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The two best Brazilian-born jiu-jitsu-based heavyweights in mixed martial arts history met for a second time Saturday in sweltering Fortaleza, Brazil.
Seven years ago, when the pair clashed in Tokyo during one of Pride's fabled tournaments, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was still very much a dominant force in the weight class, second only to Russia's Fedor Emelianenko. Fabricio Werdum had some experience then, but was nowhere near the polished weapon he is in 2013.
Nogueira, 37, got by in 2006 with a decision after a close tussle in a ring, but it was Werdum who seized the moment in a cage, scoring a memorable verbal tapout from an armbar at 2:41 of Round 2.
Despite Nogueira's early pressure, the opening period went to Werdum. He moved well, circling then kicking to the inside and outside of Nogueira's lead leg. It was on the floor, however, where Werdum asserted himself, a sign of things to come.
Takedowns came easy for Werdum in the first clash, and little changed tonight. He took dominant positions, outworked "Minotauro" and landed strikes when the opportunity was there. Once Werdum got his jab going, he was able to fend off the former Pride champion, who moved forward and looked to be a bully.
Nogueira's intentions seemed to pay off, as Werdum was caught clock watching a couple times late in the first. This was only perception, though, because Werdum turned it up in the second and totally handled Nogueira.
Werdum came out kicking and jabbing. When Nogueira responded by trying to fight on the inside, Werdum reversed him and scored a double-leg takedown. They scrambled, showing some of the best heavyweight grappling in MMA, and it was Werdum who asserted himself. Werdum toyed with a Kimura, but he let go and instead passed Nogueira's guard. "Minotauro" countered by rolling to his knees, which allowed Werdum to get behind him. It was then that he decided to go for an armbar.
"Then I was able to make him submit. That made me very happy," Werdum said.
The defeat, called when referee Mario Yamasaki heard Nogueira ask out of the fight, marked the second time in three contests that he fell to submission -- though at least his arm remained intact, unlike the 2011 Kimura from Frank Mir, which was the first time in his illustrious career he lost by submission.
Werdum (17-5-1) labeled Nogueira a personal idol, and an icon for all Brazilians. Nogueira is just 3-3 since the end of 2008. After stepping on the scale at a slim 237 pounds -- his fighting weight during his best days -- Nogueira (34-8-1) said he was as prepared as he could be. He put up a good fight, but Werdum was vastly improved from their first encounter.
Werdum, 35, has won three in a row since losing a slow, boring contest with Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce in 2011. That loss came on the heels of Werdum's biggest accomplishment, submitting Emelianenko, which ended a seven-year streak for the Russian atop the heavyweight division.
Saturday's win at the Paulo Sarasate Gymnasium could put Werdum in position to fight for a UFC heavyweight title later this year, though it's unclear if he'll sit and wait for the winner between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, or be asked to fight one more time. Either way, Werdum said he wants nothing more than for the "UFC to give me a chance to shine with the best in the world."
Making the most of a second chance, 33-year-old Brazilian Leonardo Santos turned in the MMA performance of his life, surviving an early attack from undefeated 21-year-old William "Patolino" Macario to score a second round choke to become the second winner of "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil."
|Leonardo Santos took advantage of a second opportunity to become the second winner of "TUF: Brazil."|
The four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion needed just one chance after slinging Patolino to the floor -- which only happened because referee Marc Goddard was on the spot and properly warned Patolino for grabbing the fence moments before. After restarting the welterweight pair on their feet, Santos (12-3) adeptly dropped into side control. Seconds later he slid a knee across Patolino's stomach and found mount, along with the arm-triangle choke that forced a tap 4:43 of the second round.
Patolino (6-1) earned the opening round with takedowns, ground and pound and just generally being the bigger, stronger guy. But in the second Santos found his range. The fight didn't fully turn until he put Patolino, who was picked second to last on the show, but impressed with two finishes in three wins. Santos was only in the fight because the man he lost to in the semifinals, Santiago Ponzinibbio, injured his hand and couldn't make the appointment.
He was emotional afterwards, running into the crowd and delivering a heartfelt speech that made his Nova Uniao teammate, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, tear up.
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante fell hard in his UFC debut, succumbing to the will and heavy strikes of Thiago Silva, late in the first round.
Silva, 30, needed some good fortune.
|Thiago Silva ruined Rafael Cavalcante's debut in the UFC with a first round TKO victory.|
Cavalcante scored first, faking a takedown and turning in one fell swoop for a spinning back elbow that landed flush. Silva backed up and his punches appeared lumbering until he started measuring Cavalcante with his jab.
The more he fired off quick punches, the more Cavalcante fell of his early pace -- head movement dissipated and so did his chances in the bout.
The finishing sequence offered a change of pace from a night dominated by submissions.
Silva stalked and called his 32-year-old countryman forward before popping off a right hook-jab combination. He followed that with a jab, right straight, left hook, right straight that put Feijao on the ropes metaphorically -- and against the cage literally.
Silva (15-3) dropped low and to the right, then sprang from his hip with an uppercut that dropped Feijao (11-4) on the spot. Two right hands followed before referee Dan Miragliotta intervened at 4:29 of the opening frame.
"I have a great camp. I have a great manager. I just train the best that I can. I had the opportunity and I took it," Silva said.
Prior to getting knocked out by Lyoto Machida at UFC 94, Silva was 13-0 and considered one of the most dangerous threats at light heavyweight. Between drug failures and stumbles against the top of the division, Silva is an enigma. His victory over Cavalcante, a rival, could stabilize a career that, with another loss, seemed destined to continue outside the Octagon.
Erick Silva spent 71 seconds locked in a cage with Jason High intent, not just on winning, but making a statement. The 28-year-old Brazilian welterweight should feel good about himself tonight.
|Erick Silva took Jason High to the ground and never let him up, scoring a submission win in the first round.|
After being put through his paces by Jon Fitch last October, Silva returned against High and swarmed, finishing the American wrestler with an imaginative triangle-armbar combination.
"I tried to go to his back to do a rear-naked choke," Silva said, "but I didn't manage to do it so I did the armbar."
It was better than he made it sound. Silva (15-3) sprawled on a High takedown attempt and immediately moved to the American's back. High lifted his rear-end in the air, but this only allowed Silva to place his legs on the inside and secure control. When the rear-naked choke didn't materialize, he moved his legs near High's head and applied pressure. It was unclear if the strangle or the armlock forced High (16-4) to tap, but the 31-year-old fighter from Kansas City, Mo., did, losing for the first time since his last appearance in the UFC, a decision to Charlie Brenneman in 2010, seven fights ago.
Silva's aggressive style, pace and athleticism make him a fighter to watch at 170, though, considering the loss to Fitch, questions remain unanswered regarding how far he can go.
Daniel Sarafian scored his first win in the UFC, easily submitting Octagon rookie Eddie Mendez at 2:20 of the opening round.
|Daniel Sarafian punished Eddie Mendez all the way to a submission win in a little more than two minutes.|
The 30-year-old middleweight, a finalist on the first season of "TUF: Brazil" who was forced out of the fight because of an injury, said he wanted to put Mendez on the floor, which is exactly what he did.
Mendez, 29, opened with arm punches, and despite feeling as if he was at a disadvantage on the feet, Sarafian (8-3) appeared the more competent striker. Still, when the pair locked up in the clinch, Sarafian used an inside trip, a judo move, he said, and fell into Mendez's half-guard.
It wasn't long until Sarafian made his move, pushing through to mount at the same time as he trapped Mendez's left arm. The Californian (7-2-1) tapped shortly thereafter.
The powerfully built Sarafian has now found some footing in the UFC after suffering a split decision loss to CB Dollaway in January.
"There's always a lot of pressure," he said, "but pressure's just part of the game."
England's Mike Wilkinson, 25, may have thought he made a tactical play when he dropped levels and drove Rony "Jason" Mariano Bezerra to the canvas early in round one. But less than a minute and a half into the featherweight contest, Wilkinson was unconscious due to technical submission: a beautiful triangle choke that said as much about the 29-year-old Brazilian's grappling game as the "Jiu-Jitsu" tattoo scrawled across his shoulders.
|Rony Bezerra scored a submission win over Mike Wilkerson with a perfect triangle choke in the first round.|
"He's a very tough guy and I know I'd only have only one opportunity," said Bezerra through an interpreter. "So the minute he gave me that opportunity I held onto it."
The submission was tremendous. As Wilkinson, now 8-1, played in Bezerra's guard, he lost control of his right arm. "Jason" pushed it across his stomach, locked his legs, and squeezed with textbook perfection. The strangle worked and Wilkinson was quickly rendered unconscious, at which point referee Marc Goddard stopped the fight in at 1:24 of Round 1.
"I would like to thank all the crowd," he said, drawing roars of approval. "I'm very pleased to be here, and excited. I came from a very small city from inside this state. I'm here and I'm going to conquer the world."
"Jason," who embraced the persona of the movie serial killer, moved to 13-3 (3-0 in the UFC) with his eighth consecutive victory. Tearing up, he dedicated the performance to his recently deceased grandfather.