It was a night of lasts on the UFC on Fuel 10. It is very possibly the last Ultimate Fighter Brazil, or at least the last one on the all-powerful Globo television network. By all reports this season of TUF in Brazil was a disaster. The fights were poor and the show focused on practical jokes instead of fighting, some in Brazil have actually said it undid some of the work the UFC had accomplished in Brazil framing UFC fighters as professionals and athletes, not wild thugs.
It was also, if the current schedule holds, the last UFC on Fuel card. In August, Fuel will be re-branded as Fox Sports 2.
The Fuel cards have delivered some great fights and last night was no exception, the action in the cage was top notch. It set a record for the most submissions on a single card. But production issues have marred these Fuel cards. They became a dumping ground for the UFC for matches they didn't seem to want to find card space for elsewhere and as result they tended to be 13 fights long, which made for very, very long cards. Now last night there were coordinating issues with Globo in Brazil that resulted in the UFC and Fuel needing to kill time because Globo was only going to air the TUF final match and the main event. But in any event this card dragged along, with huge breaks between live action filled with replays of fights or talking heads.
The UFC have their Fox cards down to a science and they had the FX cards humming along also, but they never really seemed to find their stride on Fuel. Hopefully the things go a little smoother on Fox Sports 2.
On to the remarkable and fun action that took place in the cage:
- Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira had a fun and entertaining main event. It featured some very high level jiu jitsu, and Werdum showed off what it means to be possibly the best Heavyweight competitive grappler in the world. Werdum perfectly counter Big Nog's signature deep half guard, dynamically moved from position to position, and then finally armbared the aging Pride legend. While Nog was known for his jiu jitsu, Werdum is another level of sophistication and complexity.
- Not sure what this win showed for Werdum, he still looks very hittable on the feet despite his improved striking offense over the years. Werdum still likely not be able to succeed against Junior dos Santos or Cain Velasquez.
- William Macario learned a very hard lesson, you can't let a Nova Uniao guy at the level of Leonardo Santos play around with an arm triangle. The guys fighting out of Nova Uniao specialize in that particular submission and outside of that camp it is an underused submission in MMA. In that case it actually looked like Macario was fighting it off for a bit and Santos might have actually finished it as a smother, dropping his shoulder over the mouth and nose of Macario. Santos looked shaky at times, but Marcario looked down right awful after he spent his energy in the first few minutes.
- Thiago Silva looked like his old self, walking down Rafael Cavalante, pressuring him, and then knocking him out. At first it looked like Feijao was very much in control of the fight, defending Silva's attack and throwing out precise counters. If anything Feijao got too relaxed and Silva backed him on to the cage, and then slipped in an upper cut that ended Feijao's night. The real test of Silva comes about a week later when the drug test comes back.
- Erick Silva was extremely impressive. His very slick submission of Jason High didn't wipe away the memory of his loss to Jon Fitch, but it is a start. This kid is still a premier talent and just because he got thrown to Fitch a little too soon clearly didn't change his upward trajectory much.
- Daniel Sarafian exercised some good old fashion smash-and-pass jiu jitsu on Eddie Mendez. Sarafian used excellent top pressure and a nasty cross face to advance position and set up a tight arm triangle. This was a bit of a mismatch and Sarafian got Mendez out of the cage very quickly.
- Rony "Jason" Mariano Bezerra had a nice triangle win over Mike Wikinson. I say nice and not awesome, or dynamic, or high level because it wasn't those things. Jason was able to simply walk his guard up Wikinson and lock on the triangle. Jason's finish of the triangle was excellent, but the ease with which he locked it up calls into question Wikinson's defensive abilities.
- Of the six under card fights a few things stood out, Raphael Assuncao finished a very nice armbar on Vaughan Lee, going belly down and then rolling Lee over for the finish. On a quick side note, I don't know why Kenny Florian insists on calling every belly down armbar a "Russian" style arm lock, because they aren't.
- Felipe Arantes got an excellent TKO win over Godofredo Pepey Castro, raining down elbows from inside the guard. Pepey is lauded for his grappling and guard skill, but I saw a fighter working so fast he was a bit out of control, making many technical errors. In the end Pepey carrying his guard low, not using his free arm to tie up Arantes' arms to prevent strikes, and his refusal to open his guard all lead to a rather embarrassing loss for a fighter whose calling card is being a BJJ grappler.
- Rodrigo Damm got a close split decision win over Mizuto Hirota, but before you go yelling about Brazilian judges save your breath because non of the judges were Brazilian. It was a close fight and a split decision was to be expected.
- Antonio Braga Neto almost wrecked Anthony Smith's knee. That was a nasty kneebar, and Neto ate some shots before getting it. He is a tough dude and could make some noise at Middleweight.