UFC on FX 8 Results: Rafael Natal Outpaces Newcomer João Zeferino

29-Rafael-Natal-UFC-143-wComing into his UFC on FX 8 bout with Rafael Natal, most gave newcomer João Zeferino little to no chance against the veteran middleweight.

Zeferino came in to Saturday night’s bout in Brazil serving as a late replacement for Chris Camozzi, who was pulled from the fight to meet Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the co-main event after Souza’s original opponent was forced to withdraw due to injury.

Just before fight time, Zeferino closed as a +270 underdog, but as the opening bell sounded, it was obvious that the “Brazilian Samurai” would not be fighting like one.

Zeferino came out aggressive and looked to establish Octagon control from the outset.  Just seconds into the round, Zeferino landed a slick straight right that snapped Natal’s head back and briefly wobbled him.  As the opening frame wore on, Zeferino looked calm and collected as he used an array of strikes, including a well-timed head kick, to set the pace.

As round two began, however, the late replacement started to show signs of fatigue.  Natal weathered an early push from his opponent in the first few moments of the round and took control soon after.

As Zeferino slowed to a snail’s pace, Natal took advantage, wearing the 27-year-old down.  Towards the end of the second stanza, Zeferino was so gassed that he flopped to the mat, exhausted, and let Natal beat on him for the remainder of the frame.

Round three saw more of the same, as Zeferino opened aggressive and then backed away looking for one fight-ending straight right hand.  The tenured Natal saw the approach Zeferino was taking, and waited for him to tire.

Natal had done more than enough to win in the judges’ eyes, earning a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).

“I knew that being called in, in such short notice, he wouldn’t have enough time to get in shape,” said Natal after the fight. “So I thought that although I lost the first round I was going to get the second and third, and that’s what happened.”

Zeferino gave a spirited performance and surprised many with his early aggression.  Given the fact he was a newcomer, fighting against a well-rounded veteran, one can’t help but wonder what the fight could have been if Zeferino had been afforded a full training camp.

For Natal, this marks his fourth victory in his last five fights, and puts him right back in the mix for a fight with someone farther up the middleweight ladder.

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