It was an unheralded card, stuck in the middle of the week, during the buildup to one of the UFC's biggest events of the year. The UFC 166 rubber match between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos was hogging all the limelight. Fight Night 29 on Wednesday night from Brazil would just have to make do.
Sometimes these sleeper cards really exceed expectations, giving the hardcore few a chance to gloat about the great night of fights all their friends missed. They're packed head to toe with knockouts, submissions and excitement.
This was not one of those nights.
A snooze-fest between Jake Shields and Demian Maia headlined with each man seemingly content to battle over the nickname "the human blanket." That was in the first three rounds, when they still had the energy to grapple on the mat. By the last 10 minutes, it was a battle to make it to the finish—both for the fighters and fans weary from a long day's work.
Shields ended up edging Maia to take home a split-decision victory. Of course, sometimes an MMA fighter can lose ground with promoters and fans even in victory, especially in the case of a boring fight. Likewise, a loser on paper can win the hearts and minds of all who saw him compete.
Was Shields a winner? A loser? Or both? Click on to find out.
Disagree with my choices in either category? Let me hear it in the comments.
The good news for Shields? He eked out a split-decision win over Maia in the Brazilian's home country.
The bad news? The few people watching likely either changed the channel or fell right to sleep on the couch.
Shields and Maia, terrified of each other on the ground, engaged in a five-round game of chicken. Unfortunately, neither blinked and went all-out for the win. Instead, fans saw very cautious battles over position, not submission.
Worse? On the ground was where the action was most compelling. Neither was great standing, especially by the fifth round when the striking appeared almost comically bad.
This was the classic win that may have actually hurt the victor. Shields won't get a single step closer to a title shot fighting like that. The UFC doesn't want to give a crowd killer like that a second shot at glory.
Throughout the fight, we heard all about how Dong Hyun Kim wasn't a finisher. According to the announcers, he was a grappler without submissions—a striker without promise or power.
But here's the thing—there's plenty of truth in one of MMA's hoariest cliches. Four-ounce gloves really do give anyone, even Don Hyun Kim, a puncher's chance. If Erick Silva didn't realize that before the bout, he certainly does now.
Matt Hamill is a pretty darn good wrestler. You'd have never guessed that from this fight with Thiago Silva. Instead of concentrating on his strengths, Hamill decided to stand and trade with a very powerful kickboxer.
The result was all too predictable. "The Hammer" had his lead leg decimated by kicks and his brain jostled by big punches for much of the 15-minute fight. It was a strategy as inexplicable as it was ill-advised.
This was the kind of fight that should have Hamill reconsidering his return from retirement. Sometimes your initial instincts are the correct ones. Hamill knew in his heart it was time to call it a career. I hope his fans allow him to leave with his dignity—and his health—relatively intact.
The top-10 middleweight was inexplicably cut by the UFC recently. Meanwhile, Joey Beltran and Fabio Maldonado, two underskilled and out-of-shape guys who couldn't hold his jock, are stinking up a nationally televised card with their version of "MMA."
It was a fight that wouldn't have made the cut on Worldstarhiphop.com, yet both fighters will continue to ply their trade in the Octagon. It doesn't make sense, and it's certainly not fair. But then again, who said life is fair?
Whatever Fox's UFC approved announcers are, we now know something they are not—journalists.
After Rousimar Palhares' brutal leglock win over Mike Pierce, he held the submission for several extra seconds. Long after Pierce tapped and the referee tried to break the two fighters up, he torqued the leg.
That's bad sportsmanship with any submission. With a leglock, however, it's more than that. It can mean the difference between a loss and a loss complete with a shredded ACL. Palhares knows better, and his conduct was simply unacceptable.
Fox announcer Jon Anik had the chance, after the fight, to ask Palhares several questions. He didn't broach the topic of the poor sportsmanship once, despite the egregious nature of the foul.
Can you imagine HBO's Larry Merchant being so cowardly after a boxing match? Erin Andrews? Even Craig Sager would have stepped up with the tough question.
Anik didn't. That raises important questions about how Fox Sports intends to cover the UFC going forward.
T.J. Dillashaw is a better athlete than Raphael Assuncao. When he thought to do so, he was beating his Brazilian foe to the punch, and to the kick, throughout the fight.
But MMA is about more than just pure athleticism. Assuncao showed that strategy and perseverance are also key elements. Dillashaw was quicker, yes. But Assuncao was able to answer with solid countershots and did just enough to win the fight via split decision.
The loss was the first for a Team Alpha Male fighter since coach Duane Ludwig took over the program last December. For the first time it seemed like Ludwig's strategy misfired. Dillashaw was able to land his high kick with regularity, but he had nothing on them. By the time he realized his fast hands were the answer, it was too late to earn the win.
Jake Shields def. Demian Maia via unanimous decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Dong Hyun Kim def. Erick Silva via knockout (punch): Round 2, 3:01
Thiago Silva def. Matt Hamill via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-27)
Fabio Maldonado def. Joey Beltran via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Rousimar Palhares def. Mike Pierce via submission (ankle hook): Round 1, 0:31
Raphael Assuncao def. T.J. Dillashaw via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Igor Araujo def. Ildemar Alcantara via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Yan Cabral def. David Mitchell via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Chris Cariaso def. Iliarde Santos by TKO via punches at 4:31 of Round 2
Alan Patrick def. Garett Whiteley by TKO via punches at 3:54 of Round 1