UFC middleweight title: Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
Weidman, an excellent wrestler who has taken to submission grappling and striking well, solidified his place in history by ending the long reign of all time great Anderson Silva with two straight wins. However, many questioned those wins because the first came when Silva was clowning and the second came on a checked leg kick. It's not fair given how well Weidman fought in those fights and how good he is, but the sentiment exists. Machida is an opportunity to further prove how good he is. But it is a terrible challenge. Machida is one of the trickiest fighters in the sport to deal with and he has always done best against wrestling background fighters like Weidman. Machida is seeking to win titles in two different weight classes in the UFC, something that would put him in truly elite company. This also has the nationalistic angle, with Machida looking to avenge his countryman and friend Silva against the American champion. Brazil and the US are the two top countries for MMA fighters and the rise in popularity of the sport in Brazil has led to many Brazilians traveling to America to cheer on fellow Brazilians in what has become the sport's top friendly national rivalry.
Round 1. Weidman throws a few kicks early. The third leg kick lands a little but none do damage. He pursues Machida, with Machida circling and just watching. Weidman goes for a takedown but Machida blocks it emphatically. Weidman lands a few heavy punches to the chin of Machida and temporarily stuns the Brazilian. Machida recovers and continues to circle. Machida cracks Weidman with a really hard straight punch, his best early blow. Weidman takes it without trouble. Weidman catches a front kick but can't do anything with it. Weidman misses a head kick and takes a knee to the body late. 10-9 Weidman.
Round 2. Brazilians in the crowd are now singing. I'm not sure what. Weidman charges in looking to land but Machida just backs away. Machida lands a hard left hook and a low kick. Machida lands another low kick a little later. Weidman is having trouble getting a good range or cutting off Machida. Machida lands a big overhand on Weidman. Weidman shoots and gets a takedown with a minute left. He lands a few punches and a couple knees as Machida gets back to his feet. Very close round. 10-9 Machida.
Round 3. Weidman lands a nice lead hook early.Weidman shoots for a takedown but can't get it. Machida throws a head kick but has it blocked. Weidman goes for another takedown but is stuffed. Weidman goes for it again and this time lands it hard. Machida goes into full guard quickly. Machida stands up and is able to avoid a choke in the process. Weidman lands a few hard punches by the cage to Machida. He lands a few more moments later and has Machida in trouble. Machida is wobbly as he backs away. Machida is also cut. Weidman shoots and gets a takedown. Weidman lands some punches and then slams Machida down as Machida tries to get back up. 10-8 Weidman.
Round 4. Machida looks tired and beat up. He does land a nice kick to the body. They trade in the middle, with each man landing. Weidman shoots for a takedown a minute and a half in. He gets Machida down for a second but Machida is able to pop back up. Machida lands a hard hook and some big punches by the cage. he moves in looking to finish but Weidman seems fine. Machida lands a couple more hard punches and backs Weidman by the cage. He stuffs a takedown. The crowd begins to loudly chant for Machida. Machida charges in more wildly than I've ever seen, throwing big punches from all angles trying to finish. He eats a big counter knee in the process but lands a heavy hook at the bell. 10-9 Machida. He needs a finish in the final round.
Round 5. Machida lands some big punches early and blocks a takedown. Weidman mises a kick and gets punched in the face. He eats another but his chin continues to hold up very well. Weidman goes for a takedown. Machida blocks it and hits Machida with a huge punch up the middle. He pursues with more shots and has Machida's cut opened up. He hits a head kick on Machida and a punch. Machida answers back and they trade power shots. Both men begin to trade wild punches. Neither is using the same defensive caution and both are thus connecting a lot. Weidman gets a takedown with 90 seconds left and looks to work into mount. Machida rolls over and Weidman takes his back and flattens him out. Machida gets up with 30 seconds left and lands some big punches. He backs Weidman by the cage and just tees off but it is too late. What an amazing, electric fight that was. 10-9 Weidman, 48-46 Weidman.
Winner: Chris Weidman, unanimous decision (49-45, 48-47, 49-46).
That was a really great fight, the sort of fight where both men come out stronger than they went in. Weidman showed what a good fighter he was while Machida showed the heart to switch up his usual style and make a huge effort to finish late.
UFC women's bantamweight title: Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis
Rousey was an Olympic judo bronze medalist whose judo game has adapted very well to MMA. She specializes in the arm bar but has improved other aspects of her game over time. She has become a polarizing star with her brash personality and trash talking game. Davis is a well-rounded fighter with a very good jiu jitsu game in particular but solid striking as well. She has won five fights in a row. Rousey is heavily favored by the oddsmakers.
Round 1. Rousey lands a big punch. She follows with a knee. She then uses a judo throw to whip Davis down. She lands a series of punches in a headlock position, Davis goes limp and the referee stops it. The fight only went 16 seconds.
Winner: Ronda Rousey, TKO, round 1.
Kevin Casey vs. Bubba Bush
Casey appeared on the UFC's Ultimate Fighter show and appeared to have promise with his excellent ground game but struggled on the big stage and was cut. After 3 wins outside the organization, he earned a return to the UFC. Bush is an 8-2 fighter making his UFC debut.
Round 1. Casey drops Bush quickly with a left hook as Bush charges in. On the ground, Casey lands a series of hard elbows and the referee is forced to stop in. That was a very impressive performance by Casey.
Winner: Kevin Casey, TKO, round 1.
Luke Zachrich vs. Guilherme Vasconcelos
Zachrich enters this fight with a 13-3 record and most of his wins via submission. He lost his UFC debut in less than a minute. Vasconcelos is a Brazilian fighter with a 3-1 record. This is his first bout outside Brazil and on such a big show.
Round 1. The early feeling out period is extremely tentative. Zachrich is a little more active with his punches, mixing in some to the body. Vasconcelos encourages Zachrich to bring it on after an exchange. Vasconcelos appears more confident and advances on Zachrich. He isn't landing a lot but is becoming the more active fighter. Not a lot happened that round and very hard to score. 10-9 Zachrich.
Round 2. The standup continues to be slow and relatively inactive. Neither man is landing much at all and neither looks particularly skilled or effective. Vasconcelos looks for a takedown. He doesn't get it but lands an uppercut while breaking. Zachrich begins to throw his jab more, not connecting a ton. Zachrich is consistently effective at defending Vasconcelos' offense. Another uneventful round. 10-9 Zachrich.
Round 3. Vasconcelos goes for a takedown but has it blocked easily and eats a knee to the body. Zachrich catches a kick and kicks out Vasconcelos' other leg. Vasconcelos gets back up. Vasconcelos lands a nice overhand. Zachrich is methodical with his straight punches which don't do much but are more consistent than Vasconcelos' offense. Vasconcelos lands a knee to the body late. They weren't lazy but they sure didn't show much. 10-9 Zachrich, 30-27 Zachrich.
Winner: Luke Zachrich, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).
George Roop vs. Rob Font
Roop has fought against excellent competition in the featherweight and bantamweight divisions for many years. His unimpressive 15-10-1 record masks that he is a solid challenge for any opponent. He is most distinctive for his great height in a division of much shorter men. Font is 10-1 on the smaller circuits and makes his UFC debut.
Round 1. Font closes distance. Roop grabs a body lock and they grapple for position by the cage before separating. In a wild standup exchange, Font catches Roop with a hard right hand to the chin. Roop goes down and the referee calls off the contest.
Winner: Rob Font, TKO, round 1.
Chris Camozzi vs. Bruno Santos
Camozzi was developing momentum in the middleweight division with four straight losses before he lost two in a row to Lorenz Larkin and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. He needs a win here to reclaim his status as a potential contender to watch. Santos entered the UFC undefeated, but lost his debut last December.
Round 1. Camozzi looks to exploit his distinct length and reach advantage by establishing a jab and throwing leg kicks. Camozzi circles and looks to use those establishing shots while Santos walks him down looking to land power shots. Camozzi connects with a straight right punch that is the best shot thus far in the fight. Santos answers with wild hooks from close distance and clinches. Santos makes a hard effort by the cage for a takedown but just can't get it despite prolonged efforts. 10-9 Camozzi.
Round 2. Santos connects with a pair of hard looping punches early in the round. Camozzi shakes his head but they hit hard. Camozzi looks for a flying knee and Santos uses the opportunity to take him to the ground. Santos nicely works his way past Camozzi's guard and into side control, eliciting a nice cheer from the educated crowd. Santos then looks for a choke but ends up back in guard. Camozzi is finally able to stand back up in the final minute of the round but Santos just takes him right back down and lands a few punches at the close of the round. 10-9 Santos.
Round 3. Camozzi moves in with a few jabs but gets backed up by a big power shot from Santos. Santos slams Camozzi down to the mat hard two minutes into the round. Camozzi badly needs to get up or pull off a submission from the bottom to win this fight. Camozzi works a kimura from the bottom and tries to get up but he can't get the kimura extended and takes a long time to stand up. He finally does with a minute left and aggressively pushes forward with big punches and kicks. However, Santos uses his aggression against him and slams Camozzi back down as Camozzi goes for a knee. 10-9 Santos, 29-28 Santos.
Winner: Bruno Santos, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Kenny Robertson vs. Ildemar Alcantara
Robertson comes from a wrestling background but has taken very well to the submission game and has pulled off some impressive submissions in the UFC and before his UFC tenure. Alcantara has won 10 of his last 11 including 3 of 4 in the UFC, trying to work his way into the contender mix.
Round 1. Robertson moves in aggressively and grabs a very tight clinch. He does eat one knee in the process. Robertson after much effort secures that takedown. Robertson begins to implement some ground and pound and drops one punch in particular that nails Alcantara hard on the chin. He continues to work from top position for the remainder of the round, landing punches from inside the guard of Alcantara. 10-9 Robertson.
Round 2. Alcantara lands a nice kick to the head as Robertson moves in. Robertson charges in a few times but Alcantara backs off before Robertson can move in close enough for a potential takedown. Robertson finally shoots in hard for a takedown. Alcantara appears to block it but then Robertson deftly picks the bottom of Alcantara's legs to get it. Alcantara works back up but Robertson takes him back down. Robertson works his way into mount and immediately begins throwing rapid fire punches. He keeps landing punches until giving it up to look for an Americana. He then transitions into an armbar attempt but then lets that go and starts dropping more punches from side control with knee on belly. 10-8 Robertson.
Round 3. Alcantara takes a low blow early and they need to stop for a moment. Robertson lands a nice overhand that backs Alcantara up. He shoots for a takedown but can't get it. They exchange knees and Alcantara takes another accidental low blow. Robertson looks for another takedown but this time it is Alcantara who takes Robertson down and secures top position. Robertson deftly sweeps in short order and gets top position for himself with only a minute and a half left in the fight. Robertson lands punches from top until the referee stands them up with just seconds left. Robertson slips and Alcantara drops a few punches at the bell. 10-9 Robertson, 30-26 Robertson.
Winner: Kenny Robertson, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26).
Urijah Faber vs. Alex Caceres
Faber is one of the most popular fighters in the sport: a well-rounded, dangerous and charismatic star fighter. He has come up short in title fights for a number of years but has been dominant in non-title competition. Caceres has developed a fan following of his own with his "Bruce Leeroy" moniker and has improved greatly since his start in the sport.
Round 1. They clinch early and a wild scramble for position ensues. Finally a minute and a half in, Faber is able to secure a clean takedown and begins landing a few shots from inside Caceres' guard. Faber is able to land some punches and elbows but for the most part Caceres' defense is very solid and he's able to prevent Faber from accomplishing a lot from top position.
Round 2. Faber appears to stun Caceres with a punch. Rather than looking to land more on the feet, he uses the opportunity to score another takedown. Caceres gets up and lands a big uppercut that elicits a huge reaction from the crowd. Faber gets another takedown but Caceres quickly gets right back up. Faber gets another takedown and again Caceres gets up. Caceres throws a few flashy kicks, Faber clinches and uses a beautiful judo throw to slam Caceres down. Caceres again gets up quickly. Faber's round again but he looks off from his normal performances - tired and not as active going for finishes.
Round 3. Faber catches a leg kick, lands a few punches, gets a takedown, and locks up a rear naked choke for the submission.
Winner: Urijah Faber, submission, round 3.
Marcus Brimage vs. Russell Doane
Brimage is an Ultimate Fighter alumnus with excellent striking. He is coming off a setback against Conor McGregor over a year ago. Doane also likes to strike. He is 13-3 in MMA and 1-0 in the UFC.
Round 1. Brimage lands a hard leg kick early. Doane uses a lightning fast shot to take Brimage down. Brimage tries to get up but Doane takes his back in the process. Brimage gets out and up with a minute left in the round. He lands some punches as the round closes. 10-9 Doane.
Round 2. Brimage lands a few kicks early and then drops him with a punch. Doane recovers but eats another big punch a little bit later. Doane gets a takedown two minutes in. Brimage is able to get back up and avoid a choke attempt in the process. Brimage lands a couple punches late. Tough round to score. Doane got the takedown and control but Brimage was more effective landing shots. 10-9 Brimage.
Round 3. Doane goes for a high kick and Brimage takes him down. Brimage decides to stand up rather than playing Doane's game on the ground. Brimage knocks Doane off balance with a leg kick. Doane goes for a takedown. Brimage blocks it and takes Doane down, although he eats a pair of hard knees to the body in the process. Brimage then stands back up. Doane goes for another takedown but it is blocked. Brimage lands a couple leg kicks and Doane a couple punches late. Very tough fight to score. 10-9 Brimage, 29-28 Brimage.
Winner: Russell Doane, split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28).
Uriah Hall vs. Thiago Santos
Hall became something of a sensation on the Ultimate Fighter with his electrifying performances that were the most impressive in the history of the show. Unfortunately, he lost his first two fights after the show. Both were split decisions to Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard. He rebounded with a win over Chris Leben and looks to regain his buzz here. Santos was on the Brazilian version of the Ultimate Fighter and is coming off an impressive quick win over Ronny Markes.
Round 1. The pace starts out very quickly, with Hall in particular attacking with punches. Santos throws a series of leg kicks, some of which knock Hall off balance as Hall attacks. Hall catches a kick and knocks Santos down. He lands a few punches as Santos gets back up. Hall follows with a nice straight punch and then stuns Santos with another shot. Hall charges in confidently landing some shots and waiving his hands about confidently. He has his hands down like Roy Jones Jr. and is taunting Santos. Hall goes for a big spinning kick but it doesn't land. There's some sort of serious injury going on Hall's foot but he is coming out to continue. 10-9 Hall.
Round 2. Hall comes in with a big straight right punch that doesn't land fully. Santos connects with a massive hook right on the chin of Hall but somehow Hall eats it as if it is nothing. That was a shot that seemed strong enough to knock a lot of fighters out. Santos throws a few more nice low kicks and adds a few to the body. He is forcing Hall to show him a lot more respect than he did in the first. A significant portion of the crowd begins chanting "Brasil." Hall misses a big spinning kick. 10-9 Santos.
Round 3. Santos throws a few rapid punches that breeze by Hall's chin and Hall answers back with a couple that land very hard. Hall lands another hard overhand right a little bit later. Santos lands a nice head kick. Hall goes for a spinning back kick to the body but it doesn't connect flush. He gets caught with a nice left hand as he is backing up. Santos looks for a takedown late. Hall grabs a kimura in the process but can't get it. Exciting fight. 10-9 Hall, 29-28 Hall.
Winner: Uriah Hall, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).
The third fight from the top on the card has been cancelled. Stefan Struve was scheduled to fight Matt Mitrione, but Struve had a fainting spell backstage and was removed from the card to be on the safe side. Struve was returning from a serious heart issue and thus there was reason for extra caution in handling his health, although the expectation from UFC seems to be that he will be fine.
Follow on Twitter at @ToddMartinMMA.