Only two of the six Brazilian fighters featured on the main card walked away defeated on Saturday night; the remaining four made sure to capitalize on the benefits of having thousands of countryfolk cheering on your behalf — big time.
The card looked to be heading in a less-than-exciting direction with the first two bouts ending in unanimous, one-sided decisions before the strikers started to make themselves known. None of the victorious Brazilians featured on UFC Fight Night 77’s main card let their fight go to the judges, stopping their opponents with vicious striking attacks.
It certainly isn’t easy picking between some of the stellar performances fighters like Vitor Belfort, Glover Teixeira and Thomas Almeida showcased in Sao Paulo, but we certainly tried anyway.
Here’s how we ranked the main card winners:
6. Rashid Magomedov
Magomedov was impressive at moments throughout his fight with Gilbert Burns, landing two staggering right hands that wobbled and dropped his opponent in the second round. But, as he often does in most of his bouts, Magomedov got caught up in his gameplan as a counter-striker looking for the perfect moments to strike. And, see, that’s not necessarily a problem if you want to win a fight by way of decision, but if you’re looking for a knockout, you certainly need to throw caution to the wind from time to time.
It’s possible, and probably very likely, that Magomedov is unconcerned with his perception amongst the general mixed martial arts fan. You’d certainly hope so, anyway, considering his victory over Burns on Saturday night did little to bring his star any further than it was beforehand.
5. Corey Anderson
Though offering a dominant, clean sweep over Fabio Maldonado to open up the main card, Anderson didn’t show us anything we didn’t already know. One of the better wrestlers in a division full of elite grapplers, Anderson used his wrestling pedigree to secure a victory in Sao Paulo. He was somewhat impressive in landing shots to both Maldonado’s body and head, but was wise enough to know he wasn’t quite skilled enough to consistently contend with the always dangerous Maldonado.
Landing six takedowns throughout the fight and outstriking Maldonado 97-49 (per FightMetric), the victory likely inches him a bit closer toward the 205-pound division’s top 10, bringing him to 2-0 since dropping his first career victory to Gian Villante in April. His third and likely his last fight before 2016, it’d be nice to see what developments Anderson can make with more than just a few months off.
4. Alex Oliveira
Oliveira opened the fight with a flurry of short uppercuts that opened up a cut on Hallmann’s eye, showing fight fans a glimpse of what was to come for a majority of the bout. Hallmann couldn’t quite recover his confidence long enough to sustain any damage on the feet, often finding himself on the short end of the exchanges. The bout seemed to be getting away from Oliveira going into Round 3, as he’d spent a good portion of the second frame on his back, defending Hallmann’s attacks from a closed guard. He barely outlanded Hallmann 36-32 in significant strikes, but it only took one massive right hand to end the bout.
His fourth fight and third win in the calendar year, the 27-year-old’s latest victory likely stands as his greatest to date. The first finish featured on the main card, which followed two less-than-thrilling decision victories, Oliveira’s sure to get his fair share of attention once the curtains close in Sao Paulo.
3. Glover Teixeira
Well, you can’t say you were surprised to see how this one ended. What you can be surprised about was how often Patrick Cummins succeeded in taking Teixeira down to the canvas. Still, for as successful as he was, he had nothing in the way of keeping him down there. Teixeira never stayed down, and that meant terrible, terrible things for Cummins who was nowhere near as good of a striker as the Brazilian. Teixeira landed 54 significant strikes in less than seven minutes against his opponent Saturday night, defending only two of Cummins’ four takedown attempts.
Arguably as impressive of a victory as we’ve seen from Teixeira since he defeated Ryan Bader in 2013, it’d be nice to see the former title contender face a non-wrestler next time out. A matchup against Alexander Gustafsson would fit the mold here. But with the title picture a bit crowded for the time being, he might have to settle for fan-friendly fights against Jimi Manuwa or Rashad Evans at some point, too.
2. Thomas Almeida
Like Corey Anderson, there wasn’t much Almeida showed us that we didn’t already know. Only in Almeida’s case, it meant our hype was reaffirmed. Already ranked eighth in the division, Almeida is easily a top-five fighter at 135 pounds.
His hand speed wasn’t quite as impressive as you’d expect from a 135-pound fighter, but Birchak’s willingness to exchange on the feet left far too many openings for Almeida to not capitalize on. A staggering flurry dropped Birchak, leaving him in a motionless heap that could give Lyoto Machida’s KO over Rashad Evans a run for its money as one of the most devastating scenes in UFC history.
Complications atop the division may stall Almeida’s foreseeable road to the title, but you’d be a wise man to expect him in a championship fight come 2017. He’s for real, and that should be a frightening thought for anybody in the bantamweight’s top 10.
1. Vitor Belfort
It really doesn’t get any better than having your first strike be the finishing blow. Vitor Belfort was uncharacteristically patient for about two minutes before he unleashed the same sort of head kick he was throwing when he went on that rampage against Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson back in 2013.
His second fight since the TRT era came to an end, Belfort looked to right most of the wrongs he’d showcased in his first-round TKO to Chris Weidman earlier this year. He still may not have the defensive grappling to deal with Weidman’s pressure attack, but that doesn’t mean Belfort’s days as an elite middleweight are necessarily over — even at 38 years old.