D. FOX: Rapid-fire reactions to UFC Fight Night 77 “Belfort vs. Henderson”

Despite having a main event I had a hard time getting excited for, I was very excited for this fight night to come as it offered all sorts of exciting matchups. Thankfully it lived up to expectations… even with the main event living up to the expectations I had for that as well. There were some early finishes, some highlight KO’s, exciting fights, and even some submissions in an era where submissions. This ended up being one of the best events of the year in terms of pure action even if there weren’t any blockbuster names on the card (sorry, Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson don’t count anymore).

Rather than continue to ramble on about an overview, I’ll just ramble on about each individual fight at this point.

Vitor Belfort defeated Dan Henderson via KO at 2:07 of the first round

No surprises here as Henderson’s chin and mobility have eroded after a combination of father time and countless battles have made Henderson a shell of what he once was. So Belfort simply had to circle around the battle worn legend until he found an opening and launched a head kick as soon as he did and put Hendo on the ground. A few follow-up punches later and you could see Hendo go limp and the referee rightfully stepped in to stop the fight almost before it felt like it got started. The problem is that the fight hasn’t answered any questions we were asking. We still don’t know how Belfort will respond against elite competition now that he is off of TRT. While Weidman easily disposed of him May, it was Belfort’s first performance off of TRT in addition to his first fight in 18 months. He should be adjusted by now to fighting without the performance enhancer, but Hendo isn’t the one to test him. I hope to see Belfort fight Lyoto Machida next, since both are past their primes at this point and no one is sure what they have left to offer.

As for Hendo, I greatly hope that he considers retirement for real. All it took is one well-timed shot from Belfort for him to be stopped in the first round by strikes for the third time in the last two years after never being stopped by strikes in the first 16 years of his career. The only way he can win is if his opponent wades into the pocket… like Tim Boetsch did in June. It will take very specific matchups for him to find any success anymore. But it is his career and his right to decide when to call it quits…


Glover Teixeira defeated Patrick Cummins via TKO at 1:12 of the second round

Cummins took an ungodly amount of damage between the final minute of the first round and the end of the fight as Teixeira found his range, unloading punch combination after combination to the head. While Cummins found a bit of success landing a jab in round one, he wasn’t hurting Teixeira and was unable to keep him down for long when he did get him down. If Cummins can’t keep his opponent down, he is out of luck as his striking doesn’t intimidate anyone. Luckily for him the light heavyweight division is incredibly thin and he’ll probably get a few more chances to break through into the elite. Considering he is about a week short of 35, it is hard to see him developing the necessary striking to breakthrough. Teixeira is also fortunate that the division is thin as he could very well get another shot at the title even though he is perhaps the UFC’s least favorite option. It certainly won’t come in his next fight, but he may need just one more win which seemed ridiculous to think he could be in this position following his embarrassing loss to Phil Davis. There isn’t a viable option for him to fight right now, so he’ll have to wait to see how things play out over the next little while.


Thomas Almeida defeated Anthony Birchak via KO at 4:24 of the first round

WOW! It is rare that a fight actually lives up to the hype in terms of the amount of action expected, but this fight sure as hell did just that as it was pure striking action from bell to bell. Aside from Birchak looking to take the fight to the ground (wisely I might add), the two stood and slugged it out with each rocking the other at times. Almeida came into the fight with a reputation as the more technically sound of the two and lived up to that. As soon as he realized that Birchak was in trouble, Almeida stayed calm and threw his punches with perfect technique, and landed a straight right that put Birchak out cold. Almeida’s penchant for violence is making him a fan favorite in addition to a legit contender. He still has a few fights to win before he can challenge for the title, but it is looking like it could happen in a short time if he continues to develop. Birchak will be around for a while if he continues to fight like that (remember Leonard Garcia?) as fans eat it up. Though he doesn’t appear to be a top 15 fighter, he should serve as a sound gatekeeper.


Alex Oliveira defeated Piotr Hallmann via KO at 0:51 of the third round

WOW! I know I already said that, but this KO deserves an exclamation as well, as it was one of the best KO’s of the year. Oliveira caught the durable Hallmann clean on the chin which led to the Pole’s eyes rolling up into the back of his head as he crashed to the ground. Oliveira showed his dynamic offense throughout the entire fight with knees, elbows, punches, kicks… you name it he threw it and threw it with ill intentions every time out. His defense will expose him against a skilled striker, but that probably won’t come for another fight or two. While his grappling shortcomings will probably keep him from becoming a contender, he is already a favorite of the brass due to his willingness to step up on short notice combined with his fun-to-watch style. Hallmann is a UFC caliber fighter, but will likely be on the outside looking in after this loss marked his third in a row. Could he make his way back? Possibly, but it will take a hell of a run.


Rashid Magomedov defeated Gilbert Burns via unanimous decision

Burns’ physical skills are readily apparent and he is without a doubt one of the best on the ground. But his striking seems to lose any form of substance as soon as he is confronted with any sort of difficulty. Burns controlled Magomedov at the beginning of the fight, but once he was unable to do any significant damage he lost his confidence, and Magomedov cruised to an easy decision victory from there, landing a high number of kicks to the body and rocking Burns on multiple occasions in the second round. Magomadov is now undefeated in four UFC appearances and has looked good in every one of them. I don’t think he’ll be getting a ranked opponent, but he is very close to getting that opportunity. Burns entered the UFC with high expectations and won’t live up to those until he can straighten out his issues on the feet… and that includes his defense, as Magomedov had few problems finding openings. He showed he has heart in his fight with the aforementioned Oliveira earlier this year, so don’t count him out.


Corey Anderson defeated Fabio Maldonado via unanimous decision

I probably could have written the summary of this fight before it even happened as everything went as expected. Anderson mixed in some takedowns with control against the cage while Maldonado continued to move forward asking for more. Maldonado couldn’t stop the takedowns and wasn’t able to outlast Anderson who has a deep gas tank himself leading to an easy victory for the only legit prospect in the light heavyweight division. The UFC will want to be careful with Anderson’s development, so don’t expect him to be thrown into the deep end too quickly. Another fight or two with a fighter about the same level of Maldonado would be wise. Maldonado has now lost two in a row, but with little depth and his action-friendly style, he isn’t going anywhere. How about a bout with Rafael Cavalcante? Both like to stand and trade so it would likely be a fun fight.


Gleison Tibau defeated Abel Trujillo via submission at 1:45 of the first round

Even though it seemed academic at that point, it should be stated that Trujillo didn’t tap and he didn’t go to sleep either. But who honestly didn’t think one or the other was going to happen in a few more seconds anyway? Tibau did what he does best: he Tibaud Trujillo. For the uneducated, that means he used his massive size advantage that he has on almost every lightweight and bullied Trujillo against the cage and on the ground. Instead of needing a full 15 minutes, he was able to get the submission as Trujillo’s questionable grappling skills cost him. Tibau is still the penultimate gatekeeper. Trujillo is an exciting fighter if he is allowed to stand and trade, but the book on him is written on how to beat him (get him to the ground and outwrestle or outgrapple him) and it isn’t that difficult. He needs a win in his next appearance or he’ll likely be cut.


Johnny Case defeated Yan Cabral via unanimous decision

Case didn’t get the highlight reel finish many were expecting (though he did come close after flooring Cabral with a nice combination in the second), but he did show plenty of grappling skills that many were a bit surprising as he escaped from numerous bad positions and even ended up with the advantageous position after initiating some scrambles. It wasn’t the definitive win he needed to get a major step up in competition, but it may have said more about his overall skill set as many looked at him primarily as a striker. I don’t see him being a future contender, but I do see him having a long career in the UFC. Cabral actually improved his stock in my eyes despite the loss as he showed a lot of gumption and even some improved striking skills. I can see an argument in giving him the victory too as he did win the grappling battle (despite Case having his moments). Cabral should settle in a lower to mid-tier gatekeeper.


Thiago Tavares defeated Clay Guida via submission at 0:39 of the first round

That didn’t take long. Guida lifted Tavares up for a powerful takedown off of a double leg and Tavares sunk in a tight arm in guillotine that Guida literally jumped out of his shorts to escape from. Unable to do so, Guida had no choice other than to tap out and give Tavares the upset victory. While the loss hurts Guida for sure, it hardly means Guida is slowing down as he simply got caught, something that has happened to him a number of times in his UFC career. It does firmly entrench him as a gatekeeper, but no believed he was a contender anymore. It could very well end up launching Tavares into the rankings (which also leaves one wondering if Brian Ortega could end up there considering he beat Tavares in June). Despite starting his UFC career in 2007, this is easily the best win in his career. Will he become a contender? Probably not, but he should become a viable option for those at the top of the division… aside from the elite of course.


Chas Skelly defeated Kevin Souza via submission at 1:56 of the second round

That was one hell of an ugly win. Skelly started strong by getting Souza to the ground and controlling him for the majority of the first round before Souza got back to his feet. Souza then floored the American with a hard left hook that sent Skelly to the ground. Souza followed him to the ground and landed some shots as Skelly did just enough to survive to the end of the round. Not yet recovered by the time the second round came around, Skelly took more damage off an ill-fated takedown attempt before letting a wobbly Skelly to his feet. Skelly somehow got Souza’s back, used a nifty kick off of the cage to complete the takedown and land in position to sink in a RNC and get the win. Skelly got the win and overcame adversity to do so, but he didn’t look good. He might get a top 15 opponent next, but there are no guarantees. Souza’s lack of grappling was exposed here as it didn’t take long for Skelly to tap him out once the fight went to the groun doff of the final takedown. He is still fun to watch and should settle into a role as an action fighter.


Viscardi Andrade defeated Gasan Umalatov via unanimous decision

It is good to see Andrade have a successful return from a devastating injury where he broke his tibia and fibula. His aggression proved to be the difference as he continued to move forward swinging punches and landing knees to the midsection. He was still wild (though he tightened up just a hair), but did show more depth in his gas tank than he had shown before. If he can continue to make improvements he could hang around for a few years, but I wouldn’t count on him making any sort of extended run. Umalatov didn’t even look like he wanted to be in there. Aside from the spinning heel kick to open the last round and the final bomb near the end of it, he didn’t land a single strike that truly affected the outcome of the fight as he was tentative the first two rounds and even at times in the third despite being down two rounds. He is guaranteed to be cut.


Jimmie Rivera defeated Pedro Munhoz via split decision

Fantastic fight, about as good as it gets. While it was certainly an unexpected loss for Munhoz, his stock doesn’t drop at all in my eyes as he fought a very good fight, making adjustments throughout the bout and coming back from early adversity in the first round. Even with the loss, look for Munhoz to be in the top 15 by the end of next year. Rivera should be there too, perhaps even sooner. Landing with tight boxing combinations in the opening round, Rivera faded a bit after eating some shots that rocked him and gave away the second round. Like Munhoz did earlier, Rivera made some adjustments following adversity and was able to steal away the final round in the eyes of enough judges to be declared the upset victor. I say throw him in there with Iuri Alcantara next.


Matheus Nicolau defeated Bruno Korea via submission at 3:27 of the third round

This was an excellent example of why performances in the TUF house should have little value placed upon them. Nicolau looked very sharp in his UFC debut, showing more power and confidence in his striking in addition to a great response to adversity as he locked in an exceedingly tight armbar after being floored by a Korea spinning back kick only for Korea to somehow escape. Though he appeared to be more comfortable countering than leading the dance, Nicolau as able to do both effectively while also displaying a creative ground game as he nailed the D’arce choke from an interesting angle. He’ll be one to watch at flyweight. Korea is probably out of the UFC and shouldn’t be brought back until he can develop some boxing or Muay Thai basics as his spinning attacks are the only thing he has shown to be efficient with. He won’t get far without an actual striking base.

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