With the exception of two fights — the main event of Thiago Santos vs. Glover Teixeira and main card opener Yan Xioanan vs. Claudia Gadelha — UFC Vegas 13 was an event with few bout or fighters relevant in their division’s title pictures. Ahead of time, at least, those four athletes were the sole fighters who could exit with their hand raised and eyes set on the title shot. Everyone else still had real distance to cover.
Raoni Barcelos flipped those expectations. It’s only because of Bantamweight’s incredibly talent-rich nature that he was overlooked prior to last night’s performance, and it’s my great fear that he’ll remain overlooked afterward.
Consider this article my attempt to prevent that dire timeline.
Opposite Khalid Taha, Barcelos dominated in every position, and he did so while actively pushing the pace and putting himself at risk. Right from the first bell, Barcelos made his intentions clear, jamming Taha with a hard front kick right into the chest. A moment later, a calf kick swept Taha from his feet.
Were Barcelos a more cautious man, he likely could have hung back and won the fight off the strength of his kicks. Instead, he pressed his advantage, stepping into the pocket and trading with the jacked German who really only could win via knockout. Barcelos ripped hooks, switched up targets, attacked with knees — he showed a great deal of variety in his offense.
When Taha did manage to land a big shot in return, Taha promptly showcased his grappling credentials. We’re talking about a lifetime grappler, a jiu-jitsu black belt with considerable accomplishments in grappling competition whose father is a f*cking coral belt in BJJ. Those are barely real, certainly unattainable to most anyone who isn’t bred into the sport!
Oh, and Barcelos competed for the Brazilian national team in freestyle wrestling. Long story short: the guy is the complete package.
As the fight wore on, Barcelos showed off different facets of his game. He landed intercepting knees and check hooks on the counter. At one point, Barcelos flipped his opponent over with an armbar from guard. There was no moment in the fight where Barcelos coasted or took an extended rest — he continued to push the issue until the final bell.
Part of what made the performance so impressive was Taha. He threw dangerous punches consistently but never landed anything too clean. He was clearly a physical force, just an outmatched one. Taha even did some cool stuff on the mat, like using a heel hook attempt to escape bottom position, but all of this only served to make Barcelos look more deadly.
Barcelos’ win last night improves him to 16-1 with nine straight wins, five of which came inside the Octagon. One of those wins came over Said Nurmagomedov, and in case you have yet to notice, those Dagestani guys do not lose to scrubs ... or at all, for the most part.
Barcelos looked like an elite talent last night. At 33 years old, however, the pressure is on to get him in the cage with a highly ranked, well-known opponent. Otherwise, the risk of age catching up with him grows each year, and it would be really upsetting to see such talent wasted. We could get into UFC politics, the difficulty of being a dangerous unranked athlete, especially one from a foreign country.
Instead, let’s keep it simple: Barcelos has earned his opportunity; give it to him.
For complete UFC Vegas 13: “Santos vs. Teixeira” results and play-by-play, click HERE!