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Monday, January 16, 2012
Next wave of Brazilian talent delivered

By Josh Gross
ESPN.com

Perhaps it didn't match August's blockbuster UFC in Brazil, with its ruckus and reverberation around a nation of pent-up fans eager to celebrate the return of mixed martial arts' leading promotion to their shores for the first time in 13 years, yet a mere six months later Zuffa offered, at a minimum, a reminder that the potential for MMA in the modern birthplace of the sport is vast.

While summer's UFC 134 featured luminaries like Anderson Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mauricio Rua, Zuffa's boomerang to Rio let the country revel in its future, namely one Jose Aldo. His title-defending effort against American Chad Mendes, the emotional embrace of the Rio faithful afterward -- it was all something worth remembering. As was Vitor Belfort's fistic return to his homeland since an entirely different UFC visited the country in 1998. As was Edson Barboza's consciousness-robbing kick against Terry Etim. And so on.

Since 1993, Brazil has delivered countless fighters to the world. That the sport is now, finally, getting a fair shake from media and politicians only suggests the best is yet to come, which -- considering all there is to consider about Brazilian MMA -- suggests a lot.

For the second card in a row, Brazilian fighters dominated their international counterparts. For the second card in a row, fans, wide awake into the wee hours of the morning, rivaled the loudest audiences in the sport's history. For the second card in a row, the UFC left the nation wanting more, which they will surely get this summer when the promotion attempts to fill a 100,000-seat soccer stadium.

The UFC in 2012 is under way. Strap on your seat belts.

From A+ to F, here's how the fighters performed Saturday in Rio.

Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.