Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last night (Sat., May 11, 2019) for UFC 237. In the main event, Strawweight queen Rose Namajunas finally made her return to the Octagon, looking to deny Jessica Andrade from giving her native Brazilian fans a new champion. Elsewhere on the card, Anderson Silva made the walk for what could possibly be the final time, Jose Aldo looked to destroy another dangerous contender, and Bethe Correia somehow found her way to the main card yet again.
It turned out to be a fun night of fights, so let’s take a look at the best techniques and performances of the night!
Brazil’s Much Needed Win
Jessica Andrade was crowned Strawweight queen last night in Rio de Janeiro, the first Brazilian to win a UFC title in his/her home country in what seems like a very long time.
Though the night was overall pretty full of action, it was a miserable night for Brazilian fans (recapped in further depth below). After a few hours of watching their favorite former champions and veterans get hammered and dominated by younger stars, Brazilian fans in attendance were not pleased.
The fight itself mirrored those fans’ situation. Andrade pushed forward valiantly in the early goings, but Namajunas was on fire. “Thug Rose” tee’d off on her marching foe, cutting open her foe with straight punches and repeatedly nailing Andrade with her left hook counter. It wasn’t like Andrade’s past title bid against Jedrzejczyk either, where Andrade marched through lots of punches with seemingly no effect.
Namajunas was hurting Andrade,
Andrade did not quit, however. The Brazilian continued to push forward, finding a success to build from with low kicks. Andrade committed very heavily to the low kicks and body shots — anything to slow down the frustratingly effective footwork of the champion. It was slowly beginning to work when Andrade wrapped up another single leg takedown, prompting Namajunas to attempt to counter with a kimura.
Instead, Andrade popped her head to the high crotch, where the counter to the kimura is a massive lift and slam, which ultimately ended the contest. For those local fans, I don’t know if Andrade’s amazing knockout and championship win is enough to overcome the bitter taste of Silva’s leg disintegrating in the co-main event, but it’s far better than the alternative.
Featherweight’s New Top Contender
In recent fights, Alexander Volkanovski has shown many of the tools of a champion. Dominating physical strength, excellent chain wrestling, smart distance kickboxing that leads him to wrestling exchanges, and an endless gas tank are among Volkanovski’s strong traits. More than anything else, Volkanovski bullies opponents, breaking their wills and bodies.
Last night, Volkanovski did not try to bully Aldo or rely on physicality all that much. Instead, the Aussie honed in on the small details, making sure to win the minute-to-minute exchanges of the fight. There were no seriously major moments for “The Great,” but he still won a clear-cut decision and vast majority of the fight.
It began with kicks. Volkanovski snapped out a quick lead leg kick to the inner thigh and mid-section, differing his target and focusing on speed to avoid counters. Afterward, Volkanovski would occasionally step into some punches, never boxing too long and allowing Aldo to grow comfortable. Whenever Aldo did start looking mean, Volkanovski would grab the Brazilian and jam him into the fence, where knees to the leg won Volkanovski yet more precious moments.
In future five round fights, this ability to focus on constantly winning the small battles will pay off.
No Country For Old Men
From top-to-bottom, old lions were repeatedly savaged by their younger counter parts.
Quite a few well-established names walked to the Octagon last night. Names like Nogueira, Aldo, Alves, Silva, Penn — veteran names who once held championship belts or at least challenged for them. Names that deserve the utmost respect from mixed martial arts (MMA) fans. Unfortunately for these legends and their fans, their opponents showed no such respect.
The cracks of age showed in different places. B.J. Penn actually fought fairly well in the opening five minutes, but against Clay Guida, who is admittedly no spring chicken himself, Penn fatigued. Guida pushed the pace and showed he still has some skin in the game, whereas Penn was forced entirely on the defensive for the final two rounds.
Jose Aldo, Thiago Alves and Anderson Silva all fell into something of the same trap. Each Brazilian allowed his opponent to throw a much higher volume of strikes, seemingly waiting for the perfect moment to spring a trap and end the contest. While no one’s moment ever materialized, Aldo and Alves found themselves on the wrong end of decisions where volume was the ultimate deciding factor. Both seemed aware of their situation in the third, but neither veteran fighter was able to really ramp it up enough to rally.
Silva may have suffered a similar fate, but a low kick in the closing minute of the first round shattered something in Silva’s formerly injured knee.
Lastly, Nogueira’s loss was a case of speed. The Brazilian elder had no problems with his timing or pulling the trigger, landing some pretty stiff left hands. Unfortunately, the speed difference was remarkably apparent, as Ryan Spann’s punches zoomed around Nogueira’s guard to knock him out.
To any recently retired mixed martial artists thinking of making a comeback ... Maybe don’t?
- Irene Aldana defeats Bethe Correia via third-round armbar: While it never should’ve found its way to the main card, this turned out to be a solidly entertaining fight and decent showcase for Aldana. Despite lacking in physicality, Correia kept up with her foe fairly well in the early kickboxing exchanges, landing some decent counter shots. However, the power and speed of Aldana would not be denied, as she continually landed the harder blows. Eventually, those strikes convinced Correia to shoot, granting Aldana top position when the Mexican athlete stuffed the shot and advanced into back mount.
- Warlley Alves defeats Sergio Moraes via third-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): In perhaps the best performance of his UFC career, Warlley Alves surgically picked apart “The Panther.” Alves destroyed the lead leg early, leaving Moraes fairly helpless. Even so, Moraes attempted to charge forward and spring into punches, but that’s difficult when the lead leg provides no base to explode from. Ultimately, Moraes’ attempts at offense only created more opportunities for Alves, who continued to chop at the leg while mixing in progressively more uppercuts. Eventually, a flurry along the fence saw Moraes duck down for too long, allowing Alves to slip in a fight-ending uppercut.
- Viviane Araujo defeats Talita Bernardo via third-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Araujo proved to be the night’s most impressive debuting athlete. Up two weight classes and performing on short-notice, Araujo denied her opponents takedown attempts and picked her apart. There was a very apparent difference in the way each woman was delivering punches: Bernardo pushed with her arms, whereas Araujo was loose and turning strikes over with much more of her body weight behind them. In the final round, that difference proved the deciding factor, as Araujo’s crisp overhand smashed over the top of Bernardo’s jab to score the debuting fighter a devastating knockout victory.
For complete UFC 237: “Namajunas vs. Andrade” results and play-by-play, click HERE!