Saturday’s UFC Sao Paulo event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Brazil, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Ginasio do Ibirapuera.
1 – Thiago Santos
Ah, to have options. After a hard road to his first UFC main event, Thiago Santos is not just a dangerous light heavyweight, but a dangerous middleweight as well. So which direction will “Marreta” go after his Saturday stoppage of Eryk Anders? Light heavyweight may be the quickest road to a title shot, and when you think of the possibility of intriguing showdowns with the likes of Jimi Manuwa, Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira and Dominick Reyes, it’s almost like a fresh start for the Brazilian. Then again, middleweight can still be home for the Rio power hitter, but when you take away a rough weight cut to get to 185 and add an impressive first effort at 205, the light heavyweights better get used to seeing Santos around town.
2 – Alex Oliveira
A win over the unranked Carlo Pedersoli Jr. may not move Alex Oliveira up the welterweight rankings, but the way he halted the Italian prospect in 39 seconds was a stark reminder of why “Cowboy” is a must see at 170 pounds. Just look at the numbers: 13 fights since his UFC debut in March 2015, nine wins, seven finishes, four post-fight bonuses, and even his losses have ended before the final horn. In other words, Oliveira is always taking risks, always looking to finish, and always providing excitement.
3 – Charles Oliveira
Charles Oliveira has made no secret of his desire to move back to the featherweight division, and while I understand that “Do Bronx” wants to take care of unfinished business at 145, it’s impossible to dismiss his 3-1 run in his latest stint at lightweight. On Saturday, he set the record for most submission wins in UFC history with his finish of Christos Giagos, and here’s my issue with a return to 145. Look at Oliveira’s body of work in the UFC: 12-8, 1 NC isn’t a spectacular record, but he finished 11 of those 12 victories and earned 12 post-fight bonuses. Add in his breaking of the Royce Gracie submission record and this is a guy who would have a lot higher-profile if not for missing weight multiple times at featherweight. Hey, maybe he’s gotten his weight under control and can make another run at 145, but if I’m Team Oliveira, I’m saying lightweight is the place to go after the belt.
4 – Andre Ewell
Many assumed that Andre Ewell was the guy for Renan Barao to get back on track against. Ewell had other plans, and with so many obstacles to get over (the first-time Octagon jitters, Barao’s reputation as a former world champion, fighting in Barao’s home country of Brazil, dealing with his opponent coming in overweight at 141.75 pounds), the Californian showed poise throughout the three-rounder en route to a well-deserved decision win. The bantamweight division is stacked, but now room has to be made for “Mr. Highlight.”
5 – Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos will always have a place on my post-fight scorecard because he always delivers the goods. Yes, it would have been a epic battle if he would have gotten to face original opponent Belal Muhammad, but he still brought the heat against unbeaten Octagon newcomer Luigi Vendramini, ending their bout in highlight reel fashion in the second round. That’s six in a row with three post-fight bonuses and back-to-back KO of the Year candidates for “Capoeira.” Now let’s see him in with the top 15 at 170 pounds.