd but it seemed excessive for a performance that lacked the fight-ending dominance we’ve come to expect from post-fight cage jumps.
• Even though Rousimar Palhares’s submissions are a thing of beauty for leg-lock fanatics, they serve as an ugly reminder of the hideous damage that the “Tree trunk” can inflict on his opponents. When Palhares gets within snatching distance of an opponent’s leg, there is a large part of me that wants to scream at the referee to stop it already for the love of God before he inflicts permanent damage on this poor man! Get in the cage with Palhares and there’s a good chance he will get hold of your leg and tear some of the major tendons, ligaments and muscles. If that’s not ugly, I don’t know what is.
• The “Keys to Victory” segment has got to go. It was a horrible feature when Frank Shamrock did it on CBS and it’s horrible now. If the UFC insists on breaking something down in such a simplistic and grossly misleading manner, they should at least get somebody other than Joe Rogan to deliver it. As the color commentator, he’s already influencing audience perceptions about each fighter’s skills. It would make sense to mix things up by having a veteran like Randy Couture or Kenny Florian breaking things down.
• Mario Yamasaki may have made a bad call in disqualifying Erick Silva for what he deemed to be illegal shots to the back of the head but Joe Rogan challenging him about it post-fight was even more cringe-inducing. Joe should stick to interviewing fighters, not referees. It was disrespectful to Mario, a mainstay in the Brazilian MMA community. Mario seemed none too pleased with being called out and paced anxiously in the background as Rogan continued to rip on the decision while interviewing Silva. It was an uncomfortable moment in the broadcast and the empathy it invoked on behalf of Yamasaki almost seemed to negate his poor judgment in the fight.