Given the insane amount of changes to the card prior to the event, I get the feeling the UFC was satisfied with how UFC Sao Paulo turned out. There were several impressive finishes and a few more successful debuts for newcomers. The evening was topped off with a slobberknocker between Thiago Santos and Eryk Anders that only ended after Anders could no longer physically stand, forcing the referee to call an end to the contest between rounds. Was it fun? You bet your ass it was. However, the conclusion also served as a stark reminder of how unforgiving this sport can be.
In the classic format of winners and losers — not exactly representing those who were winners and losers on their records — here’s how the card played out.
Thiago Santos: He may have his name under this list first, but he may be the last person I wanted to put on here. Alas, he makes it for coming out on top following a fierce battle with Anders. Why would I be reluctant? Anders took the fight on a mere six days notice and Santos barely eeked out the finish. Perhaps it was the extra weight from fighting at 205 that Santos struggled with or maybe Anders is just inhumanely tough – most likely the latter. Regardless, given I wasn’t sure what was holding back Santos from looking as dominant as I expected, he ended up here on the list.
Alex Oliveira: I was wrong about Oliveira needing some time to get untracked in a contest. He KO’d Carlo Pedersoli in a mere 39 seconds, landing a brutal counter as Pedersoli attacked, not letting up until the referee called a stop to the action. Oliveira has always been an intriguing talent. Now, he seems to be coming into his own. However, there isn’t that much I can say given the short nature of his performance. Regardless, Oliveira deserves a BIG step up in competition.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Every time it feels like we’re going to see the lights turn out on Lil Nog’s career, he scores an impressive victory to indicate there’s still something left in the tank. Granted, a win over Sam Alvey is hardly an indication that Nogueira is an elite fighter, but it does say Nogueira can still serve as a veteran test for a young up-and-comer. Still, I can’t help but think it would be cruel to line the 42-year old Brazilian legend opposite of someone like Tyson Pedro or Ion Cutelaba.
Andre Ewell: Ewell stated in his post-fight speech that he was on the verge of being homeless before getting the fight with Renan Barao. Now, he not only picked up a win bonus, he owns a win over a man many considered to be the P4P king as recently as 2014. Even if it’s hard to believe Ewell has a future as a contender, this is a nice launching point for his UFC career.
Marina Rodriguez: No, Rodriguez didn’t emerge victorious in her battle with Randa Markos. However, she did show loads of gumption, toughness, and a dangerous clinch. It isn’t a surprise she has plenty to work on given this was her UFC debut. Who doesn’t? However, Rodriguez has a hell of a foundation in place to build upon. It’s hard not to be excited about her prospects moving forward.
Charles Oliveira: Oliveira broke the tie he was in with Royce Gracie for most submission victories in the UFC. That’s a pretty damn big deal. Granted, everyone was expecting it against Cristos Giagos, but Oliveira did what he needed to do and became sole possessor of that record. Next fight, he’ll need to pick up a win against a notable opponent. Hopefully, it WON’T be at featherweight. Give it up Charles, you had your chance at 145.
Francisco Trinaldo: How the hell this guy continues to improve despite being north of 40, I’ll never know. “Massaranduba” deserves a lot of credit for his study habits in this one as he clearly planned to counter with shots to the body of Evan Dunham, delivering one of the most BRUTAL knees to the liver I can recall. Is it enough for him to climb back into the rankings? Don’t know, but I also really don’t care. Trinaldo is still a relevant fixture at 155.
Evan Dunham: I know that Dunham lost in devastating fashion, but given the wars he’s been in and the performances he has put on, I’m not going to call Dunham a loser. The dude was one of the premier go-to action fighters on the roster for many years despite limited athletic skills. The dude was a warrior throughout his career. Much respect to Dunham and best wishes on his future endeavors.
Augusto Sakai: No one will deny Sakai’s contest with Chase Sherman wasn’t sloppy. The newcomer has a long way to go if he hopes to compete with the divisional elite. But as long as you’re okay with sloppy brawls, Sakai is going to have a home in the heavyweight division for a long time. His cardio belied his flabby frame — even if he did slow over the last half, he stayed busy – and he should have had the fight stopped long before the referee called it.
Sergio Moraes: I still struggle to get the image of Moraes being turned inside out by Kamaru Usman out of my head, but the BJJ clinic he put on Ben Saunders helps me to forget about that. Moraes has generally been in love with his striking in the UFC, so it was awesome to see him do what he does best by methodically working his way into a couple of impressive submissions on a skilled BJJ artist in Ben Saunders. Here’s hoping we can see more of this out of the former BJJ world champion.
Mayra Bueno Silva: I liked what I saw out of the Brazilian on the Contender Series. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t wary about picking her to win, but I’m happy as hell I did. There’s a lot of defense holes, but she is VICIOUS. Did you see the torque she put on the arm of Gillian Robertson when she submitted her? How about the standing elbow to the face of Robertson? Bueno Silva may not be a future contender, but she looks like an exciting action fighter at the very least.
Thales Leites: Not the best performance for the now-retired veteran, but it was enough for him to end his career on a positive note. Leites settled down in the second, remembering he can hold his own on the feet to outwork Hector Lombard in the process. Most remember his underwhelming title fight with Anderson Silva, but it’s unfair to boil down his career to one poor performance. Leites was an underrated fixture of the middleweight division through two stints, finishing his UFC career third in the middleweight division with 13 wins. Not bad at all. Here’s wishing the grappler extraordinaire the best in his future endeavors. We enjoyed your work… usually.
Eliezu Zaleski dos Santos: I’m not going to lie, dos Santos had me worried for a bit. He allowed Luigi Vendramini to get him down before looking for an RNC. In the end though, dos Santos not only survived, he pulled out the type of highlight reel finish we’ve all come to expect of the Brazilian. With six wins in a row and three FOTN’s in that time, the UFC needs to show him some love. Give this man a ranked opponent already!
Livia Renata Souza: I’m not looking to mitigate Souza’s quick disposal of Alex Chambers… but were you really all that surprised by that outcome? The young Brazilian has long been one of the top woman’s fighter out of Brazil, multiple circumstances delaying a UFC debut that should have happened a while ago. Nonetheless, she showed what she can do with her fists and submissions in a mere 81 seconds. She should have had a tougher opponent for her debut.
Carlo Pedersoli: I may have been wrong about how long it takes Cowboy Oliveira to warm up, but I wasn’t wrong when I said Pedersoli had no business being in the cage with him. The kid was coming off a win over Brad Scott. Last time I checked, a win over Scott didn’t warrant a spot on a main card, much less a co-main event slot. Here’s hoping the loss didn’t puncture a massive hole in the youngster’s confidence.
Sam Alvey: I love me some Sam Alvey. He’s unabashedly unashamed of his nerdiness and a solid family man. However, it’s safe to say he’s never going to be more than mid-tier gatekeeper regardless of whether he’s fighting at middleweight or light heavyweight. He simply doesn’t have the athletic gifts or boxing savvy to do more than counter with his hard right consistently. After all, he did lose to a 42-year old whom most believed was finished a few years ago.
Renan Barao: Mookie Alexander compared Barao’s fall to that of Miguel Torres, but Torres was still squeezing out the occasional win. Barao hasn’t even been able to do that recently. The UFC has steadily dropped the level of competition for the former bantamweight champion to the point he is facing debutants who are considered fun… not even future contenders! I don’t know if Barao’s strong opening round makes things even worse. Regardless, I’m not interested in seeing Barao fight anymore. It’s depressing given shat he once was and his relative youth. He is only 31 after all.
Randa Markos: Markos should have walked out of Brazil with a W. She totally dominated Rodriguez in the first round… at least with position. Had she opened up and landed some decent strikes in that frame, we’d probably be singing a different tune. Instead, she walks away with a draw. While I really want to like Markos, her career trajectory is so schizophrenic that I can’t trust her in the slightest.
Evan Dunham: That knee was brutal. I couldn’t not put Dunham here, just like I couldn’t avoid putting him in the winner’s column for the conclusion to a great career. So yeah… he’s here.
Luis Henrique: There were hopes Henrique’s wrestling would be improved now that he’s fighting smaller opposition. If there was improvement, it was minimal. Even worse, that was the only thing Henrique was able to do. After close to three years in the UFC, he’s still one of the worst strikers on the roster. With three losses in a row, there is a strong chance he’s back on the Brazilian circuit. The one reprieve is that Henrique is only 25-years old. He could find his way back if he indeed hits the cutting room floor.
Chase Sherman: Until Sherman fixes his defense, he’ll never be more than a low-level UFC heavyweight. No matter how much punishment a chin can handle, it will eventually give. Sherman’s chin gave out about two minutes before Marc Goddard stepped in. Given it was the last fight on Sherman’s contract and he’s on a three-fight losing streak, he’s unlikely to be re-signed. Nonetheless, his willingness to throwdown also makes it a strong likelihood he’s brought back. The guess is whether it will be after a few wins on the regional circuit or on short notice as an injury replacement.
Gillian Robertson: Robertson didn’t necessarily have a poor performance, but this felt like a fight she should have won. Her wrestling was superior, allowing her to control Bueno Silva for most of the contest. She just got lazy, getting trapped in an armbar inside Bueno Silva’s guard. Despite the loss, expect Robertson to come back better than ever. After all, she’s been improving with every appearance, including this one.
Hector Lombard: Remember when Lombard was a feared striker? I can, but only vaguely. Against an opponent who showed zero confidence in his striking over the last year, Lombard settled for chewing up the legs of Leites. Well… at least for a round-in-a-half before the Cuban was exhausted himself. I hate calling for a fighter to be released, but it’s been well over four years since Lombard secured a UFC win. He’s stepped into the cage seven times in that span. Can we PLEASE end this charade? Until USADA goes away, Lombard isn’t winning another fight.
Alex Chambers: I can’t think of anyone in the MMA community that doesn’t like Astro Girl. She’s a total sweetheart and who wasn’t too far off from becoming an astrophysicist. However, she can’t hang with UFC-caliber competition. Even her lone win in the organization was the result of a Hail Mary armbar in a contest she was getting her ass handed to her. It isn’t like she has untapped potential either. She is 39 after all. As easily as Souza disposed of the Aussie, I think she’ll finally be getting her pink slip.
Marc Goddard: With John McCarthy out of the refereeing business and Herb Dean seemingly slipped in his performance, many have called Goddard the best referee in the business. Those people may have to rethink that after Goddard allowed Sherman to endure so much undeserved punishment. Plus, it wasn’t clear right away whether he was going to stop the Santos-Anders fight after Anders’ initial collapse. Hopefully, it was just a bad night and he’ll be back to his regular standard moving forward.
Fox Sports: Anyone else notice an advertisement for baseball… that started while in the middle of an ongoing fight?! I get the feeling the FOX brass just doesn’t care anymore. Whether they do or don’t, that’s an egregious gaffe.
Eryk Anders: There isn’t anyone I wanted to put on the winner’s column more than Anders. The former linebacker from Alabama took the fight on just six days notice and had several moments in the fight where it looked like he might be able to produce the upset. Instead, his body betrayed him, collapsing multiple times as he attempted to make it to the corner after the third round. Anders earned mad respect from the MMA community, but at what price? There may be no long-term repercussions, but we don’t know that yet. Here’s hoping there isn’t.
Christos Giagos: No, Giagos didn’t impress with his performance. He didn’t come close to pulling off the upset. He didn’t score any notable offense. But… he also wasn’t blown out of the water up to the point he was submitted and the expected result occurred. How can he be considered a loser when everyone expected this outcome? Giagos is simply happy to be back in the UFC.
Ryan Spann: Spann did walk out of the Octagon with a W, but it was anything but an impressive performance. He spent the most time on his back of any fighter that I can remember taking a decision, lucking out that Henrique was unable to do much himself. There were minor improvements in his striking, but Spann still has a lot to work on if he hopes to be a contender.
Ben Saunders: While I admit Saunders’ performance wasn’t encouraging, I’m glad to see he didn’t suffer another brutal KO loss. Besides, who really expected Saunders to outgrapple Moraes? Some may complain with how easy Moraees took Saunders down, but Saunders has never had good takedown defense. Saunders’ stock holds steady.
Luigi Vendramini: I didn’t want to put the newcomer here based on the brutal KO he suffered, but he deserves credit for his strong performance up to that point. The natural lightweight got his much larger opponent to the ground and nearly sank in a RNC. He may have raked the eyes at one point too, but I can’t call him a loser when he exceeded everyone’s expectations.