It was certainly a welcome sight seeing the return of the UFC to Brazil. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, the Brazilian fans in the crowd or the Brazilian fighters who nearly swept the event, going 7-1 on the night in fights that did not feature two Brazilians.
UFC President Dana White admitted prior to the event even taking place that hosting the event in the 14,000 seat HSBC Arena was foolish. The company is already looking at a return to Brazil in 2012, hoping to host an event in Amazonas, which could possibly hold an event in a 100,000 seat arena.
UFC 134 continued a string of good fortune for the company with their recent pay-per-view events, with the previous two events also having multiple finishes. In fact, the main cards of the last two events (UFC 133 and UFC 134) both featured one decision, three (T)KO finishes in the first round, and a second-round TKO in each main event.
Biggest Winner: Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira
Much like Tito Ortiz at UFC 132, Nogueira was returning to (arguably) fight for his job. After a 16-month layoff from his previous fight, Nogueira continued his Hall of Fame-worthy career with a first-round knockout of Brendan Schaub which should go down as one of the greatest moments in UFC history.
Biggest Loser: Forrest Griffin
Headliner Yushin Okami and Schaub also suffered deflating losses, but Schaub can still make his way up the heavyweight ladder, while Okami can still be considered a top 5 middleweight. Griffin, meanwhile, just looked disinterested. He stated his intentions rather clearly, complaining about the travel and training the job requires. Once you cross the line of strictly fighting for money, the career path usually always ends with the same result: a string of losses followed by being released or retiring.
Biggest Question: So what do we do with Anderson Silva?
Silva has defeated everyone, yes everyone, at middleweight. A title shot eliminator in Chael Sonnen/Brian Stann is nearing, with the winner most likely taking on the champion. But then what? The superfight between Georges St. Pierre and Silva continues to be brought forward, but at 36, Silva does not have much time left to wait for St. Pierre to decide whether he wants to move up a weight class. Plus, St. Pierre has admitted that the weight jump would take quite a bit of time, so Silva would certainly want to fight at least once more before St. Pierre is ready.
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen/Brian Stann winner: You get a highly anticipated rematch between Sonnen and Silva, or a new challenge in Stann if he wins. That is pretty much what is left for Silva at middleweight, unless “Jacare” Souza makes his way over from Strikeforce. Prospects like Chris Weidman are years away, and as stated, Silva is closer to the end of his career than he is the beginning.
Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson:
The light heavyweight division is kind of stuck. Jon Jones and Rampage Jackson are squaring off next month in Denver, while the winner of that will take on number-one contender Rashad Evans. Lyoto Machida is rumored to be taking on Phil Davis later this year, along with the rumored matchup of Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin. That leaves Rua one or two wins away from a title shot, but without a top opponent. However, Dan Henderson is now a free agent, and Dana White has already been in talks with Henderson concerning a return to the UFC.
Antonio Minotauro Nogueira vs. Frank Mir II:
This is a fight Nogueira has wanted since the night he was defeated by Mir nearly three years ago. Mir is actually on a two fight win streak, and is inching closer to title contention once again. Nogueira does not have much time left in the UFC, so if he is to avenge this championship loss, it will have to occur soon.
Edson Barboza vs. Donald Cerrone:
This could supply Fight of the Year if it were to happen. Barboza and Cerrone both bring excitement to each and every fight, and pitting them together would launch the victor towards the top of lightweight division.
Yushin Okami vs. Rousimar Palhares:
Unfortunately for Okami, due to his lack of popularity in the United States and for his fighting style, it is unlikely he’ll be a feature of any event in the near future. For all the negativity Palhares gets, his only two losses in the UFC are to Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson. This fight could either revive Okami’s career, maintaining his top 5 status, or send Palhares into title contention.
Preliminary Card Recap:
If you had tuned in from the beginning of the event, you would have never guessed that Yves Jabouin and Ian Loveland was the first match of the evening. The stadium was already full, which is uncommon for most events.
The loudest ovation definitely belonged to Rio de Janeiro’s Paulo Thiago, who is a member of BOPE, the Brazilian Special Forces. The crowd got to continue that ovation, as Thiago went on to easily dismantle David Mitchell via unanimous decision. Meanwhile, Erick Silva made the most of his UFC debut, knocking out late replacement Luis Ramos, who replaced the injured Mike Swick.
One of the most memorable sequences of the night also happened to be the most confusing. Rousimar Palhares knocked down Dan Miller with the head kick, and was on his way to a TKO victory in the first round. Well, that is until he, well…stopped. Then he jumped around the cage like he was already announced the victor. Referee Herb Dean was just as confused as the viewing audience, as he assisted the cursing Dan Miller, after which he escorted the both of them into the middle of the ring to continue the fight. Naturally the next step was to have Miller knock Palhares down and nearly steal the victory away just seconds later. Palhares was able to regain his senses, as he went on to defeat Miller thanks to the judges’ scorecards.
Main Card Recap:
The surprises continued, as Luiz Cane took on the debuting Stanislav Nedkov in the opening fight of the main card. Cane was certainly getting the better of the Bulgarian, until Nedkov knocked Cane down with his (seemingly only offensive) right hand. The referee pulled Nedkov off of Cane late in the first round, declaring Nedkov the winner, and seemingly declaring a moment of silence throughout the arena.
Following the surprise knockout of Cane, was an even more surprising knockout, as heavyweight legend Antonio Minotauro Nogueira took on the favorite in Brendan Schaub. Schaub was certainly on his way to winning round one, until Nogueria stunned him with a solid jab-straight combo, sending Schaub and his hype face down into the mat. This caused the loudest ovation of the night, as Nogueira not only revived his career, but did so in front of his hometown crowd. This just so happened to be his first fight in brazil, and was just the third knockout of the illustrious Nogueira’s career.
Even more precision striking continued, as Edson Barboza took on Ross Pearson, in one of the most technical striking matches you will ever see. The Brazilian narrowly outpointed the Brit to take a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Then we got to enjoy two consecutive rematches, starting with Shogun Rua looking to avenge his loss to Forrest Griffin. You would have to remind me with video that this fight even occurred, as Rua made quick work of Griffin. Rua knocked him down with a right hand, then followed that up with hammer fists until referee Marc Goddard pulled Rua off. This pushed Rua’s record in the UFC to 4-0 outside of the United States, while he remains 0-3 inside the United States.
Yet even after all of this, we still had a championship fight to enjoy. Well, it was labeled as one, but Yushin Okami did not put on a championship performance against Anderson Silva. Okami looked overwhelmed as soon as his only clinch attempt did not succeed. Silva made sure not to delay the inevitable, knocking down Okami with a right jab in the second round, finishing him off just seconds later.