Esther Lin for MMA Fighting
The UFC hasn't had too much in the way of pay-per-view success recently, but last night's UFC 153 in Brazil delivered the goods and has a case for card of the year.
There is no sugar-coating this, most of the recent UFC PPVs haven't been very good. The whole of UFC 149, most of 147, 148, and 150 was just unwatchable. UFC 151 didn't even happen, and 152 was good but not outstanding (Hamill vs. Hollett). The last time fans had an end-to-end exciting PPV was definitely UFC 146, but that was back in May. Last night's UFC 153 in Brazil was not only one of the best cards of 2012, but the entire PPV was spectacular.
It's not often every single main card fight delivers excitement, but this one did. From Demian Maia's first submission win since February 2009 to Anderson Silva essentially clowning Stephan Bonnar, and everything in-between, it was a sensational night of fights. The lopsided fights on paper were lopsided in practice, but that doesn't mean it wasn't fantastic entertainment with high-quality finishes.
Demian Maia looked fantastic against Rick Story and now has a case for at least getting a top 10 opponent to see if he can once again be a force in the UFC like he was at middleweight a few years ago. Watching Phil Davis wrap up that anaconda choke on Wagner Prado was sensational and would be a SOTN winner on most cards. Davis is still a legitimate contender at 205 lbs and just because he lost to Rashad Evans doesn't mean he still isn't arguably top 5. JON FITCH of all people put on maybe his most exciting and complete performance ever and came closer to a finish against Erick Silva than he has against just about anyone post-Roan Carneiro. It was great to see Fitch prove that he's still an elite wrestler with elite cardio and that he's still a force to be reckoned with at welterweight. That is not to say that Erick Silva still doesn't have a bright future in this sport, because he took a round off of Fitch and pushed a very high-pace that kept both of them busy, but unfortunately for Erick, Jon Fitch never gets tired and I'm not even sure he requires oxygen.
Three fights down, two fantastic finishes and a FOTN winner, and that was just at the halfway point!
Glover Teixeira predictably obliterated Fabio Maldonado but the amount of punishment Maldonado was able to absorb defied all logic. Teixeira definitely needs to fight a contender (Phil Davis?) and Maldonado thankfully won't be released, and hopefully they throw him a bone to get him back in the win column. Big Nog recorded his first submission win in four years, and against a guy who says "jiu-jitsu doesn't work on him", was made all the more memorable by the raucous fans and Anderson Silva's emotional reaction. Yes, he's on the decline, and yes he looks out-of-shape, but I think most fans have come to accept that, and it was great to see him win in Brazil yet again and add another victim to his long list of people he's submitted.
The night of course was capped off by Anderson Silva doing Anderson Silva things. He was the matador, and Stephan Bonnar fought like an inebriated bull. Silva knew Bonnar represented zero danger to him and that as soon as his only path to victory -- a grinding decision win -- was taken away, it was a matter of "when" and "how" he'd finished Stephan Bonnar. It was another virtuoso performance from a once in a lifetime talent, and I don't care who he fights, it's always a special occasion when The Spider is at his best and asserting his dominance in emphatic fashion.
There's something about these Brazil cards that produces fantastic moments for the UFC and for the sport in general. Whether it's Big Nog's memorable KO of Brendan Schaub, or Jose Aldo running into the crowd following his destruction of Chad Mendes, or the tandem of Big Nog and Anderson doing what they do best, the whole atmosphere of a UFC Brazil show not only enhances the product but it encapsulates the excitement of combat sports. I'm fully on board for more cards in Brazil and I believe it is currently the best place to watch a UFC event.
In closing, I think the UFC should be commended and praised for managing to save what looked to be another sinking ship. The only main card fights that stayed intact from the original "Aldo vs. Koch" lineup were Maia vs. Story and Fitch vs. Silva. We lost Jose Aldo, Vitor Belfort, Alan Belcher, and Quinton Jackson from this show and the UFC rescued it from the toilet. They did the absolute best they could to prevent a disaster even if it meant setting up a live execution as the main event. Every fight on Saturday was worth the money, and as much as myself and others have criticized the UFC for their recent poor cards and questionable decision-making, there should be just as much acknowledgement when all the chips fall in place for a card like this one.