In a year where UFC events have struggled with viewership, it’s perfectly understandable that some fans weren’t very enthusiastic about ordering UFC 212. Some of the bigger names on the main card weren’t exactly major U.S. draws, and this card was mostly catering to the Brazilian audience. But for those that didn’t watch the event, they’ve missed out on a very solid card that really delivered on entertainment, technique, fun bits of chaos and historical relevance.
There won’t be much movement within rankings for most of these fighters, and that’s fine. This was a card aimed at more dedicated fans with some of the fighters still refining their skillsets and giving major effort to advance in their careers. On top of that, we finally had the title unification in one of the most talent-rich divisions, clearing up some of the complications at the top. The only legitimate and major complaint I can have here is that we didn’t get Kelvin Gastelum vs Anderson Silva because of our archaic societal views on cannabis and Kelvin’s dabbling with the Devil’s Lettuce. It would have bolstered the card with some more star power, but this was still a fine event.
Max Holloway - The skinny kid from Waianae grew up before us and evolved into a brutal and effective machine, punishing opponents and racking up one of the most impressive win streaks in MMA history. Max became champion by suffocating Aldo with pressure and volume on the ground, negating his escapes and continuing to attack no matter where he went. Dethroning the king in a dominant finishing sequence of events is a giant feather in his cap. Finishing Aldo was no easy task, and he looked great doing it in the end. Good on him for finally having the hard work pay off, and the future of the division just got a whole lot more interesting.
UFC Featherweight division - As Luke Thomas noted last week on Submission Radio, this is the best outcome for both Holloway and the UFC. Now you have a few possibilities to play with. Aldo can work his way back to a rematch while Holloway can have possible fights with Chad Mendes, Korean Zombie, or rematches with Ricardo Lamas or Cub Swanson. While we don’t know who’s next, a new champion puts a new shine to the matchmaking options at the top. After the controversy surrounding the circumstances of the interim title, this bout undoes all of that now. Special mention to Frankie Edgar, who was unlikely to contend for a title again as long as Aldo held the belt. Now that he’s out of the way, he may get another shot in a bout that could do well for the UFC if promoted well and put on a good card.
Claudia Gadelha - This one’s a bit strange, because Claudia already lost twice to Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Usually that means a third fight is unlikely to happen as long as the person that is 2-0 is holding the belt (as in the case of Frankie Edgar, mentioned above). But unless you’re going to give Rose Namajunas the next shot, Gadelha has a better case for a title shot. Two close fights against the champion and a win this big against another top 3 fighter? Submitting a game Karolina Kowalkiewicz that was undefeated as a professional until she herself lost to Jedrzejczyk this past November? That’s good, but she also made it look easy. That’s not a knock on Karolina, but a testament to how good Claudia is. Having Rose leapfrog Gadelha here makes no sense, and in a division this small with a win this impressive, it’s only reasonable and right that Claudia get the next shot.
Brian Kelleher - Late replacement, in Brazil, against a wiry scrambler that has crafty striking and a heavy top game? Kelleher’s levels need to be tested just for his testicular fortitude alone. Kelleher was able to slap on a picture perfect choke after an ugly takedown, and the silence of the crowd was so quick that for a moment I thought my sound bar shut off. Give the guy a fight on that Nassau Coliseum card. If not, have him fight in Brazil again until they love him. When a guy like this has a UFC debut this big, you can only hope they handle him right.
Vitor Belfort - Say what you will about Brazilian judges, this decision makes sense. Both were somewhat tentative with Belfort opening up a bit more and attacking while Nate was against the fence. After his recent performances, it was a relief to see Belfort not take an absurd amount of damage. Yet, I’m not really sure how I feel about this. We don’t really know if this is indeed his last fight, inside the UFC or not. So it was a nice win that gave him a heartfelt moment with the crowd. If this was his last fight, it’s been a tremendous ride.
Yancy Medeiros - Another odd one, but I guess a win is a win. He did a great job in some of the exchanges against Erick Silva, and that left hand that he dropped him with was gold. The ending was a bit premature, though. Not sure that Silva could have really recovered, but he wasn’t given much of an opportunity. That puts him back on a two-fight win streak, and a massive night for the Hawaiians.
Paulo Henrique Costa - Borranchinha looked a bit slow coming out the gate, but turned up the heat at just the right time to ruin Bamgbose’s evening. He was patient and waited for his opportunity, even if he seemed content to hang back a bit. The former Jungle Fight champion remains undefeated at 10-0 with two UFC wins, and he’s being brought along at a good pace so he can continue to develop within the ranks.
Viviane Pereira - Also undefeated, Pereira showed some serious evolution from her last UFC fight. Most importantly - and I’m calling it now - she has established herself as a threat for the rest of the division. Pereira neutralized Moyle’s boxing and use of angles by keeping her at the end of the jab and anticipating her next move at almost every turn. She was able to string combinations together and land some sneaky and damaging shots to get a solid decision win. Pereira has what it takes to give a lot of women in her division serious fits, and you should expect to see her in the top ten soon.
Matthew Lopez - You’d be forgiven for not knowing much about Lopez if you haven’t seen his performaces in what was then RFA. The man is a hard-nosed grappler with great submission chops, and it only took one blast takedown to make a statement in this fight. He did pretty well with what he was given in the striking portion of this fight, but set the tone and made sure to leave no doubts after Eduardo got greedy and overcommitted to that heel hook. Lopez now moves on to 2-1 in the UFC.
Raphael Assuncao - This performance was more technical than anything and started as a somewhat tense affair but ended being more of an exercise in patience. Assunção got some licks in as he chipped away and did more cumulatively to win this fight. He seemed to have figured out more of Moraes’ tendencies and was able to land shots even while Moraes was landing some of his own. It might not look like it, but this was a great win for Assunção, who now has back to back wins after his last fight against Aljamain Sterling. Unfortunately, he’s likely to remain at #3 in the rankings even with this win, but it at least solidifies his spot.
Antonio Carlos Junior wasn’t kidding when he claimed he was going to put his BJJ skills on display. This was a gritty win with a very technical finishing sequence, and big ups to Dominick Cruz and Brian Stann for their breakdown of it. Luan Chagas kept pushing until he was finally able to make some inroads against the very durable Jim Wallhead, also getting a beautiful finish. This is his first win in the UFC after ending in a draw in his debut against Sergio Moraes and a loss against Erick Silva last September. This puts him at 1-1-1 in one of the strangest starts to a UFC run since Joe Riggs’ last foray in the organization, at least on paper. Deiveson Alcantra also remains undefeated at 12-0 as a professional, using his physicality far more than I expected in this bout. Despite some tough spots on his back, he was able to get some great controlling positions and really do major damage once Beltran was back on his feet. That makes for another very good UFC debut.
Jose Aldo - Before anyone comes in with the hot takes on how Aldo’s done, shot, and wasn’t ever really that good, look at his record. That’s a murderer’s row of some of the best that the sport has had to offer, some of the absolute best of his or any other era in this sport’s short existence. His only losses were an early setback against Luciano Azeredo, the knockout heard around the world against Conor McGregor and this loss against supernova Max Holloway. Again, this win says far more about Max Holloway than it does about Jose Aldo. Yes, he’s older. Yes, he may be snakebit after such a fall from grace. He bounced back and looked almost untouchable against Edgar, and had some great exchanges here against Holloway. Yet once Holloway dropped his hands and let everything hang loose, Aldo seemed to start falling a bit behind. Once it hit the ground, it was the beginning of the end, and I suspect his pride stopped him from tapping in front of his countrymen. Aldo is still one of the greatest of all time and can absolutely ruin anyone else in the division. But he wasn’t that man on this night. There’s no shame in losing to a fighter as good as Holloway at all, either. This was simply a true test between the two very best in the division. I can even see Aldo faring better in a rematch, but I wouldn’t bank on him avenging the loss, at least not now. This fight should bring him down a bit in the division, but he’ll be back. When he returns, the guy standing across from him could be in serious trouble.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz - That’s a rough way to go out. We had seen Karolina work takedown defense before, and her grappling is really, really good. Anyone that’s seen her in her non-UFC outings can confirm this. This was just too much for her, apparently. Gadelha’s black belt skills were all systems go here, with a savage looking choke to end the fight. While she may not fall too far in the rankings, it’s a big step back considering she was potentially knocking on the door for another title shot had she won.
Oluwale Bamgbose - Oluwale went 1-1 to start off his UFC run, with his second fight being the win against Daniel Sarafian. I guess the rest of the Brazilians had a meeting and decided on a “never again“ policy, because he’s had back to back losses to Brazilian fighters after that. This puts him at 1-3, and unfortunately leaves him likely to be cut.
Nate Marquardt - While he didn’t take any major damage in this fight, he didn’t dish much out, either. Maybe it was the timing or the footwork, but he couldn’t really figure out how to get inside and really put Belfort in a situation that could lead to ending the fight. It is what it is, but he ends up here because after losing a fight like this, where do we go from here? He doesn’t appear to be in any danger of being released, and seems to be fighting for paydays and because he likes to compete. He’s no longer at a high level, though. This loss makes it tough to decide how and who to match him up against, and he should probably consider retirement soon.
Johnny Eduardo - Fun fact: Eduardo’s been in the UFC since 2011. He had a sensational knockout of Eddie Wineland in 2014 and finished Manny Gamburyan last November. For some reason he’s still in the top ten, although that’s undeniably going to change now. That said, this loss leaves him at 3-3 in his UFC run, after doggedly clinging to a heel hook attempt that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe he gets another chance, but it doesn’t seem likely.
Jim Wallhead - Wallhead is now 0-2 in the UFC after a split decision loss to Jessin Ayari and now this loss to Luan Chagas. Unless they want to give him another shot for a big European card anytime soon, he’s likely to get released.
Marlon Moraes - Moraes could have had an easier fight for his debut, but he came in and took on the #3 guy in a fight where he’d have some difficulty due to stylistic differences. He lost in his UFC debut, but it was a very close fight against a highly ranked opponent. How much could he have really lost here? He should be fine.
Iuri Alcantara - I refuse to consider Kelleher’s win a fluke, and Alcantara probably shouldn’t have been in a situation to get finished like this. Considering his record and the possibility that things wouldn’t go the same way in a rematch, I’d say he doesn’t suffer much here since he’s not that close to the top 10 and is a reliable action fighter and a stiff test for younger fighters.
Erick Silva - Now aged 32, his UFC record now stands at 7-7. I’m a bit bothered by that stoppage, and it really shouldn’t reflect negatively on him. Also, he seems to be popular with the local crowd, so keeping him around for Brazilian events seems like a decent idea.
Jamie Moyle - Even though this puts her at 1-1 under the UFC banner, it seemed like a bigger step back. Pereira’s striking kept Moyle on the defensive, and she couldn’t integrate her grappling or get any major offense going. Perhaps it was just a bad matchup for her, but it seemed like she stalled here. She’s still 4-2 in her overall career and a very good prospect, plus she’s not likely to get released at all.
Eric Spicely is now 2-2 in his UFC career, both wins and both losses were submissions. Since he’s now at .500, he probably also gets another shot. Marco Beltran’s UFC record now stands at 3-2 with both losses being consecutive submissions. He’s likely safe as well, but will have some pressure to notch another win.