Saturday's night cross-divisional UFC experiment played out exactly as many observers expected, as top-10 heavyweight Stipe Miocic made short work of undersized and unranked light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado, ending the Brazilian's night with a TKO finish just 35 seconds into the main event of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 Finale, which took place in Rio do Janeiro, Brazil and aired live on FOX Sports 1.
Miocic (12-1) was initially slated to challenge Junior dos Santos as the card's capper, however the former UFC heavyweight champion was forced to pull out on short notice due to a hand injury, which led Maldonado (21-7) to gamely step up despite the vast size discrepancy between he and Miocic.
From the outset, though, it was clear that Maldonado was out of his depth.
Miocic quickly sent the 34-year-old reeling, catching him with a crushing left hand in the bout's opening exchange. The American then pursued his hurt prey to the fence, before hanging back and ripping a right hand into the side of Maldonado's temple, dropping him instantly. A few added hammerfists sealed the deal, awarding Miocic his third straight victory inside the UFC Octagon.
"I was real nervous. That guy, he's a tank," Miocic said afterward. "He keeps coming forward, he doesn't stop. He's got the heart of a lion, and I needed to get my shots in. I got an open break and I caught him with a good punch. Tonight was my night."
Despite his relative inexperience, Team Silva's Antonio Carlos Jr. (4-0) outwrestled and outworked Team Sonnen's Vitor Miranda (9-4) to claim an easy unanimous decision victory in the night's co-main event, emerging the winner of TUF Brazil 3's heavyweight bracket.
A natural light heavyweight, Carlos nonetheless controlled the fight by scoring takedowns in all three rounds, steadily stifling Miranda's offense with his active top game and deliberate stand-up attack. All three judges scored it for the 24-year-old -- 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"This is a very special night for me. I'm really very happy to be here in front of all my family, all the crowd shouting my name," Carlos said through a translator.
In the night's other reality show offering, 23-year-old Warlley Alves (7-0) dominated Marcio Alexandre Jr. (12-1) before robbing his Team Sonnen teammate of consciousness with a guillotine choke just 25 seconds into the final frame to win TUF Brazil 3's middleweight tourney.
Alves, who scored impressive first-round finishes over Ismael de Jesus and Wagner Gomes on the season, nullified Alexandre's karate acumen by tightening the distance and continuously applying heavy pressure to his Brazilian countryman. Alves stumbled Alexandre in the bout's opening minute with a hard right hook, but it was the sequence that opened the third round which signaled the beginning of the end, as Alves cracked Alexandre with a massive counter right then slapped on the fight-ending choke once Alexandre ducked for a desperation level change.
"I'm very proud," an elated Alves said through a translator. "I don't practice jiu-jitsu, I don't practice wrestling. I don't practice individual sports. I practice MMA. This is a dream come true so I'm really very happy. And the crowd, I'm telling you, the Octagon is going to become much more exciting from now on.
"Chael, now it's up to you."
Elsewhere on the night's main card, top-10 welterweight contender Demian Maia (20-6) successfully rebounded from the first two-fight losing streak of his career, overwhelming UFC newcomer Alexander Yakovlev (21-5-1) to score a unanimous decision win on the strength of his vaunted mat game.
Though it was Maia's stand-up that started things off right, as the Brazilian unexpectedly scored the first knockdown of his 19-fight UFC career by toppling the Russian with a hard right hand early in the opening frame. Maia jumped right into mount, then spent the rest of the first round raining down short elbows and applying smothering pressure, although he was unable to muster up enough damage to secure a finish.
Maia went on to repeat that strategy for the rest of the fight, securing mount off trip takedowns in each of the next two rounds, then slowly grinding down Yakovlev to hand the Russian an exhausting and disappointing UFC debut. All three judges scored the contest 30-27 in Maia's favor.
"I fought very hard to try to get a submission but I wasn't able to do so," Maia said through a translator. "I'm very happy. I've been improving my striking abilities over the years. I think I was able to [get] a knockdown because he was worried I was trying to take him down, and therefore he was opening his guard."
TUF Brazil inaugural featherweight winner Rony Jason (14-5) put up a valiant effort against Robbie Peralta (18-4, 1 NC) to open up the evening's televised main card, although the Brazilian fan favorite ultimately fell just short, losing a split decision on the hometown judges' scorecards.
Jason and Peralta slugged it out for the majority of what was a wild three round affair, largely standing in the pocket and engaging with a plethora of looping punches and spinning attacks. A nasty third-round eyepoke nearly derailed Peralta's chances to continue, but the tough American gutted it out until the final bell to take home the split decision win, 29-28, 27-30, 30-27 -- after which Jason stated that he believed he broke his hand midway through the bout's opening frame.
Highlighting the night's undercard, one-time welterweight contender Paulo Thiago (15-7) failed to stop the bleeding of his recent career slump, dropping a sluggish unanimous decision to Russian welterweight Gasan Umalatov (14-3-1).
In a relatively slow bout, Umalatov controlled Thiago throughout several grappling exchanges and, for the most part, simply beat Thiago to the punch on the feet. All three judges scored the contest in Umalatov's favor -- 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28 -- handing the Russian his first UFC win, while the 33-year-old Thiago dropped to a miserable 2-6 mark over his last eight UFC contests.