Last night (Sun., March 23, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Fabio Maldonado and Gian Villante threw down on the main card of UFC Fight Night 38 from Nelio Dias Gymnasium in Natal, Brazil (full results here).
Former pro boxer, Maldonado, came into Natal having won his last two mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts. The Brazilian slugger was looking to add talented athlete Villante to his list of vanquished opponents.
Villante, a training partner of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, was last seen defeating Cody Donovan via technical knockout at UFC 167 last year. The former Ring of Combat (ROC) heavyweight champion had a chance to get his second UFC win over a dangerous, experienced opponent.
Things didn't go as planned, however, as Villante learned a hard lesson in striking from his more experienced opponent. Let's take a look back at Maldonado's impressive win from Brazil.
The fight started out with Villante getting a takedown. The young New Yorker smothered Maldonado on the ground from side control. Maldonado tried to get up, but Villante took his back to land some big knees to the leg. Villante slammed Maldonado once again to land in half guard and passed to side control.
Maldonado had no answer for Villante's superior mat skills, but the skilled striker was absorbing surprisingly little punishment from the bottom. Still, it was a thoroughly one-sided opening round for Villante.
Villante wobbled Maldonado with a left hook to start the second. The Brazilian then started landing his jab, avoiding a takedown attempt to land some crisp shots. Maldonado went to the body, mixing up his punches with pinpoint accuracy. Villante got a takedown and again went for Maldonado's back; however, this time the slugger got back up.
Villante landed a series of knees to bloody Maldonado, but the boxer responded with shots to the body. A brawl had broken out, and Maldonado was landing varied shots at will. Villante went for a double leg, only to miss it as he began to tire. Maldonado closed out a very strong round winging more punches.
The final round saw more of the same from Maldonado, as Villante was obviously outclassed in the striking department.
Maldonado walked away from a takedown to land more jabs and hooks, mixing it up with an excellent volume. The crowd was going wild for Maldonado as he avoided yet another takedown attempt. His endless body work and jab became the story of this fight as Villante was in big trouble. Shot after shot found a home as Villante went down and Maldonado walked off.
But, the fight wasn't finished, as Villante somehow stood upright to look for another ill-fated takedown. Uppercuts landed from Maldonado as he blasted a wobbling Villante with more and more punches to close out the clear-cut unanimous decision victory.
The fight was a classic Maldonado brawl, with the Brazilian boxer landing an endless torrent of his trademark body shots. He's now won three fights in a row, showing some excellent cardio after an exhausting (and losing) first round that saw him taken down and controlled. Obviously his pure boxing is some of the best in UFC, but that opening frame proved top-level wrestlers could give him serious trouble.
He'll most likely receive a solid step up in competition for his next bout. Match-ups against Ryan Bader, his countryman Rafael Cavalcante, or James Te Huna would be exciting fights for Maldonado.
Villante received another hard lesson in MMA in Brazil. He's now 1-2 in UFC after losing bouts to more experienced fighters in Ovince St. Preux and Maldonado, and it's clear he has a lot of work to do. But he showed a ton of heart in not being finished by Maldonado's ruthless onslaught of blows. He has a good wresting base and just needs to shore up his overall game. A fight against UFC 171 loser (and fellow young prospect) Nikita Krylov makes sense for Villante's next fight.
Fabio Maldonado put on a show for his home fans with a come-from-behind throttling of Gian Villante. Will the Brazilian continue to pick up solid wins, or is he too one-dimensional to beat the top light heavyweights UFC has to offer?