Polyana Viana had an unforgettable night Saturday in Las Vegas.
Not only did the Brazilian strawweight put an end to a three-fight skid, submitting Emily Whitmire with an armbar to score the 10th first-round stoppage of her professional MMA career at UFC Vegas 8, she also had the chance to honor late TFT teammate Odali Filho.
Filho, also known as “Gorila,” was a 28-year-old middleweight with a record of 7-3 in MMA. His last bout took place in June 2019, when he submitted Dominic Schober in 83 seconds in his first international fight in Enns, Austria.
Filho’s coach Tata Duarte told MMA Fighting that the middleweight decided to travel back from Rio de Janeiro to his hometown of Crateus, Ceara, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic started to be with his mother. Filho went for a swim on a weir – a low head dam – after a training session on July 23 and ended up drowning after experiencing cramps.
“Everybody loved him in the gym; he was always playing around with us,” Viana said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “He was an extraordinary guy, and it’s so unfortunate that he passed away. We weren’t very close, but we were friends and we got along really well.”
“He was a phenomenal kid,” Duarte said. “He joined the team not that long ago and won everybody over. It was such a tragedy because he was such a nice guy. Everybody got together to dedicate him every victory we have now.”
Filho made a special request for Viana earlier this year, and the UFC fighter will still fulfill her promise.
“He asked me for a backpack, and I promised him that I would give him the UFC backpack from this fight, so this win was for him,” Viana said. “I’ll send the backpack to his mother.”
Viana now holds a 11-4 record that includes first-round finishes over the likes of Amanda Ribas, Maia Kahaunaele-Stevenson, and Whitmire.
“We were working on this armbar since my last camp and kept perfecting it,” Viana said of the UFC Vegas 8 finishing move. “We were just waiting for her to make a mistake to get that armbar.”