There are few nations that can be considered the "home" of mixed martial arts, Brazil being one of the few. And when the sport's biggest promotion comes to the South American country -- headlined by San Jose's Luke Rockhold making his UFC debut against "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort -- it causes a buzz like nothing else.
In just 3:57, Jacare Souza defeated Chris Camozzi in the co-main even and a spinning heel kick from Belfort dropped Rockhold midway through the first round.
On a card full of Brazilians, Rockhold was viewed as an underdog and definitely was not considered a fan favorite. That was the case for all non-Brazilians fighting on this card. It was, however, one of the year's most entertaining fight nights and after two weeks off, was a welcome sign to all UFC fans.
The four-fight main card included four Brazilians and four Americans, but don't mistake this for a Brazil vs. USA event. A majority of the night's card, prelim and main, included bouts matching up Brazilians with fellow countrymen. The co-main and main event were headlined by four stellar middleweights.
Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jacare Souza made his UFC debut against the up-and-coming Chris Camozzi. Both fighters had impressive win streaks coming into the fight, but only one would continue with a step closer to title contention. In a middleweight division that is suddenly packed with talent, there's no guarantee a winning streak will equal a title shot, but it sure can help a fighter's argument.
Camozzi stepped in for an injured Costa Philippou and was given the opportunity to welcome the 10-year MMA veteran Souza. The Brazilian is equally known for his striking and grappling, but Camozzi has shown no fear as he's climbed the middleweight ladder. However, Souza was his biggest test to date in his professional career and it showed.
The UFC newcomer kept the fight standing for the first few minutes of the opening round, but quickly took Camozzi down with a simple leg sweep. At that point, Souza showed his skill as a world-class jiu jitsu practitioner. Souza got into his opponent's guard and controlled where the match went. There was nothing for Camozzi to do as Souza moved to side control and sunk in an arm triangle choke to end the fight. In just 3:57, Jacare Souza defeated Chris Camozzi in his promotional debut. It was long-awaited and surely lived up to the hype. Now that he's in a new promotion with a deep talent pool, there is nothing that can hold Souza back from being the best in the world.
Minus, of course, the two men that headlined UFC on FX 8.
Walking into hostile territory is nothing new for Rockhold, but walking into a Brazilian crowd to face a Brazilian legend is another story. Rockhold spoke on Chronicle Live about having tunnel vision and as he walked out to the cage it was clear what he meant. The crowd was completely behind Belfort and understandably so, but Rockhold was only focused on one thing…defeating Belfort and staking his claim as a top middleweight in the UFC.
But Belfort is considered an MMA legend for a reason. Regardless of how he prepares for a fight, Belfort has become one of the true knockout artists in the UFC and was coming off of a knockout win over Michael Bisping. This night in Brazil, "The Phenom" added Rockhold to a list of fighters that have fallen in the octagon.
This bout had the makings of one to go a full five-rounds, but that's what is special about mixed martial arts…anything can happen. On this night, it was a spinning heel kick from Belfort that dropped Rockhold midway through the first round. Belfort has catapulted himself back into title contention with two straight KO victories, while Rockhold will head back to the drawing board and continue looking for his first UFC victory.
As always is the case, the UFC put on an incredible night of fights in Brazil. Seven of the 12 fights ended by submission or KO/TKO and each fight delivered in intensity and action. The crowd in Brazil gave as much energy as the fighters, which led to another memorable night in the octagon.
Nitesh Dutt is a Productions Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.