Brazil has become one of the top international markets for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. On Saturday night, the Brazilian fighters looked right at home in Las Vegas.
Four Brazilian fighters gained victories on the main card of UFC 156 at Mandalay Bay, including three big underdogs.
Jose Aldo, the lone favorite in the group, retained his UFC featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Frankie Edgar in the main event.
That continued a theme that was building throughout the night.
Brazilian Demian Maia, a 2-1 underdog, dominated Jon Fitch on the ground for three full rounds to win a unanimous decision.
Then, it was time for the night’s biggest fireworks.
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva did little for two rounds and looked every bit the 3-1 underdog before unleashing a barrage on Alistair Overeem to finish the overhyped Dutch heavyweight. Fellow Brazilian Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, more than a 5-1 ‘dog, did enough against former light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans to earn a unanimous decision in a lackluster contest.
Aldo and Silva stole the show.
Aldo used his trademark leg kicks to take control early. He mixed in solid jabs and several big right hands that bloodied the former lightweight champion.
Edgar began to gain traction late in the third round and had his best round of the fight in the fourth. He continued his momentum in the fifth, but Aldo landed a superman punch off the cage in the closing seconds.
The spectacular strike might have been what convinced two judges to give the champion the fifth round, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Aldo had won the first three rounds on all three cards and maintained the belt.
“It was a difficult fight,” Aldo said through a translator. “Frankie Edgar is a great fighter. I knew I had to work step by step, round by round.”
It was the third straight disappointing decision for Edgar in a title fight after he lost twice to Benson Henderson last year.
“It was a close fight,” Edgar said. “I keep finding myself in these situations. It is what it is. Congrats to Jose.”
Aldo’s striking is always a strength, but he was largely able to win because of how well he avoided Edgar’s multiple takedown attempts. Even when Edgar managed to get him down, Aldo was able to pop right back up to his comfort zone.
Silva’s victory provided the biggest moment of the night.
Overeem, returning from a suspension due to an out-of-competition test that showed elevated testosterone, was already being groomed as the next challenger for the heavyweight title.
Though he didn’t do a whole lot of damage over the first two rounds, he looked comfortable and well on his way to earning that shot against Cain Velasquez.
Then, the bell rang for the third round and Silva suddenly woke up.
He landed a head kick that Overeem partially blocked but still stunned him. Silva pounced. He knocked Overeem against the cage with a big right hand and then unleashed a flurry.
Overeem was already out on his feet when Silva finally put him down.
Referee Herb Dean pulled Silva out of the way, but Silva wasn’t finished. He fought off Dean’s grip and went back to taunt Overeem, who had been dismissive of Silva leading up to the fight.
“After I knocked him out I was yelling at him ‘Let’s go! I want more. Come fight!’ Silva said. “It really bothered me that he hasn’t respected me in interviews leading up to the fight. He talked a lot of trash and I told him that I’d make him respect me tonight.”
Nogueira’s win was perhaps even more surprising. He was looked at mostly as a stepping stone for Evans to get back on track after losing a light heavyweight title bout to Jon Jones.
Evans never went on the offensive, however, and it cost him.
Also on the main card, Joseph Benavidez won a unanimous decision over Ian McCall in a flyweight bout.
There were mixed results for a pair of Las Vegans on the undercard. Evan Dunham won a split decision over Gleison Tibau in a lightweight bout, but Jay Hieron was knocked out by Tyron Woodley in a welterweight contest.
Also on the undercard, Bobby Green and Dustin Kimura earned submission wins. Isaac Vallie-Flagg won a split decision over Yves Edwards in a lightweight fight, and bantamweight Francisco Rivera knocked out Edwin Figueroa.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.