UFC 198, hosted in Brasil, delivered on its promise to provide a fight card that entertained the fans. With the crowd getting to see local MMA heroes in every one of the matchups, the usual Brazilian comradery echoed through the stadium rafters in every fighter introduction.
The first event on the main card of the evening saw Bryan Barberena up against Warlley Alvez in a replacement bout for Uriah Hall vs Anderson ‘the Spider’ Silva. Silva officially withdrew on Tuesday with gall bladder issues that required emergency surgery. Replacement is a word that may send the sentiment around the fight down, but that’s not how it played out in the cage. These two fighters delivered an excellent performance with both evenly matched in their striking game, Barberena landing some sharp inside leg kicks and trading with Alvez through all three rounds. In the final twenty seconds both let their hands go with nothing to lose, the punch out right to the bell was thrilling, but failed to provide a finish as the buzzer rang for the end of the third. The judges ruled a unanimous decision in favour of Barberena.
Next on the line up featured a light-heavyweight bout between Mauricio ‘Shogun” Rua, the long-time UFC veteran and local MMA icon of the Japanese Pride fighting championship where he was the former division champion. Squaring off against Corey Anderson, the young lightheavy up and comer, with a record of 9-1 and looking to prove that he is worthy of a title shot by taking on the veteran. The first two rounds were close, with Anderson looking to be the aggressor and bring it to Rua. As the final 15 seconds closed in both the first and second round, Shogun managed a sweep and put Corey flat on his back, moving into a mounted position using hammer fists, Corey was narrowly saved by the bell in both the first and the second. In the third, Rua played the aggressor and both warred it out until the buzzer. The judges ruled a split decision win for Rua that left Anderson looking hard done by.
The atmosphere inside the Arena da Baixada for the entrance of Cris Cyborg, for the co-co main event of the evening, was electric. With the Brazilian debuting in the UFC on her home ground, the fans wanted a win and that’s exactly what they got. Cyborg was pitted against Leslie Smith for her first opponent inside the UFC octagon and dominated her right from the opening, rushing her with combos and clean strikes to finally TKO her in the first minute of the round, giving the fans what they wanted and what the MMA world expected.
Long-time UFC Veteran, Vitor Belfort found an opponent in fellow Brazilian national Jacare Souza for the middleweight bout of the event. With the winner set to face the outcome of Rockhold/Weidman2 and with both of these fighters nearing the end of their competitive careers, both were looking hungry for a last shot at the title. Jacare Souza immediately established his superiority over Belfort on their feet, with good combos and solid grappling, Vitor was forced to abandon his game plan in favour of trying to pull guard and ended up taking a brutal onslaught from above by Jacare which forced the ref to stop the fight and gave Jacare Souza his sixth UFC career win and a shot at the middleweight title.
The main event of the evening, the highly anticipated heavy weight title fight between Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic delivered on its promise to be a fight worth watching. Werdum looked perhaps, a little over confident, from being on home soil while Miocic had a get down to business attitude right from his entrance into the cage. Werdum was the aggressor from the outset of the round and applied pressure to the former Golden Gloves champ, Miocic. However, Miocic’s well-honed boxing skills paid off as he countered the pressure and laid a perfect short right hook on Werdum’s jaw which collapsed Werdum to the mat out cold halfway into the first round. With the knockout victory, Miocic goes on to become the 15th UFC heavyweight champion and will most likely face the winner of Cain Velasquez and Travis Browne to be held at UFC 200 in July. If you missed it you can also check out our UFC 198 preview here.