For the second time in four weeks, the UFC returned to Brazil as the Octagon hit Belo Horizonte for Fight Night 28.
A card light on megawatt names and the third UFC event in seven days had the fanfare low in the lead-up to the event, but once things got rocking and rolling inside Mineirinho Arena Wednesday, the action inside the Octagon was all business.
The biggest fight on the lineup was undoubtedly the main event clash between red-hot contender Glover Teixeira as he squared off with heavy-handed The Ultimate Fighter alum Ryan Bader. The highly touted Brazilian came into the bout riding a 19-fight winning streak, while "Darth" was looking to propel himself back onto the title radar in the light heavyweight division.
Bader was a 4-to-1 underdog coming into the tilt on Wednesday night, and those odds proved to be dead on as Teixeira pounded out the first-round stoppage victory. The surging contender was wobbled in a heavy exchange with the Arizona-based fighter but landed the power when he needed to and put Bader on the canvas.
Teixeira picked up his 20th consecutive victory in the process and his fifth since coming into the UFC fold.
While the main event captured the majority of the attention leading into Fight Night 28, a middleweight scrap between Yushin Okami and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza also held heavy implications for the fighters involved.
The race for title contention in the middleweight division has been heating up as of late, and neither fighter was looking to take a step backward. "Thunder" brought a three-fight winning streak into the Octagon on Wednesday night, while the former Strikeforce middleweight champion had logged four consecutive victories on his way up the divisional ladder.
At Fight Night 28, there was a lot on the line, and Souza stepped up to the challenge. The powerful Brazilian snuffed Okami in the first round of their co-main event bout to collect his fifth consecutive victory and make a huge stride toward a title shot at 185 pounds.
Fight Night 28 may have been thin on name recognition, but that didn't stop the fighters on Wednesday night from getting down to business.
Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from Fight Night 28.
Teixeira has been chasing light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to get a shot at the young phenom's 205-pound title, and after his performance at Fight Night 28 against Bader, he just might get it.
The powerful Brazilian rebounded from being rocked by the TUF alum to fire off a combination that starched the Power MMA product midway through the opening frame. With the victory, Teixeira picks up his fifth consecutive win in the UFC ranks and boosts his overall winning streak to 20 in a row.
In his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, the Chuck Liddell protege made it clear he is coming after the light heavyweight strap.
Okami is the type of fighter it is hard to look good against, but Souza looked like an absolute monster at Fight Night 28. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion dismantled the former title challenger in the first round of their co-main event tilt as he knocked out "Thunder" midway through the opening round.
Since losing a unanimous decision to Luke Rockhold back in 2011, the Brazilian submission artist has been on an absolute tear. The 33-year-old has collected five consecutive victories, all coming by way of finish, and has looked more impressive every time out.
With the middleweight title tied up in the rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva that will go down at the end of the year at UFC 168, Souza will still be at least a fight away from the throne after defeating Okami. That being said, his next opponent will absolutely come from the elite tier in the division and title implications should hang in the balance.
Joseph Benavidez has been lax about asking for another shot at the flyweight title, but after his destruction of Jussier Formiga, it is the only step that makes sense.
"Joe-Jitsu" steamrolled the savvy Brazilian in brutal fashion as a combination staggered Formiga, then a pinpoint knee to the midsection put him on the canvas. The Team Alpha Male staple swarmed with big punches to finish off the fight and kept his hot streak alive on Wednesday night.
With the victory, Benavidez has now collected three consecutive wins since losing his title tilt to champion Demetrius Johnson at UFC 152 back in 2012. In all three outings, the 29-year-old New Mexico native has shown gained improvements in his striking skills, and anything but a rematch with "Mighty Mouse" for his next step would be a crime.
There were some resilient displays on Wednesday night, but none more impressive than Piotr Hallmann. The 26-year-old Polish fighter rebounded from a brutal first round where Francisco Trinaldo battered his midsection with kicks to score a submission victory in the second frame.
Hallmann locked up his first victory in the UFC fold by defeating Trinaldo at Fight Night 28 and collected his 10th consecutive win overall.
With Wednesday's card being held in the birthplace of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Rafael Natal and Tor Troeng put on an impressive display of the art for the crowd in Belo Horizonte. The opening round was a "sweep fest" as the two middleweights took turns reversing position on one another, reversing position back and forth throughout the first round.
Going into the second stanza, the fight was close until "Sapo" landed a blistering right hand that sent the Swedish fighter crashing to the canvas. While the TUF alum was dangerously close to being finished, he proved to have tremendous moxie by hanging on and fighting back to finish the round in top position.
The final round was all Natal and helped the Brazilian secure the unanimous decision victory on the judges' score cards. The win over Troeng makes it three in a row for Natal and will move him another step up the ladder in the middleweight division.
The flyweight division is still in the developmental process, and on Wednesday night, the weight class added a new threat in Russian prospect Ali Bagautinov. The 28-year-old Dagestani scored an impressive knockout victory over Marcos Vinicius in his promotional debut and put himself on the map at 125 pounds.
Bagautinov came out fighting like a rabid wolverine as he dropped the Brazilian with a right hand in the opening minutes of the tilt. Vinicius was able to survive the onslaught by taking the action to the canvas, and the fight was close going into the final frame. In the third round, Bagautinov resumed his barrage of heavy fire as he landed a brutal right cross that crumbled Vinicius and ended the fight.
While one showing under the UFC banner isn't enough to propel Bagautinov to great heights, the lack of depth in the flyweight division will certainly help in his bid to get into the mix at 125 pounds.
Promotional newcomer Kevin Souza got his UFC career off to a solid start by defeating Felipe Arantes via split decision. The rangy striker did damage early as he distributed punishment to the young Brazilian's head and body. Arantes was able to weather the storm by taking the action to the canvas, but his inability to keep Souza on the mat, ultimately cost him the fight.
With the victory, Souza took a strong step into the UFC fold and picked up his eight consecutive win in the process.
Lucas Martins and Junior Hernandez broke up an otherwise stagnant card when they engaged in an electric brawl on the preliminary portion of Fight Night 28. The tilt only lasted 1:10, but both fighters came out throwing smoke, with Martins picking up the submission victory.
The 24-year-old Martins landed a stiff right hand that dropped Hernandez to the canvas, and as the American Top Team product attempted to get back to his feet, he found himself wrapped up in a rear-naked choke. With the submission locked tight, there was no escape for Hernandez, but in true warrior fashion, he chose to go to sleep rather than tap out.
Another interesting note comes with Martins competing at 135 pounds. Fighters going up or down a weight class is nothing new, but the Brazilian dropped two weight classes for his fight against Hernandez and looked impressive in doing so. With his win on Wednesday, "Mineiro" picked up his first victory in the bantamweight division and his second consecutive since suffering the first loss of his career to Edson Barboza at UFC on FX 7 in January.
A solid gas tank is a necessity for a fighter to be successful competing at the highest level of the sport, and Francisco Trinaldo found out exactly how much he's lacking in that department at Fight Night 28.
After jumping out to a hot start where he battered Hallmann with body kicks and heavy shots, the The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil alum ran out of steam in the second round. Once exhaustion set in, there was little Trinaldo could do to fend off the Polish fighter as Hallmann set about taking advantage of his opponent's condition.
The end result was the 26-year-old earning the submission victory and Trinaldo have a two-fight winning streak snapped. While the Brazilian's performance wasn't poor enough to land him in this category, having defeat snatched from the jaws of victory because of poor conditioning is certainly enough to warrant a mention.
Welterweight Martin Kampmann is a fighter notorious for getting off to a slow start then firing back with ferocity, and in that context, Fight Night 28 was "The Hitman" of fight cards. The initial three bouts of the event were tedious affairs where the action was sparse and the clinching was heavy.
That being said, once things started popping inside the Octagon, it didn't slow down. An exciting bantamweight scrap ratcheted up the intensity in Belo Horizonte, and the action remained full tilt for the remainder.
Nevertheless, the opening series of fights were difficult to get through and cast a lull on the early stages of the card.
With the UFC's second-half run in full swing, the lead-up to Fight Night 28 felt flat. Wednesday night's action was the third card in seven days for the organization, and the pre-fight buzz that typically floats around the MMA community was largely nonexistent.
Overall lack of name recognition certainly had an effect on the event, and when a late-afternoon start time is factored in, Fight Night 28 was absent of the usual "fight night" normally evokes.
A common expression for a fighter being able to take a punch is to say he has a "good beard." Tor Troeng added another level of legitimacy to the saying at Fight Night 28 as the Swedish middleweight took a monstrous right hand from Rafael Natal flush on the chin in the second round of their tilt.
Troeng ultimately lost the bout on the judges' scorecards but proved to be extremely resilient in the process. There is no doubt Troeng is tough as nails, and in a more literal translation of the expression, actually does have an impressive blonde beard as well.
Sean Spencer was eager to get his hand raised for the first time inside the Octagon—so much, in fact, he was willing to travel to Brazil to get it done. "Black Magic" accomplished this task when he edged out Yuri Villefort via split decision to kick off the action at Fight Night 28.
While a fighter getting his first official UFC victory is a notable feat, what is perhaps more impressive is Spencer coming out on the winning end on the judges' scorecards. Since the UFC returned to hosting events in Brazil back in 2011, foreign competitors have a disastrous winning percentage when facing Brazilian fighters on their home turf.
The Virginia native became one of the few American fighters to emerge victorious fighting in Brazil, and he may have set the tone for the rest of the card. Where Brazilian fighters typically notch wins over foreign competition by a landslide, on Wednesday night the home country narrowly edged out the invading hordes by a score of five to four.
Duane Finley is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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