Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 | 8:30 p.m.
Note: Full results from the preliminary card available at the bottom of the page.
Jake Shields exhaled repeatedly with a desperation and depth resembling someone who had just survived a near drowning.
In a way, the mixed martial arts veteran was in a similar position after his fight against Demian Maia Wednesday night in Barueri, Brazil. The 34-year-old revived his career, keeping the dream of another shot at the UFC welterweight title alive with a grueling split-decision victory (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) over Maia, the No. 4-ranked fighter in the world.
“That was one of my hardest two or three fights of all-time,” said Shields, while continuing to take breaths and pace the octagon afterward. “It ranks up there with (Georges St. Pierre) and Dan Henderson. He’s a phenom. I expected that going in. He gave me all I could handle.”
Shields (29-6-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) became the first fighter to defeat Maia (18-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC) since the former 185-pound top contender dropped to the 170-pound division a year-and-a-half ago. The San Francisco-based Shields pulled it off despite being as high as a 3-to-1 underdog.
It was a fitting end for UFC Fight Night 29, where favorites struggled to stay afloat in the Sao Paulo suburb. Four of the six bouts on the main card featured the favorite falling.
Raphael Assuncao set the tone early as a 2-to-1 underdog, beating T.J. Dillashaw by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) in a main-card opening bantamweight bout.
Shields may have been exhausted for the post-fight interview, but the Atlanta-based, Recife, Brazil-born Assuncao was so disoriented he switched between languages.
“It was so much I went through in those 15 minutes,” Assuncao said before switching to Portuguese and making use of the octagon translator. “I tried to do my best. After the second round, my eye got swollen a bit but I got a little amped up when he was on my back.”
No. 5 Assuncao vs. No. 8 Dillashaw held more immediate title ramifications than any other fight at the event. Assuncao said his fifth-straight win should entitle him to the winner of a UFC on Fox 9 bout between Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald.
Then, Assuncao reasonably suggested, the winner should get a title shot.
The split-decision verdicts fairly depicted how close Shields and Assuncao’s wins were. The other two underdogs were far more devastating.
In the co-main event, Dong Hyun Kim stopped Erick Silva with a one-punch knockout in the second round. After a rough start, the Korean “Stun Gun” put the native Brazilian out cold with an overhand left.
Middleweight Rousimar Palhares got the fifth heel-hook submission of his UFC career 31 seconds into a fight with Mike Pierce, but incensed fans by holding on to the dangerous move and cranking it after his opponent had tapped. The UFC stripped Palhares of his $50,000 Submission of the Night bonus as a punishment.
Hyun-Kim scored the Knockout of the Night, while Assuncao and Dillashaw were awarded Fight of the Night.
Shields showed the most perseverance, battling through 25 minutes of grappling-heavy action to secure a victory against Maia just before the bell.
“Going into the fifth round, I thought we were even,” Shields said. “I was really tired and I tried to put it on the stand-up more. I think I edged it out there.”
Read below for results from the rest of UFC Fight Night 29.
Matt Hamill might be re-evaluating his decision to come out of retirement after facing Thiago Silva. In his second fight back, Hamill fell by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-27) to Silva in a light heavyweight bout where the bell just barely saved the American from a knockout loss to the Brazilian.
Fabio Maldonado won a split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over Joey Beltran in a light hevyweight bout. Maldonado expressed surprise that anyone could have scored the fight against him, but all of the rounds were close and the majority of media members gave the nod to Beltran.
The biggest underdog on the undercard prevailed. In his UFC debut, Igor Araujo handed Ildemar Alcantara a unanimous-decision loss by winning two out of three rounds on every judge’s scorecard. Alcantara was previously 2-0 in the UFC.
Yan Cabral smothered David Mitchell in a welterweight bout, winning a unanimous-decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). Cabral out-grappled Mitchell for the entire 15 minutes to make his UFC debut a success.
Nearly submitted in the first round, Chris Cariaso came back to score a TKO victory over Iliarde Santos at 4:31 in the second round of their flyweight bout. Cariaso never knocked Santos down but hit him with so many various, unanswered punches that the referee had to step in.
After Allan Patrick defeated Garrett Whiteley by first-round TKO at 3:54 of the first round in a lightweight bout in his UFC debut, the Brazilian was so overcome with emotion that he couldn’t speak or walk. “I grew up on the streets, I lived on the streets. I shined shoes. Look at what happened to me,” Patrick poured out his soul before his voice trailed off.