Every fighter in the UFC, whether champion, legend or debutant, has to start somewhere. That somewhere usually isn’t the big show. Occasionally, multiple future stars end up gathered on a single regional card. At the time, this card may not seem significant, but years down the road, we can look back in hindsight and marvel at how stacked that event turned out to be. That’s exactly what we’ll do in this series, called History Lessons.

So, let’s jump in the time machine and travel back. The date was July 7, 2007, and the location was Clube Hebraica in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was time for Shooto Brazil 3: The Evolution.

Renan Barão, Eduardo Dantas, Marlon Sandro, Johnny Eduardo, Hacran Dias, Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire and Rony Torres—it reads like a who’s who of up-and-coming Brazilian talent, especially for the lighter divisions that house six of those seven fighters. It also reads as a significant part of the Shooto Brazil 3 card, and it certainly adds credence to the event’s billing as “The Evolution.” In one night in Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 2007, Brazilian MMA fans were introduced to the next wave.

This group of seven fighters has gone on to win championship belts from the UFC, Bellator, Sengoku, Pancrase, Shooto and Shooto South America organizations. Five of them have gone on to ply their trade in the UFC’s Octagon, and three remain under Zuffa’s employ to this day. In 2007, however, many of them were in the embryonic stages of their careers.

Of course, Renan Barão stands as the star of the group. Barão now stands as the UFC’s bantamweight champion, and the 27-year-old is set to defend his title next weekend against T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173. In 2007, though, he was still nearly four years away from making his Octagon debut. He was, however, in the midst of a 33-fight stretch without a loss, a streak that remains intact. Barão was already a member of Nova Uniao in 2007, but he was just 20 years old and held an 8-1 mark as a professional fighter. He had lost his 2005 debut fight, but had been perfect since.

His next challenge was a 5-2 upstart named Erinaldo “Pitbull” dos Santos Rodrigues. Pitbull had already notched a win over Will Ribeiro, but he had suffered a loss to Marlon Sandro. Barão, then a featherweight, needed just a single round to hand Pitbull another loss, this time via an ankle lock. The end would have come earlier had it not been for Shooto’s rules, which incorporated a standing eight count. Barão landed a right hand that left Pitbull crumpled on the mat and stumbling around the ring once he tried to stand up. When the fight resumed, Barão scored a takedown and eventually locked on to Pitbull’s ankle for the submission win.

Pitbull continued his inconsistent career after the loss by going 5-4 over the course of the next six years. His most recent outing came in 2013 in a losing effort against Raoni Barcelos, who used the win as a springboard to the Resurrection Fighting Alliance.

Barão’s career obviously took a much different—and busier—path. The Brazilian won his next outing, then endured an illegal soccer kick that led to the no-contest on his record. Three years and 13 more fights later, Barão entered the WEC as a 23-1(1) prospect. He scored submission wins over Anthony Leone and Chris Cariaso before migrating to the UFC with the rest of the WEC roster. He made his Octagon debut in 2011 and tallied three victories before defeating Urijah Faber for the promotion’s interim belt. Barão has since extended his undefeated streak with title defenses against Michael McDonald, Eddie Wineland and Faber. He’ll hope to keep the streak alive against Dillashaw on May 24 in Las Vegas.

Barão was far from the only future champion on the card that night. His Nova Uniao stablemate, Eduardo Dantas, was seeking his second career win in what also marked his second career fight. “Dudu” was just 18 years old when he stepped into the ring with fellow undefeated one-fight veteran Fabio Oliveira. Dantas outworked “Larvinha” over the course of three rounds to take the unanimous decision win.

Oliveira short stint as a prospect was brought to an end by Dantas. The Tata Fight Team product dropped his next three fights and has only won four more times en route to his current 5-10 overall record. He was still active as recently as 2013.

Dantas, of course, continued to progress toward bigger things. He suffered a disqualification loss in his next outing, but he rebounded by defeating top flyweight Shinichi “BJ” Kojima and claiming the Shooto South America featherweight championship as part of a five-fight winning streak. His next loss came against Masakatsu Ueda in a failed bid for the Shooto featherweight championship. Again, “Dudu” responded with a winning streak that included a Shooto South America 132-pound title win. It was enough to earn Dantas entry into the Bellator season-five bantamweight tournament. His Bellator debut came more than four years after his Shooto Brazil 3 appearance, and it was the start of a successful tourney run that earned him a shot against reigning Bellator champ Zach Makovsky. The Nova Uniao product defeated Makovsky for the belt, then suffered a stunning loss to Tyson Nam in his return to Shooto Brazil. The loss didn’t deter Dantas’ title reign, which continued with two titles defenses to bring his overall Bellator record to 6-0. His next title defense remains up in the air after he was forced to pull out of a scheduled fight with Joe Warren.


Shooto Brazil 3 served as the last fight on Brazilian soil for Marlon Sandro before the Nova Uniao fighter went international. “The Gladiator” was already 30 years old in 2007, but he only had eight fights under his belt. Those eight outings had all ended in victory for Sandro, thereby setting up his Shooto Brazil 3 fight with Marcos “Babuino” Rodrigues dos Santos, a 3-1 prospect.

Sandro worked his way to a unanimous decision verdict, then started earning frequent flyer miles with his trips to Japan. He landed in Pancrase, where he won three fights and claimed the Pancrase featherweight crown. His next stop was Sengoku, where he entered the 2009 featherweight grand prix and advanced as far as the semifinal round. He later challenged for—and won— the Sengoku featherweight strap, but failed to manage a successful defense. After dropping the Sengoku belt, Sandro moved on to Bellator, where he has fought in three tournaments and advanced to two tourney finals. However, he has never been able to emerge with a tourney championship. Sandro, now 37, is 8-3 in the Bellator cage. His most recent outing came on May 9 when he defeated Chris Horodecki at Bellator 119.

The latest surge of hype for a Nova Uniao product has been heaped on Johnny Eduardo. Now 35 years old, Eduardo has picked up two wins—including a recent first-round destruction of perennial bantamweight contender Eddie Wineland—in three UFC outings. Eduardo was certainly the most experienced of the group of future stars on the Shooto Brazil 3 docket. His pro debut came in 1996, and he was 14-7 overall when he locked horns with Miguel Angel Duran, a debuting fighter.

Duran was able to strike Eduardo into submission on the July night, but their careers took different paths after the fight. Duran entered a tournament later that year and picked up a win and a loss. He didn’t return until 2010, when he picked up three more wins before slipping back into inactivity. The loss seemed to light a fire under Eduardo. The middling journeyman put everything together and went on an 11-fight winning streak over the next three years, including a one-fight stint with Bellator. Four years after his loss to Duran, Eduardo made his Octagon debut. He lost to Raphael Assuncao, then bounced back with a win over Jeff Curran. Injuries kept him sidelined for the next two years, but Eduardo recently returned with his stunning win over Wineland.

Sometimes, two future UFC fighters meet long before they ever grace the Octagon. Thus was the case with Hacran Dias and Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire, both of whom are now associated with Nova Uniao. At the time of their 2007 meeting, they stood as two of the biggest prospects among the Shooto Brazil 3 lineup. Dias was undefeated through six contests since making his pro debut in 2005, and Chiquerim was 12-2 since making his debut in 2002. Their contest went the distance, and Dias emerged with the victory.

Dias continued to pile on wins in the years that followed, though he did suffer a loss to Yui Chul Nam and fought to a draw with Takafumi Ito. In 2012, Dias, with a 20-1-1 mark, submitted his application to participate on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. His resume impressed the UFC brass to the point where he was allowed to forego the reality series and sign a contract with the promotion. He debuted in June 2012, nearly five years after his Shooto Brazil 3 win, and scored a win over Yuri Alcantara. Dias’ most recent outing against Nik Lentz proved less fruitful. Lentz controlled the action and picked up the win on the scorecards. Dias will try to redeem himself in late June when he meets Ricardo Lamas in the Octagon.

Chiquerim found success after his loss to Dias. He defeated Patricky Freire in his next outing to spark a 12-fight winning streak and a reign as the Shooto welterweight champion. That streak caught the UFC’s attention, and Chiquerim joined the promotion in early 2011. His only Octagon appearance, which came at UFC Fight for the Troops 2, ended in a disappointing decision loss to Waylon Lowe. Chiquerim exited the UFC and lost his next fight under the Dream banner. Since his brief UFC stint, the Brazilian has managed just two wins in four outings.

Rony Torres was a 5-0 prospect coming off a win over Diego Brandao when he locked horns with debuting pro Kim Wong Su at Shooto Brazil 3. Torres, who was just 20 years old at the time, forced a doctor’s stoppage TKO in the opening frame of their contest. Su never fought again, whereas Torres won eight of his next nine before signing on the dotted line with the UFC. The lightweight made his Octagon debut in 2010 with a loss to Melvin Guillard. He was ushered out of the organization after dropping his next fight to Jacob Volkmann. The Nova Uniao fighter has made a strong case for a second chance since his UFC release. He has gone 14-2 with wins over Drew Fickett and Ferrid Kheder, but his loss to Brian Cobb under the World Series of Fighting banner didn’t do much to advance his case. Torres is just 27 years old and still could have another UFC run in him.

The evolution of the fighters of Shooto Brazil 3 is proven in terms of gold—a whole trophy case, in fact. Nothing helps to cement an event’s significance in MMA history more than pounds upon pounds of shiny belts. With a list of fighters that includes Barão, Dantas, Sandro, Eduardo, Dias, Freire and Torres, there’s no shortage of gold here.