Last night (Wed., July 16, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Leonardo Mafra and Rick Story faced off on the main card of UFC Fight Night 45 from Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey (full results here).
Story lost his last bout to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 171, the fifth loss in his last eight mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts. He fought tough in most of the losses, but "The Horror" had failed to adapt to his ever-evolving division after being near the top after his upset of Thiago Alves in May 2012.
He needed a win in the worst way, but he had his hands full with TUF Brazil veteran Mafra. Knockout artist "Macarrao" was making his return to the Octagon after losing his only UFC bout to Thiago Perpetuo at UFC 147. He came in as a late replacement for Story's original opponent John Howard.
Both fighters had a lot on the line in Atlantic City. When it was all said and done, Story returned to the win column with a decisive performance.
The fight began with Story landing a body shot. Mafra fought back with a good kick upstairs and some follow-up shots. Story rushed for a power double leg and secured it, working with elbows along the cage. "Macarrao" got back to his feet, but Story's wrestling was clearly in control of this bout as he immediately slammed Mafra.
"The Horror" smothered Mafra on the mat, but the Brazilian got back up to get taken down again as a dominant first round came to a close for Story.
Mafra landed a good uppercut and a kick to start the second. Story stalked him down to transition an overhand left into a single leg attempt. It didn't last, but Story just scored on a huge double leg slam. "The Horror" snapped a hard elbow and locked on a tight arm triangle choke that immediately earned the stoppage.
After moving his training camp to Arizona's MMA Lab and enlisting John Crouch and Benson Henderson as his corner men, Story picked up only his second UFC finish in nearly four years. His Brazilian jiu-jitsu obviously benefitted greatly from the tutelage of Crouch, yet there are still questions about Story's overall game.
His wrestling looked great, but Mafra reportedly suffered from a stomach ailment that forced him to weigh in at only 165.5 pounds. That would have left him at a considerable size and strength disadvantage; it's tough to say.
Still, it's a big win for Story, who needed it to boost his confidence. He could still be a force if his striking and submission skills continue to improve at his new gym.
A fight with the injured No. 14-ranked Ryan LaFlare once her returns would make sense for "The Horror," as would a bout with No. 15-ranked Erick Silva.
Mafra is in a tough spot in UFC. He's shined outside of the Octagon, but he's been finished in his only two bouts when he got there. He might get released, but if he gets another shot in UFC, he had better win in exciting fashion.
Perhaps his illness will earn him another chance. He has the knockout power to shine. However, his wrestling defense is obviously a huge weakness. That's not good in the wrestler-heavy UFC welterweight division, so his ceiling is incredibly limited.
After failing to live up to expectations in recent years, a rejuvenated Rick Story secured a bounceback submission over Leonardo Mafra at UFC Fight Night 45. Will it mark the beginning of a new streak for ‘The Horror?'