Sunday night, two former Arizona State wrestlers emerged victorious in front of a hostile crowd at the Ginásio Nélio Dias in Natal, Brazil at UFC Fight Night 38.
The first up was former All-American C.B. Dollaway who was given the task of squaring off against highly-touted Brazilian prospect and The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 1 champion, Cezar Ferreira in the night's co-main event.
Dollaway, who was coming off a controversial split decision loss to Tim Boetsch at UFC 166 back in October, was met with loud jeers and chants as he entered the stiflingly hot arena. But ‘Doberman' looked unfazed as the signature "Uh! Vai morrer!" (translated to ‘you're going to die!) chants from the Brazilian fans rained down upon him as he made his way to the cage.
Ferreira, who was welcomed by a thunderous ovation from the hometown crowd, oozed confidence as he stared across the cage at Dollaway. The adrenaline may have gotten the better of ‘Mutante' as he stormed out of the gate as soon as the bell for round one sounded.
As Ferreira blasted away with powerful punches, Dalloway connected with a quick left hook that momentarily slowed down his lunging opponent as he continued to throw punches with vicious intent.
With his back against the cage, Dollaway's training with renowned boxing coach José Benavidez showed as he utilized an impressive Mayweather-esque shoulder roll to avoid any serious damage. Once an opening emerged Dollaway unloaded with violent right-left combination and sent Ferreira crashing to the canvas.
Smelling blood, Dollaway leapt onto his downed opponent and landed some powerful shots to the skull of Ferreira before the referee finally called a stop to the fight at 39 seconds of the opening round.
"I've been working with Jose Benavidez, Sr.," Dollaway told UFC commentator Jon Anik during his post-fight interview. "Obviously my stand-up game is developing. I believe with the mix of wrestling and keep working with him, you know, I'll move into the top this year and become a real contender."
When asked weather he entered the bout looking to prove he's more than just a wrestler, Dollaway quickly dismissed the notion that he's looking to become a stand-up fighter and labeled himself a "well-rounded mixed martial artist."
"I'm just adding to my game," said Dollaway at the post-fight press conference. "[Striking] was the weakest part of my game. I always had a good ground game with the wrestling, and the next thing I worked on was my jiu-jitsu. The final piece is the stand-up game."
This fight pushes Dollaway's record to 14-5 while Ferreira drops to 7-3.
So with this stellar first round knockout fresh in their minds, the arena began to buzz as the main event featuring the highly anticipated rematch between another former ASU wrestler, Dan Henderson, and the Brazilian hero Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua approached.
There was a not single person sitting as these two future UFC Hall of Famers shook hands in the center of the octagon before the fight.
Shogun came out throwing crisp leg kicks, while doing a tremendous job of avoiding Henderson's powerful overhand right. But a little more than halfway through the round Henderson connected with a sharp left hand that visibly hurt the hometown favorite.
As Henderson picked up the pace, looking for the first round knockout, Shogun unloaded with a fast right-left combination that sent the former U.S. Olympian crashing to the canvas. Shogun pounced on the dazed American and tried with all his might to finish the fight right then and there. But Henderson held on for dear life and somehow survived the onslaught as the horn signaled for the end of the round.
Shogun picked up right where he left off early in second round and dropped Henderson with a strong uppercut. After some brief inactivity on the canvas, the referee called for the both fighters to return to their feet where they finished off the round.
Now down two rounds to none on the judges' scorecards, Henderson came out in the third round throwing bombs, with almost all of them only connecting with air. But as the two clinched up in the center of the octagon, Henderson broke free and landed a thunderous right hook square on the nose of Shogun that sent him flying across the canvas.
As soon as Shogun came to a stop, Henderson landed another right hand to his opponent's bloodied face. As Shogun turtled up, Henderson landed a few more shots from the top before looking up at the referee and saying "he's out."
As the referee called a stop to the fight, Henderson stood with his arms raised in triumph as he secured the TKO at 1:31 of the third round. Shogun, who was barely conscious, attempted to stand but his legs buckled out from underneath him and he collapsed back to the canvas.
"This one probably means more than most," Henderson said in his post-fight interview. "Shogun's been such a big part of mixed martial arts and such a talented and tough fighter. Especially the year I had last year, coming off of that, I wanted to make sure I got a win. I was a little too patient, I think, at the beginning of the fight. It just means a lot more to me than most fights to fight and beat a guy like Shogun."
When asked if he was in serious trouble early in the fight, Henderson revealed Shogun had him reeling on more than one occasion.
"He definitely dinged me a little. He rung my bell just a tad in the first round, also, and again in the second. I decided just to be patient. I wasn't very offensive, and that third round I think we both decided to get after it and leave things where we left them the first fight. I'm such a big fan of ‘Shogun's' and what he's done for the sport and how he represents himself in the sport. So thank you for bringing the best out of me, as well."
This fight snapped Henderson's three-fight losing streak and pushed his record to 30-11 while Shogun's drops 22-9.