Review the highlights and lowlights of UFC 212 from Brazil, from the opening flyweight contest to the jarring featherweight title contest between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway.
While everyone is quick to declare 2017 as a disappointing year for the UFC – and it has been at the box office – there have been some quality cards put together by the preeminent MMA organization. UFC 212 was no exception. The main event saw what could become a landmark changing of the guard as Max Holloway definitively overthrew Jose Aldo to become the undisputed featherweight champion. While it may not have been a FOTY candidate, it was a quality contest nonetheless. The rest of the card followed a similar theme as spectacular wouldn’t describe any of the fights on the card, but it’s hard to label a single one as a true stinker either.
Here’s my thoughts on the UFC 212, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.
Deiveson Figueiredo defeated Carlos Beltran via TKO at 5:00 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: Figueiredo, making his UFC debut, entered with some hype as an offensive dynamo. However, he also had a reputation as a poor defensive fighting in which many expected the lanky Beltran to take advantage of. Beltran had some early success on the outside, only for Figueiredo to take him to the ground multiple times and take control of the fight. Towards the end of the second round, Figueiredo landed a shot that rocked Beltran. Figueiredo appeared to fall short of the finish as the bell rung only for the referee to declare the fight over during the break.
- Figueiredo: There are still plenty of things Figueiredo has to improve on before he can be considered a contender, but there are plenty of positives too. He displayed his athleticism in the midst of their scrambles coming out on top more often than not in their exchanges. Even though he didn’t finish any of his submission attempts, he did show better technique and composure than I expected out of the youngster. He’ll struggle with fighters who know how to maintain their distance too. Overall, I like what I saw out of the youngster.
- Beltran: Given that Beltran’s mother died over the week, an asterisk feels very proper to attach to this loss for Beltran. Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t work that way in real life and it doesn’t work like that in the fight game. He looked better at 125 than I thought he would, though he still slowed down significantly by the mid-point of the second round, suggesting bantamweight is a better division for him. He still struggles to consistently use his length too, negating his biggest advantage at flyweight. Given the circumstances of the loss, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a return fight, though I have my doubts.
Luan Chagas defeated Jim Wallhead via submission at 4:48 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: Despite Chagas being heavily favored – more than I thought he should have been – I saw plenty of pundits picking Wallhead to pull off the upset after surviving an early storm from Chagas. The storm most were expecting never really came as Chagas exercised great patience… and made it pay off. Chagas landed a lot of counters on Wallhead and picked his spots to combo up exceptionally well. It was a combo that set up the beginning of the end for Wallhead as Chagas took his back once Wallhead was hurt and sunk in a RNC.
- Chagas: Very encouraging performance for the young Brazilian. He had burned up his gas tank quickly in his first two UFC contests which allowed his opponents to come back after Chagas had taken an early lead. Not this time. Chagas was in firm control the entirety of the fight, never going crazy looking for the finish. It was a hell of a pleasant surprise. At 23-years old, there is plenty of time for him to continue to improve.
- Wallhead: Wallhead looked better in this contest than he did against Jessin Ayari, though that isn’t saying that much. He did have good activity, moving in and out of range as he looked for his offense. That didn’t happen with Ayari. Despite that, Wallhead wasn’t finding the right angles as Chagas continued to piece him up. Wallhead has been fighting for a long time, taking a lot of damage over the years. It’s a shame that his appearance in the UFC comes when he seems to be slowing down after a notable career. Don’t expect to see him in the Octagon again.
Viviane Pereira defeated Jamie Moyle via unanimous decision
- Expectations/Results: With similar builds and styles, it wasn’t a clear-cut prediction. Regardless, most expected Pereira to pull out a hard-fought decision. That’s exactly what happened. Pereira lead with a stiff jab throughout the contest, forcing Moyle to stay at range, limiting the American’s offense. Moyle had a few moments in the early parts of the fight as she scored some clinch offense, only for Pereira to make the adjustments to prevent that from happening later. Thought the contest ended up being uneventful, it was a good win for Pereira.
- Pereira: Though I wasn’t blown out of the water by Pereira’s performance, I struggle to find fault in it. Her jab looked great, she outmuscled Moyle in the clinch, and she never let Moyle’s wrestling get on track. I could complain that she never looked for the finish, but why do that when you’re in firm control? I could question how her jab will look when she faces a larger opponent, but that is for another day. At 23, Pereira, like Chagas, has a lot of time to continue to improve.
- Moyle: While not exactly surprised the fight played out this way, I’m nonetheless disappointed. Moyle needed a win here for anyone to believe that her stint in the UFC will be more than just a footnote. She has a very basic striking approach that will keep her in fights, but rarely win them. She needs to get her wrestling going and she couldn’t do that. Given Pereira is one of the few that doesn’t have a height and reach advantage on her, it’s very worrisome about Moyle’s prospects moving forward.
Brian Kelleher defeated Iuri Alcantara via submission at 1:48 of RD1
- Expectations/Results: With this contest being made only a few weeks before the event, it was largely an afterthought. Newcomer Kelleher’s less than impressive record made most reluctant to even consider him to pull off the upset. The fight started out as expected as Alcantara was aggressive, looking for takedowns and landing kicks. All it took was one ill-advised takedown attempt for Kelleher to snake in a guillotine choke and get a very quick tap out of the Brazilian veteran, silencing the Brazilian crowd.
- Kelleher: I admit that I didn’t see that coming. I admit that Kelleher has picked up some nice wins like Julio Arce and Andre Soukhamthath, but none of them appeared to be on the level of Alcantara. While Kelleher’s lack of athleticism was exposed, all it took was one opening for the newcomer to score an impressive victory. It’s hard to think whoever Kelleher’s next opponent might be will overlook him the way Alcantara did given the results of this contest. While it is an impressive debut, I’m still very reserved about Kelleher’s future.
- Alcantara: It seems like there is always one Brazilian who comes out too aggressive for his own good on every Brazil card. I’m surprised it was Alcanatara given his track record of success in his home country. Alcantara is still an impressive athlete despite his advanced age – he’s 36 – so he should be able to remain a viable gatekeeper. However, I don’t see him ever getting a shot at another top ten opponent ever again. Despite that, he’s still fun to watch.
Matthew Lopez defeated Johnny Eduardo via TKO at 2:57 of RD1
- Expectations/Results: Very close contest to call beforehand. Lopez was known to have the advantage on the ground while Eduardo’s striking has long been regarded as a some of the best in any weight class. Eduardo showed why early, landing some hard inside leg kicks and even a vicious punching combination. However, things went south for him once Lopez looked to go to the ground. Eduardo rolled underneath for a takedown off a failed Lopez takedown attempt and it was the beginning of the end when Eduardo couldn’t finish his heel hook. Continued punches and hammerfists from Lopez to a compromised Eduardo eventually brought about a stoppage from Mario Yamasaki, even if it was late coming around.
- Lopez: Though I liked the prospect when he first entered the UFC, I felt the UFC continued to give him too much too soon with every one of this contests. Now that he has two wins in three tries, I need to start giving the youngster more credit. I don’t want to rag too much on his striking as he did take a lot of damage in the few moments the fight was on the feet, but he’ll need to address that if he hopes to continue moving up the ladder. However, I’ve never seen Lopez’s ground-and-pound look better. He’s continuing to improve which is really all I can ask out of him.
- Eduardo: Am I the only one who felt as though Eduardo handed over the victory when he went for the heel hook against someone as skilled at grappling such as Lopez? He took a lot of unnecessary damage in the process as Mario Yamasaki failed to jump in at an appropriate time. Losses like that leave me wondering how much more a longtime veteran like Eduardo wants to continue plying his trade. His pro debut came more than 20 years ago and he’s already the primary muay thai coach at Nova Uniao. Is this the last time we see Eduardo in the cage? Don’t be surprised if it is.
Antonio Carlos Junior defeated Eric Spicely via submission at 3:49 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: I have a hard time believing casual fans gave a damn about this contest, but the hardcore community had high hopes for a series of high-level grappling exchanges. That was exactly what we got. Spicely looked for the takedown despite ACJ’s impressive grappling accolades and we got a series of fun exchanges. ACJ was able to capitalize on Spicely’s sloppy shots, largely winning the grappling exchanges as Spicely didn’t have any serious submission attempts. It may have taken ACJ a while, but he did get one of his submission attempts to stick, winning with a RNC.
- Carlos Junior: While this contest didn’t answer any questions about ACJ’s striking – his biggest weakness – it was good to see ACJ persevere when he was unable to put away Spicely early. He folded up when he couldn’t beat Dan Kelly early, leaving many to question his heart. Not that he was facing the same amount of adversity against Spicely, but good to see nonetheless. He is pure joy to watch on the ground, so my hope is the UFC will continue to book him against opponents who are willing to fight him on the ground. We know that probably won’t happen, but I can wish for that.
- Spicely: I would have been happy with Spicely’s performance if I had seen some improvements in his wrestling. Nope. His shots were the sloppiest that I’ve seen in years, which made it easy for ACJ to gain the advantageous position on the ground. Spicely’s striking is never going to be UFC-level, so he needs to up his wrestling ability in order to find any sustained success. He did show some ground-and-pound that impressed me, so he is improving. I’d just like to see the improvements coming in different areas.
Raphael Assuncao defeated Marlon Moraes via split decision
- Expectations/Results: I was shocked to see how lopsided the odds were in favor of Moraes. I agree that he’s the more gifted athlete in comparison to Assuncao, but who has he beat that is worth noting? Simply because Moraes has been beating up on inferior competition, I favored Assuncao. For once, I got an underdog pick correct, even if it wasn’t a clear-cut decision. Assuncao won a tentative first round with a late flurry while the final two rounds were both close enough that I could see it going either way. I know many will call it a robbery, but lets’s honest, it could have gone either way. Bottom line: it wasn’t a very entertaining contest in a fight that had high expectations going in.
- Assuncao: Assuncao is perpetually underappreciated. Since 2011, his only loss has come against TJ Dillashaw… someone whom he had defeated in an earlier contest. And yet, he was about a 2-to-1 underdog to a guy who had never won a UFC fight. I get that Assuncao isn’t very exciting, relying on leg kicks and counter right hands to score points. But the fights aren’t judged by how entertaining they are, it’s who fights a more efficient fight. Assuncao is extremely efficient. Now that I’ve defended Assuncao, I’ll admit this wasn’t his best performance. He didn’t commit to sitting down on many of his strikes, paying Moraes far more respect than he has any other recent opponent. The tentativeness that he showed as Moraes threw a lot of random strikes is what led many to judge the contest in favor of Moraes. Given that he has won nine of his last ten, a contest with Dominick Cruz to determine the top contender makes a lot of sense in my mind. But that is just me….
- Moraes: And the string of disappointing debuts from high-priced free agents continues. Moraes has been used to being miles ahead of his opposition in terms of his physical skills. Even though he was ahead of Assuncao overall athletically, he wasn’t used to his opponent being able to hang with him to an extent. Thus, he was reluctant to take chances until late in the fight when he recognized he needed to score some points in hopes of swaying the judges. If he did sway them, it wasn’t enough. It is far too early to declare Moraes a bust. I didn’t think it was appropriate to throw him into the deep end of the pool as it really was a big leap in competition. I’ll be very interested to see who he is matched up with next.
Yancy Medeiros defeated Erick Silva via TKO at 2:01 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: Expected to be a barnburner to kick off the main card, it certainly lived up to expectations. The entirety of the contest was back-and-forth. Medeiros hurt Silva with punches. Then Silva hurt Medeiros after Silva seemed to wake up. It continued in that fashion up until the ending sequence when Medeiros put together a punching combination that dropped Silva. Medeiros followed up with punches on the ground as Silva was unable to fight back before the referee stepped in.
- Medeiros: I don’t know why Medeiros doesn’t have a better reputation in terms of being an action fighter. He hasn’t been in any FOTY candidates, but his contests are consistently entertaining as his four performance bonuses in ten contests will attest. His boxing looks sharper than ever, though I believe it is more attributable to him having more energy now that he no longer cuts to 155. He still hasn’t put together a wrestling game that would allow him to compete with the divisional elite on a consistent basis, but I don’t see that happening at this juncture. At the very least, he’ll continue to be a top-flight action fighter on the fringe of the rankings.
- Silva: Is it just me, or did it seem inevitable that Silva would end up on the losing end of this one? He can’t seem to put together a victory against an opponent that has at least one quality win on their resume. The funny thing is that Silva has been fighting with more discipline than ever in his recent contests. There has been occasions when Silva has been exhausted by the time the second round rolled around and that wasn’t the case here. He may have become the contender many expected had these changes been implemented before his physical skills began to decline. Now it will merely keep him semi-relevant.
Paulo Borrachinha defeated Oluwale Bamgbose via TKO at 1:06 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: Given the aggressive nature of both Borrachinha and Bamgbose, it seemed to be an impossibility that this contest would go the distance. Bamgbose came out looking for the kill, throwing a series of hard kicks and punches. Borrachinha, expecting the early onslaught, covered up effectively until Bamgbose tired himself out about midway through the first round. From there it was Bamgbose covering up as Borrachinha started throwing heavy leather. Bamgbose survived until the end of the round, but didn’t last very long into the second before a string of punches against the cage finished him off.
- Borrachinha: I didn’t expect this contest to raise Borrachinha up in my eyes very much, but the intelligence that he showed impressed me a lot. He knew Bamgbose would come out aggressively and was prepared for it. As soon as Bamgbose should signs of fatigue, Borrachinha began his attack, but never overextended himself to put himself in any danger. Turns out he isn’t simply a physical specimen that gets by on his gifts. Borrachinha has a very bright future.
- Bamgbose: The story has been the same throughout Bamgbose’s four-fight UFC run: look for the kill early only to gas quickly if he doesn’t get the finish. The lack of progress is frustrating as his explosion would be far more effective if opponents didn’t see it coming from a mile away. The only thing I saw progress in was his submission defense which wasn’t on display for this contest. Now it appears he’ll be on the outside looking in on the best MMA organization. He’s young and raw enough he could fight his way back in, but I’d be willing to bet it won’t happen.
Vitor Belfort defeated Nate Marquardt via unanimous decision
- Expectations/Results: Supposedly the last UFC fight for Belfort, Marquardt appeared to be the perfect opponent for the shopworn Belfort. Even though Belfort wasn’t the same fighter he once was, he was still capable of delivering a dangerous flurry of offense that can put opponents to sleep. Marquardt, more than a little shopworn himself, had a smart strategy, picking his spots from the outside with the occasional takedown attempt thrown in there, though only his first one proved successful. Belfort’s flurries were well-timed and though he did hurt Marquardt, he was unable to get the finish. Nonetheless, judges awarded the Brazilian the decision that most believed the American deserved.
- Belfort: Anyone else not surprised that Belfort declared he was ready to keep fighting after he walked off with a victory? The always emotional Belfort put together a good strategy as he didn’t look any worse than Marquardt by the time the final bell rang, indicating he was looking to conserve energy. The execution was a different story as he was very hesitant to pull the trigger. He let loose a bit more in the last two rounds which allowed him to eek by, though I can’t help but feel the crowd influenced the judges in their decision. I’d much rather see Belfort call it quits in the UFC as it isn’t going to be easy to match him up appropriately anymore. If the UFC keeps Belfort around, who do they give him now? I haven’t seen this mentioned, but I’d be down to see Lyoto Machida. Unless I’m mistaken, Machida gets off suspension in October. Anyone else with me?
- Marquardt: Though I would have like to have seen more takedown attempts, I can’t fault Marquardt too much for not attempting more. There is a good chance Belfort would have caught him coming in. I’ve heard others say Marquardt should have pressured Belfort more. I wasn’t difficult to see why he didn’t. His chin has been fragile for a number of years now, so it would be unwise for him to engage in a firefight that would drain Belfort quickly. He easily outlanded the Brazilian too. The problem was that he appeared to be hurt when Belfort flurried on him, likely influencing the judges to lean towards Belfort despite Marquardt consistently landing jabs and leg kicks. Unfortunately for the veteran, the loss is his eighth loss in eleven fights. Can they justify keeping him around anymore? We’ll have to wait and see.
Claudia Gadelha defeated Karolina Kowalwiewicz via submission at 3:03 of RD1
- Expectations/Results: The last two women disposed of by Joanna Jedrzejczyk prior to Jessica Andrade’s failed title challenge, it seemed highly unlikely the loser would be able to work their way back to a title shot. Gadelha was a surprisingly heavy favorite, though she showed why she was so heavily favored. After some exchanges on the feet that were pretty even, Gadelha scored a takedown with underhooks. As Kowalkiewicz tried to get back to her feet, Gadelha jumped on her back and was immediately looking for the RNC. Kowalkiewicz could only resist for so long before she was forced to tap to give the Brazilian a dominant win.
- Gadelha: Gadelha wanted to make a statement and she did just that. She changed things up by moving to New Mexico, leaving Brazil and everything else she knew. Unsurprisingly, the changes didn’t really take effect in her first fight since the move when she defeated Cortney Casey. It usually takes a while for fighters to adapt to a new coach and training camp. I think it’s safe to say she has adapted now. The way she took Kowalkiewicz’s back was smooth as butter, the best groundwork we’ve seen out of Gadelha since she joined the UFC. I liked what I saw out of her in the clinch too as she looked to get the better of the exchanges there, an area that is supposed to be Kowalkiewicz’s specialty. I won’t say no to a third contest between Gadelha and Jedrzejczyk, but I would like to see Gadelha get at least one more win in before those talks can talk place.
- Kowalkiewicz: Would it be a stretch for me to say that things couldn’t have gone worse for Kowalkiewicz? She was overconfident in her ability to fight off whatever Gadelha would throw at her on the ground. Not a good idea as it wouldn’t be a stretch to refer to Gadelha as the best grappler and wrestler in the division. Kowalkiewicz looked good on the feet, particularly with her jab, indicating that she has been working on her striking after Jedrzejczyk had her way with her. In the process, it appeared she was living off her merits in the clinch. Then again, you won’t find many stronger than Gadelha in the weight class. Kowalkiewicz is still one of the best strawweights in the world, though this loss screams that she isn’t elite.
Max Holloway defeated Jose Aldo via TKO at 4:13 of RD3
- Expectations/Results: Given his track record, I understood why Aldo was the favorite going into this contest. The Conor McGregor loss aside, he’s been the most dominant featherweight in the history of the sport. However, Holloway has been a lot more active as he barreled his way to the interim title. Thus, I favored the younger fighter to dethrone the long reigning king. There wasn’t any surprise when Holloway started slowly, allowing Aldo to dictate the pace and with his jab and the occasional short combination. Come round two, Holloway was finding his range, scoring with longer combinations that Aldo was struggling to counter. Aldo did land a few hard shots of his own to keep Holloway honest, but the momentum was swinging. The third picked up where the second left off, though it wasn’t long before Holloway landed cleanly with a one-two that sent Aldo sprawling to the mat. Holloway looked to get mount as Aldo attempted to scramble away, finally getting it after an earnest effort from Aldo to avoid it… and somehow Aldo is able to escape as he gives up his back. Transitioning to a RNC attempt and finally to punches as Aldo turtled up, Big John McCarthy finally stepped in to call the fight.
- Holloway: It’s impossible to not be impressed with what Holloway has accomplished. His eleven-fight win streak may have started off against less-than-stellar competition, but he’s only been fighting the top of the division for the last five fights, including a stoppage over longtime kingpin Aldo in a definitive manner. You can’t say Holloway got lucky with the way that he beat Aldo. His weaknesses have slowly been shored up too. He isn’t a great wrestler, but he’s hard to keep down. He doesn’t have one-punch power, but he piles up enough volume that he has been able to secure TKO stoppages in six of his eleven wins during his win streak. That’s impressive as hell. He never appears to get tired. His frame is going to cause all sorts of problems for many of the contenders at 145. I foresee a long and eventful reign for the Hawaiian. There can only be one choice for who he fights next: Frankie Edgar. Edgar is a more difficult stylistic matchup for Holloway given Edgar’s wrestling and top control, but I’d still favor the youngster. That’s must-see-TV for any MMA fan.
- Aldo: There is one question that everyone has been asking since the fight ended: where were Aldo’s leg kicks? Aldo’s leg kicks have long been regarded as one of the top weapons in MMA and he only threw a single kick to Holloway’s legs. What the hell? It would be ignorant of me to say Aldo lost because he didn’t throw more kicks, but I do believe that it is worth at least questioning. Otherwise, Aldo looked sharp, landing hard shots on Holloway before he slowly began to be overwhelmed by Holloway’s volume. Aldo has been so proud to be the champion that I worry about him not having the proper motivation to keep fighting if he isn’t the champion. Will he be able to find the motivation to climb back to the top of the mountain? It’s easy to forget that he is only 30-years old considering he has been at or near the top of the mountain since 2009. Should he turn away the likes of Cub Swanson and/or Dennis Bermudez, it wouldn’t be long before Aldo can be calling for a title shot again. He’ll never get a rematch with Conor McGregor, but I can see Holloway being open to a rematch.
Well, those are my collective thoughts. Until next time.