Rousimar Palhares and Dan Miller put a stunning display Saturday to head the preliminary card of UFC 134 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
While Palhares won a unanimous decision, the scores did not tell the story of the fight, which included a nearly unmatched show of heart, a late punch well after the horn and the winner trying to leave the Octagon before the end of the fight.
In the first round, Palhares landed a right kick to Miller’s head. Miller buckled to the canvas and was taking a pounding when Palhares pulled away, raised his arms and sat on the top of the cage. However, referee Herb Dean never stopped the fight between the middleweights.
It was a nearly exact replica of what Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos did against Shayna Baszler in a 2008 EliteXC fight.
Miller got up and recovered, rather than trying to engage Palhares. When the action was restarted, Miller knocked down Palhares with a right hand, but could not close it out. Palhares regained his stance in the waning moments of the round and drove Miller across the cage, into the fence and down. The horn sounded, and Palhares delivered a punch to Miller’s head a full second later.
At the start of the second round, Palhares poked Miller in the left eye, but Dean never saw it and let the action continue. Palhares pounded Miller from the full guard position, and Miller moved just enough each time Dean asked, extending the fight into the final round.
With Palhares now slowed, Miller could not capitalize after the beating, despite connecting with jabs. Palhares won 30-25 on one judge’s card, 30-27 on another and 29-27 on the other.
“I go through this a lot, and I was feeling good,” said Palhares, who dedicated the fight to a family friend who died 15 days earlier. “This was a hard fight. This was an amazing opportunity.”
The other fight on the Spike portion of the broadcast featured Thiago Tavares’ second-round stoppage of Spencer Fisher.
“Today I feel (so) happy,” Tavares said, switching between English and Portuguese. “I just want to fight again soon, in two months.”
Tavares got Fisher into bad positions throughout the fight, and Fisher did little to get out of them. In the final sequence, Tavares was delivering blows from the mount and Fisher never adjusted position, so it was waved off.
In a welterweight match, Paulo Thiago scored a unanimous decision win over American David Mitchell.
“I trained a great deal for this,” said Thiago, “I am an employee, so whatever (UFC CEO) Lorenzo (Fertitta) decides, I am all for it.”
With the crowd chanting “cavera” which refers to the skeleton logo of Thiago’s Brazilian Special Ops (BOPE) background, Thiago took down Mitchell at will, but often backed away to get more time in the stand-up game, which he also dominated.
Rafael Assuncao dropped down to bantamweight and won every round against Johnny Eduardo, who might be best known as the Muay Thai coach of featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
“Everybody in the USA, thank you very much,” said Assuncao, who was getting booed for speaking English in the Octagon and proceeded to act as his own translator. “I’m just coming off my weight cut to 135, I feel great at 35.”
Erick Silva brought thunder with an overhand right that floored Luis Ramos and led to a 40-second TKO victory for the Jungle Fights champion.
“This is an unbelievable dream to fight in Rio in the UFC,” said Silva, who added he was the first in the UFC from his Brazilian home region of Espírito Santo. “I train this right-(handed) punch a great deal, as well as the kicks.”
Silva also looked like he trained for another impressive move, running directly up the cage and doing a back flip. It was not clear whether or not he learned that from coach Wallid Ismael, who was proudly by his side in the cage after the fight.
Yuri Alcatara scored a unanimous decision win in his featherweight match with fellow Brazilian Felipe Arantes, controlling matters on the ground for enough of the fight. Arantes now trains out of Newark, N.J., but that did not diminish his crowd support.
Yves Jabouin’s bantamweight debut went to a split decision, which he won over Ian Loveland. Jabouin won 29-28 on two cards, while Loveland received a curious 30-27 nod.