It was a night of exciting finishes and impressive performances at UFC 212. With the exception of Belfort vs Marquardt, every fight on the main card was a stoppage. Fights were well paced and action packed throughout the night and the fans brought great energy to boot. The atmosphere set the tone for rising stars to shine, an aging legend to return to the win column and for a divisional changing of the guard. This was an event that seemed to be largely underestimated but those who tuned in were rewarded with one of the better events of 2017 so far.
Erick Silva vs Yancy Medeiros:
The main card started with an entertaining scrap between two aggressive veterans as Yancy Medeiros finished Erick Silva in the second round. Medeiros’ use of combinations and body work got him off to a quick start, with an early knockdown and pressure on Silva. To the Brazilian’s credit, he responded well and settled into the fight with great use of leg kicks that opened up Medeiros’ defense upstairs. The second round took a similar turn with the two fights trading offense until a one-two combination from Medieros dropped Silva again. It was an early stoppage this time, as Silva appeared to be intelligently defending himself but Medeiros likely won the first and had taken a commanding lead in the second round as well. Silva made a comeback from knockdowns against Luan Chagas, so the quick stoppage was a bit disappointing but Silva can’t afford to take repeated knockdowns every night out.
Medeiros has won both of his fights by stoppage since moving up to Welterweight and has looked sharp in both performances. It could be time for a major test and as Medeiros is a fight of the night candidate every time out, perhaps fourteenth ranked Matt Brown would make some sense. Brown has struggled of late, but he has fought a murderers’ row of Welterweights and a bout with Medeiros would be an opportunity for both men to get a more firm footing in the tough division. For the always exciting yet ever inconsistent Silva; Ben Saunders would be an intriguing opponent. Both men have suffered very recent losses, but both men are consistently entertaining journeymen for the UFC. Silva showed more patience and did not slow down the way he historically has; which is a new wrinkle to his game that could reap benefits. Saunders would be a serious test and the winner of that fight could quickly jump back into tough competition with fighters that are looking to make moves up the rankings.
Paulo Borrachina vs Oluwale Bamgbose:
Paulo Borrachina displayed patience and toughness in wearing down and finishing the Holy War Angel, Oluwale Bamgbose. The fight started with Bamgbose’s trademark style on display, as he stayed in perpetual motion while Borrachina stalked forward. Bamgbose’s explosiveness allowed him to land some flurries and takedowns but while they scored, Borrachina seemed unphased and was able to get right back to moving forward. When Borrachina walked the Holy War Angel back to the cage; he unleashed devastating flurries that included power shots to the body. Between the energy spent in motion, attempting takedowns and absorbing body shots against the cage, Bamgbose appeared to be exhausted by the end of the first stanza. In the second round Bamgbose’s striking had lost its pop and after slipping on an attempted kick; he had no energy to recover and get to his feet. Borrachina displayed powerful ground and pound offense to force a referee stoppage.
Borrachina is one of Brazil’s most hyped prospect. He has the build of a young Belfort and a stance reminiscent of Shogun Rua. His offense is impressive as he cut the ring fairly well against Bamgbose and his strikes were both accurate and powerful. He did however, walk into a lot of unnecessary damage and Bamgbose had good opportunities to score takedowns. The Brazilian prospect deserves a move up in competition but should not be rushed into a fight with the elite fighters of the division. A shot at the winner of Elias Theodoro and Brad Tavares would represent a legitimate test without rushing him too far up the ladder. Bamgbose has had a rough go of it in his UFC career; but he has faced some serious competition every time out. A shot at Nate Marquardt would pit him against a well known veteran who has had struggles of his own and give both men an opportunity to continue their UFC careers without throwing them to the wolves yet again.
Vitor Belfort vs Nate Marquardt:
Vitor Belfort fought a more reserved fight than he is commonly known for as he won a decision against Nate Marquardt. Both men showed real respect for their opponent’s power, creating a more cautious affair than one might expect from two heavy handed strikers. Belfort’s trademark explosions were few and far between but the gaps served to keep him fresh for a full three rounds where he has sometimes gassed in recent bouts. Marquardt had a more consistent attack but still did not throw enough volume to steal the fight from the hometown favorite. This wasn’t an impressive showing for either fighter, but it did show that they can go three rounds competitively. Other than that, it does feel like both men’s careers are winding down as neither fighter really stood out in a way that demands a step up in competition.
For Belfort, the lead up to this bout sounded like a retirement tour but after the victory he stated that he wants five more fights. Finding opponents that are going to be both competitive with Belfort and have a pedigree that makes it worthwhile for him to sign a contract is going to be difficult. Rashad Evans would have been an interesting name but he’s already been booked. Recent TUF winner Andrew Sanchez is coming off of a tough KO loss and represents a real up and comer that might interest Belfort enough to make a fight happen but this is a tough pick to make at all. Marquardt is 3-7 in his last 10 fights and after another disappointing result he may be on the outside looking in. However, as previously mentioned, Oluwale Bamgbose has had struggles of his own and perhaps matching the two for one last shot to stick with the top promotion would bring out the best in both men.
Claudia Gadelha vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz:
Claudia Gadelha fought comfortably from her feet before taking Karloina Kowalkiewicz down and submitting her with a choke in the first round of action. Kowalkiewicz used frequent stance switches to keep Gadelha off balance and saw some success throwing combinations at distance. Gadelha however quickly began to close distance, landing some of the best blows of the fight during a clinch break and turning a body lock into a takedown shortly after. For Karolina the name of the game was impatience. She rushed to get to her feet and in doing so gave up her back; then she made the poor decision to attempt strikes instead of focusing on hand fighting. Gadelha simply took over in this portion and took advantage of every mistake, quickly setting up a choke and tapping Kowalkiewicz.
For Gadelha it’s hard to picture any opponent but the champ. She’s ranked number one in the division and just knocked off the number two contender. Rose Namajunas appears to have next however and the UFC rarely gives a fighter a third chance against the same opponent. With few options, a reasonable task might be Jessica Andrade. The two share some similarities as power strikers with great strength and wrestling. Both are at the top of the division but will have to convince the UFC for another opportunity for a title. Kowalkiewicz’ loss sets her on a two fight losing streak but her losses come against the absolute best in the world. She deserves a chance to regain her footing, but facing a pushover would be a complete disservice to her. Two interesting names for Karolina would be Michelle Waterson or Angela Hill; a match up with either would give her a winnable fight without a guaranteed win while also presenting a good chance to put on a real show for the viewers.
Jose Aldo vs Max Holloway:
Jose Aldo displayed his incredible hand speed and unbelievable heart, but it simply wasn’t enough as Max Holloway silenced any doubts about his standing in the Featherweight division. The pace of the fight was fantastic, as even the feeling out period of this bout saw Aldo throw impressive flurries that landed and hurt Holloway. Aldo controlled the first round with quick trigger counters and stunning hand speed. Aldo landed heavy blows, at one point pushing Holloway back to the cage with a flurry of punches punctuated by a flying knee that would have dropped most opponents. Holloway stood strong though, mixing it up with work to the body and quick flurries of his own. The jab to the body was especially effective for Holloway early and as he gained momentum midway through the second round, he began to close combinations with body kicks as well. Aldo began to slow down while Holloway continued to turn up the pace as the fight progressed. By the close of the second round, Blessed was standing in the pocket practically daring the hometown favorite to try and hurt him. The third round continued Holloway’s ascent, building to a crescendo as Max dropped Aldo with a pair of one-two’s back to back in which the final strike landed clean. Holloway smelled blood and immediately looked to mount and finish Aldo; but the Brazilian displayed incredible grit in defending himself just about any way possible to try and get out of trouble. With Aldo off balance however, Holloway was able to land heavy damage and went from a mount to taking Aldo’s back before forcing a ref’s stoppage due to unanswered strikes. It was a tale of two fights, as Aldo seemed in control early but Holloway’s momentum built to a dominating close out in the third. Interestingly, Aldo neglected leg kicks and Holloway avoided his trademark stance switching; a sign that both men were wary of potential counters to their typical techniques.
With this victory, the Featherweight division has a new undisputed champion. Holloway’s eleven fight run to the title has been nothing short of incredible as he finished 8 of the opponents and has defeated a virtual who’s who of the division’s top dogs. Blessed leads all 145’ers in the UFC in fights, wins, longest win-streak, knock downs, KO’s, stoppages and significant strikes right now and he is only 25 years old. With the victory over Aldo, he is now looking at building a long lasting legacy but it appears that already began as with this massive win streak. Frankie Edgar is the obvious choice for Max; another legend of the sport and one of the greatest fighters in the lighter divisions of all time. A win over Edgar, especially a decisive one, would launch Max Holloway’s name into the conversation with other Featherweight greats if his track record hasn’t already made the case for him.
For Aldo, this feels like a cross roads. The McGregor loss could have been chalked up to getting caught but Max really took it to him and won decisively. There’s nothing wrong with passing the torch and looking to rebuild, but Aldo has cleared most of the division as it is and there aren’t too many exciting match-ups for him. Jeremy Stephens or a rematch with Cub Swanson could be worth a look if he sticks to 145 but it might be a good time to jump into the lightweight division where new match-ups are plentiful. He could chase that Anthony Pettis fight that was considered a super fight years ago or considering his greatness, a fight against a highly ranked opponent could be in the cards right away. Who wouldn’t want to watch Aldo vs Edson Barboza? The loss should not be the end for Aldo after he just beat Frankie convincingly one fight ago. He has plenty of opportunity and may have some of the pressure from being in nothing but title fights for most of a decade relieved.
One Final Thought:
Another highlight of the card warrants noting. Kazushi Sakuraba was announced for the UFC Hall of Fame. The man fought a who’s who of legends from middleweight to heavyweight and garnered the nickname “Gracie Hunter” by virtue of beating pretty much every Gracie that was competing during his time. His rivalry with the Gracie’s, unorthodox approaches (especially leaping into guards) and willingness to fight seemingly anybody made him a legend and anyone who wants to watch a true pioneer and fan favorite should check out his career.