Thiago Santos played headliner at UFC Fight Night 137 and didn't disappoint with a third-round TKO of Eryk Anders in front of a raucous Sao Paulo crowd.
Anders, who took the fight on a week's notice, made his game plan obvious from the outset: get the fight to the ground. He spent the first round trying to get Santos to the mat—to no avail.
The former Alabama football player did, however, avoid taking serious damage in the first five minutes.
The second round was a different story. Anders only got the action to the ground when he pulled guard, but that gave Santos top position. When the pair stood, Santos imposed his kind of fight, throwing and landing serious heat:
The action picked up in the third frame. Anders had his most successful stretch on the ground early in the round, scoring the takedown and going to work with his ground-and-pound. But when Santos got to his feet, the descent to the TKO finish started:
An exhausted Anders had nothing left. Santos took advantage, battering the American with kicks and punches. Anders couldn't make it to his corner when the third-round bell rang, and the fight ended.
Although Anders fell short, Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com gave him credit for taking the fight on a week's notice to save the main event after Santos originally agreed to face Jimi Manuwa on short notice:
The action went beyond the featured light heavyweight bout, though. The 14-fight card had an interesting combination of well-known Brazilian veterans and unproven prospects.
Main Card (Fox Sports 1)
- Thiago Santos def. Eryk Anders via TKO (strikes) R3 (5:00)
- Alex Oliveira def. Carlo Pedersoli Jr. via KO (punches) at :39 of R1
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira def. Sam Alvey via KO (punches) at 1:00 of R2
- Andre Ewell def. Renan Barao via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Marina Rodriguez, Randa Markos fight to majority draw (28-29, 28-28, 28-28)
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 2)
- Charles Oliveira def. Christos Giagos via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:22 of R2
- Francisco Trinaldo def. Evan Dunham via KO (knee to the body) at 4:10 of R2
- Ryan Spann def. Luis Henrique via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Augusto Sakai def. Chase Sherman via TKO (strikes) at 4:03 of R3
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
- Sergio Moraes def. Ben Saunders via submission (arm triangle choke) at 4:42 of R2
- Mayra Bueno Silva def. Gillian Robertson via submission (armbar) at 4:55 of R1
- Thales Leites def. Hector Lombard via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Luigi Vendramini via KO (strikes) at 1:20 of R2
- Livia Renata Souza def. Alex Chambers via submission (guillotine) at 1:21 of R1
Alex Oliveira vs. Carlo Pedersoli Jr.
If you make a mistake against Alex Oliviera, you'll have a bad time.
Carlo Pedersoli Jr. found that out the hard way, losing to "Cowboy" in under 40 seconds in the co-main event.
Just getting his bearings, the 25-year-old threw out a side kick to the body that backfired in the worst way. Oliveira caught the leg and swung a short right hand that landed cleanly on Pedersoli's face and started the abrupt end to the fight:
This marks back-to-back wins for Oliveira. Cowboy finished Carlos Condit with a guillotine choke his last time out and is 6-1 with one no-contest in his last eight fights.
Oliveira came into the bout ranked 14th in the welterweight division. MMA reporter Damon Martin went over his case for a higher spot in the stacked weight class:
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Sam Alvey
It's a marvel Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is still fighting, but to top it off, the Brazilian scored a knockout win in his home country to provide one of the most exciting moments of the night.
Nogueira—who hasn't fought since 2016—came out in the second round looking to engage in a fast-paced slugfest, and Sam Alvey was happy to oblige. Playing the role of aggressor, Nogueira found Alvey's chin with an overhand left and didn't let up with the pressure until the fight ended:
It was a great moment, but it's far from a welcome back for Nog. The 42-year-old looked good, but it would be wise to pump the brakes on any talk of his being relevant in the division.
Alvey has always been a good action fighter but never quite a ranked contender. That's all Nogueira is, and there won't be many more moments like this one for him.
Andre Ewell vs. Renan Barao
Andre Ewell doesn't have a Wikipedia page yet, but he does hold a win over a former UFC champion.
The 30-year-old pulled a tough assignment in facing Renan Barao in hostile territory, but he passed the test with flying colors in a split-decision victory. Ewell showcased strong boxing skills in outstriking the man who once dominated the bantamweight division.
Ewell—who goes by Mr. Highlight—had good stuff to add to his career reel, including this slick left hand that stunned Barao:
As much as this was a great win for the newcomer, it speaks to how far Barao has fallen. After an unbeaten streak that lasted nine years, he's 2-6 in his last eight fights.
As MMA journalist Connor Ruebusch noted, this was the worst he's looked:
Although he's only 31, Barao might be out of the UFC after this.
Randa Markos vs. Marina Rodriguez
The UFC debut of women's strawweight Marina Rodriguez got off to a slow start. It then took quite the comeback effort to continue her unbeaten streak with a majority draw against UFC veteran Randa Markos in the main card kickoff bout.
Markos opened an early lead with a dominant first round against the 31-year-old newcomer. But she coasted over the last two frames as Rodriguez climbed back into the fight by largely avoiding the ground and winning the striking exchanges.
A takedown in the third round was Markos' best shot at winning. However, Rodriguez quickly reversed positions and scored more during the five-minute frame.
Two of the judges scored the first round 10-8 for Markos, and Rodriguez tied the bout over the next two frames.
It was an unremarkable but solid debut for Rodriguez. Markos is not an easy opponent, and she displayed a lot of wherewithal to climb back into the fight after a lopsided first round.