UFC Rio over, a seasoned Jiu-Jitsu black belt from Rio was impressed. Not with the dominance exhibited by the Brazilian fighters, but with the complete lack of grappling moves on display the first time the promotion touched down in the city known as being the gentle art’s birthplace.
Could it have been happenstance, or has it become the norm in the UFC these days? “Wouldn’t the strikers have won?” thought the black belt, a photographer by trade, after seeing the last five fights on TV – a festival exclusively comprised of punches and kicks. Worse: there wasn’t a single submission to award the “submission of the night” bonus to. What happened?
We relayed the question to Murilo Bustamante, a former UFC champion hardwired to get submissions, head coach at BTT, who attended UFC Rio as Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares’s cornerman.
"First I’d like to say that it was a spectacular party," said Bustamante. "Of all the UFCs and Prides I’ve been to as a spectator or athlete, this was perhaps the best event I’ve been to – for the energy of the crowd and the performances of the fighters. But ultimately it was mostly banging and not so much Jiu-Jitsu. It’s not that that’s the norm, the card was put together that way, full of strikers, which is good for winning over the uninitiated."
“In our case, (Rousimar 'Toquinho' Palhares) was doing good in Jiu-Jitsu, but things unraveled after the fight was restarted. I think he got angry and just wanted to hit the guy… At the start he was keeping to plan and getting takedowns and working on the ground, until the moment he start celebrating without the ref calling the end of the fight. I didn’t understand what was going on at the time; he said the guy yelled. I don’t know if Miller was being slick or if he got muddled thinking the round had ended but you could see he took a while to protest. Either way, it was naïve.
“When the fight was restarted Toquinho had a hard time concentrating again; I know how hard it is to get back to the same pace, the same focus. And I attribute him getting knocked down to that. A jab and an uppercut got through and put him out. It was a good thing he came to his senses and it all worked out in the end,” said the former middleweight champion of the UFC, who went through a similar ordeal when he faced Matt Lindland back in 2002. On the occasion, Big John erroneously interrupted the title fight at a moment when Murilo had an armbar in place. Bustamante had to fight again, this time finishing with a guillotine.
“To me it was the best fight of the night, because in the third round they were straight up banging. Toquinho proved he’s come a long way in the standup department, both in attacking and defending, but there’s a lot more to improve on. And, even so, I want to him to fight more on the ground. We’ll train him and talk to him about that."
“(Antonio Rodrigo 'Minotauro' Nogueira) outdid himself, as is his custom. He was still slow but his heart was in shape. He’s a giant. Even after getting the worst of the standup early one, with two uppercuts that buckled his legs, he kept moving forward. He cornered the kid, let his hands go and they landed."