We all know tonight's main card is all about USA doing battle with Brazil - so here are some interesting statistics
So - Did this manage to make you even more confused about some of the outcomes tonight?Though the focus is on the middleweight title fight between champion Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen -- arguably the most outlandishly outspoken challenger in the promotion's history -- Saturday's UFC 117 card might as well be called USA vs. Brazil. For the first time in the promotion's history, each fight on the main card will be between an American and a Brazilian.
It's fitting, given that modern mixed martial arts owes much of its framework to the Gracie family, of Brazil, and the sport has become a worldwide phenomenon thanks in large part to the promotion and marketing machine that is the UFC, in America.
At Thursday's pre-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White said there was no pre-determined strategy to build a card around fighters from the two countries.
"It just sort of worked out that way," White said. "I'd love to tell you we're that brilliant and that's how we planned this thing, but it's just the way that it worked out. I'm sure it'll be fun for Brazil to see their guys win or whatever, but the way I think about mixed martial arts is, people from all over the world care about guys from other countries. You'll have people in the United States that want to see Silva or (Junior) dos Santos or whoever it is from Brazil win, too. This really isn't one of those kind of sports."
Though the sport of mixed martial arts lends itself to fighter vs. fighter, regardless of country of origin, more than it plays to any geographical boundaries, if there is a rivalry, USA vs. Brazil has become the Yankees-Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers, Packers-Bears or Liverpool-Manchester United of the MMA world.
While lists of the greatest fighters in the sport's history certainly contain names outside those two countries – Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Filipovic, Bas Rutten, Takanori Gomi, Oleg Taktarov and Georges St-Pierre, to name a few – an overwhelming number of all-time MMA greats come from either Brazil or the U.S.
So it's not surprising that, apart from Americans, it is Brazilians that have been mainstays in the UFC. Of 157 total events, including Saturday's UFC 117 card, only 21 have not included Brazilians – a staggering 87 percent.
But going further inside the numbers, when it comes to Brazilians facing Americans, as will happen five more times on Saturday, though it's close from a percentage standpoint, Brazil has a sizable lead over the U.S. In 221 UFC fights between Brazilians and Americans, Brazil currently holds a 117-102 lead; there have been two draws.
In the UFC's pre-Zuffa infancy, Hall of Famer Royce Gracie led that Brazilian charge. With wins over the likes of Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn, Gracie won his first eight fights against American fighters before finally battling to a draw with Shamrock. At 8-1-1 against U.S. competition, his only loss was to Matt Hughes at UFC 60. Gracie helped Brazil get out to a 10-1-1 lead against the Americans – though no such official statistics are kept by the UFC. It wasn't until UFC Fight Night 2 that the U.S. took its first lead. And at Fight Night 7, the U.S. went up 48-47-1. But since regaining the lead at Fight Night 8, Brazil hasn't looked back – going up 101-82-1 at UFC 98, its largest lead in the rivalry.
Modern-day, it is Silva who has dominated. He is 8-0 against Americans and looks to make it nine straight against Sonnen on Saturday. Also on Saturday's card, dos Santos gets his first career test against an American fighter; Rafael dos Anjos, who meets Clay Guida, is 2-2 against Americans; Hughes' opponent, Ricardo Almeida, is an impressive 5-1 in the UFC against U.S. fighters; and Thiago Alves, despite a loss to Jon Fitch earlier in his career, looks to add to his 4-2 record against the States in the pair's rematch.
Other notable Brazilian fighters against Americans in the UFC's history include Pedro Rizzo (7-4), Vitor Belfort (6-4), Gabriel Gonzaga (5-2) and, somewhat surprisingly given his recent exit from the promotion, Thales Leites, who is a perfect 5-0 against American competition in the UFC.
On the U.S. side, the two most successful Americans against Brazilian opponents are two Hall of Famers, Chuck Liddell (5-1) and Randy Couture (5-2). Hughes, a fellow Hall of Famer, is 4-1, his only loss coming to Alves. And Tyson Griffin is 4-0. Liddell's only loss came against Mauricio Rua at UFC 97. Couture has lost to Belfort and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
With all its main-card fights Saturday featuring Brazil vs. the U.S., the UFC is treading new ground – sort of. UFC 58 was dubbed USA vs. Canada because all eight fights on the card were between fighters from those two countries. The U.S. went 5-3, led by then-middleweight champion Rich Franklin's dominant decision over David Loiseau.
But UFC 117 won't even be a company record for most Brazil-U.S. matches on one card. That honor goes to UFC 85, which featured six bouts between Americans and Brazilians.