When grappling wizards face off in the UFC Octagon, they often avoid going to the mat at all costs. Instead, two jiu-jitsu experts, knowing the other man is very dangerous on the ground, sometimes end up in an ugly slugfest, standing and banging despite a palpable lack of skill in either boxing or kickboxing.
Their own beautiful art, one they've spent decades perfecting, is left by the wayside.
Luckily for fight fans, that didn't happen when two of MMA's best heavyweight submission artists butted heads in Fortaleza, Brazil Saturday night. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum went right at each other where both were strongest.
Some fascinating exchanges on the mat, ending with Werdum's second-round armbar submission. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu stalwart, the first and only man ever to submit the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, will likely be next in line for a UFC heavyweight title shot, making him the night's clear winner.
But Werdum was not alone. There were winners and losers up and down the fight card, both the official winners who will have their names written in history and the men who won the hearts and minds of the crowd with a valiant effort in defeat.
Click on for the real winners and losers from UFC on Fuel 10. Have some winners and losers of your own? Let's hear them in the comments.
Leonardo Santos is no spring chicken. I first saw the 33-year-old fight more than a decade ago, sacrificed on the altar of rising Japanese legend Takanori Gomi.
So, what was he doing on a show about developing prospects, taking on a 21-year-old William "Patolino" Macario in the finals of the second season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil?
I can't say I have a good answer for that question.
But Santos, a former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, made the most of his opportunity. It looked for a time like youth was going to triumph over age and wisdom. Macario was the bigger and stronger man—but all that muscle came with a cardio price tag.
Macario ran out of steam, and Santos was there to take advantage with an arm triangle submission.
A lot of fans wrote Taylor Lautner doppelganger Erick Silva off after he lost a decision to perennial contender Jon Fitch last year. All the skills, both his slick stand-up and stylish jiu-jitsu, that made us proclaim him a future star in the first place were almost immediately forgotten.
Silva was tossed on the scrap heap, an also-ran at 28.
Talk about fickle.
He sent a wake-up call to the whole community with his triangle/armbar victory, an "FU" to everyone who had counted him out. Jason High was just the unfortunate proxy, mostly because it would be too hard for Silva to track down and armbar all of us.
But just in case it's still on his mind, be wary of overly handsome men in the next couple of weeks. One of them just might be Silva coming for his revenge.
Kenny Florian is a stylish guy. When we interviewed him at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas last year he was wearing a pair of pink skinny jeans that probably cost as much as I make in a month. Florian, like him or love him, knows how to work it.
And that's exactly what makes his hair's gradual expansion throughout the night so hilarious. The 90 degree heat in the arena wrecked Florian's carefully coiffed do. There's no doubt that Florian was mortified that he suddenly had Conan O'Brien's hair on top of his head.
The worst part for those hoping to have some blackmail material on Florian?
I think he made it work.
Thanks to @AdamHammer24 for the screen capture.
I'm not going to disrespect Eddie Mendez. He had the guts to get in the cage and give it his all.
I will say this—his stand-up looked like it was built exclusively from intense study of Mark Coleman's famous shadow boxing video, and he looked equally as helpless on the ground, tapping out quickly to Daniel Sarafian.
A former The Ultimate Fighter competitor, Sarafian built up quite a fanbase before an injury forced him out of the competition right before the finals last year. He followed that up with a split-decision loss to Captain Sneer, C.B. Dollaway. Getting him a win, and some confidence, was clearly a priority for UFC matchmakers.
Now that he has a win under his belt, hopefully we can get Sarafian back in the cage with someone on his level to see where he stands. It's okay to build him slowly in front of his fellow Brazilians. But at some point, he has to get tossed in the deep end like everybody else to see if he sinks or swims.
Three appearances in the UFC Octagon. Three wins.
Is it time to start taking Rony Jason, the winner of Brazil's inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter, seriously?
While I'm not quite willing to make that leap, I am ready to see him against a legitimate and proven UFC veteran. Beating a solid middle-of-the-pack guy will do wonders toward convincing skeptical fans that Jason is more than just another reality show illusion.
Raphael Assuncao seemed to be well on his to an easy win over Vaughan Lee. The British star is no slouch, but Assuncao stood a head taller in all areas of the fight. He was on cruise control as the second round started in his home country of Brazil.
And then he was bleeding.
Not just a little.
All over the place.
His own blood.
If anything is going to wake a sleepy fighter up, it's a cut. In the first round, Assuncao took his time when he got the fight to the mat. In Round 2, it was another story. It doesn't take much for officials to stop a fight, especially when the wound is around the eye.
Assuncao, like all fighters, is well aware that the thin layer of skin surrounding his eyes is all that stands between winning and losing. A fighter can be better than his opponent and still fall victim to his own body.
That's why the sight of blood lit a fire under Assuncao. When he got the mount again there wasn't even the slightest of delays. He secured an armbar and didn't stop yanking until the fight was over. It was a victory powered by blood—and fear.
You can pinpoint the moment
There's a lot of emotion roiling around inside every fighter before they step into the UFC's Octagon. That may not be obvious to those who haven't spent a lot of time around fighters. Some can keep their cool on the outside, all the tension and fear hidden behind a world-class poker face.
But even the greats sometimes let the facade slip.
I once saw the seemingly emotionless Fedor Emelianenko stalking the backstage area, letting out the occasional scream, his featureless mask momentarily expressing the gamut of human emotion. By the time he was ready to walk out to the cage, the stony face was back in place. The people needn't ever know he was human.
Perhaps one day the 25-year-old Antonio Braga Neto might be able to fake the appearance of blase. That day, however, has not yet arrived.
Tears fell as he stepped into the cage for the first time. It was a rare glimpse inside a fighter's heart before the bout even started. Later, we got a glimpse of his talent too, as a kneebar finished Anthony Smith's night in the very first round.
Fabricio Werdum defeats Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira via submission in Round 2
Leonardo Santos defeats William Macario at 4:43 of Round 2
Thiago Silva defeats Rafael Cavalcante via knockout at 4:29 of Round 1
Erick Silva defeats Jason High via submission at 1:11 of Round 1
Daniel Sarafian defeats Eddie Mendez via submission at 2:20 of Round 1
Rony Jason defeats Mike Wilkinson via technical submission at 1:24 of Round 1
Raphael Assuncao defeats Vaughan Lee via submission at 1:51 of Round 2
Felipe Arantes defeats Godofredo Pepey via TKO at 3:32 of Round 1
Ildemar Alcantara defeats Leandro Silva via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Rodrigo Damm defeats Mizuto Hirota via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Caio Magalhaes defeats Karlos Vemola via submission at 2:49 of Round 2
Antonio Braga Neto defeats Anthony Smith via submission at 1:52 of Round 1