If what we saw last night was truly the end of the UFC’s experiment with hosting events on FUEL TV (remember, FUEL becomes Fox Sports 2 this August, and no, preliminary cards don’t count), it ended in one of the strangest ways imaginable. A UFC record eight fights ended in submission; four of which ended in less than three minutes. None of the bouts on the main card went the distance, which helped contribute to what felt like an eternity of watching old footage and staring at Kenny Florian’s magnificent hair in between fights. And, of course, there was Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira surrendering to an armbar from Fabricio Werdum in the main event of the evening, marking the first time that Nogueira has opted to submit instead of letting something break.
It would be easy to write about how the once-invincible Nogueira looked like a fighter who should strongly consider retirement, but I can’t help but feel that doing so would be misleading. For starters, focusing on how beatable Big Nog looked would make it seem like the fight was a lopsided, painful to watch beatdown. Although Werdum was in clear control throughout the fight, it was still a pretty close and entertaining scrap between two of the UFC’s best heavyweights.
Perhaps more importantly, attributing Big Nog’s loss solely to Father Time would be an insult to the performance that Fabricio Werdum put forward last night. Right from the start of the fight, Werdum was able to mount Nogueira and began to work for submissions. When Nogueira made his way back to his feet, Werdum got the better of the stand-up exchanges. Rinse, wash, repeat, until Nogueira realized that he wasn’t going to escape the armbar that Werdum locked up in the second round and tapped out.
For all intents and purposes, last night’s victory put Fabricio Werdum in line for a shot against the winner of the upcoming rubber match between UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. His 3-0 run in the UFC has been nothing less than spectacular to watch, and his grappling prowess poses a legitimate threat to anyone in the heavyweight division. He submitted Fedor back when that meant something. He submitted Big Nog last night, who has always been one of our sport’s premier grapplers. If he decides to sit out until Velasquez/Dos Santos III, like he plans on doing, it’ll be hard to argue against giving him the next shot.
For what it’s worth, Werdum mentioned that he wants to coach a season of The Ultimate Fighter alongside Velasquez when the UFC Network debuts in Latin America this fall. We’ll talk about the likelihood of that ever happening if Velasquez makes it past Dos Santos.
And as for Nogueira? There’s no point in writing that he’s in the twilight of his career or that he should hang up the gloves; fans have literally been writing that about him since 2008. He’s going to fight as long as he’s still competitive, and he still looked like a formidable opponent for most of the top-heavy heavyweight division last night. His arm isn’t broken, so he could take another fight by the end of the year if he wanted to. I say match him up against Mark Hunt. Because Pride, you guys.
The rest of the card was a who’s-who of “who’s that?” winning (mostly) by submissions. Notable highlights…
- Your TUF Brazil 2 champion is Leonardo Santos, who tapped out William Patolino in the second round last night. If you follow submission grappling, you’ve probably known about Santos since the late 90s, and were thrilled to watch him pick up a victory in the Octagon last night. At thirty-three years old, I don’t exactly see him having a spectacular run in the UFC, unlike recent TUF champions…um…hmm…
- Oh wait, I thought of one! The first champion of TUF Brazil, Rony Jason, who needed just eighty-four seconds to choke out the previously undefeated Mike Wilkinson last night. He improved to 3-0 in his UFC career, and with that impressive submission on his resume he’s earned a step up in competition for his next bout.
- Last time Thiago Silva fought, I somewhat-jokingly wrote that the result was drug test pending. This time, I’m not joking when I write it. Drug test pending, Silva picked up his first victory since 2009 in a very convincing manner over Raphael “Feijao” Cavalcante. When Thiago Silva is on top of his game, he’s a threat to anyone in the LHW division. Himself included.
- Silva took home $100,000 for both Fight of the Night and Knockout of the Night honors. I personally thought it was far more satisfying to watch Felipe Arantes punch the purple hair dye out of Godofredo Pepey, but you never know, Arantes may end up getting that money after all.
- For whatever reason, Bigfoot Silva took to Twitter to call out Thiago Silva after the fight. You can insert your own rebound fight and/or Thiago ate Bigfoot’s Doritos/Taco Bell/Chips Ahoy jokes in the comments section.
- $50K Submission of the Night honors went to Erick Silva, who reminded everyone why he was riding so much hype before his fight against Jon Fitch with a quick submission over Jason High. He may not be ready for the deep end of the division just yet (ROFL at the idea of having him fight GSP) but he’s an incredibly interesting prospect.
Fabricio Werdum def. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira via Submission (armbar), 2:41 of Round Two
Leonardo Santos def. William Macario via Submission (arm triangle choke), 4:43 of Round Two
Thiago Silva def. Rafael Cavalcante via KO (punches), 4:29 of Round One
Erick Silva def. Jason High via Submission (triangle armbar), 1:11 of Round One
Daniel Sarafian def. Eddie Mendez via Submission (arm triangle choke), 2:20 of Round One
Rony Jason def. Mike Wilkinson via Technical Submission (triangle choke), 1:24 of Round One
Raphael Assunçao def. Vaughan Lee via Submission (armbar), 1:51 of Round Two
Felipe Arantes def. Godofredo Pepey via TKO (elbows and punches), 3:32 of Round One
Ildemar Alcantara def. Leandro Silva via Unanimous Decision
Rodrigo Damm def. Mizuto Hirota via Split Decision
Caio Magalhaes def. Karlos Vemola via Submission (rear-naked choke), 2:49 of Round Two
Antonio Braga Neto def. Anthony Smith via Submission (kneebar), 1:52 of Round One