The last time we wrote about Rousimar Palhares—the deposed World Series of Fighting welterweight champion and feared former UFC middleweight contender—he was licking his wounds. Back in May, he lost in 45 seconds to UFC-bound Emil Weber Meek in Italy's Venator FC. Undaunted, planned to continue his tour of European fight promotions with an appearance at KSW 36 in the Polish city of Zielona Gora.
"Toquinho" faced the locally esteemed and highly tattooed Michal Materla in that event's headliner on Saturday night. After an unremarkable first round, Materla uncorked a right uppercut that had Palhares keeling over like he was trying to sit down and tie his shoes and puke at the same time, and Materla might as well have aimed for the great big knot at the base of Palhares's skull the way he threw that first follow-up hammer fist. The ref waved off the fight at 1:27 of the second round.
Whether or not Palhares gripes about the illegal blow—he complained about Meek's punches to the back of his head—those infractions aren't enough to stir the sympathies of anyone who's watched Palhares do much worse over the years. Remember why Palhares ended up on fight cards in Poland and Italy in the first place: the Nevada Athletic Commission suspended him from competition for two years, and since other stateside athletic commissions honor the punishments handed down by their counterparts, that meant he was effectively barred from competing in the U.S.
The last straw was when he wrenched Jake Shields's shoulder for too long when he defended his WSOF title back in August 2015. Before that, Palhares caught suspensions and was ultimately banned for life from the UFC for torqueing on heel hooks and ignoring referees until he seemed assured that his opponent would need crutches to get to the after party. (It's shocking that the nickname "Torque-inho" hasn’t stuck.) There's still a strain of white-gi jiu jitsu orthodoxy that paints lower-body submissions as too dangerous to train, and Palhares is the muscle-bound sociopath that gives truth to that lie by making his opponents scream.
Maybe Materla was a vehicle for karma, coiling justice in his fist and delivering it to Palhares's chin. But there's melancholy here, too: It’s hard times for the 36-year-old Palhares, who's slid into the second two-fight losing streak of his career, all four defeats by punches. Judging by the display against Materla, he's going flat. And even if you loathe Palhares for the remorse-free havoc he wreaked on Mike Pierce, Tomasz Drwal, and others, you have to feel for someone who can't stop himself from career-threatening self-sabotage. Losing to Materla and Meek isn’t actually the universe bringing right and wrong back into balance. These are just things that happen to a troubled fighter on the chronological downside of his career.
Back in his UFC and WSOF heyday, Palhares was a true individual: in a field of American wrestle-boxers, he was a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt who tried to wrap up his opponents' legs with the single-minded purpose you rarely saw outside of a sambo match. When he could tame his instincts for ligament destruction, his wins were impressive. The inverted heel hook he used to claim the WSOF welterweight belt from Steve Carl came at the end of a chain of leg locks executed so seamlessly that the tap was inevitable even if the particular submission that caused it was not.
Two fights and zero wins into his forbidden odyssey in Europe, Palhares's future is uncertain. Maybe this is a hiccup before a late-career resurgence, where he piles up so many victories abroad that domestic promoters look past these present-day lowlights and his historical ignorance of the law and welcome him back with open arms and guarded legs. But maybe the further afield Rousimar Palhares travels the worse things are going to get when he arrives, and every misfortune becomes retribution for the things he's done.
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