An undercard fight on a UFC card means a lot of different things to a lot of different fighters. For the main eventers of tomorrow it's the proving ground where their star twinkles for the first time; for the fading contenders of yesteryear it's the elephant's graveyard where once promising careers go to die. A fighter who has toiled on smaller shows for years sees it as the culmination of his dreams when he gets the opportunity to fight in front of the rolling vistas of unoccupied seats that invariably serve as the backdrop for the opening bout of the evening on a UFC card. On the other hand a fighter who has spent the entirety of his UFC tenure getting his facial features rearranged in front of a just arriving audience must feel like a disgruntled clerk stuck in the same entry level position while watching his contemporaries get promoted year after year.
No matter where a fighter is in his career when he finds himself on a UFC undercard, the stakes couldn't be higher. A win means more money and better opportunities; a loss can lead to the unemployment line.
This column is an attempt to shine the spotlight on fighters whose efforts are often overshadowed by bigger names. They might not move the needle the same way a Georges St. Pierre or a Jon Jones does, but that doesn't mean their stories aren't worth telling. It might seem hard to believe when you look at them now but both Jones and GSP made their UFC debuts on pay per view undercards. Even a champion's got to start somewhere. An unheralded fighter who flies under the radar today might just be tomorrow's generational talent.
Without further ado and with apologies to my boy Fyodor D, let's take a look at the Notes from the Undercard for UFC 153.
Moving on Up: Rony "Jason" Mariano Bezerra
The Ultimate Figher: Brazil winner Rony "Jason" made a big splash with his violent second round TKO of former TUF: Live contestant Sam Sicilia. The two put on a wild slugfest before Jason eventually caught Sicillia with a big right hand that set up a fight ending blitzkrieg of hammerfists.
One question coming out of this fight is how Jason would fare against an accomplished wrestler. He made little effort to get up when Sicilia took him down in the first round and his lone attempt at a submission from the bottom wasn't successful. However, a stupefyingly premature standup from referee Fernando Yamasaki gave Jason the opportunity he needed to come back and take the round. In the end it probably didn't matter since Jason went on to get a stoppage in the second, but his willingness to stay on his back may have exposed a glaring hole in his game.
I'm not sold on Jason as a potential contender yet. If he can keep the fight where he wants it or score a submission against a wrestler like Nik Lentz or Matt Grice it would be a sign he's ready for a bigger step up in competition. You aren't going to get far in today's UFC if you can't defend a takedown or get back to your feet without Fernando Yamasaki handing you a get out of jail free card. Alternately, if the UFC want to bring him along slowly a fight against a fellow slugger like Marcus Brimage might not be the worst idea in the world from a pure entertainment standpoint.
No matter what his potential upside may be, Jason gets a star reaction from the Brazilian fans which makes him a good commodity for the UFC in their hottest market. The American audience doesn't see him as a name yet but if he can string together a couple wins in a row he might gain some traction over here. The goalie mask is a nice touch in that it makes Jason instantly memorable, despite Dana White's aversion to anything that helps a fighter stand out from the horde of bald headed tattoo addicts that make up approximately 99.9% of the UFC roster.
Caught Slipping: Francisco Trinaldo
Trinaldo - another former TUF: Brazil contestant - turned in a dominant second round against UFC vet Gleison Tibau but unfortunately it wasn't enough to get him the victory. Tibau out-positioned him in the first and out-worked him in the third which was enough to secure a majority judge's decision. The loss to Tibau puts Trinaldo at just 1-1 in the UFC, which is a precarious position for an undercard fighter. A ride in my good friend Doc Brown's DeLorean revealed to me that the UFC will give Trinaldo another shot on a future Brazil show but he's going to be relegated even further down the card to the Facebook prelims. If I told you whether or not he wins that fight it might cause a rift in the space time continuum, but suffice to say Trinaldo needs to work on his takedown defense if he wants to stick around the UFC for any extended period of time.
If I were Luiz Cane I would start searching the want ads now. He started strong in his bout with Chris Camozzi but wasn't able to keep the momentum going in the next two rounds, leading to a loss by majority decision. This puts Cane at a mere 1-4 in his last five fights, with his lone win being against Eliot Marshall. Cane's a veteran who has been with the company since December of 2007 but it appears he's no longer able to hang at the UFC level. When your lone win in three years is against a guy who is no longer in the sport it's probably the universe telling you to reevaluate your choice of career. It sucks, but hey, that's life sometimes.
As for Gambino, I may be in the minority here, but I think he deserves at least one more shot. Yeah, he's an abysmal 0-2 in the UFC. Sure, one of those loses was a one sided shellacking at the hands of Steven Siler. But Gambino took that fight on short notice. More importantly, he hung in there for for all three rounds against Diego Brandao. It was a spirited effort that showed Gambino is the kind of fighter who is always looking for a way to win. He wasn't a match for Brandao's vicious right hand but he looked surprisingly game against the former TUF winner. Even if he does get cut after this loss, at just 23 years of age this might not be the last we see of Gambino in the UFC. If he proved anything in this fight it's that he's not the quitting kind.
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