A historic event, UFC Brasilia took place under controversial circumstances. With the rest of the sporting world shutting down operations due to COVID-19, including fellow MMA organization Bellator, the UFC forged ahead, holding the event in an empty arena. Whether you believe the UFC was right in putting on the show or not – an issue I’m not touching here – it was nice to have things return to some sense of normalcy in a time of unprecedented circumstances, even if just for a few hours. Now that the event is in the books, we should all hope and pray none of the participants in the event – fighters and personnel – come down with the Coronavirus.
While the entirety of the card didn’t deliver as much action as hoped, the main event did. Charles Oliveira secured his seventh win in a row, submitting a game Kevin Lee to advance in a muddled lightweight picture. Outside of that though, the event will likely be most remembered for it’s nine consecutive decisions to open the card. Not exactly what viewers were hoping for, but we’ll take what we can get at this time.
Charles Oliveira: For years, the criticism of Oliveira has been his mental toughness. If he can’t get the finish early, he breaks mentally, panics, and eventually loses, often times in a weird manner. Not this time. Clearly winning the contest on the feet, Oliveira force Lee to look for takedowns in hopes of pounding out a victory. As Lee’s gas tank began running short, Oliveira was able to find Lee’s neck and applied a tight squeeze that caused Lee to tap without realizing what he was doing. The win should launch Oliveira into the top ten. If I’m his management, I don’t accept a fight unless it’s someone with major name value. After all, Oliveira racked up his current seven-fight win streak by accepting contests with those looking to climb upwards. It’s Oliveira’s turn to be fighting up.
Gilbert Burns: Possibly the biggest winner of the night, Burns accomplished something only one other person can claim: he stopped Demian Maia. A brutal left counter dropped the BJJ expert and after a slight hesitation, Burns jumped on top to finish off Maia with punches before the referee stepped in to stop the action. The win gives him five consecutive victories overall with three of them coming since moving to welterweight, all of them quality victories bereft of controversy. Had Burns narrowly outpointed Maia, it would have been a nice win. Finishing him the way he did – something the likes of Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, and Tyron Woodley couldn’t do – should push him into the top ten of the division.
Renato Moicano: Some may see Moicano as the savior of the card as he stopped a streak of nine straight decisions… and did so in the span of 44 seconds. Moicano wasted no time getting Damir Hadzovic to the mat and quickly found a RNC. Moicano got emotional afterwards, citing a lack of the fans in his hometown and proceeded to call out Paul Felder. I understand wanting to fight in front of friends and family, but the world is dealing with an unprecedented situation and most believe the fighters should have been fighting at all. If you wanted to fight, be happy you got to do that bud. As for the Felder callout, I wouldn’t mind the fight, but it isn’t happening. Regardless, Moicano made the impact statement he was going for.
Nikita Krylov: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in the final result between Krylov and Johnny Walker. Two fighters known for being aggressive and rarely going to decision; they were guaranteed to get a finish, right? Wrong. Nonetheless, I can’t be angry with Krylov’s performance. He neutralized the explosive Walker with lots of clinch fighting and wresting him to the mat for most of the contest. Rather than look for a submission as he’s want to do, Krylov opted to play it safe and pounded out a decision with steady GnP for the biggest win of his career. It wasn’t fun to watch, but it was nonetheless impressive.
Francisco Trinaldo: As far as I can tell, Trinaldo shouldn’t be as responsible for the sleepy performance he put on with John Makdessi. He was the one pressuring his Canadian counterpart and landed the harder strikes by a mile to secure a clear-cut decision. I don’t want to go too far into the praise as it was still a boring contest, but Trinaldo secured a win.
Brandon Moreno: Even though I disagreed with the scoring – I gave the fight to Formiga – I can’t help but enjoy Moreno’s enthusiasm after the scorecards. His energy is infectious, immediately eliminating the sour taste in my mouth at what I perceived to be inaccurate scorecards. Nonetheless, while Moreno has grown exponentially enough to fight a very competitive contest with the ultimate flyweight gatekeeper, I think he’d be better off taking another fight or two before getting a title shot. Nonetheless, human beings are impatient and he wants it now. If he gets it – and I think he will – I’m sure it’ll still be a fun fight.
Amanda Ribas: While I picked Ribas to beat Randa Markos, I didn’t expect her to steamroll the Canadian veteran. Ribas secured two 30-25 rounds, a score no one would complain about. Markos was left broken and bloody after Ribas was finished with her. Ribas called for Paige Van Zant after the contest, but given the way she blew past Markos, Van Zant doesn’t seem like she’s be much of a challenge. Ribas looks like the new prospect to tout at women’s flyweight.
Maryna Moroz: Moroz’s move to ATT has worked wonders for her. She looked improved in her last contest against Sabina Mazo and looked even better in her victory against Mayra Bueno Silva. Moroz’s biggest problem had previously been stepping into her punches, but she wasn’t having issues with that against Silva. Even more encouraging, she changed levels when Silva began getting the better of her, going to the mat and utilizing GnP. If she continues progressing in this manner, Moroz is going to be a dark horse.
David Dvorak: If it wasn’t for a front kick to his chin, Dvorak likely would have taken all three rounds. His diverse attack – punches and kicks from a distance, punches and knees in the clinch, and everything in between – overwhelmed Bruno Silva at times. His ability to stuff the takedowns ensured he was successful. Dvorak isn’t ready to face the best in the shallow division, but he looks like he could become a player with proper development.
Bea Malecki: I struggled to place Malecki. She fought intelligently – at least she did early — allowing Veronica Macedo to exhaust herself early which allowed Malecki to take over in the second. However, there was no urgency to secure a finish and she damn near let Macedo steal the fight away in the final round. Nonetheless, credit to her for opening with a win in what had to be an awkward position, opening the event in very auspicious conditions. Something she’ll want to develop if she hopes to advance her career: a jab.
Kevin Lee: Losing to Oliveira should make it official Lee is now the most inconsistent lightweight on the roster. Lee had some good moments, avoiding Oliveira’s early submission attempts and scoring some brutal shots on the mat. However, those heavy punches weren’t coming frequently enough, allowing Oliveira to keep his wits about him. Throw in that Lee missed weight and it’s hard to take serious the idea he’s the ideal fighter to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov. Lee hasn’t shown the consistent level of discipline needed to maintain a spot in the top ten and we’re supposed to take serious the idea he’s a title challenger? Maybe this will be the wakeup call Lee needs, but didn’t we say the same thing about his loss to Al Iaquinta? Or Rafael dos Anjos? We can only say it so many times before giving up on the idea.
Demian Maia: Those who have followed MMA for a while have developed an incredible respect for Maia. Not only is he probably the best pure BJJ practitioner in the history of the UFC, you won’t find a nicer person either. Thus, while no one is angry at Burns for putting Maia down in the fashion he did, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t leave MMA fans a bit ill. Maia believed he could still continue and he may have been able to. Unfortunately, his lack of movement made it difficult for referee Osiris Maia to know he still had his wits about him. Maia doesn’t appear ready to hang it up despite being 42. I think he still has a few wins left in him, but I’d like to see the UFC try to pit him with other respectable grapplers.
Damir Hadzovic: While I want to thank Hadzovic for being finished – seriously, nine consecutive decisions was too much – it resulted in a terrible night for the Bosnian Bomber. For people who pride themselves on being amongst the toughest SOB’s on the planet, being finished in 44 seconds is embarrassing. Not that it should be – it takes guts to step into a cage and throwdown – but it was a night Hadzovic would rather forget.
Johnny Walker: Consider the hype train derailed. Not only did Walker lose a decision to Nikita Krylov, he flashed only the briefest of flashes of his previous high-risk, high-reward style that launched him into talks of Jon Jones being a realistic possibility for him at some point this year. Walker appears to have suffered a loss of confidence following his destruction at the hands of Corey Anderson. Credit to Walker for hanging in there against Krylov – he never gave up either – but he also gassed hard even before the first round was up. Walker isn’t a lost cause at this point, but he needs a strong response in his next performance.
John Makdessi: A big part of a fight is avoiding damage. Rabid fight fans tend to forget that at times. However, another big part of it is doing damage. Makdessi remembered the first and forgot the latter. All the strikes he threw seemed to be for the emphasis of scoring points as opposed to actually hurting Trinaldo. The loss snapped Makdessi’s three-fight win streak and reinforced the idea that his durability has declined significantly. No, he wasn’t KO’d, but he refused to even risk the possibility.
Jussier Formiga: Even though Moreno is eminently likeable, my heart breaks for Formiga. The longtime vet has been plying his trade for a long time and is one of the greatest fighters in UFC history to never have fought for a title. Not only was his fight competitive, myself and the majority of the media believed he won the fight. Instead, he’s being knocked down the standings again and is contemplating retirement at this point. He still looks fresh enough athletically that he can still be a top competitor, but how many times can this guy play the role of Sisyphus? He turns 35 next month and flyweights tend to age quickly.
Randa Markos: There was nothing to take out of Markos’ performance. Sure, you could point out she made it until the end, but toughness has never been an issue with her and those type of prolonged beatings can shorten a career. I’m sure Markos would have argued vehemently, but she would have been better off had the referee stepped in as there were several times it looked like a real possibility. I’m very curious to see if she bounces back mentally.
Alexey Kunchenko: This placement has less to do with Kunchenko’s performance than what the actual result proved to be. Even though more than half of the media scoring on MMA Decisions saw the fight in his favor, he didn’t get a single official scorecard in his favor. Kunchenko fought well, keeping the striking numbers close after many believed he wouldn’t be able to keep pace with dos Santos. However, it was his second loss in a row after opening his career with 20 straight wins. Kunchenko doesn’t move the needle and isn’t exactly a young prospect. He’s already at his peak. He could be let go.
Mayra Bueno Silva: I didn’t want to put Silva here. She fought hard and made her contest with Moroz one of the better contests of the evening. However, she also fought stupidly, making minimal efforts to spring back to her feet after Moroz took her down in the first and second rounds. That alone proved to be enough to take the first loss of her career as Silva was undoubtedly landing the heavier punches. Silva could have won this had she switched up her strategy.
Bruno Silva: That was the best version of Silva that we’ve seen… and it still wasn’t enough to pick up a win against an unheralded newcomer in Dvorak. Silva kept swinging until the end, keeping the final round up for grabs up until the final moments, but his inability to get his wrestling going made it difficult for him to make up for his lack of speed. It’s hard to say if he gets another fight in the organization.
The live gate: Well, obviously….
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos: I disagreed with the judges’ decision, believing Kunchenko pretty clearly took the final two rounds. Nonetheless, I’ll admit it wasn’t a robbery. In fact, I’d say it was a nice rebound performance for dos Santos as he looked far improved from his loss to Jingliang Li. Even though he ate some hard shots from Kunchenko, dos Santos never appeared to be wobbled, sticking with his game plan and even utilizing a bit of wrestling. Still, dos Santos didn’t do enough to convince anyone he should be getting a top opponent moving forward.
Enrique Barzola: As usual, Barzola proved to have far more stamina than his opponent, ensuring the Peruvian didn’t go home with a loss. He didn’t go home with a win either as he fought to a draw with Rani Yahya, completely dominating the final round after dropping the first two rounds. I question his decision to go for submissions against Yahya as opposed to continuing to focus on beating on the grappling specialist. Nonetheless, Barzola deserves credit for surviving Yahya’s early onslaught. It looks like the move to bantamweight will work out well for him.
Rani Yahya: Yahya did what Yahya does: control the fight early before fading HARD down the stretch. Yahya had some opportunities to win early, but Barzola escaped a couple of predicaments that Yahya usually finishes. However, all that energy left Yahya vulnerable late and he came out on the wrong end of a 10-8 round, allowing the fight to go to a decision. I don’t know how much longer Yahya will continue to do his thing – he’s been fighting at a high level for over a decade – but he’s still the same guy we’ve known for that decade.
Veronica Macedo: While I don’t think Macedo should have ever accepted the contest with Malecki – Malecki had five-inches in height and 10-inches in reach and Macedo had looked good at flyweight – she put on a hell of an effort, coming close to stealing the decision late. However, her size disadvantage required a LOT of energy use and it left her on empty.
The UFC: Hoping to capitalize on all other major sports canceling their events, the UFC saw an opportunity to potentially grab some new fans looking for any type of live sports. Well… opening with nine consecutive decisions didn’t do much to help them keep those viewers. However, the final three contests delivered exactly as the UFC hoped and those are the fights that really mattered. Then again, how many people stuck around to catch those fights?