The UFC's return to Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil was a successful one. It provided all you could expect from a Brazil UFC offering and then some, from a fair amount of underdog shine to some feel-good moments for the home crowd, to the unfortunately expected controversial decision. Outside of the fights themselves (which were great), the most standout thing about the event was the its now oft-talked about pacing. It's been a while since I've been able to say a UFC event had fantastic pacing, and it just made this card that much more enjoyable. UFC events are pretty much a day-long commitment, and any excess time shaved off of them are more than welcome. Where cards normally run up to seven hours long, we made it out of Fortaleza in about five and a half! It hearkens back to the pacing of the earlier Fight Pass cards, where they similarly wasted little time between fights.
Another talking point centered around this being the UFC color commentary debut of Michael Bisping. Personally I didn't hate the job he did, but I wouldn't say I'm a fan either. I find him similar to Bas Rutten in that I enjoy his personality on the air, but he doesn't offer a ton of insight in terms of analysis, especially when we've been spoiled by great technical minds like Daniel Cormier, Dominick Cruz, and even Paul Felder. Bisping is more likely to urge a fighter to "do something" and "fight back" than he is to offer technical suggestions and analysis, which has some degree of charm to it but as mentioned, it's not so insightful. But at least he's more dialed into the current MMA landscape than Rutten is, so there's a plus. Anyway, enough babbling, let's talk about what the hell happened at UFC Fortaleza!
THE MAIN CARD
Moraes avenges loss, makes quick work of Assuncao
Marlon Moraes def. Raphael Assuncao by submission via guillotine choke (3:17, R1)
I have to say that I find it a little extra satisfying when a fighter loses a decision I felt they won and they turn around and win the rematch emphatically. When these two first met Moraes was on the losing end of a close, but still controversial decision, and if you thought he might have been the better fighter after that fight, he put a stamp on it in this one. In breaking down this fight I focused on adjustments; while Assuncao is skilled at getting opponents to come to him and fight the fight he wants, it was Moraes that really needed to adjust and figure out how to get to a fighter that's just plain hard to get to. Although the fight didn't last long, the biggest adjustment I could see was that he created openings before attacking instead of just rushing attacks from the outside like he did the first time around. He's very clearly the quicker man of the two, and in the first fight it seemed like he banked on that a little too much to just rack up volume and rely on his reflexes to slip and land counters. Speed was still a big factor in this win, but it was that he drew out those offensive openings even slightly that allowed him to catch Assuncao completely unaware. So let's dive in a little deeper here.
Moraes came out immediately throwing hard leg kicks; something not uncommon for him since he has some of the most potent in the sport and they come out so quickly. Anytime Assuncao would stand still for any amount of time, he'd throw a leg kick and move to avoid possible counters. Footwork and feints were a big part of his game, which took away opportunities for Assuncao to get inside and line up his target. He also refrained from forcing attacks and covering too much distance with his strikes; his over-commitment was a key factor in Assuncao being able to counter him in the first fight. As a result Assuncao had little choice but to bite on feints and/or throw kicks of his own. After an inconsequential punching exchange I reckon Assuncao expected Moraes to throw a leg kick upon reset, but instead he launched a lightning-fast overhand right that hurt Assuncao, and followed up with yet another after flicking out a jab to set it up. These two shots caught Assuncao completely off guard, and they were so quick he simply just didn't have the reflexes to defend. That second right hand dropped Assuncao, and Moraes wasted no time entering his guard. From there Moraes was shockingly effective on the ground; he passed Assuncao's guard with relative ease before finding an arm-in guillotine in a scramble and fully committing to it. Assuncao rolled to relieve the pressure and found himself in a mounted guillotine, and he had no choice but to tap. It was without a doubt a career-defining performance for Moraes, as you simply just don't do these things to Assuncao.
In previewing the fight down I pointed out that a key factor to Assuncao winning close decisions is that he has a granite chin and can essentially no-sell some pretty big shots. This was the first time in a long time I remember seeing him hurt, much less dropped. It speaks to how impressive and devastating Moraes' striking really is. He's lighting quick, he's very technical, and just in his last three fights has displayed big power in his knees, kicks, and punches. At this point if the UFC passes him up for the next shot at bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, it's downright criminal. He has beaten three-straight top contenders, and all in the first round. Forget about Dillashaw rematching Henry Cejudo; The first fight shouldn't have happened because Moraes deserved a shot even then. In his post-fight interview Moraes joked that Dillashaw didn't really deserve to fight him, and while that may seem like him sabotaging himself out of a title shot, it may be just what the doctor ordered for a reactionary person like Dillashaw. Tell hem he doesn't deserve you and chances are he'll want to fight you even more.
As for Assuncao, it's hard not to feel bad for him here. I mentioned Moraes being passed over in favor of Cejudo, well Assuncao has been the poster boy at 135 for missed title shots, from unfortunately timed injuries to just being overlooked by the UFC. It's not beyond reason that the UFC doesn't go out of their way to put him in that position since his fighting style isn't the most exciting and his personality even less so, but his resume was one that should have been honored with the opportunity to challenge for a title. At 36 years old and another good win streak snapped, one has to wonder if he has another run left in him or if he's destined to settle into an elite gatekeeper status without ever having fought for the strap.
To answer your question: yes, Jose Aldo is still a top contender
Jose Aldo def. #5 Renato Moicano by TKO via strikes (0:44, R2)
Regardless of who you picked for this fight, you know you were questioning it; even with the realization that his only losses were to Conor McGregor and featherweight king Max Holloway. I'd say that coupled with his first-round TKO of Jeremy Stephens, this win proves that at least to some extent Aldo's still got it with another vintage performance. The first round was a highly technical feeling-out process; which is to say that not a hell of a lot happened. Aldo looked rejuvenated even from his last fight, eagerly dipping side to side, flashing head movement, and throwing out short feints to get Moicano to react. I've made no secret that I've always been a huge fan of the way Aldo does damn near everything on the feet, and I always love the way he'll stand in front of his opponent constantly moving his head and torso to anticipate an attack, and when they bite on it he's already prepared to pivot off to the side and throw a counter hook over the top. It's something he dinged Frankie Edgar with repeatedly in both fights. Here Moicano showed some patience and mostly tried to stay on the outside and use his reach with long kicks and jabs, the latter of which is all he managed to land with any consistency. Aldo threw a couple leg kicks of his own, but mostly stuck with head strikes. The round was fairly even; Moicano landed in greater volume, Aldo landed the slightly harder blows, but I'd say Moicano did enough to take it.
With the feeling out-round over, Aldo wasted no time getting to work in the second stanza. I took notice in Moicano's fight with Brian Ortega that he was prone to body shots since he tends to carry a high guard in exchanges, and that those were the main component in wearing him out and prompting him to shoot in on Ortega when he had handily won the stand up exchanges for the first 10 minutes of the fight. He worked a bit to the body earlier in this fight, but I think what anchored the finishing sequence in this fight was his mixing it up once the ball got rolling to the finish. It all started when Moicano tried to counter a right hand with a hopping left knee. He was standing a bit too tall and didn't quite connect on the knee, but tried to follow up with a 1-2 combination that left his head in one place just a bit too long. The jab appeared to barely miss, but the right was met with a big right hook from Aldo that looked to hurt Moicano, and as alluded to before, when Aldo moved in on him he immediately threw up a high guard anticipating a follow up. Instead Aldo was keen to fire off a left hook to his exposed body, causing him to drop his guard a bit, followed another had left hook up top that clearly rocked him. It was the first in a torrent of hooks that just had Moicano covering up and backing into the cage. Once Moicano tried to escape along the cage, again with his guard up high, Aldo chased him down with three consecutive hellacious right hooks to the body. Once he caught up to Moicano he continued the assault with ambidextrous hooks, right hands, and a knee for good measure. Moicano simply wasn't given the chance to recover; Aldo was literally all over him throwing strikes with seemingly murderous intent. When Aldo sees an opponent hurt he throws everything into his shots, which was very apparent here. Props to Moicano for staying on his feet the entire time.
There were some rumblings about an early stoppage, but I didn't see anything wrong with it. Once he fell back against the cage, relaxed his guard, then got his head rocked back into the cage with an overhand right he looked done, and the referee agreed. Aldo celebrated in similar fashion to his featherweight title defense against Chad Mendes in Rio de Janeiro just shy of 7 years ago: he leaped over the cage and ran into the crowd to celebrate with the fans. This time he did add a little Khabib flare by leaping off the cage platform with a flying kick though (thankfully it didn't seem to be aimed at anyone).
Also Aldo is one of my favorite fighters, it was heartening to see him pick up a big win like this and prove he still belongs among the top of the division...even if I also feel like a traitor for picking Moicano to win! What's more is that Aldo's style, perhaps emboldened by no longer needing to defend a title, has been much more offensive of late despite the nature of his losses. Much of his UFC tenure was marked with the perception that he was playing it safe and wasn't the "killer" version of himself we saw in the WEC. Regardless of the reasons for his more conservative approach, it appears to be a thing of the past; he's been more aggressive and willing to initiate exchanges in recent fights, at least once he has his timing figured out. Aldo is now on a two-fight winning streak, and since he likely isn't on the table for a third Holloway fight anytime soon and is planning to retire in the near future, it's tougher to place him than I thought. My immediate thought was Alexander Volkanovski, but if Aldo wins that kills a contender since Aldo is unlikely to receive another title shot. Brian Otega makes even more sense, though I imagine they may see him as a future champion and want to build him back up a bit since he's just coming off a tough loss in a title fight. And I don't think anyone's asking for a third fight with Edgar or a rematch with Cub Swanson, who's on quite a rough streak. Outside of using him as a gatekeeper to the elite and throwing him in there with someone like Mirsad Bektic or Yair Rodriguez, Ortega might be the best bet. As for Moicano, he could also take on someone from that lower-top 10 crop of fighters; perhaps Ricardo Lamas.
Maia does Maia things; makes Good look Bad
Demian Maia def. Lyman Good by submission via rear naked choke (2:38, R1)
Maia was in desperate need of a win, and he did just that. It certainly wasn't a forgone conclusion that he would get it done, but I was fairly confident to pick him here just because I don't believe Good is the level of fighter that typically gives Maia issues. Although he's generally shown sterling takedown defense overall, a persistent threat of a takedown tends to get to him and render him hesitant. Maia's entire game on the feet is built on the eventuality that he will shoot for a takedown, and that it'll probably be ugly and poorly set up, but that doesn't matter anyway because his initial shot is never meant to get the job done (this is how you end up with a 25% takedown accuracy). On the feet he simply stalks has opponent and frequently feints until they find themselves backed into the cage, and that's when he shoots in. Good took this bait, hook, line, and sinker; within seconds Maia walked him back into the cage. As expected he shot in without hesitation, and managed to get the takedown. Good scrambled back to his feet quickly, which really just falls in line with Maia's overall agenda because it invites a transition for him to gain an even more advantageous position. After some jockeying, Maia managed to take Good's back standing and lock in a body triangle (the Maia Special AKA the human Jansport). After peppering Good with some short strikes, he cinched in the standing rear-naked choke and got the tap. This one almost looked like more of a crank; Maia's arm didn't look fully under the chin, and it might have been pressure on the jaw that caused Good to submit.
It was a great performance for Maia, and a welcome departure from the cadre of strong wrestlers he'd been booked opposite of for the past year. Almost all of his losses have come to wrestlers in the top 10 who can shut down his takedown attempts and/or survive him down the stretch until he tires. I'm all for more of these types of match ups for Maia, as another run for the title is unlikely in the cards for him at this point. Good was the first-ever Bellator welterweight champion and a pretty damn solid all-around fighter, as are most Tiger Schulmann products, but I can't say I really see him being anything more than a mid-level roster guy who wins some and loses some in the UFC. He can beat other mid-level fighters and do so impressively, but as soon as he gets a notable jump in competition, he just doesn't look quite so...good. Though I'll concede that he did hold his own against Elizeu dos Santos.
Oliveira overcomes some shenanigans to tap Teymur
Charles Oliveira def. David Teymur by submission via anaconda choke (0:55, R2)
Oliveira continues to rack up submissions to extend his all-time UFC submission record, and this effort was not only one of his more impressive outings, but also one of the weirdest. The latter part we can mostly thank referee Jerin Valel for. Following a blocked high kick, Oliveira is poked in the eye when Teymur pushes off. It was a relatively bad poke; it appeared he actually got poked in both eyes at the same time, which I have to admit is kind of impressive. Oliveira was allowed time to recover, and during this recovery time Valel decided he didn't care if the poke was unintentional; it affected the fight and deserved a point deduction. I have mixed feelings about that. One one hand I do support stricter foul treatment when there are so many wishy-washy refs out there who will let out about 30 warnings before saying they really mean it this time. On the other hand, unless I'm mistaken aren't fighters not allowed time for eye pokes? Don't you call the physicians in, and if after checking the fighter they're not able to continue the fight is waved off? I personally think they should be allowed a respite for pokes, but I believe the rules state otherwise. Almost immediately following the restarting of the fight, Teymur poked him again, but this time Valel didn't see it. Oliveira attempted to call his own time out because why the hell not? Jamie Varner can do it, why can't he? This was highly confusing for Valel, who went from "No, you gotta keep fighting" to "Just kidding, I trust you" to "Wait no, I'm the ref here. Fight!" over the span of a few seconds. No point taken this time though...because he didn't see it? Wait, then what did you halt the fight for? I dunno anymore. Anyway, it turns out none of it matters, so onto round two!
Shenanigans aside, what stood out about this fight from the jump was that Oliveira's striking stood up to Teymur's surprisingly well. Most thought with good reason that if Oliveira was unable to drag the fight to the ground it would be a pretty bad night for him, but he acquitted himself well in round one and in the next round landed a sneaky right step-in upward elbow that hurt Teymur, followed by a right uppercut that caused him to turn his back to Oliveira up against the cage. Oliveira continued to tee off on him with lefts and rights, and it looked like we were in for a TKO as Valel ran to step in. But Valel wasn't done yet. He decided instead to turn full heel and tell Oliveira "Nah this ain't over, go get your submission, playboy." At least I hope that's what he told him. Either way, Oliveira obliged and locked in a quick anaconda choke, rolled Teymur to the ground, and got the tap. It seems like Oliveira has been in the UFC forever, but he isn't even 30 years old yet and is clearly still improving as a fighter. There's a running joke about his tendency to tease a return to 145 after every win at lightweight, and he surprisingly didn't do it after this fight, which I think is a good thing. He just seems more durable at 155 and his resolve actually looks better; he no longer just sort of falls apart after taking heavy shots. I don't know if he'll stay consistent enough to challenge for a title, but it's time to put him in there with a ranked opponent.
Walker Walks off with another quick knockout
Johnny Walker def. Justin Ledet by TKO via strikes (0:15, R1)
Not a whole helluva lot to break down here! Walker once again gets things done in brisk fashion, because he's not getting paid by the hour; or even the minute in the case of this fight. Ledet started the fight off pumping his jab, probably thinking this would be a standard, ordinary pugilistic outing. Johnny Walker will have none of that nonsense. Johnny Walker will make things as awkward and unpredictable as he is physically able, both in and out of the cage. So imagine Ledet's surprise when a standard, ordinary side kick to the body was followed by a hook kick up top with a bit of a Shawn Michaels-esque Sweet Chin Music hop. It landed, but Ledet wore it well. "This guy's pretty crazy" Ledet must have thought. Or at least he might have thought that if he had time to before that hook kick was immediately chased with a spinning backfist that plunked Ledet right on the temple and sent him to hands hands and knees looking like he was searching for a lost contact lens. Walker wasn't finished, because where most would follow their opponent to the ground with punches, his first order of action was to attempt to running soccer kick the life out of Ledet, which thankfully only managed to graze Ledet's leg as he slowly rolled to his back to cover up. A few punches from standing position, and it was all over.
Walker got some guff from the commentary team for the soccer kick, but it didn't land to the head so it's legal and I don't see where there's a problem. Moreover, after looking at replays I'm still not entirely convinced he wasn't aiming for a soccer kick to the body (which I'd love to see implemented more often), and it only looked like an attempt at an illegal kick because Ledet started to roll to his back as the kick was being launched, and it put his head more in line with it. Either way no harm, no foul. Well, there was plenty of harm. If Johnny Walker keeps handing out those black & blue labels (give me a break, it's the only alcohol joke I hadn't yet heard about his name) he might just find himself in the mix for title contention; god knows the division needs them. I just look forward to seeing him continue to be weird both in and out of competition.
Who wouldn't want to see more of this?
It was't overly impressive, but Souza remains perfect in the UFC
Livia Renata Souza def. Sarah Frota by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
I've been high on Souza for a bit so pointing out that her win wasn't overly impressive may be a bit harsh, but that might just hinge on knowing what type of performances she's capable of turning in. I'm still aware of her limitations and the notion that this fight could pose some problems for her due to Frota's size, which was only emphasized by Frota grossly missing weight for the fight. It was clear throughout who the stronger woman was, not just because of the all-too visible size difference, but also because Frota's strikes were easily the more impactful ones on the feet. Souza struck for takedowns often and was generally successful in the first two rounds, though you could probably attribute it more to Frota's poor takedown defense than Souza's prowess in the area. Many of her takedowns were poorly set up and sloppy in execution (seriously, what were those diving outside leg trips about?), but Frota more or less just fell over until later on in the fight when she finally started to defend them. Frota was active off her back and even locked in a triangle choke to facilitate a reversal, but overall Souza held the edge on the ground. In the stand up, Souza found success in round one but was pretty soundly outstruck in rounds two and three, with her grappling being part and parcel to her winning the decision. Honestly, if not for a late second round rally that saw Souza get a takedown, take Frota's back, and seriously threaten her with a rear-naked choke to close the round, we might be looking at an upset right now, because I thought Souza was losing the round up until then and they had clearly split rounds one and three.
I mentioned in breaking down this fight beforehand that Souza has the trappings of a star in the division, but I think I'll pump my breaks slightly there. Not that I'm changing my tune in that regard, but there's more room for seasoning than I once thought. She's a small strawweight that hardly cuts any weight, and being in there with a big strawweight (if you want to call her that) like Frota posed some clear problems for her. Her defense also showed a need for improvement. She's still young both in terms of age and her career, so she'll have time to round it all out, hopefully before the UFC throws her in there with the sharks. As mentioned on the Fightful Podcast after the event, a rematch with Angela Hill, who took the Invicta strawweight title from her almost two-and-a-half years ago, would be a solid fight to make in order to show where she is. Hill is currently booked to fight Randa Markos in March, so even if Markos wins I think she makes a suitable opponent for Souza. As for Frota, she should probably be made to fight at 125 her next time out.
Markus Perez def. Anthony Hernandez by submission via d’arce choke (1:07, R2)
I had the round and method pegged just right for this fight...I just picked the wrong guy. Hernandez actually did well to start, showing some potent clinch striking and aggression on the feet, but a lack of defense is ultimately what did him in, as well as Perez's switching stances mid-combo appearing to confuse him a bit. To start the second stanza Perez landed a body kick that hurt Hernandez, locked in an anaconda choke after an attempted hip toss, and took the fight to the ground to cinch it in and earn the submission victory. We now know who the best former LFA middleweight champion in the UFC not named Eryk Anders is.
Mara Romero Borella def. Taila Santos by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
If there was one fight that didn't quite entertain on the card, this was it. Mara "Maravilla" Romero Borella (I dare you to say this five times fast) was one of my upset picks for the card, and although it was a bit too close for comfort she did mostly what I expected, and that's take home a pretty tepid decision facilitated by her size and reach. Much like the aforementioned Souza, Borella found success in the first round and it mostly tapered off as the fight wore on, with Santos clearly taking the third frame and leaving it up to round two to decide a winner. I actually scored that decisive second round a 10-10, and thus the fight a draw. Neither woman really did anything to put a stamp on the round; Borella had a bit of a positional advantage purely through holding Santos up against the cage, as she did little to nothing to set her takedowns up; Santos landed a couple more strikes in the clinch. All in all I thought it evened out and no one deserved to win the round. As such the fight could've gone either way, but I think if you have to go with someone Borella was probably the right decision. It wasn't the most rousing win, but Borella nonetheless bounces back from a loss to Katlyn Chookagian and a 26-year suspension (I'm not kidding) by the Italian Anti-Doping Agency for distributing cannabis and cocaine at her gym; a suspension the UFC clearly said "lol wut?" to and promptly ignored.
Thiago Alves def. Max Griffin by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
It wouldn't be a Brazil event without at least one questionable hometown decision, right? There are plenty of times where when you really look into the situation the claims of home cooking could be overblown; this was not one of those situations. Two of the three judges scored the fight for Alves, and they just happened to be the two Brazilian judges (to one American) on duty for the contest. Did I also mention that Fortaleza is Alves' hometown and he hadn't fought there since his pro debut over 17 years ago? While Alves wasn't exactly blown out of the water, the fight was a clear 29-28 Griffin affair. The first round was fairly dominant in favor of Griffin (I even spotted a couple 10-8 scores). Griffin was keen to counter Alves' vaunted leg kicks with straight punches over the top, and though Alves found more success when moving forward, Griffin focused on staying just out of his range and popping him with long jabs and straights, and even dropping him to close the round. Alves adjusted well in round two, managing to get inside and rock him with a right hand, forcing Griffin into exchanges. He managed to hang in there, but Alves clearly got the better of him in that round. In round three it was Griffin who in turn adjusted well, beginning round exchanging before switching gears to wrestling and controlling a good amount of the round from top position. Alves managed to escape and attempt a takedown of his own, but was reversed and ended the round on the bottom eating punches.
It was, again, a clear round for Griffin, who vowed following the loss never to fight in Brazil again. I don't blame him one bit. As terrible as the decision was, it did feel good to see a veteran who had many of his good years plagued with injuries and other medical afflictions pick up a win in his hometown. Alves is 35 years old and it feels like he's been in the UFC for 20 years (though he's going on 14 years, which is still a long time) and it's good to see him being at least competitive with a big, strong, downright decent welterweight here. Griffin just really could've used the win, which is a bummer. But at least the fight was fantastic.
This pretty much says it all
Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. Junior Albini by TKO via strikes (0:54, R2)
I fear this may be the last we see of the giant fighting baby in the UFC with Albini now suffering his third-straight loss. He's a decent heavyweight despite his record in the promotion, so hopefully they give him another shot. He had the right idea to start the fight, immediately working for a double leg on Rozenstruik and taking the powerful kickboxer to the canvas. On the ground Rozenstruik showed just how raw he is, as Albini easily passed his guard and he had little to offer offensively or defensively. Eventually he employed Derrick Lewis' "just get the f*ck up" strategy of escaping bad positions on the ground, and made it back to his feet, and used the waning moments of the round to land some shots standing. In what seems to be a trend for this card, Rozenstruik wasted no time finishing the fight in the next round. He responded to a feinted take down attempt with a left hook-right hook combo that stunned Ablini, and a left high kick caught him as he was going down for good measure. A few follow up punches and and that's all she wrote.
Geraldo De Freitas def. Felipe Colares by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
I didn't know too much about either of these men other than the fact that Colares is a former Jungle Fight champion and de Freitas is a former Shooto Brazil champion. I expected Colares to win mainly because he was favored, not that this typically means anything where a Brazil card is involved. De Freitas more or less dominated this fight from bell to bell, only taking time off of beating the brakes off Colares on the feet to employ the questionable tactic of shooting takedowns. He did well to control the action on the ground as well, but it was hard to make sense of him frequently dragging the fight to the ground when he was pretty much doing what he wanted on the feet.
Said Nurmagomedov def. Ricardo Ramos by TKO via strikes (2:28, R1)
I had Ramos pegged to win this one, but the not-family member of Khabib Nurmagomedov had other plans. Contrary to what one might expect from his last name, his game revolves around his slick striking offense, which shined brightly here when he caught Ramos with a hard spinning back kick to the body that sent him backing up to the cage in pain. He followed up with a head kick and punches to seal the deal for a very impressive victory a division up from his usual haunt at flyweight.
Rogerio Bontorin def. Magomed Bibulatov by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
This was one of two fights I had to watch after the event, and judging by what I'd heard I thought Bibulatov really got upset and lost clearly, but this was a close fight. Ultimately I did score it for Bontorin, but this was a close affair that could have easily gone to Bibulatov. It was clear where each man was the most effective: Bontorin was successful in the first round working takedowns and controlling the action on the ground, while Bibulatov rebounded in round two striking from distance and working a conservative top game after a takedown of his own. The final stanza was the swing round, and for many it was decided in the latter portion of the round. Bibulatov got the better of the action on the feet through much of the round, but eventually Bontorin was able to drag the fight to the ground and threaten with a rear-naked choke until the round closed. It was a pretty subjective round that asked whether you favored Bibulatov's early striking from distance and the clinch, or Bontorin's late submission work. Oddly enough, for this fight the two non-Brazilain judges scored the fight for Bontorin while the Brazilian saw the contest for Bibulatov. I guess they'd make up for that later!
And there you have it: now you know what the hell happened at UFC Fortaleza. It was mostly a fun event from start to finish, and I really hope the UFC and ESPN continue with this style of pacing for ESPN+ cards, or at least some of them. It's so draining going through the rise in excitement of a quick finish only to be brought crashing down to Earth at the realization that you're now in for like 20 minutes of commercials and nonsense. And I also hope everyone who watched the Super Bowl last night had themselves a grand old time; though I suspect many of you didn't now that Tom Brady has completed his NFL-inity Gauntlet. But at least we got an End Game teaser and that awesome Bud Light/Game of Thrones commercial! Sado, out!