Fortunes changed for five at UFC Sao Paulo

On a show where the oldest major record in the UFC books was broken, and two longtime stars retired, there was also a late main event change that may have in some form benefited both fighters.

Charles Oliveira, who has bounced around the lightweight and featherweight division since 2010, scored his 11th UFC submission win on Saturday night in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Oliveira stopped Christos Giagos with a choke in the second round. The record Oliveira shared at 10 going into the fight was set by Royce Gracie, whose last UFC submission came in 1994, in the old tournament days. Gracie’s final UFC submission win was a triangle choke over Dan Severn, a move that most fans watching couldn’t identify in the primitive days.

Despite holding such a major record, and still being only 28 years old, Oliveira has never broken through as a championship contender. When he first started in the UFC at the age of 20, he seemed destined to be one of the top stars.

Oliveira also has a more dubious mark, of missing weight four times in his 17 fights in the UFC at featherweight. The fourth one led to his moving to lightweight. Despite the issues making featherweight, he was talking after his win of moving back down.

Thales Leites and Evan Dunham both came into the show having announced it would be their retirement fights. Of course, when it comes to history of fighters and retirements, decisions change as often as not.

Leites (28-9), who had 20 UFC fights, including a 2009 middleweight title fight with Anderson Silva, had two different terms with the company.

The first was from 2006 to 2009, which included his lone title fight. The second was from 2013 to the present. He lost a decision to Silva in a boring fight, so much so that he was cut after his next fight, a split decision loss to Alessio Sakara.

He defeated another former big name in Hector Lombard via decision.

Dunham (18-8-1) came to the UFC in 2009, and went 11-7-1 under the banner. His biggest fights were losses to Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone and Edson Barboza. He was stopped after a knee to the body by Francisco Trinaldo.

The main event delivered excitement. While Eryk Anders (11-2) lost to Thiago Santos (19-6), Anders moved up a weight class and took the fight on less than one week’s notice. He showed a lot of toughness and athletic talent, firing back when the situation looked bad. It’s the kind of outing that shouldn’t be held against him, due to the circumstances. The question is more whether the beating will hurt him going forward as he drops back down to middleweight.

Santos had also been a middleweight, but with his win, gave the indication he’s staying in the new weight class.

Let’s look at how Fortunes Changed for Five Stars of Saturday’s show.

THIAGO SANTOS – Santos’ win was his sixth in his last seven fights. The win in an exciting main event fight should put him in line to face a bigger name fighter next. A potential opponent would be Jimi Manuwa (17-4), who was Santos’ original opponent on Saturday’s show. Manuwa pulled out due to tearing a hamstring when running sprints on his last hard training day.

Other light heavyweights who would make sense would be Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-8), who returned on Saturday with a knockout win at 42 years old over Sam Alvey, or Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (25-11).

ERYK ANDERS – Anders has indicated going back to middleweight. In that division, most of the top fighters already have fights scheduled. Uriah Hall (13-9) is someone with a name that seems the best choice for a fighter who doesn’t have a bout scheduled at this point.

But between the type of fight it was, and his going in with no camp, the loss shouldn’t be held against Anders as he moves back to his regular weight class.

ALEX OLIVEIRA – Oliveira (20-4-1, two no contests) flattened Carlo Pedersoli Jr. in just 39 seconds with hard punches after a knockdown, in a strong follow-up from his career-best win over Carlos Condit.

Next opponents could be Leon Edwards (16-3) or Jorge Masvidal (32-13).

ANDRE EWELL – Ewell (14-4) made his UFC debut against Renan Barao (34-7, 1 no contest). Ewell’s win came over a fighter who was not just a former champion in the division, but someone once talked about as possibly the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. The story was more the decline of Barao, who once went on a streak of 33 straight fights without a loss, and now has lost six of his last eight. Barao also missed weight by 5.75 pounds.

But the win immediately makes Ewell a player in the bantamweight division. He should face a name fighter next, whether it be John Dodson (20-10) or Pedro Munhoz (16-3). That fight would determine if Ewell is ready to be a player in the division, or he just got a win over a former big name fighter who had little left.

CHARLES OLIVEIRA – Oliveira came to the UFC and from the start was pegged to be a future big name. He was 14-0 as a lightweight, before losses to Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone led to him moving to featherweight.

He’s suffered a lot of losses at featherweight, but they were to major names, Frankie Edgar, Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson and champion Max Holloway. If he’s going back down, Alexander Volkanovski (18-1) or Mirsad Bektic (13-1) should be where he starts.

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