UFC Fight Night 61 Video Highlights: Upsets Abound in Porto Alegre

The UFC put on a rare Sunday night offering from Porto Alegre, Brazil, and there wasn’t much fanfare heading into the event. The topic of discussion quickly shifted from the lackluster event on paper to the stunning turn of events that saw 10 of the 11 bouts on the card end via upset, a new UFC record. The opening bout of the card saw Ivan Jorge emerge victorious, but he would be the only betting favorite to do so for the rest of the night. Many onlookers had pegged Frank Mir and Michael Johnson for potential upsets in the main and co-main events, respectively, but they would have no idea that those two men would come down to Brazil to cap off an historic evening with their performances. Mir made short work of Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, much in the same fashion as Andrei Arlovski did just a few months ago. The former champion used a jab to mask a left hook, and Silva had no chance to recover after getting clipped. The win — Mir’s first since 2011 — doesn’t put him anywhere near title contention, but it does set up the interesting possibility of him taking on a returning Brock Lesnar for a rubber match. Their second fight headlined the biggest pay-per-view in the history of MMA, and Dana White would certainly be happy to make the bout one more time.

As for ‘Bigfoot’, he was unfortunately caught up in the maelstrom of TRT use in MMA, and has clearly suffered since it was banned. Silva is one of the few fighters who had legitimate medical reasoning for using TRT, and it’s unfortunate that the UFC’s blanket ban on the substance has seemingly ruined the career of a former title challenger. The real bout that held fans’ interest on this card was the lightweight tilt between excellent strikers Michael Johnson and Edson Barboza. Johnson executed a nearly flawless gameplan across 15 minutes, constantly putting Barboza on the back foot and never allowing the Brazilian to establish a consistent rhythm, particularly with his kicks. It was even more impressive given Johnson’s extended layoff prior to this fight and the sweltering heat in Brazil last night.

The Blackzilian member took advantage of his post-fight interview as well to call out former lightweight champion Benson Henderson, a bout that would put him squarely in title contention if he were to pull off the win. As for Barboza, he’ll continue to mill around the bottom half of the top 15 in the lightweight division, but his chin and inability to counter fight will prevent him from rising to the heights many expected upon his UFC arrival. The main card in general wasn’t kind to Brazilians, as Sam Alvey added to the upset count with a not-so-surprising knockout of Cezar Ferreira. ‘Mutante’ was controlling the fight for the duration, but his questionable chin let him down the very first time Alvey unloaded any meaningful offense. The Wisconsin native managed to get the Brazilian crowd on his side with his affable personality after the fight, and is now starting to make an impression in the middleweight division. A matchup with Uriah Hall seems kind of strange at first thought, but I think it would allow Hall to get some good offense off early, but with the danger of Alvey not going away and being able to answer back with his massive power.

The only Brazilian to emerge victorious on the Fox Sports 1 card was Adriano Martins, who pulled off the second-largest upset of the night, earning an oddly-scored split decision over Rustam Khabilov. Martins shockingly outwrestled Khabilov when he wanted to, and the striking was relatively even throughout. Martins moved to 3-1 in the UFC with the win, and his only loss came to Donald Cerrone. Once vastly underrated, it will be interesting to see if Martins takes Khabilov’s place amongst the top 15 at lightweight. While Martins pulled off a big upset, none was bigger than Frankie Saenz outworking Iuri Alcantara over 15 minutes for a unanimous decision. Saenz was a +725 underdog when lines closed at Several Bookmakers, and that made him the biggest underdog to pull off a win since Will Brooks bested Michael Chandler at +800 last year. Alcantara looked listless throughout the fight, allowing himself to be outwrestled — as he often does — but not exploding on the feet as he normally would against an inferior striker like Saenz. The main card opened with Santiago Ponzinibbio taking a unanimous decision over Sean Strickland after spending the vast majority of 15 minutes walking down the American. Strickland stayed busy with his jab, but Ponzinibbio landed almost all of the clean power shots (although Strickland did stun the Argentine on a pair of occasions). The forward movement of Ponzinibbio outweighed the jab-heavy style of Strickland on the judges cards, and the fans being firmly on his side certainly didn’t hurt either. The upsets on the evening were rounded out by Marion Reneau, Matt Dwyer, Mike de la Torre, and Douglas Silva, with the first three all coming at the expense of Brazilian fighters. The next stop for the UFC is this coming weekend, as UFC 184 features Ronda Rousey as a massive favorite in her fifth UFC title defense.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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