After an exciting night of fights in Rio, which fighters stock rose and who’s fell? We rank the biggest winners and losers on the night below.
1. Anderson Silva
The weight of expectation must have been weighing heavily on Silva going into last night’s event. Almost overnight following his win over Vitor Belfort in February he had finally become a star in his native country, starring in high-profile commercials for Nike and Burger King, making frequent TV talk-show appearances and being mobbed by fans wherever he goes.
It would have been understandable if the champion’s unaparalleled abilities in the cage had been affected adversely thanks to the pressure he was under last night, but instead he revealed himself as a true superstar by actually thriving on it and rising to the occassion in front of his home fans.
He was quite literally untouchable last night as he dropped his hands and invited Okami to punch him before bobbing and weaving in matrix-like fashion in order to avoid the blows before flicking out a jab that felled the Japanese fighter like he’d been hit by a crowbar.
If this had happened in a movie you’d laugh and shake your head at the absurdity of it, but this was really happening and Silva is now in the process of cementing a legacy that may be just as untouchable for future generations of aspiring champions.
The victory was not only huge for Silva who will surely now be enjoying god-like status in Brazil, but also for the UFC who now have opened up the region to become one of the sport’s biggest markets.
2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
It seemed like a tall order for Big Nog to win this fight given that he had been showing signs of coming to an end to his career with two knockout losses in his last four appearances followed by an 18 month layoff for multiple hip and knee operations.
The fact that he rushed his recovery in order to appear at UFC: Rio last night against a younger, fitter fighter in Brendan Schaub also didn’t bode well, and neither did the fact that he appeared to be hurt by some big shots in the early stages of the fight.
Yet Nogueira’s believe in his own abilities never wavered and the strength of character that has embodied so many of his big wins was in full display as he continued to press forward and then found a way through Schaub’s defenses with punishing blows that would lead to him lying face down on the canvas.
It was a special moment that evoked memories of another downtrodden legend Tito Ortiz’ recent win against the odds Vs Ryan Bader, proving that he too is still a threat and should not be counted out prematurely.
It’s still questionable how Nogueira will fare from here, but for the time being he’s switched the focus from retirement to a possible run at the title.
3. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua
After a disappointing display against Jon Jones last time out ‘Shogun’ needed a big win last night and that’s exactly what he delivered.
Truth be told he looked a little reckless out there as he charged forward and swung for the fences, but on this occasion the end justified the means. He’d been punished once before for getting drawn into a long, drawn out battle with Griffin and it would have been just as dangerous to do so again on this occasion.
While Shogun’s stock was raised last night with his 17th knockout in 20 career wins, there may be even bigger things ahead for him if the rumor is true that he may be in the UFC’s thoughts to headline the first ‘UFC On FOX’ event in November.
4. Erick Silva
Erick Silva was not a name that will have been familiar to many watching last night given that up until this point his fourteen fight career had been confined to promotions based out of Brazil, but a knockout win in his UFC debut certainly helps put his name on the map.
The night had started off with two decisions so Silva’s crushing right hand that brought an early conclusion to his fight with fellow Brazilian Luis Ramos was most welcome and endeared him to the Rio fans.
It’s too early to say how Silva will cope in the UFC’s 170lb division, but he’s certainly off to a good start.
5. Ross Pearson
Pearson may seem like a strange choice here given that he lost, but there was much to appreciate about his performance against the much-hyped Edson Barboza who was expected to put on a striking clinic against the Brit.
The former TUF fighter had no intention of being a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter for the Brazilian in front of his home fans and took the fight to him from the opening bell. It proved to be a somewhat successful strategy, putting Barboza on the back foot for portions of the fight, although he did take some big shots at times which left him with an unsightly hematoma close to his left eye and a cut close to his right by the end of the fight.
He never gave up though and was still beckoning Barboza forward to trade leather in the final 10 seconds of the fight. In the end he lost by split decision, but some have suggested since that perhaps he should have been the one to have his hand raised.
His gutsy display will have won him new fans and even Dana White had words of encouragement for Pearson post-fight, telling him on Twitter, “Amazing fight Ross. You should be proud! FON on one of the sickest cards ever.” Pearson pocketed an additional $100,000 for that ‘Fight Of The Night’ bonus.
1. Forrest Griffin
This was another night that Griffin is not going to be looking back on with fond memories. In many respects it was a flashback to almost exactly two years ago when he was embarassed by Anderson Silva en-route to a quick KO loss.
On this occasion Shogun wasn’t as flashy as Silva, but he managed to get the job done even quicker than the pound-for-pound great, KO’ing Griffin in just under two minutes.
Griffin has built his reputation on his toughness and durability, but these two losses in particular don’t match up with that image. To make matter worse Griffin had been making it clear to anyone within earshot over the past week that he wasn’t exactly over-enthused to be in Brazil. Sometimes his honesty is endearing, but on this occasion when combined with a bad performance on the night it just looked bad.
It’s not all bad news for the former TUF winner though. Dana White praised him backstage for taking the fight, and the news that Griffin’s wife was literally about to give birth prompting a mad dash back home in the UFC president’s plane gives him a ready-made excuse for underperforming. The fact that Okami suffered much the same fate as he did against Silva must have given him a boost too.
Despite all that there’s an over-riding feeling that Griffin appears to have lost some of his luster and if he doesn’t make some changes it’s hard to see how he can make it back to fighting for the belt that he once held.
2. Yushin Okami
Okami may have been overlooked for much of his UFC career, but he’s always been one of the middleweight division’s most consistent performers. Despite that he looked completely out of his depth last night against Anderson Silva.
He can take solace from the fact that he’s the far from the first to be made to look foolish by the sports greatest fighter, but it will still be a bitter pill to swallow for the Japanese fighter.
While he’ll remain a fixture in the 185lb division for some time the manner of his defeat ensures that Okami is almost certain to be ruled out of fighting for the belt in the future regardless of how he performs from hear on out.
3. Luiz Cane
Cane is a fighter who’s not quite lived up to the hype, but in front of his home fans in Brazil he had a chance to really put himself back in the mix in the light-heavyweight division.
Though he appeared to start off well enough against Stanislav Nedkov things quickly took a turn for the worse when he got caught with a couple of big punches and never recovered.
As a result he’s now 1-3 in his last four Octagon outings and was the only major Brazilian fighter on the card not to get a win which will no doubt be a sore point for him.
The fact that he’s been TKO’d in all three of his losses is also a concern in regards to his chin which is a big problem for a fighter who relies so heavily on his stand-up abilities.
4. Spencer Fisher
Spencer Fisher has been a fixture in the UFC’s lightweight division for a number of years now, but after racking up his fourth loss in five fights his time in the promotion may be close to coming to an end.
The deterioration in his performances has been noticeable for some time, in many respects reminding me of how Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson faded in the final fights of his UFC career.
For Fisher there’s no shame in it – he is after all now 35 years old and has been in a lot of wars over the years. If he is about to bow out of the UFC then he’s certainly had good innings.
5. Brendan Schaub
Tough night for Schaub. He came in as the favorite, and in a striking match most people – including himself -saw him coming out on top, but it didn’t work out that way.
To his credit he started well enough and caught Nogueira with some big shots. In the end the fight turned out similarly to his last defeat against Roy Nelson – getting caught with a big punch which resulted in him ending up face down on the canvas.
In a division full of heavy hitters those two KO losses on his young record are a worry. Schaub is still a work in progress however, and at the age of 28 he’s got time on his side to make adjustments and look towards building up another winning streak.