The Good, Bad and Strange from the Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale

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The Good, Bad and Strange from the Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Hosting two fight cards on the same day was certainly an ambitious endeavor, and the UFC lined up two cards that had the potential to deliver the goods. While the majority of the matchups between the two events featured competitors on the lower end of the name recognition scale, there were a handful of pairings that sparked the attention of the passionate fanbase in MMA.

The card in Berlin kicked off the day's action with a solid showing, then the focus shifted to The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Where there were several interesting stylistic tilts on the docket, the lion's share of the attention was centered on the main event showdown between Stipe Miocic and Fabio Maldonado.

The Cleveland native was originally slated to face former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos on the card, but "Cigano" suffered a hand injury and was forced to withdraw. With limited options in the heavyweight ranks, the organization tapped light heavyweight slugger Maldonado to step up a weight class and throw leather with the Ohio-based fighter.

Throughout his time competing under the UFC banner, "The Iron Hillbilly's" toughness has never been questioned, but squaring off with a heavy-hitter the likes of Miocic had all the makings for a highly dangerous affair for Maldonado. The Brazilian's "give one to take one" fighting style and willingness to absorb punishment in order to dish it out created somewhat of a "sideshow" element heading into his main event showcase against Miocic, and there was speculation abound as to just how much damage Maldonado would take in this matchup.

When the cage door closed and the referee stepped aside, the beating commenced. And fortunately for Maldonado, it didn't last long. 

Miocic rocked the Brazilian with a left hand early before crumbling him with a straight right to end the bout less than a minute into the fray. Miocic picked up his third consecutive win in a bout that did very little for his place in the heavyweight fold.

In addition to the quick pounding Miocic put on Maldonado in the headlining bout, there were also two more TUF winners crowned on the night as Antonio Carlos Jr. and Warlley Alves both laid claim to six-figure contracts after putting on dominant performances inside the Octagon. There were also two high-octane slug fests on the card that took the entertainment to the next level as a pair of veterans and a bout between newcomers showed out for the UFC fanbase.

Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale.

 

The Good

When the bout between Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos was announced earlier this year, the stars appeared to be aligning for a potentially huge shake up in the heavyweight ranks. "Cigano's" once bulletproof status has taken an immense amount of damage over the last year as the former champion came out on the business end of two brutal beatings at the hands of Cain Velasquez.

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Those circumstances put dos Santos' back against the wall for the first time in his MMA career, and with Stipe Miocic being hungry to climb into title contention, all the pieces were coming together for a crucial fight in the heavyweight ranks. That said, "JDS" would pull out of the fight with a hand injury and be replaced by light heavyweight slugger Fabio Maldonado.

While there was talk of the Brazilian having a "puncher's chance" heading into the bout, he didn't even have that when the action got underway. Miocic landed three clean punches, two of which put Maldonado on the canvas with the latter of the pair spelling the beginning of the end for "The Iron Hillbilly." 

The fight looked exactly as it should when a top heavyweight puts hands on a middle tier light heavyweight, and there isn't much motivation to explain this any further. The only additional note worth mentioning is that Miocic's victory on Saturday night does absolutely nothing for his standing in the heavyweight division and hopefully the UFC will reschedule the bout with dos Santos as a reward for the Ohio native remaining on the card.

It wasn't the best performance of his career, but Demian Maia got a much-needed win on Saturday night. The former middleweight title challenger turned welterweight contender put the brakes on a two-fight skid by defeating Alexander Yakovlev via unanimous decision on the strength of a dominant performance.

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While defeating an unranked opponent the likes of Yakovlev won't put the 36-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace back into the crowded title hunt at 170 pounds, is does bring him out of a recent rough patch that threatened his relevancy in the welterweight fold. Maia dropped down to 170 in 2012 and rolled off three consecutive victories that put him within striking distance of earning a title shot. Yet, back-to-back losses to Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald respectively put his championship hopes on ice.

With the welterweight division only growing more competitive, Maia could not afford another back step, and he did what he needed to do to get the job done on Saturday. Maia looked solid in his win over Yakovlev and will keep his place in the upper tier of the welterweight division intact going forward in his quest to become a contender.

Warlley Alves built a solid amount of buzz with his performance on the third installment of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, and he cranked up the noise in that department with his impressive showing on Saturday night. The undefeated Brazilian earned the six-figure contract and kept his undefeated record intact by overwhelming, then finishing Marcio Alexandre with a guillotine choke in the final round. With such a dominant performance at the finale, there will be a ton of expectations following him into his next outing, which all signs point to that next fight coming in the welterweight division.

—The second half in the pair of finalist showdowns came in the heavyweight division between Vitor Miranda and Antonio Carlos Junior. It was Team Sonnen vs. Team Wand with the six-figure contract on the line, and it was Carlos Junior who rose to the occasion. The 24-year-old worked a versatile game that played out in both the striking and grappling realms as he claimed the unanimous decision victory. With the win, Carlos Jr. becomes the season three winner and keeps his record flawless at 5-0.

—The card at TUF: Brazil 3 Finale was littered with exciting finishes, but arguably the most exciting action on the night came in a bout between Robbie Peralta and Rony Jason that went the distance. Throughout the 15-minute affair, the Californian and the Brazilian took turns trading wild, rapid-fire flurries as they launched strikes with reckless abandon. When the final bell sounded, Peralta edged out Jason via split-decision on the judges' scorecards, but both men should be front-runners to receive a performance bonus after that dogfight.

—Fighters from Dagestan have been making a huge impact in MMA as of late, and Rashid Magomedov is a card-carrying member of that movement. The 30-year-old Russian added another chapter to his growing resume on Saturday night as he defeated savvy veteran Rodrigo Damm via unanimous decision on the final bout on the preliminary portion of the card in Sao Paulo. With the win, Magomedov pushed his winning streak to 10 straight and remains unbeaten in two showings under the UFC banner.

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—Elias Silverio came into his bout against Ernest Chavez looking to keep his undefeated record intact and take another step up the crowded ranks of the lightweight division. The rangy Brazilian had found success in his first two showings inside the Octagon and secured a third consecutive victory on Saturday night when he submitted Chavez with a rear-naked choke in the final round of their tilt. With the win, the 27-year-old will increase the buzz that has steadily been growing since his debut last September and should draw a solid opponent in his next outing.

—Adding an established name to the resume is something every fighter on the rise is looking to do, and Gasan Umalatov accomplished this task on Saturday night. The Russian grappler defeated welterweight staple Paulo Thiago on the preliminary portion of the card in Sao Paulo behind an efficient workman-like effort. While the gritty Brazilian doesn't currently hold the status he once enjoyed in the welterweight mix, he's still a recognizable name, and Umalatov outworked him to get the unanimous decision victory on the judges' scorecards.

—There was nothing remotely technical about it, but Kevin Souza and Mark Eddiva put on a rock em' sock em' affair that brought the noise on the preliminary portion of the card. The Philippines representative dropped the Brazilian with a big shot in the early goings of the first round, but Souza fired back strong as he continuously ripped left hands off Eddiva's noggin. The action continued into the second round until referee Herb Dean had seen enough of Eddiva getting pinged at a fast and furious pace. Souza picked up his ninth straight victory in what proved to be a highly entertaining slugfest.

—For athletes coming off The Ultimate Fighter, their first official showing under the UFC banner is a huge opportunity, and Marcos Rogerio de Lima absolutely made the most of his first outing on the sport's biggest stage. The Team Sonnen fighter salted Richardson Moreira just 20 seconds into their bout on the preliminary portion of the card to pick up his first official victory inside the Octagon. The consistent lack of depth in the UFC heavyweight ranks creates a situation where fighters can move up the ladder quickly, and it will be interesting what route the UFC will choose to travel with de Lima.

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—Another fighter who made the most of his debut opportunity was Ricardo Abreu. The slick jiu-jitsu ace looked impressive throughout his fight with Wagner Silva until he finished off his fellow Brazilian with a rear-naked choke in the second round of the bout. While his showing at TUF: Brazil 3 was only Abreu's sixth professional showing, he looked like a savvy veteran as he worked an efficient game plan en route to victory. 

—Pedro Munhoz may have fallen short in his first bid to get a victory inside the Octagon, but he wasn't about to be denied in his second outing. The former RFA fighter was edged out by bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao at UFC 170 back in February, but he took out that frustration on Matt Hobar on Saturday night as the Brazilian earned the first-round stoppage victory. During the fight, the Team Black House fighter's striking looked crisp, and the victory will reignite some of the buzz Munhoz brought with him into the UFC.

 

The Bad

Back in 2009, Paulo Thiago exploded onto the UFC scene in shocking fashion as he pulled off an upset knockout victory over perennial welterweight contender Josh Koscheck at UFC 95. In the aftermath of his win over "Kos," the sky appeared to be the limit as he was figured to become a major player in the 170-pound mix. 

Five years later, things have drastically shifted for Thiago in that regard.

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While the BOPE officer/MMA fighter won three of his first four showings under the UFC banner, the 33-year-old has lost six of his last eight outings inside the Octagon. The most recent of which came on Saturday night when he was outworked and outpointed by Gasan Umalatov at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale in Sao Paulo. The Russian fighter jumped out to an early lead by clearly taking the opening round then held up the pace as the final two frames turned into a grinding affair at close range.

With the loss to Umalatov, the Brazilian veteran has now lost back-to-back bouts and four of his last five. While two consecutive losses typically isn't enough for a fighter to lose their place on the roster, Thiago's epic fall from being a top-10 welterweight to several rough patches where he's dropped consecutive bouts could certainly be enough to cost him his job with the UFC.

There is no doubt Thiago is a talented fighter, but the welterweight division is the most competitive collective under the UFC banner, and roster spots in that weight class are certainly coveted positions.

 

The Strange

Anytime the UFC travels to the Southern Hemisphere and brings the Octagon to Brazil, one of the storylines that consistently appears is how poorly foreign fighters seem to perform in that environment. The country is largely considered to be the birthplace of mixed martial arts and has a passionate fanbase that always shows up to create a raucous environment on fight night.

While a handful of outsiders have come into Brazil and performed well, the large majority of foreign fighters have found themselves in the loss column at the end of the night. That trend certainly appeared to be carrying into Saturday night's action as Pedro Munhoz put a thumping on Matt Hobar in the first round of their tilt to kick off the action at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale. Hobar came out looking to stand and the Black House MMA-trained fighter made him pay for his efforts as Munhoz found a home for his punches early and often.

After eating several flurries and stumbling around the Octagon, Munhoz finally finished up the action by pounding out Hobart on the mat.

Immediately following the action, MMAJunkie's Mike Bohn provided an up-to-date statistic as Brazil's record against fighters from the rest of the world moved to 75-32 with Munhoz's victory. Reed Kuhn, author of Fightnomics, also provided interesting insight on the matter as he shed light on the insane winning percentage Brazilian fighters carry when competing on their home turf.

While both of those statistics will be adjusted to include the action that took place in Sao Paulo on Saturday night, the enigma foreign fighters competing in Brazil are facing is very much a real thing.

Staying with the theme of the unique environment of fighting in Brazil, the early turnout Brazilian fans have become notorious for apparently didn't happen on Saturday. Where stateside crowds typically show up just before the main event kicks off, Brazilians are known for packing the house before the first set of fighters hit the Octagon.

This wasn't the case when The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale got underway on Saturday. While the masses did eventually show up to fill the seats, the lack of wild chants and the thin fan presence visible on the Fight Pass broadcast in the early goings is certainly worthy of a mention in the strange category.

Last but not least, there is no way I could write this column and not mention the 180-degree turn Chael Sonnen has taken with the Brazilian fanbase. Where the "Gangster from West Linn" was once public enemy No. 1 in Brazil due to his verbal bashing he's put on several of the country's most famous fighters (Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva), these days the Oregon native is borderline celebrated in the birthplace of MMA.

When the UFC announced Sonnen would be coaching The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, there were legitimate concerns for the former two-divisional title challenger's safety. That said, with the public relationship train wreck Wanderlei Silva has pulled over the past few months, Sonnen has traded in his "black hat" for a hero cape. Outside of Silva's shenanigans, one of the biggest factors contributing to Sonnen's turn has to do with his level of commitment to the fighters he has coached on The Ultimate Fighter. 

Coaching and mentoring has long been one of Sonnen's biggest passions, and his talents in that realm once again shone through on the latest installment of TUF. To highlight the matter even further, Sonnen was thanked by a handful of the Brazilian fighters he coached in their post-fight interviews with Jon Anik on Saturday.

It is also worth noting that his rival and opposing coach on the latest installment of TUF Wanderlei Silva, was not in attendance for the fights on Saturday night. "The Axe Murderer" is taking heavy fire for his refusal to take a random drug test the Nevada State Athletic Commission attempted to issue last weekend, a decision that led to him being pulled from his scheduled bout with Sonnen at UFC 175.

So in summary: a fighter who was previously loathed by the Brazilian fanbase was in attendance and enjoying the adoration from the crowd and fighters alike, and a Brazilian once revered by his countryman for his tenacity and brutality inside the cage was sitting at home in Las Vegas feeling the wrath of a public relations storm and getting booed when his name was mentioned in Sao Paulo.

If that isn't strange...then I don't know what is.

That said, a 13-hour day of UFC action is now in the books, and I want to thank everyone for taking the ride with me as always.

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. 

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