After all of the anticipation and suspense building up to UFC 198, it was always going to be hard for the event to live up to its lofty expectations.
The event, which was the largest yet on Brazilian soil, occurred amidst the backdrop of some internal strife in South America’s largest nation, was an opportunity for the nation to bond together (if even just for an evening). With 11 fights on the card featuring match-ups of Brazilian vs Foreigner, plus much of the audience being firmly in support of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the co-main event opposite Vitor Belfort. The card even managed to remain stacked, despite the loss of arguably the most intriguing clash between Anderson Silva and Uriah Hall.
So did the event live up to the hype? We’d certainly like to think so. There were some big knockouts, a slick submission following a grappling clinic, stars shining for (hopefully not) the last time, and even one of the most rare types of decision you’ll ever see. Without further adieu, let’s get to it.
The burden of first representing his home country fell to Renato “Moicano” Carneiro, as he pitted his undefeated record against the 9-fight winning streak of Chechen-born Zubaira Tukhugov. It was certainly a little closer than Moicano would have liked, but he still managed to take a split decision victory, bringing him to a 10-0-1 record. Sergio Moraes followed that up with a split decision victory of his own.
Next up, Antonio “Lil’ Nog” Nogueira managed to turn the clock back during what has become known as the Fight Pass Main Event, obliterating a surprisingly overmatched Patrick Cummins with punches, before the fight was mercifully stopped for a somewhat-rare standing TKO finish.
Things were definitely going well for the Brazilians through the Fight Pass portion of the card, and John Lineker looked to keep the momentum rolling opening up the Fox Sports 1 portion of the prelims against Rob Font. Lineker provided a pretty thorough beatdown, one that the usually-very-fair Sherdog scored a tad bit differently than the actual result.
The strange scores continued as Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo took apart Yancy Medeiros in what was awarded Fight of the Night. Trinaldo adds another impressive win to his record, and extends his winning streak to 6 fights.
Thiago Santos made us all once again think, “Hey, Nate Marquardt probably shouldn’t be fighting anymore,” as he dusted the former middleweight contender in the opening frame. Demian Maia then took the stage, looking to continue the domination of the locals against the outsiders.
Maia, who agreed with us that he should be on the main card, went out and displayed exactly why many of us think he should be the next title challenger (no offence, Tyron). Maia, for his part, is very aware of where he stands in the division and continued campaigning for his shot following his impressive victory.
After Anderson Silva was removed from the card, the fight that received the bump to the main card was between TUF: Brazil 3 Middleweight winner Warlley Alves and Bryan “The Sage Slayer*” Barberena (*unofficial nickname). Brazilian’s were sporting a solid 7-0 record against their opponents as the main card kicked off.
Unfortunately for Alves, his gas tank failed him in the latter stages of the fight, and cost him the decision. We still had Alves winning the fight, though the second round was certainly close and could have gone either way. Don’t get it twisted – this fight was no robbery, just a razor thin margin that could have gone either way.
Barberena is a strange fighter; his persistent, dogged efforts perhaps outshone his overall skill set in this fight. Alves, for his part, would appear to have the higher ceiling of the two young fighters. Both men are now 3-1 since joining the UFC.
Next up, another Brazilian legend stepped into the cage as Mauricio “Shogun Rua stepped in against the man known for beastin’ so hard he added an extra day to his week, Corey Anderson. Shogun, having moved his camp for this fight to Rafael Corderio’s Kings MMA, looked a different man in this fight.
Certainly not the Shogun of old, and certainly not the Shogun we’d seen in the UFC. Instead, we saw a new Shogun, a more calculating and careful version. And hey, he wasn’t half bad. Shogun nearly ended the fight in both the first and second rounds, dropping Anderson with big punches and nearly finishing him with ground and pound. It’s safe to say he likely stole the win in those closing moments, as the fight ended with a 29-28 split decision.
In the only women’s fight on the card, Cris “Cyborg” Santos essentially lived up to the lofty expectations in her UFC debut. She came out, punched Leslie Smith in the face a few times, displaying her devastating power and speed in the process. Eventually the predictable result (hey, Cyborg was around a -1200 favourite for a reason) clipped Smith with a big enough shot to send her to the canvas.
Smith, who was visibly upset with the stoppage, has nothing to be ashamed of here. We didn’t take issue with the stoppage, but even if it was a tad premature, we certainly don’t need to see another situation like Cyborg vs Jan Finney. It sucks for Smith that her chance to shine was abruptly ended, but she can still proudly say she stood in the cage and traded fists with (#hottake) the all-time great female mixed martial artist.
The co-main event was one of the more compelling matches on the card, as “Jacare” Souza squared off against “The Phenom,” Vitor Belfort. Most people figured that if Souza could avoid getting blasted on the feet, he’d surely find success grappling against Belfort. And Souza did just that, battering Belfort from mount with punches, ending the fight in the first round with an emphatic TKO victory over the legendary Belfort.
Souza has progressed a long way since his days as a grappling-reliant fighter in his Strikeforce days, and now looks poised to become the #1 contender to whoever comes out victorious in the Weidman vs Rockhold rematch. Surely Souza is the most compelling challenger, all apologies to Michael Bisping (take that Silva victory as your title, Mikey, nobody will judge you).
Finally, the UFC Heavyweight crown was on the line in the main event of the evening. Now, with 40,000 plus fans in the stadium we were expecting someone to succumb to the pressures of fighting in such of a massive crowd. We got that part right. It’s just that Stipe Miocic was the one who managed to keep his cool, shutting the lights off on a foolishly-chasing Fabricio Werdum.
A collective, “huh???” was heard throughout the MMA world as Werdum started pairing his punches together, sloppily pursuing the challenger near the cage before face-planting from a well-placed, straight-right hand from Miocic. It’s truly perplexing as to what Werdum’s intentions were, and he admitted as much afterwards.
The fight began as a mostly even affair, with Werdum likely holding a slight edge for his pressure and activity before the finish, which is what makes it all the more confusing. Werdum spoke about his desire for a rematch at UFC 200, but, uhh, sorry Fab, we’re going to have to pass on that one. Someone else is a bit more deserving of the opportunity.
When your game plan starts to remind us of the tactics employed by Cat Zingano (sorry Cat, we still <3 you) then clearly you are doing something wrong. And so the drought on the fine city of Cleveland, Ohio has come to an end. The win seemed to overwhelm Miocic in the moment, as he instantly jumped the fence and celebrated with his coaches and teammates, repeatedly exclaiming, “I’m the champ?!”
And so, with Werdum’s plunge into the mat, the curtain was officially closed on UFC 198. It’s always great when a card that looks special on paper lives up to it’s massive expectations, and that is exactly what we got from Curitiba this weekend. The UFC will be looking to continue the string of entertaining shows with a decent Fight Night coming up at the end of May, before the also-but-not-quite-as-stacked UFC 199 in the beginning of June, as we continue the march toward UFC 200.