This weekend saw another two UFC cards, and despite having similar makeups, the events couldn’t have ended up more different. On Friday night, the card from Sydney, Australia aired on UFC Fight Pass, moved along swiftly, and saw a UFC record set as each of the eleven fights ended inside the distance. Saturday’s card from Uberlandia, Brazil maintained the plodding pace fans have come to expect from Fox Sports 1 broadcasts, and some of the fights weren’t much help in speeding things along. Six of the ten bouts went the distance, and the most intriguing bout heading into the card (Ian McCall vs. John Lineker) was scrapped the day before the event. The main event of UFC Fight Night 55 saw Luke Rockhold cement his status among the top middleweights in the world with a dominant victory over Michael Bisping. The former Strikeforce champion threw kicks from every angle, and had Bisping guessing from the opening moments of the fight. Early in the second round he landed a beautiful question mark kick with his right leg which stunned the Brit, followed up with a heavy left head kick which dropped him, and locked in a guillotine choke which he used to roll through to mount and finished with one arm. It was a reminder of how deep the UFC’s middleweight division currently is, as Vitor Belfort will be the next title challenger, while Rockhold and ‘Jacare’ each have a claim after him. Yoel Romero is undefeated at middleweight, and on a 5-fight winning streak as well. Rockhold against either ‘Jacare’ or Romero would be a fantastic bout, but it’s hard to deny him a title shot at this point, especially with his previous win over ‘Jacare’.
A day later, another long-time veteran of the sport suffered a tough loss, as former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua was finished in under a minute by Ovince St. Preux. Rua missed with a wild swing in a punching exchange, and St. Preux capitalized with a sharp counter that sent his foe stumbling to the mat. After that, OSP kept the pressure on, forcing the referee to step in and stop the fight, handing ‘Shogun’ his second straight TKO loss. From a technical standpoint, St. Preux still has quite a ways to go before being considered elite, but the light heavyweight division is so thin beyond the top five right now that he may be able to sneak into contention. If Rashad Evans ever plans on fighting again, that would be an appropriate fight to see if St. Preux really has improved, or Rua is just that far gone.
There was not a single ranked fighter in action across the remaining 19 bouts, but there were plenty of performances which deserve at least a bit of attention. Al Iaquinta scored an impressive TKO of Ross Pearson in the second round of their lightweight bout. The contest saw experts split as it appeared very competitive on paper, and ended up the same in the cage until Iaquinta’s power made the difference. Robert Whittaker also impressed as he stepped up to middleweight and stopped Clint Hester in the second round of their bout. Whittaker’s speed translated well to the higher weight, and he didn’t get physically dominated by a very big 185er in Hester. Those are both promising signs for the Aussie moving forward. The moment of the weekend was when, down two rounds, Louis Smolka tuned up the band and hit Richie Vaculik with the first ever ‘Sweet Chin Music’ in the UFC. The stepping sidekick dropped Vaculik, and the ground-and-pound that followed was a mere formality. Somewhere, Shawn Michaels was smiling after that one. The Brazil card featured many low points, as the entire main card leading up to the main event was hardly worth a second thought (aside from, “MMA judges are still bad”), but the preliminary card featured a fun bout between debuting prospect Thomas Almeida and the incredibly durable Tim Gorman. Following a fight in which Almeida landed all manner of strikes on Gorman, it was the youngster who looked like he’d seen better days. Those notable moments aside, here’s a rundown of the weekend’s action by division:
- Soa Palelei put his heavy ground-and-pound to good use once again, scoring a second round TKO over Walt Harris in the lone heavyweight bout on either card. Palelei is now 4-1 in his second tour in the UFC.
- Light heavyweight Anthony Perosh keeps rolling at age 42, as submission skills were too much for Guto Inocente.
- At middleweight, Sam Alvey used a quick scramble to mount as the impetus to put Dylan Andrews away in the first round, while hometown favorite Dan Kelly scored the biggest numerical upset of the weekend on the Australian card. In Brazil, Caio Magalhaes added to his win streak, using a knee and some questionable hammerfists to score his fourth straight victory.
- 170lbs was one of the busier divisions this weekend, with Chris Clements, Warlley Alves, Claudio Silva, Dhiego Lima, and Colby Covington all picking up wins. Covington and Clements were the most impressive in victory, while Alves and Silva both could have seen decisions go the other way in their fights.
- Jake Matthews and Leandro Silva each scored a rear-naked choke to earn victory at lightweight. Silva’s wrestling held up particularly well against Charlie Brenneman before he found his way to the wrestler’s back.
- The only featherweight bout was between TUF Latin America contestants Diego Rivas and Rodolfo Rubio, and Rivas scored a unanimous decision which I have yet to watch.
- Marcus Brimage may have punched Chinese bantamweight Jumabieke Tuerxun’s ticket out of the UFC with a first round TKO victory.
- Women’s strawweights Juliana Lima and Nina Ansaroff went the distance with Lima taking a decision, in another fight I haven’t caught up on yet.
The UFC returns this weekend with UFC 180 from Mexico City. The interim heavyweight title will be on the line in the main event as Fabricio Werdum challengers Mark Hunt. Stay locked on MMAOddsBreaker.com for odds and analysis for the entire card.