UFC Fight Night 38 Results: Grades for Every Main Card Fighter
The UFC hit Brazil for the second time in early 2014, dropping Fight Night 38 on the city of Natal. After a raucous preliminary card that was full of finishes and whipped the crowd into a frenzy, Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson met in a rematch of their iconic 2011 tilt.
Henderson ended up on top in surprising and explosive fashion, the successful headliner on a main card of six fights. Here are the grades for the combatants.
Kicking off the event violently, Rony Jason made short work of Steven Siler by way of a vicious right-left combo. It's one thing to be given a match that can accentuate your best assets; it's entirely another to take advantage so impressively.
Jason did with the KO, and he'll be on the hunt for another scalp the next time the promotion stops in Brazil.
Much discussion centered around Siler's new approach in the cage for his bout with Rony Jason, one many expected to be frenetic and action-packed. It was even noted on the broadcast that Siler was hoping to be more active defensively in hopes of taking a little less damage.
Then he ate a giant right hook and was on dream street, and all that new approach talk went out the window.
The arguments were immediate that it was a bad stoppage, but he was out before he hit the ground. The fact that he woke up once he got there and tried an upkick or two was irrelevant. This one was over.
Michel Prazeres, a Brazilian vet in the process of reinventing himself at 155 pounds, looked exceptional fighting on his home soil. He dominated the first round in every imaginable way, battering Mairbek Taisumov on the ground and the feet. By the second, he was ahead on points both by earning them and seeing his opponent have them taken away, and in the third, he simply continued to pull away.
He's an intriguing character at lightweight, one who looks like he needs a serious step up in competition. He replaced Gleison Tibau due to injury here; it could make for some oddly sensible symmetry to fight him next time out.
Taisumov, another member of MMA's recent Russian invasion (though he's the rare case of coming to the cage from Russia by way of Austria), struggled early in his return to the Octagon and never really got his footing. Multiple fouls and point deductions put him behind the eightball in a fight he was losing anyway, and he pretty much didn't have a hope of climbing out of the hole he created for himself by the second round.
It was a forgettable showing, or perhaps one that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. The only thing he proved was just how far a man can push Mario Yamasaki and still only receive a firm talking-to.
The UFC's best fistic technician looked remarkable after he spent the first round being laid upon, springing back to utterly destroy Gian Villante with 10 minutes of the sharpest boxing imaginable in MMA.
For all the talk of the Diaz brothers or Junior dos Santos, its Fabio Maldonado who consistently shows the type of combination punching, head movement, feints and footwork that come with unparalleled expertise. Those others do particular things well, but it's Maldonado who is the only man in the sport to look like a boxer successfully fighting in MMA as opposed to a mixed martial artist showcasing some boxing skill.
While the talk of Maldonado often centers around his ability to absorb punishment, he can absolutely dish it out when someone is willing to engage him on the feet. Villante did that once he tired too much to pursue a grappling match, and the whole world saw the result.
Villante scored early with his willingness to take the unpopular road to probable victory, laying on Fabio Maldonado for the first round and taking an easy 10-9 for his work. Then all those big football-player muscles started filling up with blood, and the fight became far less fun for him.
By the third round, he was standing in front of Maldonado unable to defend anything and eating combinations to the head and body as he stood wheezing with his back to the cage.
That first round was encouraging, but the subsequent two certainly weren't. Back to the drawing board for the Hofstra graduate.
Leonardo Santos did well early but seemed to wear as his bout with Norman Parke went on, perhaps troubled by the strength of his foe and that foe's commitment to a bullying pressure game.
It's hard to know what's next for the jiu-jitsu ace, who is among the most revered and respected talents in that wing of mixed martial arts. An unexciting draw that could've been a loss had your opponent not been so shorts-grabby has that effect on a career.
Parke came to Brazil with a solid game plan and could have seen it work out had he not lost the first round and then lost a point for grabbing the shorts against Leonardo Santos. His blend of unorthodox striking and physical imposition gave Santos problems, but not convincingly enough for him to snatch a win.
The winner of TUF: The Smashes still has obvious upside, but should he ever reach his potential, it's not likely that his bout at UFN 38 will be remembered as the one that rocketed him in that direction.
Sometimes being the "protege" of a great fighter isn't enough, even when you've won a regional season of The Ultimate Fighter to go with it. If you're getting starched in 39 seconds in your first fight against someone who could even remotely qualify as a test, that's probably a bad sign too.
So it goes for Cezar Mutante, the Vitor Belfort protege and winner of the first TUF: Brazil who was violently halted by a CB Dollaway combination early in the first round of their co-main event tilt.
You can't help but feel that the UFC desperately wants him to be a star, but stardom is as much about what happens in the cage as it is about training with big names and winning reality shows. There's a lot of room for growth here.
Dollaway's UFC career has been a rocky road, but every now and then, he hits a high point, and it is undeniably impressive. His calm under fire, his focus and his ability to capitalize on an opponent needlessly throwing caution to the wind were all precisely that in his win over Cezar Mutante.
Mutante stung him with a lead hook early and looked keen to score a finish, ignorant of the fact that stinging a guy isn't the same as hurting him. Dollaway stayed composed, tucked his chin and waited for the ill-timed barrage to slow before dropping his man with as good a combo as he's ever fired in the Octagon.
The win was a quality one, even if the opponent may have been more hype than substance. Getting by on veteran guile and a smart counterattack is a sign that Dollaway will probably be around for a while, even if he's never particularly close to the top of the division.
Rua looked excellent in the first two rounds of the main event, repeatedly dropping Dan Henderson with hands that looked as sharp as they'd ever been. However in the third, coming out of an exchange in the clinch, he walked into a right hand that no one in the sport can survive.
It's an unfortunate outcome for the Brazilian, who seemed poised to avenge his 2011 loss to Henderson and was clearly building on his impressive performance against James Te Huna in December.
There's no clear path for him now, but to say this loss is devastating would probably be understating it.
In a shocking turn of events, Henderson managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in his bout with Shogun Rua. After spending the first two rounds getting battered, knocked down and nearly finished on a few occasions, the American fired off his legendary right hand in a scramble and sent his opponent literally rolling across the cage.
Few men in the game have that kind of instantaneous fight-changer at their disposal, and this win showed just how important that can be.
While durability concerns exist based on his recent KO loss to Vitor Belfort and the amount of damage Rua did in a little over 10 minutes (to say nothing of the damage he did in their first meeting, or the damage Fedor Emelianenko did before suffering a fate similar to Rua's), UFN 38 is cause for celebration for Henderson and his fans.