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UFC Sao Paulo: 'Belfort vs Henderson,' The Report Card

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

HIGHLIGHTS! Thomas Almeida, Vitor Belfort Steal Sao Paulo Show With Killer KOs!

Considering the main event of UFC Fight Night 77 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, ended sometime after 4 a.m. local time this morning (Sun., Nov. 8, 2015) you've got to admire the mixed martial arts (MMA) faithful who stuck around until the bitter end.

The bitter end? Well, that's only if you're a fan of Dan Henderson. The Brazilian faithful were treated to a veritable propaganda film of patriotism in the final four fights of the night, all them ending in brutal and triumphant fashion for those born to the Auriverde (The Gold and Green).

Considering the way the card ended, one would have to say that this free Fox Sports 1 event was a rousing success. There were slick submissions, back-and-forth wars and the aforementioned brutality of teeth-chattering, canvas-drooling, face-planting knockouts.

There's much to write about about last night (and this morning, if we're being technical here), so without further ado, let's begin handing out report cards:

I honestly don't know if these grades are fair. I mean, anybody can get caught, right? But if you really want to know why I was impressed with Vitor Belfort in the main event, and conversely so disappointed in Dan Henderson, I'll explain.

First, Belfort. In his last fight against Chris Weidman, Belfort looked and performed like a man who had been properly deflated after somebody had loosened an air valve on his muscles. He literally looked a human grape that was well on its way to becoming a raisin. The fact that he was finished so quickly -- despite so recently going four rounds against the most likely Greatest Of All Time candidate since Anderson Silva -- was disturbing. I really believed that a Belfort without testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) was a Belfort better off finding a quiet spot in the shade with a comfortable rocking chair and a checkered blankey.


But, I now realize that was because he was fighting Weidman. Look, fluke gonna fluke, but facts are facts. I realized last night/this morning, that perhaps it wasn't so much that Belfort is finished, as it is Weidman is a goddamn fucking beast. And as much as it pains me to say that, and as much as I'll be riding the Luke Rockhold choo-choo train of hope next month, that's probably the truth.

I mean, what more can you say about Belfort that hasn't already been said? The man is a legend. He's 38 years old, and now owns four consecutive head kick related finishes in Brazil. The man is a beast. It's truly terrifying to think of what he'd be like with TRT, but that's a fantasy we'll likely never get to enjoy. Nevertheless, he proved that he still has frightening power, blinding speed and deadly finishing instinct.

As for Dan Henderson, I'm afraid it's too late for another chant of "Pride Never Die." Although it's true that Nobuyuki Sakakibara, former Pride FC president, appears busy exhuming the bodies of past participants to put on freakshows in Japan, I'm afraid that whatever vestiges remain in UFC are not long for this world.

The legendary chin of "Hendo" is shot. I'm sorry, it just is. He's survived countless wars and fights considered among the greatest of all time, but with his third finish to strikes in the past six fights I'm beginning to fear for his safety in the same way I was cringing every time a fight involving the name Antonio Nogueira ("Big Nog") was announced.

I'm sorry, Dan. You truly are a boss. But old age catches us all.

I gotta be honest with you. Patrick Cummins survived far longer than I ever believed he could. My immediate thought upon this fight being booked was that Glover Teixeira would hit him hard once or twice, Cummins would hit the mat, and a suspicious brown stain would begin to appear in his shorts, leading to widespread speculation as to its origins on social media.

That didn't happen. Cummins actually made a good account of himself, considering he chose to more or less stand and bang with a guy whose favorite song is chin music. That wasn't terribly bright, if I'm being honest, but Cummins landed quite a few shots of his own whilst taking damage from the Brazilian. He showed a tremendous amount of courage for a man widely denigrated as an upjumped coffee boy.

Having said all that, Teixeira build a wall of bricks on Cummins face. At one point I noticed Glover landed so hard that Cummins' legs buckled under him like he was considering a limbo dance but at the last second thought better of the attempt and got back up. Had the American hoped for a more favorable outcome he might have tried to stay at range a little more and used his wrestling during the times when Teixeira closed the distance.


It isn't that Cummins didn't try to land takedowns or that he wasn't successful at getting one or two. He was, which speaks to his pedigree as a wrestler, considering Teixeira's own prowess in the grappling department is nothing at which to be sneezed. But Cummins only seemed to want to wrestle when he realized he was getting a flamethrower to the face on the feet, and by that point he probably wasn't in the best state of mind to gameplan on the fly.

I believe Phil Davis more or less laid out the gameplan for defeating Teixeira, using the Brazilian's rather lurching style against him to change levels and use speed to evade his predictable forward plodding. Had Cummins danced a bit more on his feet, been more evasive, and changed levels with power double legs, I believe he would have had a chance of point fighting his way to victory.

Instead, he became yet another casualty in Herb Dean's "Greatest Standing Stoppages", Volume 12.

I decided not to close crop this photo because I want you guys to look at it. Just fucking look at it. Two Latin guys with short hair, tattoos, of similar build and weight, both wearing black shorts. When Jon Anik said, "Anthony Birchak is in the white shorts and Thomas Almeida is in the black shorts," I was like, "THEY'RE BOTH GODDAMN BLACK SHORTS!" Jesus, Reebok, for the last time... Get. Your. Shit. Together.

Anyway, fantastic showing by Thomas Almeida, who showed he is every bit deserving of the coal being shovelled into his hype train engine. Not sure if that metaphor works, but let's go with it. Almeida's chin became something of a question mark in his last fight -- a raised eyebrow, if you will -- after being hurt by Brad Pickett before recovering and finishing the Englishman in impressive style.


That question mark was scratched out tonight, as Birchak tested Almeida's chin early and often. Fighting with all the urgency that underdogs truly deserve, Birchak marched down the Brazilian and several times forced him to circle away from a flurry against the cage. The action was fast and furious, with Birchak trying to upset the applecart once more after enjoying the role in his last fight against Joe Soto.

Birchak did well, considering he only lasted for a whole four minutes and 22 seconds. But the problem with fighting aggressively against a man with 16 knockouts in 20 fights is that the probability for getting the proverbial fuck knocked out of you goes up exponentially for every reckless minute you continue that approach. And Almeida duly delivered.

Once Almeida had the American hurt, he never let up, throwing combinations until the last one shut the lights off upstairs and Birchak's brain was flying fast through the colorful forests of Never Neverland even as his skull was still obediently following the Law of Gravity to the UFC canvas. When he landed in Rashad Evans style, circa 2009 title shots, the brain was still well on vacation.

Are there any people of Polish origin out there in the crowd? Is it really pronounced "PEEOTRA" Hallmann? I mean, that can't be right, can it? I know the sound of Polish names have nothing whatsoever to do with the letters in them (Joanna Jędrzejczyk somehow comes out to YOWNJAYCHECK) but I just find it hard to believe PEEOTRA is a name you'd give to a child you loved.

Anyway, this was a bit of a mismatch that very nearly ended in a similar way to Chas Skelly vs Kevin Souza. One the one side you had a bigger, stronger, much more talented grappler who was very much in danger of losing due to sloppy takedown defence. Alex Oliveira delivered an inhuman amount of punishment against Hallmann in the first round, before allowing himself to be taken down twice in the second round and evening the score.


The fact that the first round beatdown was in no way, shape, or form equal to the holding down lay and pray of Hallmann would likely matter not in the eyes of the judges. It was therefore a good idea that Oliveira decided to unleash candidate number two for Knockout of the Year late in the third, because it prevented a travesty from occurring cageside.

In many ways the fight reminded me of Al Iaquinta vs. Jorge Masvidal. Even though it was clear that Iaquinta wasn't even in the same solar system of talent as Masvidal, the relentless heart and spirit of Iaquinta kept him in the fight long enough to get the chance to win the robbery. Had Hallmann landed an extra takedown or two to cap off the third round, who knows what silly and fantastical scores the MMA monkeys banging their gavels may have come up with?

I was also pleased to find out that this "Cowboy" is just 27 years old, and not the 37 years that I assumed he was based on his rugged appearance. Which is great news because it means there's a chance, however small, that this Cowboy could meet the other Cowboy down the road in a saloon shootout sure to satisfy any city slicker.

My money's on Donald Cerrone.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to make general observations that might stereotype one culture based on the actions of a few individuals. But I gotta ask. Why do Russians all seem to have the intensity of a house plant? I mean, when Bruce Buffer was screaming out Rashid's needlessly long surname, his face looked as if he were baking bread. It's cool that they don't seem to get concerned about the sort of impending violence that would likely make my pants wet, but I do wonder if this characteristic affects their sense of urgency.

For instance, Magomedov had Gilbert Burns in all sorts of trouble in the second round of their fight, and yet the Russian fighter continued to act as though he were running an errand to the bank. I mean, compare Magomedov's style of fighting to, oh I don't know, any Brazilian who has ever fought on any card in the history of MMA. Once a Brazilian senses the end is near they're on a victim faster than leaked Jennifer Lawrence nude pics.

I mean, I suppose it's a blessing and a curse like that. Magomedov fought with nearly flawless efficiency, exerting no extraneous effort en route to a rather one-sided technical win by way of point fighting. But it was also as dull as the previously mentioned house paint.

Look, fights don't all have to live up to the carotid artery severing violence expectations of the bro-fisting "drunk dummies", but nor should it involve needless prolongation of a bout where one man is clearly staggering about the cage looking for a place to have a nap. Had Magomedov at all pushed himself, I very much believe he could have been competing for that extra $50,000 bonus he apparently wanted nothing to do with.

The Russian is a very talented striker with a lot of potential. But somebody may need to install an emotion chip in his positronic net prior to his next fight.

I honestly believe that these Reebok uniforms may one day go down in history as competing with the 1999 MLB Pittsburgh Pirates uniforms as the fugliest garbage ever foisted on the sporting public. But I digress.

Where was I? Ah yes, the Iron Hill Billy. A fan favorite, that Fabio Maldonado. Except, if I'm not mistaken, I think even his fans are kind of sick of his shit by now. Because after all, one can only employ the Homer Simpson technique for so many years before you'd expect a man to actually develop some skills.

Alas, Maldonado is the same soft, lazy, hapless, helpless, useless fighter he was when he debuted in 2010. It was cute, at first, to see him tire out the has-beens and never-wases of the 205-pound division, his opponents gassing out while trying to knock out this Brazilian zombie. It was even fun, watching him dispatch Roger Hollett, Gian Villante and Joey Beltran via volume striking.

But at some point people realized a couple of things. One, you don't have to stand right in front of this fucking guy because he is ridiculously slow. And two, the guy has the takedown defense of a baby lamb. Corey Anderson demonstrated that fairly effectively yesterday over a three round beatdown that made Maldonado look about as deserving a spot on the UFC roster as putting Barney Rubble in charge of Google.

Five years. He's had five years to lose the flabby gut, learn takedown defense, and develop a more diverse striking arsenal than getting punched in the face until the other guy tires. And in those years he's done none of those things. Not one.

As for Anderson, he looked fine for a guy showing up on short notice. But let's not pretend this was particularly "impressive", a superlative Brian Stann throws around like popcorn at a circus. Anderson beat up a slow, flabby fighter with the apparent work ethic of a unionized government employee. It was a boring fight and honestly one best forgotten at the end of this sentence.

Quick Hits From The Undercard

  • A terrible and early stoppage from referee Keith Peterson ruined what was shaping up to be a classic beatdown delivered at the hands of Gleison Tibau (A) against the soon to be unemployed Abel Trujillo (F).
  • Johnny Case (B) was fortunate, in my mind, to get away with a unanimous decision win over Yan Cabral (C-), who looked half dead after the first round and still managed to hold Case down for most of the third. I expected better from "Hollywood."
  • Thiago Tavares (A+) looked every bit the deserving recipient of a "Performance of the Night" bonus after dispatching Clay Guida (F) in just 39 seconds. Guida has fought the best of the best and not only survived, but sometimes come out on top. Anthony Pettis is hanging his head in shame.
  • Chas Skelly (C+) escaped by the skin of his teeth in this fight against Kevin Souza (B-). The American was all but knocked out on his feet, but somehow through muscle memory or magic (I'm honestly not sure which) he managed to submit the Brazilian. Truly amazing.
  • Viscardi Andrade (B) looked competent in dismantling yet another lackadaisical Russian in Gasan Umalatov (F) with no apparent urgency or interest in fighting.
  • Jimmie Rivera (A) outlanded Pedro Munhoz (B+) 99-66 during a fight in which I awarded him all three rounds. The judges were more impressed with Munhoz's walk forward style, however, nearly robbing the American of a rather impressive effort.
  • Matheus Nicolau (A-) landed the ultra rare Japanese necktie in a spirited affair against Bruno "Korea" (C+) that honestly could have gone either way if the latter fighter had any inclination whatsoever to use his fists to block incoming punches.

That's a wrapparoonie, neighboroonie. We're back next week in the Land Down Under to see whether Ronda Rousey can submit a white belt. Let's find out!

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