The UFC held their first doubleheader of the year on Saturday, but it won't be the last. Split site weekends are going to become a familiar feature, and this first one featured an interesting two venues. The first offering hailed from a market the UFC has made great efforts to open in past years, Germany. It has not been an easy or overly successful process as Germany has actively resisted the UFC trying to find a foothold there. Each UFC appearance is met with media coverage akin to that of the mid-1990's in the U.S. painting MMA as a lawless blood sport featuring skin heads and anarchists.
The second card hailed from Sao Paulo, one of the original hotbeds of Vale Tudo, jiu jitsu, and MMA, in the midst of the currently red-hot Brazilian MMA market. Overall these two cards were good efforts to try to continue to open up new markets and fans as they combined local fighters with reasonably well-known fighters from the the general region. The arena in Brazil was fairly empty,
Thoughts on the fights:
- Gegard Mousasi looked amazingly on point, transitioning wonderfully from phase to phase of MMA and just beating the snot out of Mark Munoz. Mousasi was once one of the best and most active Middleweight prospects in the sport. His stepping back his activity could end up being a boon to his career, as he appears to be filling some holes in his game and getting physically stronger. I was starting to lose faith in Mousasi as an elite fighter, but this restored that faith a bit.
- The only reason I'm not totally on the Gegard Mousasi train is that Mark Munoz looked awful in this match. He was shooting takedowns from way outside, got outgrappled and outstruck at every turn. Munoz only has five losses in his career, but three of them are among the most lopsided beatings in the history of the UFC and all but one of them has come via brutal finish. Munoz's prestigious wrestling credentials have not crossed over, and his time as an upper level Middleweight may be coming to an end.
- C.B. Dollaway may have punched his ticket to that upper level of the Middleweight division by soundly outwrestling Francis Carmont. Dollaway looks to be peaking as a talent, while Carmont despite good physical abilities and technical skills is unable to put it together into some sort of successful form of fighting.
- The Stipe Miocic vs Fabio Maldonado fight ended in fitting fashion as Miocic just had to punch Maldonado twice to get a quick finish. It was a pointless matchup thrown together to allow the TUF Brazil card to have something resembling a main event and was in no way competitive. It was a joke, and it ended like a joke.
- Demian Maia got a somewhat perplexing win, it was a rather complete performance as he faced a very tough, skilled, and largely unknown Alexander Yakovlev. A Combat Sambo and Wrestling standout in Russia, Yakovlev posed a serious challenge to Maia, and the former Middleweight contender was able to dominate every aspect of the fight aside from a rough patch in the third. Maia's aggressive submission game seems to have fallen victim to MMA judging, which really punishes fighters who aggressively pursue risky submissions. Maia seems to have learned his lesson after losses like the one to Jake Shields, and he is no longer really pursing submissions in favor of maintaining top positions. Combine that with the fact that Maia is 36 years old, this performance should not be all that shocking that Maia is becoming less dynamic.
- The TUF Brazil card featured a bevy of fights that pitted Russian and Brazilian fighters against each other. The Russians did rather well as Rashid Magomedov and Gasan Umalatov scored decision wins against tough Brazilian opposition. Combat Sambo and Vale Tudo Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are so similar in origin and purpose it makes for a great matchup and the Brazil vs Russia kick the UFC has going seems to be an excellent national rivalry.
- Niklas Backstrom and Tom Niinimaki put on a really fun fight that featured some awesome grappling. Backstrom hit a fantastic knee from the clinch to hurt Niinimaki and then followed up with a crucifix rear naked choke, despite losing his hook on Niinamki's arm to get a sweet finish.
- Nick Hein looked like a fantastic athlete with a strong Judo base against Drew Dober. His hands looked solid, his clinch grappling looked excellent, but much more importantly he could be an important ambassador for MMA in Germany. Hein's position as a German police sergeant and base in the Olympic sport of Judo puts him in an ideal place to combat the rather backwards views on MMA that prevail in Germany.
- The Brazilian undercard brought the violence as all the Fight Pass bouts ended in finishes, and then Edimilson Souza and Mark Eddiva kicked off the FS1 portion of the card with a fun battle of distances striking battle that Souza took over late in the second round with a nasty flurry of strikes. On Fight Pass, Marcos Rogerio de Lima looked like an interesting Heavyweight with his resounding knockout of Richardson Moreira, but I'd need to see more than a minute of him in competition to get a real feel for it.
- Other fights of note from Germany were Magnus Cedenblad getting an excellent guillotine choke to cap an excellent performance for the young fighter. Iuri Alcantara put Vaughan Lee down with a nasty right hand and Ruslan Magomedov looked like a fairly decent Heavyweight prospect.