In four of Rousimar Palhares’ seven UFC victories, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard earned stoppages with vicious leg locks. The ability to dispatch of his opponents in such a textbook, and yet predictable fashion became a calling card of the 33-year-old Rio de Janiero native.
However, heading into his UFC Fight Night 29 bout against surging welterweight Mike Pierce on Wednesday night in Brazil, Palahares was coming off back-to-back losses, was a heavy underdog at +245, and was debuting at 170 pounds in attempt to resurrect a once promising career.
Round one kicked off in front of the raucous Brazilian faithful at the Ginasio Poliesportivo Jose Correa with the usual “You’re going to die!” chants.
As the opening bell sounded, Pierce, who was riding a UFC career-best four-fight winning streak, came out with a plodding sense of purpose. He pressed Palhares instantly and backed him against the cage. Palhares dropped levels, and immediately looked to bring the fight to the mat where he would have the advantage.
A brief scrambled ensued with Palhares looking for his signature leg lock. Pierce scrambled away, and the action was forced to the other side of the cage. Palhares didn’t let the foiled attempt stop his game plan, as he ripped Pierce to the ground and again found himself in control of the American’s ankle.
At the 31-second mark of the opening frame, Pierce cringed in obvious pain as Palhares worked his signature submission. With a quick tap, the fight was over almost as soon as it had begun, and Palhares earned his fifth submission victory via leg lock in his UFC career.
Post-fight, Palhares credited his dominating submission ability to his team and MMA pioneers Rodrigo and Rogerio Nogueira.
“There’s really no way to put this into words,” said the Brazilian. “I just have to thank God and the people that helped me train for this fight, everybody (who) knows what I had to go through to get here.
“It’s the energy that comes from above. I have to thank the Nogueira brothers and my family. They supported me through all of this.”
Palahares also commented on the loss of his cousin mere weeks ago, which left him visibly emotional as the interview concluded.
“I have to dedicate this fight to my cousin who passed away 20 days ago. I know he’s up there watching us,” he said as tear welled in his eyes.
For Palhares, this marks an emotional and integral shift in his career trajectory. Prior to his move to welterweight, “Toquinho” looked to be on his way out of the UFC. However, that all changed with the victory over the red-hot Mike Pierce.
(Follow @RyanMcKinnell on Twitter)