By Elias Cepeda
UFC 147′s main event provided the most fireworks of the night but other than that, it was the under card that shone brightest. Rodrigo Damm earned his first win in the UFC’s featherweight division with a rear naked choke submission win in the first round over Anistavio Medeiros de Figueiredo.
Damm took home Submission of the Night honors and the accompanying $65k bonus check. Marcus Vinicius won the KO of the night award and bonus money for his come from behind win over Wagner Campos in the final stanza of their bout. Vinicius used knees to the head and body to drop Campos and finished with nasty punches on the ground.
TUF Brazil Final Matches
Four young Brazilian prospects got the opportunity to become the next “Ultimate Fighters” last night, and in front of a raucously supportive gigantic crowd inside the nation’s largest indoor stadium, no less. Given the fighters’ Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu backgrounds, and relative inexperience, we saw a new phenomenon on display during the TUF Brazil finals – guys that can’t yet wrestle very well and are largely uncomfortable striking on their feet.
Think back to TUF 1 in the states. All of those guys, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez and more, turned out to be at their embryonic stages of development and all became much more polished and skilled in later years. Sometimes their fights got sloppy, but they were comparatively more well-rounded than what we’ve seen this year with TUF Brazil, and a big reason was basic wrestling competency all around.
In the U.S., wrestling programs have been huge feeder systems for MMA, leading to the base becoming a dominant skill-set in the sport. In contrast, top Brazilian teams have great striking and wrestling programs but many of these young fighters we saw on this first international TUF season are so new to MMA that they have not yet made it to those teams or simply haven’t been mixing it all together for very long yet.
A case in point was the featherweight finale that saw Godofredo Pepey repeatedly jump guard on the eventual winner Rony Jason. Pepey often jumped guard when he wasn’t taking damage and in parts of the Octagon that were not favorable places for working off of one’s back (for example, near the cage, which kills hip movement necessary to pull off submissions).
In MMA a fighter who jumps guard is either extremely confident in his or her own guard or has no confidence in other parts of their game. Or both. It appeared that Pepey, and to a lesser extent, the other finalists had a little bit of that combination.
No doubt they will all improve their games if they have humble attitudes and work with the right instructors for long enough. But in retrospect, throwing in all these pure gi and no gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys into a cage while they are still relatively inexperienced at MMA will predictably lead to the type of weird guard-jumping we saw in the featherweight final and the wild, looping and leaping striking we saw in the middleweight one.
The 185 final between Cezar Ferreira and Sergio Moraes had plenty of sloppy, but passionate striking on the feet. Ferreira jumped out ahead, looking more comfortable on his feet than his opponent, though not extremely technical. Moraes, seemed to be lost as to what to do at all on his feet, or how to throw a punch or kick or set up a real, MMA take down.
That didn’t stop Moraes, however, from making things interesting on the strength of his guts and refusal to quit. After nearly getting finished early on, Moraes rushed Ferreira in the second round with looping punches that found their mark on the jaw of Ferreira. Ultimately Ferreira won a decision and took home the contract, but Moraes showed tons of heart.
Emotions Spilling Over for Brazilian Competitors
It was frankly beautiful to see the emotion we did from Brazilian fighters fighting in front of their countrymen, Saturday. Wanderlei Silva appeared to bow and make an extended prayer at the foot of the Octagon before stepping into the cage and delivering an electrifying performance in his first fight in Brazil in over ten years.
Rony Jason had tears of joy flowing long before he won as he was overcome during his walk to the Octagon. Who could blame him? The kid was walking into the biggest opportunity and challenge of his life, and had a larger stage than many established UFC superstars have had, between the TUF show that reached ten million viewers each week and fighting in the huge stadium and on pay per view all over the world. That had to be the best moment of his entire life. That is, until fifteen competition minutes later when he was awarded a UFC contract.