The UFC 212 FOX Sports 1 prelims were littered with stoppages. Here’s all that went down in Rio.
Leading into the main card fun at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro, the Fox Sports 1 preliminary card prepared us for a night of fights in one of the world’s best mixed martial arts locales. It is the 29th event held in Brazil by the promotion, and the 8th from Rio. While the main card may be a bit top-heavy, the prelims were balanced with bantamweights from Brazil and beyond.
Three of the four fights on the prelims are bantamweight bouts, with three of the eight fighters ranked in the top-15 of the official UFC rankings. Marlon Moraes is hoping to crack those rankings soon, making his promotional debut after coming over from World Series of Fighting where he was the 135-pound champion. The division is one of the best in the promotion, and getting some spotlight at an event like UFC 212 is more than welcome.
There’s also a couple of middleweights with BJJ in their blood, and should lead to some high-quality grappling. And, of course, each FS1 preliminary bout features at least one Brazilian. Overall, it may not be a PPV event like UFC 211 or UFC 213. But if we get “free” prelim cards like UFC 212, we’ll keep our complaints to a minimum.
(#13) Iuri Alcantara vs. Brian Kelleher – Bantamweight
In the preliminary card opener, New York native Brian Kelleher silenced the crowd in Rio with a first-round submission victory. Making his UFC debut against promotion veteran and #13 ranked Iuri Alcantara, Kelleher became the first fighter to submit Alcantara since 2009, and extended his winning streak to seven fights.
A few measured exchanges between the bantamweights turned into a scramble near the cage. Kelleher did well to keep his composure, sinking in a guillotine and forcing a quick tap from Alcantara, earning the win 1:48 into round one. The sizable underdog took advantage of the post-fight spotlight, calling for UFC President Dana White to “throw him to the sharks” after his impressive defeat of Alcantara. With a win like that, in a place like Brazil, we’re on board with Kelleher’s wishes.
Brian Kelleher def. Iuri Alcantara via submission (guillotine), Round 1, 1:48
(#10) Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez – Bantamweight
The second of three bantamweight bouts on the FS1 prelims saw another Brazilian fall in an upset, as Matthew Lopez earned his 10th professional win via TKO 2:57 into round one. After trading combos, and coming out on the short end more often than not, Lopez took Johnny Eduardo down. With the fight on the floor, Lopez took quickly took control of the fight.
A steady slew of punches from a variety of angles, even while Eduardo attempted a half-hearted heel-hook, led Lopez to the upset victory. Eventually gaining position, a couple of heavy fists and elbows rocked the #10 ranked Eduardo, and the MMA universe was once again calling for a fight stoppage while veteran referee Mario Yamasaki took his time in agreeing. A division with impressive depth seems to have gained more at UFC 212, and Lopez made a reasonable request for another top-tier 135-pound opponent.
Matthew Lopez def. Johnny Eduardo via TKO, Round 1, 2:57
Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely – Middleweight
The two high-level grapplers delivered the goods early on, with an early takedown attempt from Eric Spicely turning into the duo locking legs and battling for position for the majority of the first round of the fight. After a brief period on the back on the feet around the one-minute mark, Antonio Carlos Junior shot for a takedown, worked Spicely to the fence, and dragged him to the ground. Taking his back, Carlos Junior was utilizing his great position with a couple of submission attempts as time expired in round one.
Within the first 30 seconds of round two, the fight was on the ground again, with Carlos Junior getting the better of Spicely early-on. Both fighters looked comfortable focusing on grappling as Carlos Junior once again worked himself into a few advantageous positions. Routinely dealing with Carlos Junior on his back, Spicely defended well for the majority of the round, but was unable to survive the second stanza.
Carlos Junior, the heavy favorite, gave Spicely just the second loss of his career, and won an impressive battle of high-level middleweight grapplers with a rear-naked-choke 3:49 into round two. It was his third consecutive victory and the fastest finish of his UFC career. Middleweight may be packed in the title race, but with the win the winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 finds himself knocking on the door of the top-15.
Antonio Carlos Junior def. Eric Spicely via submission (rear-naked-choke), Round 2, 3:49
(#3) Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes – Bantamweight
In the headline bout of the UFC 212 FS1 prelims, Marlon Moraes proved he belongs in the UFC, despite losing for the first time in his last 14 bouts. The former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion battled with#3 ranked UFC veteran Raphael Assuncao in his promotional debut, but fell short via a close split-decision. Assuncao, the underdog going into the bout, improved to 9-1 as a bantamweight and added another top-tier victory to his resume’ as he chases a title-shot.
With both fighters finding the range and timing, the bout had its lulls. But those boring moments were sprinkled with bursts of highly-technical and impressively quick exchanges. Moraes looked comfortable early, trading with Assuncao regularly. But two big rights from Assuncao changed the tone of the bout at the end of round one.
A lack of action in round two meant the fight was for the taking in round three, and another big right from Assuncao in the opening seconds put the pressure on Moraes. Controlling the center of the Octagon for the majority of the bout, Assuncao’s consistent pressure on Moraes kept the former WSOF champ on his back foot throughout the fight. A late flurry from Moraes wasn’t enough to earn the win, but the performance puts him on track for another top-10 opponent at 135-pounds.
Raphael Assuncao def. Marlon Moraes via split-decision
The bantamweight division gained a couple more contenders while middleweight gained another legitimate top-15 fighter as well. Overall the FS1 prelims delivered a group of fun fights and entertaining performances leading into the main card action in Rio. The bantamweight division rankings will look a little different going into the second half of the year, and the UFC 212 prelims are a big reason why.