Last night (Sat., May 31, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Vitor Miranda and Antonio Carlos Jr. and middleweights Warlley Alves and Marcio Alexandre Jr. squared off for UFC contracts on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" 3 Finale from Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The heavyweight contract was on the line between two dangerous finishers at different points in their careers.
With two technical knockouts in two fights on the show, the 35-year-old Miranda finally had a chance to shine on the grand stage. He had his hands full with 24-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz Carlos Jr., who both submitted and knocked out an opponent on his way to the finals.
At middleweight, two undefeated fighters clashed when the solid Alves met up with Alexandre Jr., who had run into some resistance on the show after winning both of his fights via split decision. Alves, on the other hand, had two first round finishes and was looking to make an example out of "Lyoto."
When the dust settled at last night's TUF: "Brazil" 3 Finale, Carlos Jr. and Alves won the TUF: "Brazil" 3 finals with thoroughly impressive performances.
Let's take a look back at what took the contracts home from Sao Paulo.
Vitor Miranda vs. Antonio Carlos Jr.:
Miranda came out relaxed as Carlos Jr. pushed forward with a flurry. The fighters clinched along the cage and a low knee from Carlos Jr. halted the action for a moment. Miranda came back with some leg kicks and absorbed a high kick. Carlos Jr. landed a striking combination that immediately led to a double leg takedown, but Miranda returned to his feet. "Cara de Sapato" tripped Miranda again, and again he got back up. Carlos Jr. snapped a jab and another combo, continuing to surprise with his stand-up. Miranda landed some good kicks to close the action-packed first round.
The second round began with Miranda landing another low kick, but Carlos Jr. pushing forward with a takedown, smothering his opponent on the mat. "Cara de Sapato" got to the mount and switched to side control. Miranda held onto half guard and Carlos Jr. dropped for an ill-fated leglock. Miranda landed some light punches from inside the guard and avoided a triangle choke attempt. A clinch saw Miranda land a knee, and Carlos Jr. ended the round looking for a takedown.
The third frame was more of the same from Carlos Jr., as he scored a takedown to dictate the pace alongside the fence. Miranda eventually returned to his feet, but he was immediately slammed to the mat again. Carlos Jr. completely neutralized Miranda on the ground, doing just enough to avoid a stand-up from the referee. The pace slowed considerably as Miranda stood up, only to see Carlos Jr. take his back. "Cara de Sapato" got the mount again as a dominant third round came to a close.
Carlos Jr. put on a dominating show in Sao Paulo, using his mat skills to control Miranda on the ground with relative ease. Although still developing, his striking appeared to be on an upward trend as well, with him showing some good aggression and combos rather than just single shots. The sky is the limit for the rapidly improving Carlos Jr. If he can continue to maintain the cardio pace he did last night, big things should be on the horizon.
At 209 pounds, Carlos Jr. will be cutting down to light heavyweight or even middleweight to begin his career. That makes his first opponent very unknown, so it'll be interesting to see who he gets matched up against.
It's a tough loss for talented striker Miranda, who never got a chance to find his full rhythm on the feet. The 35-year-old fighter couldn't figure out Carlos Jr. relentless ground game, and that's obviously a facet of his game that he needs to work on.
He'll probably get one more shot on a UFC card in Brazil, but the pressure will be on to win that fight impressively. Despite the result of the finals, Miranda had an excellent run on the show.
Warlley Alves vs. Marcio Alexandre Jr.:
Alexandre came out early with a high kick, but Alves fought back with a big shot that dropped "Lyoto." Alexandre Jr. got back up to his feet, only to be controlled alongside the clinch. Alves scored a big double leg to maintain side control on the ground, returning to the feet to throw a big spinning kick attempt. Alves followed with a good right hand and another takedown slam to win the first round.
Alves came out strong in the second round, using his superior strength to smother Alexandre Jr. on the ground and rain down shots from inside "Lyoto's" guard. Big right hands found a home, and Alexandre Jr. appeared to be growing tired quickly. More clinch work from Alves saw Alexandre Jr. lose more and more gas, and a restart lead to a sharp body kick from Alexandre Jr. that Alves turned into a takedown. The second round closed with Alves controlling the clinch once again.
When the final round kicked off, it was desperation time for Alexandre Jr.
Alves blasted him with a huge counter right, and immediately locked on a super tight guillotine that saw Alexandre Jr. pass out in a matter of seconds.
Alves impressed by dominating the entire fight with his wrestling skill, handing Alexandre Jr. his first defeat with little resistance. The 23-year-old Team Sonnen member appears poised for a strong run in the Octagon with his well-rounded game based on takedowns and striking power.
It'll also be interesting to see how UFC books him for his first official bout, but he could probably be a tough match for most fighters on the lower level of the Top 25.
For Alexandre Jr., it's time to go back to the drawing board. His karate is no doubt a dangerous striking base, but he's going to have to add some wrestling and submission defense to his game if he ever wants t be a serious contender in UFC.
Two very young, hungry, and talented fighters arrived in UFC when heavyweight Antonio Carlos Jr. and middleweight Warlley Alves picked up the contracts at last night's TUF: "Brazil" 3 Finale. How far are you predicting each competitor to go?