The old adage about saving the best for last was never truer than it was Wednesday night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Faced with a tough weight cut and the additional pressure that can come with fighting at home, light heavyweight contender Glover Teixeira had a bigger share of doubters than one would expect for a man headed into his main event fight with Ryan Bader on a 19-bout winning streak.
Those skeptics were almost proven correct when Teixeira was visibly staggered by Bader's heavy hands in the first round. Instead of succumbing, the Brazilian literally fought his way off the fence, dropping Bader and delivering the most dramatic of a full complement of stoppages at UFC Fight Night 28.
The conventional wisdom was that Bader would look to wrestle, but that plan seemed to be jettisoned early when Teixeira stuffed a takedown attempt before succeeding with one of his own. Bader then turned to his other big weapon, his right hand, and struck gold with a shot that knocked Teixeira back into the cage.
Sensing a possible finish, Bader moved in and threw punches in volume. But Teixeira wasn't out, and his own right hook changed the fight in an instant. He jumped on Bader and continued to throw until the referee waved things off at 2:55 of the opening round.
With yet another big win, Teixeira most likely cemented his status as the next person to challenge for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship that Jon Jones will defend against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. At this point, it would be hard to bet too heavily against Teixeira, even if he ends up facing the seemingly weakness-free Jones.
Five other bouts were featured on the Fox Sports 1 main card, several of which had dramatic endings of their own:
Ronaldo Souza def. Yushin Okami by TKO at 2:47 of Rd. 1 – Middleweight
Everyone knows that Souza has dangerous submissions. But since coming to the UFC from Strikeforce, what "Jacare" has really shown off is how heavy his hands can be. He leaned on his punching power right off the bat on Wednesday night, and it ended up simply overwhelming Okami in less than three minutes.
Okami almost got stopped by Souza's very first barrage of punches, which had him in trouble and backed up against the cage. He managed to survive that burst, but the end wasn't far behind. A big right hand put Okami on the ground, and Jacare simply rained down undefended blows until the ref had seen enough.
The win moved Souza to 2-0 in the UFC, and he figures to be in the middleweight title picture sooner rather than later in his current form.
Joseph Benavidez def. Jussier Formiga by TKO at 3:07 of Rd. 1 – Flyweight
The announcers mentioned that Benavidez acknowledged that not many Americans win in Brazil, but he made it look easy against Formiga. The Team Alpha Male member made a strong case for another shot at flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson with a dazzling first round TKO.
Formiga appeared willing to trade, and was landing some shots of his own as Benavidez came in. But a left-right punching combination rocked the Brazilian, and a huge knee was the icing on the cake. The extra punch was hardly necessary as the ref called a stop to the action, and Benavidez said he'd be up for whatever the UFC had planned for him next.
Piotr Hallmann def. Francisco Trinaldo by submission (kimura) at 3:50 of Rd. 2 – Lightweight
Talk about overcoming adversity. Facing both a hostile crowd and some brutal punishment in Round 1, Hallman rallied to pull off an impressive come from behind win, submitting Brazilian Trinaldo late in the second stanza.
Body kicks from Trinaldo very nearly ended the fight in Round 1, but Hallman survived both those and a takedown to make it out of the frame. Hallman managed to get on top of Trinaldo twice, and the second time gave him enough time to work for a kimura. Seemingly out of gas following his first round flurry, Trinaldo tapped and left the fans in stunned silence.
Rafael Natal UD3 Tor Troeng – Middleweight
The scorecards made it appear Natal had an easy night, but Troeng's toughness and heart made it anything but. The Swede somehow shrugged off two huge shots that would have stopped most fighters and continuously got himself out of predicaments on the mat to make "Sapo" work for every bit of his decision.
A forearm shot in Round 1 and a huge right hand in Round 2 both put Troeng on his back, with the latter looking especially devastating. Amazingly, he regained his senses with Natal trying to finish him, and each time was able to sweep and get on top. Natal had his own share of sweet reversals and escapes, contributing to some high level MMA grappling.
Natal jumped up and wrapped on a guillotine early in Round 3 only to see Troeng give the ref a thumbs up. He battled all the way to the final horn, undoubtedly winning over some fans even as he lost 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28.
Ali Bagautinov def. Marcus Vinicius by TKO at 3:28 of Rd. 3 – Flyweight
Despite giving up plenty of size to his Brazilian opponent, Bagautinov was the one packing the bigger power. He proved it by landing a picture perfect right hand halfway through the final round to bring a sudden end to what had been a close fight.
Bagautinov looked like he may make his UFC debut a short one when he rocked Vinicius with a right hand along the cage in Round 1, then switched to a guillotine when his punches and hammer fists failed to produce a finish. Yet Vinicius escaped the hold and ended up holding his own through a flurry of takedowns in Round 2.
That left Bagautinov patiently waiting for an opening, and he made no mistake when he got it. His beauty of a right ensured the punches that followed weren't even necessary as it was all over for Vinicius.
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