UFC 237 takes place Saturday night from Rio de Janeiro, featuring champion Rose Namajunas defending her strawweight title against Brazilian challenger Jessica Andrade on Andrade’s home turf. The co-feature pits all time legend Anderson Silva versus Jared Cannonier, while Jose Aldo battles Alexander Volkanovski in a pivotal showdown between top featherweight contenders.
Talita Bernardo vs. Viviane Araujo
Talita Bernardo is a submission grappler who picked up her first UFC victory last time out in the Octagon and is 6-3 in MMA competition overall. Viviane Araujo is the smaller woman naturally and is taking the fight on late notice. She is 6-1 over the course of her MMA career.
Round 1. Araujo’s striking looks crisp. She is bouncing around on the outside and landing strikes. Bernardo is clearly bigger but she is also the much slower competitor and Araujo is taking advantage of her speed to pepper Bernardo with jabs and kicks. Bernardo goes for a takedown late but can’t get it cleanly and opts to pull guard instead. Araujo quickly takes Bernardo’s back as the round comes to a close. One-sided action there. 10-9 Araujo.
Round 2. Araujo opens up with some low kicks. Araujo cracks Bernardo with a hard right hand to the jaw, easily the biggest blow of the fight. Araujo follows with some more leg kicks. Bernardo answers back with a couple punches and shoots for a takedown but she doesn’t come close. Bernardo lands a few punches and Araujo responds by taking Bernardo down. Bernardo has full guard up against the cage. They return to the feet and Bernardo lands a few more quality punches at the end of the round. Bernardo finally seemed to get going a little big in the second half of that round. 10-9 Araujo.
Round 3. Araujo comes out with a lot of movement. She lands a few solid punches and then knocks Bernardo out cold with a punch.
Winner: Viviane Araujo, KO, round 3.
That was a terrific UFC debut for Viviane Araujo. She was fighting in a higher weight class on short notice and dominated the fight before securing a clean knockout. She looks like she could be a force in the UFC. As for Bernardo, she may find herself on smaller shows next.
Raoni Barcelos vs. Carlos Huachin
Raoni Barcelos will be one of the biggest UFC betting favorites of the year when he takes on Carlos Huachin tonight. Barcelos is 13-1 with finishes in both his UFC bouts. He takes on the Peruvian Huachin, who is taking the fight on short notice. All 10 of Huachin’s wins have come via knockout or submission while all 3 of his losses have come via decision.
Round 1. Barcelos moves forward early but Huachin is throwing more while backing up and he’s throwing hard. Barcelos is mostly defending well but Huachin is connecting here and there with heavy punches. Barcelos begins to throw more in the second half of the round but Huachin is landing the stronger shots. 10-9 Huachin.
Round 2. Barcelos drops Huachin early in the second round. Barcelos opens up with punches on the ground and has Huachin in big trouble. Huachin looks to isolate an arm while Barcelos keeps dropping down punches. Barcelos gets Huachin’s back but then gives that up and looks for a guillotine choke. He cannot get it and instead goes back to landing punches and elbows from the top. Barcelos gains full mount and lands some punches from there. The referee finally steps in.
Winner: Raoni Barcelos, TKO, round 2.
Huachin proved himself game early in the fight, but Barcelos worked his way through that danger and really took over on the ground late.
Luana Carolina vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Carolina won a fight on the Dana White Contender Series and now she will fight on a major UFC show for the first time. She is 5-1 for her career. Priscila Cachoeira is more experienced at 8-2 but both of those losses were in her last two fights in the UFC so she needs to rebound here.
Round 1. Cachoeira lands a big right hand early. Carolina clinches and lands a few knees to the body. They trade hooks back and forth. Cachoeira is the fighter moving forward with Carolina backs away and circles. Carolina lands a couple of standing elbows. They begin swinging wildly back and forth with some unusual technique. Carolina lands a head kick. Cachoeira lands a hard overhand right. Carolina is badly bleeding but it is underneath her eye rather than above it. 10-9 Cachoeira.
Round 2. Cachoeira continues to pursue, with Carolina looking to either counter or tie Cachoeira up. Carolina drops Cachoeira with a massive head kick. Carolina looks for an armbar from a weird angle but loses it. Cachoeira stands up and eats an illegal knee as she is returning to her feet. Carolina lands a series of kicks on the feet and then grabs a guillotine choke. Carolina uses the threat of the submission to take full mount. Carolina looks for an inverted triangle but Cachoeira pops out. They trade big punches at the close of the round. 10-8 Carolina.
Round 3. Carolina isn’t backing up nearly as much in the third and she is throwing repeated head kicks after having success with that earlier. Carolina lands a backfist and Cachoeira answers back with a couple of heavy straight punches. Carolina looks for a guillotine choke but then gives it up, perhaps not wanting to use up the remaining energy in her arms. Cachoeira continues to throw to the end even as she is clearly very tired. 10-9 Carolina, 29-27 Carolina.
Winner, Luana Carolina, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27).
That was a fun, hard fought fight. Both fighters showed some vulnerabilities that could be exploited but they exhibited heart and solid offensive tools.
Clay Guida vs. B.J. Penn
Fan favorite Clay Guida is known for his wild hair and he has secured 14 wins in the UFC since debuting in 2006. B.J. Penn is the former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion but he has lost six straight and not looked good in the process. The decision to keep him on this card has been a controversial one after the mother of his children accused him of physical and sexual abuse.
Round 1. The fighters are mostly boxing in the early going. Penn looks better than he has in recent fights. Guida is missing with a bunch of his wild looping punches. Neither man is connecting with anything too substantial but Penn has some of the crispest shots of the round. 10-9 Penn.
Round 2. The second round begins much like the first. Penn is landing more in a boxing match where the pace is quick enough but neither is doing much damage. The live crowd is sporadically booing and heckling the fight. Guida lands a head kick late, a few additional punches, and takes Penn down. 10-9 Guida.
Round 3. Guida backs Penn up with punches. He is beating Penn up, mixing in kicks, and Penn looks exhausted. They end up in a clinch, which allows Penn time to recover. Guida’s punches, which Penn was avoiding early on, are now consistently connecting to the chin. 10-9 Guida, 29-28 Guida.
Winner: Clay Guida, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27).
That was sad to watch on a variety of levels.
Warlley Alves vs. Sergio Moraes
Warlley Alves was thought to be an elite prospect after winning the Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 and he remains the only fighter to defeat Colby Covington but his stock has fallen badly with 3 losses in his last 5 fights. Sergio Moraes has quietly accumulated an impressive 8-3-1 UFC record with 6 of those wins coming in Brazil.
Round 1. Alves is the aggressor early, throwing plenty of kicks. Moraes finally lands a massive overhand right but as he comes in, Alves nails him with a couple of vicious low kicks. Moraes lands a pair of punches but has his momentum halted when he takes an eye poke moving in. Alves lands a lunging punch in an exchange. 10-9 Alves.
Round 2. Moraes has slowed after repeated attacks to the leg in the first round. Moraes does land a solid left hand. Alves is cautious with his striking in spite of the advantage he has gained, throwing not all that often and forcing Moraes to move forward. 10-9 Alves.
Round 3. The action is faster at the start of the third. Moraes lands a big hook and Alves answers back as they exchange wild looping punches. Alves comes in with a flying knee that doesn’t connect but then throws another of his hard leg kicks. Moraes clutches his leg after a particularly brutal leg kick in the middle of the round. Alves goes for another flying knee. This time it connects better and then Alves floors Moraes with an uppercut for the finish.
Winner: Warlley Alves, KO, round 3.
That was a classic example of a fighter attacking the leg and then using that damage to open up attacks to the head. This was a big win for Alves as he looks to regain the stature he once had.
Thiago Moises vs. Kurt Holobaugh
Thiago Moises has accrued an 11-3 record at age 24 and has been fighting mainly in the United States despite his Brazilian heritage. Kurt Holobaugh is 0-3 thus far in the UFC but is getting another opportunity to establish a name for himself on the major league level of the sport.
Round 1. Moises lands some nice punches at Holobaugh moves in, but Holobaugh is able to get in for the clinch. Holobaugh can’t secure a takedown and backs away. Moises then gets a takedown of his own. Moises lands punches from the top while Holobaugh isn’t able to stand up or threaten with submissions. 10-9 Moises.
Round 2. Moises lands a strong right hand right at the start of the round and Holobaugh fires back. They end up in a clinch and Moises scores another takedown. Holobaugh is able to work back to his feet this time. Holobaugh attacks the body with some stiff punches. Moises responds with a few elbow attempts but they don’t connect the same way. Holobaugh really pours it on at the end of the round and does just enough to steal the round. 10-9 Holobaugh.
Round 3. Moises staggers Holobaugh with a right hand near the ear and then knocks him down with a leg kick. Moises takes top position and is in half guard. Holobaugh gets up but he can’t get Moises down and Moises scores another takedown on Holobaugh. As Holobaugh stands up, Moises takes his neck and squeezes, but Moises doesn’t have his hooks in and he isn’t able to get the submission. Holobaugh finally secures top position. Moises gets up and slams Holobaugh down. Moises lands some elbows at the close of the round. 10-8 Moises, 29-27 Moises.
Winner: Thiago Moises, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27).
Moises looked like he might be fading in the second round but he firmly regained control in the third to pick up the decision.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Ryan Spann
An elite fighter for a decade and a half, the now 42-year-old Nogueira is looking for a win at home here. Ryan Spann is 15 years younger than Nogueira and has won 5 straight fights.
Round 1. Spann gets a takedown early. He looks for an arm triangle choke but does not secure it and returns to his feet. Spann drops Nogueira with punches and knocks him out on the ground.
Winner: Ryan Spann, KO, round 1.
Fighting isn’t a pursuit that’s well suited for people in their 40s, as we saw again there.
Irene Aldana vs. Bethe Correia
Irene Aldana is a Mexican fighter who has spent most of her career competing in Invicta and UFC. Bethe Correia once fought Ronda Rousey in a massive pay-per-view title attraction but she has won only once since, hasn’t fought in nearly two years and missed weight for this fight by five pounds.
Round 1. Aldana takes a caution approach, keeping her hands high and relying almost exclusively on straight punches when Correia comes in. The shorter Correia is mixing in more kicks but neither fighter is landing much. Aldana’s punches are clearly the difference in the first round. 10-9 Aldana.
Round 2. Correia comes in with a few kicks at the start. Aldana responds with some kicks of her own. The fight over time returns to its first round pace, not a lot landing either way and Aldana having the reach advantage. Correia connects with a nice right hand but Aldana blocks the takedown attempt. Correia goes for a takedown but it is blocked and Aldana opens up with a knee and some strong punches. Close round. 10-9 Aldana.
Round 3. Correia throws low kicks with more frequency early in the third. She then moves in with hooks, allowing Aldana the opportunity to counter with her boxing. The fighters are engaging more than they did in the first two rounds. Correia goes for a takedown but doesn’t get it. Aldana grabs an arm bar in the scramble for the submission.
Winner: Irene Aldana, submission, round 3.
That wasn’t a great fight by any means but Aldana showed good awareness locking up the submission in the third to pull out the win. Between her performance and missing weight badly, Correia’s future as a UFC fighter appears uncertain.
Thiago Alves vs. Laureano Staropoli
This fight advances a major regional rivalry as the Brazilian Alves takes on the Argentinian Staropoli. Alves is a long tenured former title challenger who has struggled in recent bouts while Staropoli is a decade younger but much less accomplished, looking to build off a win in his UFC debut.
Round 1. Staropoli throws some kicks at the start of the fight and switches stances a number of times to give Alves different looks. Staropoli isn’t getting a lot accomplished offensively but all the varied movements have Alves simply staring at him. Alves does throw a few leg kicks late. 10-9 Staropoli.
Round 2. Alves is a little more active in the second round but it is still slow going. The crowd begins to boo. Staropoli goes for a takedown and briefly has Alves down but he doesn’t have Alves there for long. The measured striking continues to the end. 10-9 Staropoli.
Round 3. Alves goes for a takedown at the beginning of the round and gets Staropoli down but Staropoli is able to get up quickly. Staropoli lands a nice kick to the body. Alves still hasn’t really gotten going offensively. Alves does land a number of low kicks. Alves lands a big knee and pursues Staropoli across the cage. 10-9 Alves, 29-28 Staropoli.
Winner: Laureano Staropoli, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Thiago Alves was never able to figure Laureano Staropoli out. Staropoli didn’t dish out a lot of offense but it was enough to pick up the decision.
Jose Aldo vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Jose Aldo is the most accomplished featherweight in MMA history, having dominated the division for many years and he has still proven to be quite dangerous since dropping his belt. Alexander Volkanovski has a sparkling 19-1 record and is 6-0 in the UFC. His last TKO win over Chad Mendes earned him this fight and a win here could net him a title shot. Of course, getting by Jose Aldo is easier said than done.
Round 1. There’s not a lot of action in the first couple of minutes. Volkanovski throws a few leg kicks and straight punches while Aldo is for the most part just measuring Volkanovski. After a few leg kicks to Aldo, he retaliates with a hard body punch on Volkanovski. Volkanovski lands two straight punches and Aldo responds with a stiff jab. Aldo appears to have a lot more force behind his blows and the crowd reacting big each time helps. Aldo lands a flying knee late. 10-9 Volkanovski.
Round 2. Volkanovski continues to throw low kicks. They aren’t landing with great impact but they’ve been the most consistent offense throughout the fight. Aldo connects with a hard jab. Aldo lands a low kick and then follows with two additional punches. Volkanovski clinches up against the cage and lands a series of knees to the leg. 10-9 Volkanovski.
Round 3. Aldo lands a couple of punches but Volkanovski answers back with two of his own and unlike earlier in the fight, Volkanovski’s appeared to land with more impact this time. Volkanovski becomes more assertive with his striking, as he is throwing more and seems more comfortable in range with Aldo. They end up in a clinch, where Volkanovski is more active. 10-9 Volkanovski, 30-27 Volkanovski.
Winner: Alexander Volkanovski, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
That was a strange performance from Aldo, who never seemed to fight with much urgency and simply got outworked most of the way. Volkanovski didn’t get the sort of exclamation point victory that will make fans clamor for him to get a featherweight title shot but his resume and a win over that caliber of opponent gives him the inside track.
Anderson Silva vs. Jared Cannonier
Anderson Silva is on the short list for greatest fighter of all time and he continues to fight at age 44. He clearly isn’t the fighter he used to be but he is savvy enough to still give opponents trouble. Jared Cannonier is 4-4 in the UFC and a win over Silva would be by far the biggest win of his career.
Round 1. Both fighters are tentative early. Cannonier moves forward and lands a nice right punch a minute and a half in, the first blow of consequence. Silva begins throwing around the midpoint of the round. He lands some leg kicks and then attacks the head with a kick. Cannonier responds with a right hand to the head and they end up in a clinch. Cannonier gets out before Silva can start throwing knees. Cannonier lands an inside leg kick that sends Silva down in pain and the fight is called off.
Winner: Jared Cannonier, TKO, round 1.
It’s unfortunate to see Silva in that type of pain. He famously suffered a broken leg in his second fight with Chris Weidman and is struggling here. This has been a rough night for legends and Silva continues the trend.
UFC strawweight title: Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade
Rose Namajunas captured the title with a very surprising upset of Joanna Jedrzejczyk and she successfully defended her title in the rematch as well. Things don’t get easier for Namajunas here, as she takes on a bulldog of an opponent in Andrade. Andrade has won six of seven and is fighting at home as well.
Round 1. Namajunas works to establish her striking early as she lands a series of punches from range. She is really connecting with her jab and mixing in her power behind that as well. Andrade’s face is not in great shape already. Andrade looks to slam Namjunas with a takedown but Namajunas threatens with a kimura and then an armbar and prevents the fight from going to the ground. Namajunas lands some more major punches on the feet. Namajunas knocks Andrade back and down with a knee and Namajunas pursues Andrade to the ground. Namajunas grabs a guillotine as Andrade stands up but she lets it go. Andrade is better in close range and she knows it, so she wades in dangerously towards the end of the round throwing big punches. Namajunas fires back and they both land from close range. 10-8 Namajunas.
Round 2. Andrade lands a couple of low kicks to start. Namajunas punishes Andrade with punches as Andrade closes in. Andrade catches Namajunas with a hard hook, forcing Namajunas to back up quickly and get out of danger. In a stunning finish, Andrade lifts Namajunas up and slams Namajunas down on her head and neck. This knocks Namajunas out and ends the fight.
Winner: Jessica Andrade, KO, round 2.
That was an all time highlight reel finishing slam, securing a victory in what had been a challenging fight. Rose Namajunas had looked great leading up to the finish and given the nature of the ending there might be a quick rematch.