I had hoped to have more time to write while in Rio, but unfortunately I was up late working every night. Between the slow internet and horrible traffic, everything in Rio takes much longer. So, I’ll spare you all the boring details of the presser and weigh in, and move on straight to fight day.
I set out on my journey back to HSBC Arena in the early afternoon on Saturday. We weren’t three blocks from the hotel when our crazy van driver slammed into another car from behind. Of course, it was all the other driver’s fault. He had stopped at a crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross. But, in Rio, things like crosswalks, lane dividers, stop signs, and red lights are merely suggestions that are often ignored. When our driver finally let up on the horn and began driving again, we passed the car and realized who it was – former Strikeforce middleweight champ Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. He had a few choice words and fingers for our driver as we sped past. Fortunately after that, we made it to the arena without further incident.
Because of the unpredictable traffic situation, I arrived at the arena far earlier than I needed to be there, nearly four hours before the first fight. It gave me a chance to test out the internet, clean and prep all my cameras and lenses, and prepare all my templates for the night. After that was done, I still had a good chunk of time before the fights started, so I went to walk outside and take some pictures of the arena and fans lined up. Of course, just as I made it out to the front of the arena, it started raining and I scurried back inside to sit and wait for the fights to start.
The opening bout between Reza Madadi and Cristiano Marcello got the fans going and helped set the tone for the night. It was a back and forth fight with both guys swinging wildly. It seemed to me that Madadi was getting the better of the exchanges, and Marcello’s swollen face tended to agree with me. I was a little surprised when Marcello was awarded the decision. The crowd was happy though and Madadi didn’t put up much of a protest, so I guess it wasn’t too bad of a decision.
The rest of the preliminary fights had some great wars. I was thoroughly impressed with Rony “Jason”, who may just have supplanted Akiyama for the title of best walk-in song. “Jason” landed several nice flying knees and really battered Sam Sicilia, who was one of my favorite fighters to come from TUF Live. Francisco Trinaldo took it to Gleison Tibau and I thought he was going to get the victory. In the end, Tibau scored the decision, but even he looked a little surprised when his hand was raised. Trinaldo had him in all sorts of trouble, which I don’t recall seeing Tibau in since his first UFC fight against Nick Diaz.
The whole night was kind of a blur to me. We had no breaks between fights, so I was hurrying to download and edit whatever I could. I didn’t finally transmit my first images until just before the start of the main card. It’s never easy to shoot and edit your own stuff as the fights are happening, but I tried to make the best of the situation and I think in the end I did a pretty good job given the circumstances.
Demian Maia kicked off the main card with a very quick submission of tough wrestler Rick Story. That was by far Maia’s best performance in the Octagon. He is a whole different animal at 170 pounds, and I think a real contender for the title.
The rematch with Phil Davis and Wagner Prado followed. The two fought earlier this year in a bout that ended in a no-contest after Prado suffered and accidental eye-poke and couldn’t continue. The fight was a little slow in the first two rounds, and Davis appeared to be ahead going into the third. Prado started pushing the pace a little more and ended up getting caught in an arm triangle choke. He escaped that, but then quickly found himself in an anaconda choke that he couldn’t get out of.
Next up was what I hoped would be fight of the night, and that turned out to be correct. Erick Silva took a big step up in competition when he stepped in the Octagon with Jon Fitch. Silva came out swinging and Fitch absorbed a couple big shots before getting in close and scoring a takedown. But he really wasn’t able to do much with the first takedown. Silva got back to his feet and was noticeably a little more tentative, but still attempting some of his flashy kicks and knees.
In the second, Silva had Fitch is a very dangerous position with a rear naked choke all but sunk in. I’m still not sure how Fitch was able to power out of it because the elbow was under the chin and Silva had a good grip. Next thing you know, Fitch is on top and going for an arm bar of his own. This all happened just below me, which made for some great pictures.
Fitch came out in the third with a mission to finish the fight. He got Silva down and quickly moved to mount. He alternated between mount and back mount through most of the round, landing heavy punches throughout. Silva escaped just at the end of the round, but the effort proved too little too late. Fitch scored the victory in one of his most impressive performances to date.
Next up was long-time hardcore favorite Glover Teixeira taking on a late replacing, but always game Fabio Maldonado. Teixeira blasted Maldonado right away and wobbled him standing. Something we really haven’t seen happen to Maldonado, who always brags about his granite chin. This allowed Teixeira to score a takedown and quickly move to mount where he punched and elbowed Maldonado for several minutes. How the fight was not stopped, I’m not sure. Near the end of the round, Maldonado managed to escape after Teixeira tired of punching. Maldonado landed a shot that stunned Teixeira momentarily, but wasn’t able to capitalize.
Between rounds, the doctor checked on Maldonado and allowed him to continue. His face was bleeding and badly swollen, but he came out swinging in the second. He was able to land a few more shots early in the round, but eventually Teixeira stormed back with some nice power shots standing that seemed to have Maldonado on the ropes. He continued to batter Maldonado throughout the second. Near the end of the round, time was called and the doctor again checked on Maldonado. Fabio pleaded his case and the doctor allowed him to continue. He survived the round, but the doctor finally stopped the fight between the second and third rounds. Teixeira was actually pretty upset with himself after the fight because he said Chuck Liddell told him to knock the guy out and he was not able to do so. Still, a very impressive performance by Glover Teixeira.
The co-main event featured Brazilian legend Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira against Dave Herman. The beef going into this fight stemmed from Herman saying that jiu-jitsu does not work. After battering and dropping Herman with punches, Minotauro proved jiu-jitsu does in fact work when he made Herman scream in pain from an arm bar submission.
The night was capped by a masterful performance from the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter – Anderson Silva. He was taking on Stephan Bonnar in a light heavyweight, non-title affair. The match was thrown together quickly to save the event after both the main event and co-main event fell off due to injuries. For the first couple minutes of the fight, Silva purposely put his back against the cage and let Bonnar tee-off on him. Bonnar landed some very impressive shots and I was really surprised none of them were able to hurt Silva. After all, Chael Sonnen was able to hurt Silva in their first fight, and Bonnar appeared to be landing much harder shots. And then, as if he flipped a switch, Anderson Silva decided to finish the fight and it was over. A knee to the chest followed by a few punches on the ground and that was all she wrote. The crowd went nuts as Silva sat in his corner looking over at Bonnar. The referee asked Silva to come to the center for his hand to be raised, but Silva refused until he knew Bonnar was OK. That sums up the man that is Anderson Silva. He will knee you until you can’t continue, then feel compassion for you immediately after.