Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) last night (Jan. 19, 2013) staged its first mixed martial arts (MMA) event of the year, featuring a main event between Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping that had 185-pound title shot implications for "The Count."
All Bisping had to do at UFC on FX 7, which took place at the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was stay out of harm's way, push the pace and pile up the points. If he could do that, Bisping would finally get his dream fight against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
Easier said than done.
Belfort was cool, calm and collected from the get-go. While Bisping snapped his jab and shuffled across the Octagon, Belfort stood right in front of him, ducking, faking and waiting for his moment to pounce. It was pretty clear that Belfort wasn't too concerned about standing toe-to-toe with Bisping and eating a few stingers if he could just land one in return.
Indeed, Belfort wasn't too focused on trading leather. Yes, he threw punches, but his frequent kicks to the body signaled that perhaps he noticed a hole in Bisping's game. He kept going back to it in the first round, and then at the tail end of it, he landed his shin flush on Bisping's nose, sending him back to his corner with the taste of his own blood.
It would get much worse in round two when Bisping continued to flutter about and throw marshmallows. Belfort got his timing down and countered with a kick that glanced off the side of Bisping's head. His bell was rung as he fell to the floor with Belfort in hot pursuit, which is perhaps the worst possible scenario for any injured fighter on the entire roster.
Belfort, naturally, finished what he started shortly thereafter, sending Bisping back to Britain with much to think about (watch the video highlights here).
UFC matchmakers will also have much on their minds. Bisping clearly is not -- and maybe never will be -- ready for a title fight against Silva. Make no mistake, he's very good at what he does, but he is just unable to win when it matters most. Regardless, had he won tonight, Bisping would have been able to promote the bout very well and it likely would have been a very successful pay-per-view (PPV) event.
More successful than an Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman showdown, which appears to be the only Middleweight option on the table unless the promotion tees up Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold -- or something equally uninspiring -- out of desperation.
In what is possibly the second sign of MMA apocalypse (Jon Fitch vs. Erick Silva being the first), C.B. Dollaway delivered a gutsy performance in the co-main event to eke past The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" standout Daniel Sarafian. It was a back-and-forth affair, with Sarafian dominating early and "Doberman" rallying late to nab a very close split decision victory.
The local crowd was unsurprisingly displeased with the outcome, but most fight fans watching -- and even those in attendance -- had to be entertained by the surprised "Fight of the Night."
Dollaway demonstrated a solid chin, patience and poise to survive the Brazilian's early onslaught, which at times appeared to be too overwhelming for the TUF 7 runner up. However, a brief exchange midway through the bout that dazed Sarafian turned the tables in his favor and he capitalized.
I must admit that I got a good chuckle out of our recent "UFC on FX 7 predictions, preview and analysis" post; specifically, the part where Nostradumbass suggested that Gabriel Gonzaga graduated from "the Jorge Gurgel school of gameplanning."
That's a great line and it couldn't be more true.
"Napao" -- a Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz -- fell in love with striking because we all fell in love with him when he used it to score one of the greatest head kick knockouts in the history of the sport over the the head kick killer (at the time), Mirko Filipovic.
Like the "Challenger" space shuttle explosion, the Bill Buckner boot and the O.J. Simpson chase, I can tell you exactly what I was doing and where I was when Gonzaga landed that epic foot to the side of the Croatian's grapefruit. Sadly, I'm still doing the same exact thing in the same exact place right now.
Regardless, it was a memorable moment.
Fresh off a submission win in his last outing, Gonzaga was booked opposite Ben Rothwell, a well-rounded fighter who prefers to stand and bang. And when Gonzaga's early takedown attempts failed and he was forced into stand up exchanges, it had all the hallmarks of another big Brazilian mistake.
But, much to the surprise to many -- or maybe only myself -- he kept at it. And during a weird fake punch, slip and sprawl scenario in round two, Gonzaga spotted a long white neck dangling unprotected in the center of the Octagon and he wrapped his burly brown arms around it.
He squeezed, sat down and then squeezed ever harder, cutting off blood flow to Rothwell's brain and compelling him to tapout.
Like butter, baby.
And in the latest MMA snuff film experiment, produced and directed by none other than the insanely inconsistent and almost-always off referee Dan Miragliotta, Thiago Tavares somehow survived a sanctioned Khabib Nurmagomedov hit in their Lightweight bout.
For the purpose of full disclosure, I have not watched every bout that Miragliotta officiates and won't even pretend to; however, when something gets funny inside the Octagon he is often involved. Whether it's too late or too early, he seemingly can't get it right either way. And his bizarre herky-jerky attempt to later stop Belfort from bashing Bisping -- initially holding back and then finally (albeit awkwardly/reluctantly) stopping it -- just underscores the fact that his decision-making ability is suspect.
Yet, he still finds a seat on the plane when the promotion travels abroad.
Anyway, the good news is that Tavares is seemingly fine even though he ate about 20 unanswered Nurmagomedov punches and elbows while Miragliotta watched in astonishment overhead. Toward the end of his attack, "The Eagle" actually took an unconscious Tavares by the back of the head and tried to fit his forearm in his mouth forcibly about three or four times.
It was awful, but wonderful to witness at the same time.
Awful because Miragliotta is there to protect Tavares (and he didn't) and wonderful because the undefeated (19-0) Nurmagomedov is a certified, stone-cold Russain ass kicker. And certified stone-cold Russain ass kickers are fun to watch.
Nate Diaz next, please (that's who he called out post-fight).
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss UFC on FX 7: "Belfort vs. Bisping" in the comments section below.
Will Bisping ever earn a title shot? Where on Earth does Belfort go from here? How about Dollaway, eh? Is Gonzaga back in the heavyweight mix? Can Nurmagomedov continue his ascent to the top of the 155-pound division in 2013?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete UFC on FX 7 blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Belfort vs. Bisping" event right here. And for the most comprehensive UFC on FX 7: "Belfort vs. Bisping" post-fight fall out, including recaps, videos and so much more, click here.