Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bleachers Brew #392 Fight of the Night (Fernandes-Ueda)

Bibiano once more emerged victorious in what was perhaps his most challenging ONE FC fight.
This appears in the Monday, May 5, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

Fight of the Night
by rick olivares

If Manny Pacquiao is known as the Mex-cutioner for his taking down some of the baddest men to cross the border of Texas, then what is Bibiano Fernandes known as?

Since coming out of Manaus, Brazil in 2004, Fernandes, with a 16-3 record, has fought nine of Japan’s top MMA fighters and come away a winner seven times. In his three ONE FC fights, he has beaten two sons from the Land of the Rising Sun. “They are a warrior race,” noted Fernandes glowingly of Japanese fighters during an interview before his ONE FC debut; a bout against Koetsu Okazaki that went the full route of three rounds. “They are one of the toughest fighters in the world. Maybe the toughest.”

So does Bibiano Fernandes’ feats make him the “Japannihilator?”

Bibiano managed a laugh. “No. Only Bibiano Fernandes. Better, you know what I mean?”

During the pre-fight press conference held nearly seven weeks before the ONE FC: Rise of Heroes, there was a regal bearing about Ueda and Fernandes. There was none of the trash talking that hyped up the fights of Rob Lisita and Yusuke Kawanago and Eugene Toquero and Gianni Subba. Only mutual respect.

“I do my talking in the cage,” reasoned out the Brazilian. The Japanese concurred through an interpreter. The fireworks were going to be saved for fight night. And what a fight it was.

The main event of ONE FC: Rise of Heroes -- for the bantamweight championship -- was the perfect coda to an opera of hard knocks. It was the Fight of the Night and it was brutal because both fighters gave no quarter and no one left the cage unscathed. And from a technical standpoint, it should be a textbook study for the finer points of attack and defense.

Fernandes came out aggressive as he immediately kicked at Ueda. The Japanese immediately responded with one of his own. Here’s where you have to appreciate Fernandes’ speed. As soon as Ueda kicked at him, Fernandes speared him for the fight’s first takedown. However, Bibiano couldn’t take advantage of being in a superior position as Ueda managed to get an arm around Fernandes’ nape. When the champion proved to be just as slippery to regain an advantageous position, the challenger used his legs to ward him off.

Ueda was able to stand up but before he could regain his bearings, Bibiano pressed him against the cage where he worked on the inside of Ueda’s leg. Ueda tried to take down Fernandes who nearly slipped but the Brazilian showed great strength and dexterity in foiling the attempt.

Referee Senichi Serizawa broke them apart when there was no distinct advantage for both and the two went back to trading shots at the center of the ring. When the strikes hit their mark, they resounded like the crack of a rifle. That’s how powerful their strikes were.

After Ueda struck with another leg kick, Fernandes once more used the occasion to take him down as the Japanese was not yet on steady footing. It’s a sound tactic where you take a lick but go for the bigger point on the judging criteria.

In a bad spot with Bibiano on top and looking for a submission maneuver, Ueda once more displayed good take down defense by using his legs like a fulcrum to prevent the Brazilian from landing solid knees. True enough, Fernandes couldn’t land any solid shots and Masakatsu eventually rolled him on his back.

The Brazilian wasn’t without his own tricks as he quickly wrapped his arms around Ueda to slip in rear naked choke with a little over 30 seconds left in the first round. Once more, Ueda broke it and just in time for the end of the first round.

The second round found Ueda more aggressive in throwing that jab with some kicks to keep back Fernandes. When the Brazilian grabbed his leg after a kick, he put his back against the cage to prevent any take down.

Ueda now revealed his hand and ultimately one that nearly tipped the match in his favor as the effects began to manifest in the last two rounds – one, throw that right jab then follow up with a kick to the Brazilian’s midsection; and two, keep the champion at bay to negate his speed.

This is where you have to appreciate Bibiano’s fight intelligence – he put the Japanese back on his heels by attacking and throwing one-two combinations that undoubtedly knocked the fillings out of Ueda’s teeth.

The Japanese tried to seize back the advantage when he using a spinning back heel kick but Bibiano quickly moved around it and took down Ueda for a third time. Ueda threw up his feet to keep Bibiano at bay but the latter threw a couple of shots in between a leg kick to mix it up.

Ueda’s active feet achieved their desired effect as he managed to grab Bibiano’s legs and force him down. He took some shots but managed to stand up. Bibiano stepped up his attack by throwing strikes that snapped back the Japanese fighter’s head. For the first time in the fight, it was obvious that Ueda was hurt and flustered. The second round was firmly Fernandes’.

The third round saw the defending champion stalk the challenger and rain down shots with near impunity. With under two minutes left both men exchanged a flurry of punches with Bibiano landing the lion’s share. But he got tagged with one. I noticed that with 1:37 left in the round, Fernandes briefly touched the spot underneath his left eye. Ueda threw another right at the same spot. Ueda tried a spinning kick but Fernandes was ready for it and this resulted in his fourth takedown. At the 1:05 mark, Fernandes touched his eye again. When the bell sounded the end of the third, the Brazilian walked to his corner and pointed to the welt that has quickly swelled up. It was a dangerous time with two more rounds to go.

His vision impaired, Fernandes started the fourth round cautiously as Ueda fired away. On the clinch, the Japanese work on that swollen side of Bibiano’s face. But credit to Bibiano who instead of staying back and hoping to smack Ueda on the counter, instead went on the attack. He even took down Ueda! Fighting hurt, the round still went to Bibiano.

The challenger’s gambit had failed. He thought that a wounded Fernandes would be easy pickings. Now he needed to knockout or force a submission in the final round to snatch away that championship belt. Furthermore, it didn’t get any easier for Fernandes who sprained his ankle when he tried to avoid a shot. However, the champion drew from a vast reservoir of resiliency and heart and scored three more takedowns for a spectacular unanimous decision victory.

Unlike it Fernandes’ first fight in the Philippines that was also the first ONE FC event, Pride of a Nation, he took to the cage well past 12:30 in the morning. The crowd was spent and many had gone home. They were polite in their cheers as if happy that the event had ended. This time, the crowd was raucous and fully appreciative of what had transpired.

Japannihilator? Champ will do just fine.

Post-fight: both fighters showed tremendous respect for one another no matter what the outcome.

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