Sergio Moraes won a tough split-decision victory over Tim Means at UFC Belem, making Brazilians 5-0 in the first five fights of the event in their home country.
Losing a fight usually isn’t a good thing. Losing back-to-back fights? Even less so. When Tim Means and Sergio Moraes stepped into the Octagon at UFC Belem, both fighters were hoping to avoid that exact scenario.
Welterweight is one of the most competitive divisions in the UFC, with talented fighters coming in all forms. While Means and Moraes were outside the top-15 rankings coming into UFC Belem, a few wins in a row could mean a ranked matchup sooner rather than later. Kicking-off 2018 with a victory is the best way to turn that possibility into a reality.
Means, a 33-year-old Oklahoma native, went 1-2 in 2017. Losses to Alex Oliveira and Belal Muhammad sandwiched a win over Alex Garcia last year for the near 40-fight veteran. Means joined the UFC in February of 2012, and was 9-6 (1) in 16 career bouts in the promotion before UFC Belem.
Although he has less than half of the fight experience of Means, Moraes has found a home in MMA at age 35. The Brazilian is a four-time medalist, including two golds, at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships from 2008-2011. Moraes then competed on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil in 2012, fighting at 185-pounds. After losing in the middleweight tournament finals (and semi-finals) at UFC 147, Moraes went on a 6-0-1 stretch from October of 2012 through September of 2017. That was before he got knocked out in the first round against Kamaru Usman at UFC Pittsburgh.
Moraes got the fight where he wanted to quickly, pulling guard on Means in the opening minute of the first round. From Means’ full guard, Moraes worked Means into half guard. It was all for naught, as Means was able to get the fight back onto the feet 90 seconds into the bout. Means began to find the range with his reach advantage, but Moraes dropped to the ground. Inviting Means to grapple, Moraes taunted Means, but Means didn’t bite.
But, once back to the feet, Moraes was the one to land the more significant combos. Stunning Means, Moraes began to get more comfortable striking with the longer, taller Means. The Brazilian continued to find a home for his right hand on Means’ face throughout the final minutes of the first stanza.
Means began the second round strong, landing a couple of leg kicks and getting the better of the boxing exchanges early. Using his range more effectively than the first, Means peppered Moraes while consistently walking the Brazilian down. Moraes landed a few heavy shots in response, but looked to be tiring quicker than his opponent. Means was the more active and accurate striker in round two, likely evening the scorecards heading into the final round.
Both fighters came out throwing in round three, continuing the pace from the first two rounds. Moraes was a bit more aggressive than in round two, and landed with the success of round one in the opening minutes. Means continued to work from distance, but struggled to land anything of note. A head kick from Moraes was followed by a left around halfway through the third round. Means was able to walk through them, and kept controlling the center of the Octagon and Moraes energy levels continued to wane.
In the final minutes, Means continued to pressure Moraes. His high-volume attack and consistent forward movement eventually forced Moraes back to the ground. Once more inviting Means to grapple. This time, Means obliged, but only momentarily as the fight had less than 30 seconds remaining. Realizing he was short on time, and likely behind on the scorecards, Moraes rose and the duo began to brawl. Firing and landing, both fighters went all out as the fight came to a close. They then embraced after the horn sounded, giving the judges their toughest decision of the night thus far.
The judges sided with the Brazilian Sergio Moraes in a slightly surprising split-decision victory. Rather than giving the decision to the more active and higher-volume striker Means, two of the three judges went with the heavier landed shots from Moraes. Means landed 143 strikes, to Moraes’ 77. Moraes victory gave Brazilians a 5-0 start at UFC Belem.
Sergio Moraes def. Tim Means via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)