Coming into UFC Singapore, not many eyes were on Raphael Pessoa. At 14-1, Pessoa was coming off his first career loss to Cyril Gane. He was the first fight of a morning card for Americans. But Pessora came out with a point to prove. In this interview we discuss the Gane fight, the UFC call, and more.
Rio de Janerio has been the birth place of not only hundreds of MMA athletes but the sport of mixed martial arts itself. Pessoa hails from the city and was forged by it.
“I am born and raised in a community in Rio de Janeiro,” says Pessoa. He liked to fight but was jumped during one of his fights one day. “I was a brawler, and in one of these fights I was surprised by 10 people, thank God I left unharmed, after that I decided to start jiu-jitsu.”
The UFC Call Up
Getting the call to the UFC was the accumulation of all the hard work Raphael Pessoa has put into his trade. The UFC knocking at his door was the reward for his patience with the sport. “It was a long awaited moment, it was a dream come true.”
Raphael Pessoa’s UFC debut was a tall order. He was set to face Cyril Gane, who also debuted that night. Gane came out of left field with a first round arm triangle. Being a kickboxer who almost signed with Glory before coming to the UFC, nobody saw it coming. In his first career loss, Pessoa believed he learned an important lesson.
“I learned that nobody is invincible.”
You almost can’t blame Pessoa for not seeing the submission coming. Vegas has the odds of a Gane submission at +2200. For the non-degenerate, non-gamblers our there, betting $100 on Gane to win by submission would pay out $2200. Pessora said he’d change the obvious about the fight. “The only thing that would do differently was to keep the fight standing.”
After losing his first fight in the UFC, Pessoa had a point to prove. “I’m having more focus and more dedication, I renew myself every day.”
Raphael Pessoa vs. Jeff Hughes
Pessoa came into the fight with Jeff Hughes as a +205 underdog. As he was introduced by Bruce Buffer, Raphael Pessoa greeted the crowd with a belly rub, letting everyone know he was about to have some fun. And fun was what he had.
Pessoa opened the first round very calm. He wasn’t rushed and knew the range Hughes had off the bat. He started with a leg kick, just feeling out Hughes. Then he gave fans something to get excited about as he threw a spinning back kick. While it missed, it warned Hughes, and the crowd, it can be over any second. He threw another overhand that missed, but would soon find the groove. Then Hughes and Pessoa started trading. Throwing one twos at each other, Pessoa kept pressing forward, keeping Hughes on the back foot. Pessoa catches Hughes with another spinning back kick to the body and catches him with another two piece. Pessoa then blitzes Hughes, pressing him against the cage. Later on, he catches Hughes’ kick and runs him into the fence and gets a knee to the body as well. Jeff Hughes telegraphs an overhand shot that Pessoa sees coming from a mile away. He makes Hughes pay and cracks him on the slip visibly stunning Hughes putting him in full retreat. Pessoa is smart and does not go berserker on Hughes. He sits back, taking his time waiting for his next opportunity. Pessoa is happy with the round and finishes out with leg kicks, making Hughes suffer.
Jeff Hughes came out in the second round with a little more urgency, perhaps knowing that first round didn’t go his way. Pessoa was patient and stuck to his game plan. Pessoa comes at Hughes with a flying knee that misses, but it has Hughes moving in reverse and Pessoa gets off another two big shots. Hughes throws a desperate spinning back fist into a spinning back kick that misses by a country mile. Hughes puts it into overdrive and runs at Pessoa catching him with three good shots. Pessoa hits the fence, slips and gets out of danger quickly. Pessoa brings the fight to the center of the octagon again as Hughes pushes forward. Raphael Pessoa lands another spinning back kick to the body that pushes Hughes off of him. Pessoa throws a beautiful jab-jab-straight that puts Hughes on his ass and it’s attack time for Pessoa. He blitzes Jeff Hughes with shots as Hughes covers up. Pessoa backs off and goes back to the leg kicks that worked so well for him the entire fight. Hughes pushes Pessoa against the fence in a takedown attempt and after landing several shots, Pessoa peels Hughes’ left arm off his leg and gets from the fence. Hughes then throws another telegraphed spinning back kick that Pessoa pushes him down on. As Pessoa goes to ground and pound, Hughes grabs the leg and gets dominant position, one of the few mistakes Pessoa made in the fight. Hughes lands a few shots on the ground, but with only 30 seconds to work, Pessoa manages to survive the round.
Round three begins and the two fighters touch globes for the last time. Pessoa opens up with more leg kicks, as he’s done the entire fight. Pessoa throws another spinning back kick that misses but it’s got some heat on it for a heavyweight in the third round. Pessoa comes lunging in and cracks Hughes with a straight right that bounces Hughes off the cage. Pessoa is more passive in this round, keeping the Jeff Hughes attack at bay, instead of dictating the pace of the fight as he’d done the other two rounds. Hughes seems trigger shy in the last two minutes. Pessoa gets tired of waiting and throws three big punches that pins Hughes against the cage again. Hughes catches Raphael Pessoa with a body kick and a couple punches and Pessoa marches forward to get it back, throwing another spinning back kick that misses. The fight ends with Pessoa knowing he’s cruised to a victory, his first in the UFC.
Little Victories Lead to Large Victories
As for his performance, Raphael Pessoa thinks he wasn’t aggressive enough. I felt like that was a wild thought because he was throwing wild things throughout the whole fight. But imagine a more aggressive Raphael Pessoa.
“[I was] very happy [with my performance]. I should have retreated less, and would have been a little more aggressive.”
As for the future, Pessoa plans to keep building off the momentum gained from UFC Singapore. “More work, more focus, more dedication, more training!”
Thanks for reading. Be sure to follow Raphael Pessora on Instagram to stay posted on his UFC journey.