Every time the UFC brings the Octagon down to Brazil, a night of face-punching excitement is guaranteed to unfold. On Saturday night, the biggest show in mixed martial arts returned to Rio de Janeiro for UFC 163, and the action delivered from top to bottom.
From the main event, where pound-for-pound great and reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo stopped title challenger Chan Sung Jung's momentum cold, to the starching Viscardi Andrade dealt Bristol Marunde in the opening bout of the event, the bodies were hitting the floor at a furious pace in Brazil.
In the main event, Aldo once again proved why he is considered to be one of the best fighters in MMA with an impressive defense of his title against Jung. The 26-year-old Nova Uniao product handled Jung for three rounds and took advantage of a gruesome shoulder injury suffered by "The Korean Zombie" midway through the fourth frame, ending the fight in violent fashion.
While the card was largely overlooked save for the two highest-profile bouts at the top of the bill, the lineup at UFC 163 produced a solid showing. Naturally, the main event between the young Brazilian champion and The Korean Zombie, and the co-main event tilt between Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis received the lion's share of the attention heading in, but it was the action on the undercard that truly put UFC 163 on the map.
A collection of fighters looking to establish their names on the sport's biggest stage and veterans hoping to turn their careers around were responsible for making the UFC 163 fight card a memorable affair. Nevertheless, while there were plenty of strong showings on Saturday night, there were also several downright poor performances and a handful of curious happenings in Rio de Janeiro.
Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from UFC 163.
While Jose Aldo's performance against Chan Sung Jung wasn't the best of his career, it was still a solid showing. The featherweight champion flipped the script on his usual leg kick heavy assault and decided to implement his wrestling skills, which caught Jung completely off guard.
"Junior" controlled the fight throughout the first three rounds and appeared to be on cruise control going into the fourth frame, where in a strange turn of events, a freak injury suffered by Jung left him literally defenseless to Aldo's attack.
Per Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, "...on television replays, it was clear that the Zombie's right shoulder popped out of the socket. He grabbed it and tried to push it in, but Aldo saw that as well."
Once the young champion smelled blood and realized Jung was injured, he cranked up the intensity as he threw a series of ruthless kicks at the Korean Zombie's gruesomely injured shoulder. With Jung in intense pain and unable to stop Aldo's assault, referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.
With a heated title race in the featherweight division, Aldo will have plenty of options for his next challenge, and it will be interesting to see which contender gets tapped to face the 145-pound king next.
No fighter needed a win at UFC 163 more than Ian McCall. Despite coming into the UFC widely regarded as the top 125-pound fighter on the planet, McCall's run in the UFC flyweight division got off to a rocky start, as he was unable to find victory in his first three showings under the UFC banner.
With the pressure on heading into his bout with Iliarde Santos on Saturday night, the 29-year-old Californian stepped up to the challenge and earned his first win inside the Octagon via unanimous decision. "Uncle Creepy" used speed and footwork to keep the Brazilian powerhouse on his heels, and he scored at will throughout the three-round affair.
By earning the victory over Santos, McCall will not only retain his status as a top flyweight, but he will also keep himself in the title hunt.
Nearly four years have passed since Thales Leites has competed under the UFC banner, and on Saturday night, the Brazilian grappling ace made a triumphant return against Tom Watson. The former title challenger looked impressive as he controlled the British slugger at every turn of the three-round affair and picked up his first victory inside the Octagon since defeating Drew McFedries at UFC 90 back in October of 2008.
There are few things that excite the MMA media and fans more than a surging prospect, and Cezar Ferreira certainly meets the requirements. "Mutante" is looking more and more like his mentor, Vitor Belfort, as he added another first-round finish to his resume. The young Brazilian melted Thiago Santos with heavy punches before locking on a fight-ending guillotine choke.
Ferreira has now won both of his showings inside the Octagon, and his next bout should come against an opponent with solid name recognition.
Brazilians love jiu-jitsu, and Sergio Moraes gave the raucous crowd something to cheer about when he used a crafty triangle choke to submit TUF alum Neil Magny.
After a brief feeling-out period, "The Panther" put Magny on the canvas and went to work. Moraes quickly established full mount position but then slid his left leg behind the Colorado-based fighter's shoulder and rolled off to lock up the triangle choke.
As Magny attempted to work his way out of the hold, Moraes landed a brutal flurry of elbows as he locked the submission in tighter. Once Moraes moved to his right side, it was all over for Magny as the 26-year-old was forced to tap out.
Brian Stann's career inside the cage may be over, but his role outside the Octagon has an incredibly bright future. "The All-American" has quickly established himself as one of the best analysts in the fight game, and on Saturday night at UFC 163, he added another impressive entry to his resume.
The former WEC light heavyweight champion and UFC middleweight contender stepped in for Joe Rogan to assume color-commentator duties for the event and was solid on the call. From clear analysis cageside to handling post-fight interview duties, Stann was on the ball in Rio de Janeiro and a great addition to the broadcast.
When a fighter trumps up the trash talk and draws attention to himself for the sake of self-promotion, his performances inside the Octagon need to be top-shelf. When they fail to deliver, they open themselves up for criticism, which is precisely the case for Vinny Magalhaes.
The TUF alum was originally bounced from the UFC back in 2009 after losing back-to-back fights. The Brazilian grappling ace found success competing in other organizations and, on the strength of those victories, was given another chance to fight under the UFC banner.
Despite making a successful return against Igor Pokrajac at UFC 152 last September, Magalhaes has gone on to drop back-to-back showings inside the Octagon. The first was a dreadful showing against Phil Davis at UFC 159 in a fight he overly trash talked, and the most recent came on Saturday night when he was knocked out just 14 seconds into his bout with Anthony Perosh.
While Magalhaes cooled it on the trash talking in the lead up to the bout with Perosh, getting snuffed 14 seconds into a fight doesn't go a long way in proving you belong in the UFC.
Cracking on a fighter's style is typically not my fashion, but there is no way not to address the hairstyle Jose Maria was rocking. While a mohawk in MMA is commonplace and an immediate entry into the bad category, a mohawk dyed bright orange is unforgivable.
To drive home the "bad," Maria also took the time to bleach the sides of his head blond, which resulted in a remarkably horrible combination.
Since its debut in 2005, fighters entering the UFC after coming off The Ultimate Fighter have been forced to battle against the stigma they are somehow not "real" fighters but reality show perpetrators. While this criticism is unfortunate, it is certainly a challenge they face, and the majority of the show's participants never hang around the UFC long enough to tip the balance in the other direction.
TUF 16 alum Bristol Marunde is the most recent addition to the list of fighters who have failed to accomplish this task. The 31-year-old Las Vegas transplant had dropped back-to-back showings since competing on TUF and absolutely needed a victory against Viscardi Andrade at UFC 163 if he hoped to keep his spot on the UFC roster.
Unfortunately for Marunde, a win over Andrade did not materialize as the Brazilian scored a first-round knockout to open the card. Viscardi landed a solid combination that put Marunde on the canvas, then turned up the intensity to pound out the stoppage early in the opening frame.
In addition to being starched by Viscardi, a confused Marunde also failed in his attempt to score a takedown on referee Mario Yamasaki at the end of the fight, adding insult to injury.
With three consecutive losses, Marunde will most likely find himself out of the UFC for the foreseeable future.
Most fighters somewhat resemble their nicknames, but at UFC 163, "The Korean Zombie" took the notion to an entirely different level.
Midway through the fourth round, Chan Sung Jung launched a right hand at Jose Aldo, separating his shoulder in the process. While most human beings would immediately drop to the floor in pain, Jung attempted to pop his shoulder back into place as he waited for Aldo to attack.
Unfortunately for Jung, Aldo is one of the most ferocious finishers in MMA, and once he saw the 26-year-old Korean's shoulder come out of the socket, he pounced with a flurry of kicks and punches to end the fight. Jung may have initially earned the nickname for his toughness and forward plodding style, after UFC 163, he should alter his moniker to "The Bionic Korean Zombie."
While it may not be the first bout in UFC history to be finished in that fashion, it was certainly the grossest in recent memory.
Since the UFC returned to Brazil in August of 2011, the Brazilian fighting faithful have turned out in droves to attend the live events held in their country.
Where American fight fans typically show up to watch the bouts on the main card, Brazilians are notorious for arriving early to the arena and keeping an electric presence throughout. This type of commitment and enthusiasm for MMA has played a large role in Brazilian fight fans being recognized as the most passionate in the sport. That being said, this did not appear to be the case on Saturday night for UFC 163.
The crowd appeared sparse during the Facebook prelims and FX portion of the card. While this is hardly a strange occurrence, a half-empty arena is a rarity in Brazil when there are fights to be watched.
The final entry into this category comes in the statistical category. Non-Brazilian fighters who have competed on Brazilian cards have experienced woeful results, and UFC 163 was no different. While foreign fighters had a bit more success than the normal lopsided slant, the end result of the card was still 6-3 in favor of fighters competing in their home country.
Finding success inside the Octagon is a daunting task, but defeating a Brazilian in Brazil continues to gain momentum in the mystique department.