The UFC presented its third offering of the new year to fans on the FX network Saturday night as they returned to Sao Paulo, Brazil to pit former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (22-10) against elite middleweight title hopeful “The Count” Michael Bisping (23-5). The night was loaded with named talent facing hometown heroes. Fast rising Russian blue-chipper “The Eagle” Khabib Nurmagomedov (19-0) backed up the comments printed on his weigh-in shirt when the Sambo International Master of Sports dominated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Thiago Tavares (17-5-1) of Santa Catarina, Brazil. “Napao” Gabriel Gonzaga (14-6) sent “Big” Ben Rothwell’s (32-9) UFC record back into the sub .500s with a devastating Arm-in Guillotine Choke submission. In the “Fight of the Night”, TUF: Brazil stand-out Daniel Sarafian (7-3) came up short in his UFC debut when “The Doberman” CB Dollaway (13-4) used his wrestling to edge out the Brazilian in the final frame.
Back in Brazil for the fifth time in the Zuffa era, the UFC has set its seventh offering on the FX cable network for January 19. This time Thiago Tavares (17-4-1) will start the show against “The Eagle” Khabib Nurmagomedov (18-0) followed by a heavyweight showdown between “Napao” Gabriel Gonzaga (13-6) and “Big” Ben Rothwell (32-8). Following the Brazil vs. the world theme of the evening, the de facto co-main will see TUF: Brazil standout Daniel Sarafian (7-2) face TUF 7 alumni “The Doberman” CB Dollaway (12-4). Capping off the event is a marquee feature with major title implications as “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (21-10) looks to blast his way into another shot at the middleweight crown by handing “The Count” Michael Bisping (23-4) his second KO loss. The wily Brit of course has other ideas as he is certain that destiny will one day award him the 185lbs. crown.
The UFC hits the airwaves again just seven days following its final consumption of former rival promotion Strikeforce to bring the fans of Sao Paulo, Brazil a night of bouts headlined by brutal KO artist “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (21-10) and savvy British striker “The Count” Michael Bisping (23-4). UFC on FX 7 offers fight fans an additional trio of quality MMA pairings on the main card starting with Thiago Tavares (17-4-1) against “The Eagle” Khabib Nurmagomedov (18-0). Next out, “Napao” Gabriel Gonzaga (13-6) looks to continue rebuilding his stock in the UFC, this time at the expense of struggling heavyweight “Big” Ben Rothwell (32-8). The de facto co-main event of the evening features “The Doberman” CB Dollaway (12-4) against UFC newcomer Daniel Sarafian (7-2). While Sarafian appears a rather easy mark for the far more accomplished TUF 7 finalist, Dollaway is hardly in a position to take any opponent for granted, especially a hungry young blood eager to spit in the odds makers’ faces.
All good things must come to an end. In this case, the good thing is the Strikeforce promotion that has essentially served as a UFC feeder league, as well as a home for those high profile fighters on the Zuffa poo-poo list, since its inception. The California-based, Zuffa-owned promotion will lock its cage doors one last time Saturday night as “The Great” Nate Marquardt (32-10-2) defends his Strikeforce Welterweight Championship for the first and only time against dangerous submission fighter “Sponge” Tarec Saffiedine (13-3). Co-headlining the event is Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion Daniel Cormier (10-0) who will face “The Soldier” Dion Staring (28-7). “The Warmaster” Josh Barnett (31-6) will make his first appearance since losing in the finals of the Grand Prix as he goes toe-to-toe with “The Hun” Nandor Guelmino (11-3-1) in the anchor bout, and “The Dream Catcher” Gegard Mousasi (32-3-2) will face the always dangerous “Mak” Mike Kyle (19-8-1). Opening duties for the main card fall squarely on the shoulders of “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (16-3) who looks to continue rebuilding his title dreams at the expense of “Short Fuse” Ed Herman (20-8).
Thirty-two of the world’s most talented unsigned mixed martial artists are primed and ready to compete on The Ultimate Fighter 16. Today officials announced the names of those comprising the 32-man welterweight roster, which includes 29 Americans, two Canadians, and one Brazilian as well as several major promotion veterans, all to be under the tutelage of either former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Shane Carwin (12-2) or TUF Season 10 winner and former IFL champ “Big Country” Roy Nelson (17-7).
The women once again took center stage in Strikeforce as “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey (6-0) continued her rapid ascent to MMA super-stardom with yet another first-round Armbar submission. This time the victim was former champion Sarah Kaufman (15-2) and the bout took just 54 seconds. Also continuing on the path to greatness was blue chip journeyman Ovince St. Preux (12-5). “OSP” opened the main card in spectacular fashion with a third-round highlight reel KO of TJ Cook (12-5). Grappling specialist Lumumba Sayers (6-3) had the script flipped on him as “Lionheart” Anthony Smith (17-8) lured him into his guard for a first-round Triangle Choke win. “The Sponge” Tarec Saffiedine (13-3) managed to out-work Roger Bowling (11-3) en route to a Unanimous Decision in the anchor bout and the co-main event saw “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (16-3) put hot prospect Derek Brunson (9-2) away in spectacular fashion with a solid right hand. It was a solid showing for the junior organization of the Zuffa family and made another strong impression for the ladies with Dana White. MMA Gospel is here to recap the action.
—MAIN CARD (on Showtime)—
Ronda Rousey vs. Sarah Kaufman: Rousey via Submission (Armbar), Round 1, 0:54
Ronaldo Souza vs. Derek Brunson: Souza via KO (Punches), Round 1, 0:41
Roger Bowling vs. Tarec Saffiedine: Saffiedine via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), Round 3, 5:00
Lumumba Sayers vs. Anthony Smith: Smith via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 1, 3:52
TJ Cook vs. Ovince St. Preux: St. Preux via KO (Punch), Round 3, 0:20