The year could not have started out much worse for Brazilian MMA fans. With natives of Brazil dropping the first nine contests of 2018 – halted by Jacare Souza’s victory in the main event of UFC on FOX 27 – the comparisons to the Jackson-Wink camp began to surface. A UFC card in Brazil couldn’t have come at a better time.
UFC Belem saw Brazilian fighters go 9-2. Sure, some of the wins didn’t quite feel deserved. However, there were worse decisions coming out of Charlotte the previous week, so can we call this a step in the right direction for judging? I’m not touching that…
Aside from the Brazilian theme, it was good to see Lyoto Machida survive a couple of rough moments against an upstart Eryk Anders and pull out a suprising decision victory. The calls for Machida to end his career intensified after he suffered his third consecutive stoppage loss, to Derek Brunson, just over three months ago. It wasn’t vintage Machida, but it was certainly a step up compared to his recent performances. Was it enough for him to walk out of the arena a winner?
Lyoto Machida: Of course it was. Regardless of whether you believe Machida won – and I don’t think he did, though it was close – he survived five rounds with one of the rising young talents in division. I sure as hell didn’t think he would and I was in the majority. So, Machida outperformed expectations and at least proved he isn’t completely shot. Did I mention it was his first victory since 2014? Sounds like a pretty damned good night for the Dragon to me.
Valentina Shevchenko: Can anyone recall a more one-sided performance? 95-2 in significant strikes. 230-3 in total strikes. 2 for 2 in takedown attempts. Anything Shevchenko wanted to do, she did it. As soon as Nicco Montano is healthy enough to defend her title, Shevchenko will be prepping for her coronation as champion.
Timothy Johnson: No, it wasn’t the prettiest performance and it didn’t pick up Johnson any new fans. But how can I rip on one of Bloody Elbow’s favorites when he derailed the hype train of Brazil’s most promising big man in quite some time? And in Brazil! Keep in mind very few were picking Johnson to put down Marcelo Golm. Always glad to see one of MMA’s genuine nice guys pick up a win.
Douglas Silva de Andrade: Andrade hasn’t always been fun to watch, but he’s slowly been ramping up the entertainment value on his contests with this weekend’s showing being the best. A finish would have been the only thing to complete it. He ate quite a few counters from Vera, but Andrade made sure that he was the busier fighter. He is turning into one of the better action-fighters in the division.
Thiago Santos: Given his contest with Anthony Smith was the easy choice for FOTN and Santos walked out with the win, how can he not be a winner? Santos has recovered from his upset loss to Eric Spicely to put together a four-fight win streak. He’s still one of the most dangerous one-off strikers in the sport… not just the division. The top ten of the middleweight division needs to be put on alert.
Anthony Smith: The loss hurts for Smith, but he went to war with Santos and had a number of bright moments. Given he was expected to lose anyway and put a couple of scares into Santos, Smith’s stock continues to move up. Much like Andrade, Smith is establishing himself as a top action-fighter.
Polyana Viana: There aren’t too many submission specialists in the strawweight division, which means Viana could end up making some noise. She dominated Maia Stevenson on the ground with ease while showing a deeper takedown game than expected. Dominant performance for the 26-year old.
Iuri Alcantara: Everytime the MMA community is ready to write off the Brazilian due to age, he comes out and puts together an impressive performance where he seemingly turns back the clock. Stunning and finishing Soto in a mere 66 seconds certainly qualifies as turning back the clock. There will still be questions about Alcantara’s viability moving forward, but there can be no debating about his performance this weekend. This win allows his UFC career to continue.
Deiveson Figuereido: Figuereido has looked good in in his two previous UFC contests, but he looked great over the course of two rounds against Joseph Morales. He dominated the contest from the opening bell with Morales scoring a modicum of offense. If Figuereido continues to look like this, there will be little surprise if he ends up challenging Demetrious Johnson before too long.
Brazil: Whether or not all the wins by Brazilian fighters were deserved, Brazilian fans needed something to cheer about and they got it. Besides, if you reverse the two controversial decisions and subtract Michel Prazeres’ contest with Desmond Green, Brazilian fighters were still 6-4 as opposed to 9-2. When the representatives of your country start out the year 1-9 coming into this event, 6-4 would have been welcome.
John Dodson: Some believed Green accepting his bout with Prazeres made Dodson look bad. I disagree. The UFC has continually proven they don’t care about “company men” anymore and Dodson had every right to turn down a fight that wasn’t on even terms. So what makes him a winner? Ask Vitor Belfort how much of his show money he received a few weeks ago when his opponent couldn’t make weight for the scheduled co-main event. Dodson? He got something. That’s a big win for him given the fickle nature of the UFC brass.
Priscila Cachoeira: I know Cachoeira showed a ton of heart. I know she showed bucket loads of toughness. However, those don’t win you fights when you don’t do anything offensive. All anyone remembers Cachoeira for is getting her ass whooped on an epic level and it’s most likely to stay that way. Here’s hoping 230-3 doesn’t shatter her mentally.
Michel Prazeres: You can’t miss weight in three of your last four fights and be considered a winner. It doesn’t matter how good Prazeres looked, he committed a cardinal sin with his continued missing weight and used that additional weight to his advantage against Desmond Green. Let’s hope the UFC keeps their word in making Prazeres move up to welterweight now.
Marlon Vera: I struggled to put Vera in this category as he didn’t look horrible in his fight with Andrade, even showing signs of improvement. But this was a fight that Vera should have won. He was reluctant to pull the trigger early and it cost him. He did let the strikes fly more as the contest continued and while he did lose the final round, he looked far better. Vera could have done better.
Damir Hadzovic: The assumption was Hadzovic stood a good chance if he could keep his fight with Alan Patrick standing. Though the fight took place mostly on the ground, Hadzovic lost the striking battle too. Losing more confidence in the Bosnian all the time.
Maia Stevenson: Was there a positive moment for Stevenson? From the moment Viana countered Stevenson’s opening takedown attempt into a judo throw, it was all downhill for the wife of Joe Daddy. Even more confusing was why Stevenson was trying to take the fight to the ground. Isn’t her background in boxing?
Joe Soto: The loss to Alcantara was the final fight on Soto’s UFC contract. It doesn’t look like he’s going to be coming back. His previous contest was a 30 second loss to Brett Johns. That’s two losses in a span of 96 seconds. It’s hard to see the UFC having interest in anyone coming off a pair of losses in that fashion.
Joseph Morales: There doesn’t appear to be too many people excited about Morales’ prospects of developing into a contender following this performance. At no point did he seem to own the advantage over Figuereido as what was expected to be a close contest turned into a one-sided shellacking. Future contenders tend to have tough losses on their way up the ladder, but they are usually competitive in those contests. Morales wasn’t at all.
Mario Yamasaki: What the hell was he waiting for Cachoeira to do!? She had no answer for anything Shevchenko was doing and Yamasaki was perfectly fine letting Shevchenko continue to tee off with strikes. I know I’ve already said this, but it really needs to be emphasized to describe Yamasaki’s incompetence here: 230-3.
Pedro Munhoz: It’s too bad Munhoz couldn’t make weight as this was a golden opportunity for him. A fight against John Dodson in Munhoz’s home country of Brazil? He wasn’t going to be getting better odds to beat an established opponent. Given that Munhoz blamed the failed weight cut on the hotel, don’t expect him to be booked in Brazil again any time soon.
Eryk Anders: Check out MMA Decisions and you’ll see the majority of fans and members of the MMA media agree that Anders won. He was never seriously hurt and had Machida bloodied and battered by the end of the night. Perhaps a little too cautious, Anders faced an uphill battle by accepting the contest in enemy territory. He didn’t look tired by the end of the fight, which can be interpreted as having great stamina or not having left everything in the cage. Regardless, Anders is going to grow from this experience for sure.
Desmond Green: I really wanted to list Green in the loser’s category as he didn’t fight a smart fight, essentially giving away the win to Prazeres. However, Prazeres also had an unfair advantage by missing weight. Then he exacerbated the situation by not even bothering to keep his weight down on fight day as Green had requested him to do for missing weight. Green proved he was game by taking the fight anyway, but it is sure to cost him in the long run. Let’s hope Green’s decision to be a company man pays off.
Marcelo Golm: Golm had never faced decent competition prior to his contest with Johnson. It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise Johnson won. While the loss tempers expectations for Golm, he went the distance with a tough veteran and should learn a lot from this experience. Golm will be fine.
Tim Means: Means didn’t lose that fight with Sergio Moraes. Unfortunately for him, it’s going on his record that way thanks to some Brazilian home cooking for Moraes. Given Means showed he still has something left in the tank when the talk has been about him slowing down – a good thing – the loss means he has one win in his last five contests – a bad thing. I don’t know how closely the UFC brass pays attention to fighters of Means level, but they should be treating him like a winner.
Sergio Moraes: Given Moraes had a respectable performance and walked out of the arena with a win, I couldn’t put him in the loser’s column even though he deserved to lose to Means. Moraes did look better than ever, but everyone outside of Brazil knows his victory was BS.
Alan Patrick: If we were talking strictly about in-cage performance, Patrick’s a winner. He secured a dominant win over Hadzovic, taking the Bosnian down whenever he wanted and controlling him for long periods of time. However, seeing Patrick beg for a Performance Bonus in order to afford a house and not getting that bonus… ouch.