This Saturday, in Fortaleza, Brazil, the UFC will bring a high-octane card that will feature many Brazilian countrymen. At the top of the card lies two MMA veterans and legends; Fabricio Werdum, and Antonio Nogueira. They resemble the two coaches pitted against eachother in the second season of TUF: Brazil, and will finally have a chance to close that chapter. Also on the card is the showdown between the two finalists on TUF: Brazil II; William Macario and Leonardo Santos. They will fight to see who will be crowned as the Ultimate Fighter winner and will receive that tasty contract so many up and comers desire. Let’s get into it.
Rony Jason vs. Mike Wilkinson
The TUF: Brazil Season 1 winner, Rony Jason, has made it 2-0 in the UFC so far. In his last outing, he provided a solid reason to why so many people think of Jason as a bright up and comer as he finished Sam Sicilia in the second round. Wilkinson, a TUF: The Smashes veteran, is an aggressive fighter who constantly pushes the pace in search of punches and takedowns. The pressure that Wilkinson brings to the cage is tough to deal with, so Rony better be comfortable while moving backward.
On the feet, these two fighters have very different styles. Jason has shown off his impressive muay thai skills, especially his knees, in his bout against Sicilia, and is also a very length fighter. With a 73″ reach advantage, Bezerra can stay out of range of Wilkinson’s wild aggressive punching and pick him apart. Should Wilkinson close the distance and score a takedown, Jason’s ground game is ready. Coming from Team Nogueira, Jason possesses a blackbelt in BJJ and has over half of his wins coming by submission.
In this fight, I don’t see a way Wilkinson will be able to impose his will. Jason is too technical and too smart on the feet to let Mike close the distance, and if he does, Jason has that wicked clinch game that he can use to do damage. Should this fight go to the ground, expect Jason to have a slight edge in the submission game. Ultimately, I’m seeing another TKO victory for Jason in a similar fashion of his last fight. The counter-striking, combined with his deadly arsenal in the clinch should be enough to wound Wilkinson enough for the finish in the second round.
Rony Jason Bezerra via 2nd Rd TKO
Erick Silva vs. Jason High
This exciting welterweight match-up will score as my pick for Fight of the Night awards. Being one of the most anticipated talents at 170 lbs, Erick Silva has scored a 3-1 record in the UFC (2-2 if you want to be technical about it) and has captured the interest of several fans around the world with his exciting style. Silva reached a slight barricade when he dropped a decision to long-time top contender Jon Fitch, but was impressive even in defeat. Now, he takes a formidable test in Jason High, who is returning to the Octagon after a successful run in Strikeforce.
For Jason High, the gameplan is simple; take Silva down and don’t make any stupid mistakes. Sounds simple, but against Erick, it isn’t. Very few fighters in the world have the grinding talents that Jon Fitch does, and I’m too sold that Jason High is one of them. High is going to have to time his short perfectly, as Erick Silva has a very quick sprawl and a dangerous counter-wrestling game that involves submissions, specifically chokes. High is going to have to win Silva’s respect on the feet using his tight boxing, and open up a chance for a takedown. But even if he gets him down, it’s a whole different challenge in keeping him down.
Being one of the most athletic fighters at welterweight, Erick Silva’s long legs and frame provides him advantages when dealing with leverage; this allows him to get off his back fairly easily, especially when facing shorter, stockier fighters like Jason High.
It doesn’t seem like High has very good chances in this fight, and for good reason. High is coming into this bout on fairly short notice, so don’t expect him to be in 100% condition either. Look for Silva to use his range, kicks, and counter-striking to keep High at bay on the feet and start to force High into getting desperate. This will force Jason into telegraphing his takedown attempts, which will give Silva all the time in the world to defend them. If High is going to win this fight, he’ll have to find some big success in the first round, if not, then look for Silva to out-class him on the feet for 3 rounds if he doesn’t knock him out earlier.
Erick Silva via Unanimous Decision
Daniel Sarafian vs. Eddie Mendez
Up next is a middleweight bout between Eddie Mendez, a former strikeforce competitor, and Daniel Sarafian, the true TUF: Brazil 1 finalist. Sarafian smashes his way through to the final of TUF: Brazil, but was unfortunately injured replaced in the finals. He then got a chance to fight when he took on the tough CB Dolloway. Even though it was an incredibly back and forth fight, CB eventually walked away with the nod. Now, Sarafian looks to rebound and get his first win in the UFC, something he’s been looking forward to for about a year now.
He’s taking on Eddie Mendez, a debuting fighter for the UFC. Mendez has experience fighting in many different organizations, including Strikeforce where he won a split decision over Fernando Gonzalez. Mendez is a powerful fighter who possess KO power in his hands, but mostly relies on the takedown to control his opponents and unleash ground and pound. Unfortunately for Mendez, Sarafian is a very talented grappler who sports 6 out of his 7 victories by submission.
In his fight with Dolloway, Sarafian showed an impressive kicking game and even some solid boxing skills, dropping CB in the first round. In this fight with Mendez, he shouldn’t be at any major disadvantage on the feet. Sure, Sarafian’s stand up isn’t anything to “wow” about, but until he faces someone who can reign supreme over him, expect him to use his skills as much as possible.
Sarafian came very close to out-striking a powerful wrestler in CB Dolloway, against a lesser experience and lesser skilled fighter in Eddie Mendez, expect Sarafian to get the victory this time. Ultimately, I think Sarafian could get the finish. I see Daniel getting the better of Mendez on the feet, and scoring a submission as he counters Mendez’s takedown attempts with either a guillotine, or perhaps a reversal to the back.
Daniel Sarafian via 2nd Rd Submission
Thiago Silva vs. Rafael Cavalcante
This fight is one of those match-ups that is destined to be a barn-burner. We have Thiago Silva, a guy who has had several ups and downs in his career, looking to strike some consistency in his career by taking on a well known Strikeforce veteran in Rafael Cavalcante. Rafael is a dangerous muay thai striker who has won all 11 of his victories by way of (T)KO. A very impressive resume for someone who has yet to debut in the UFC, but much like Rafael, his opponent is a dangerous striker as well. Silva has 11 of his 14 victories by way of (T)KO, and also has a couple submissions to his resume. In Silva’s latest outing, he submitted Stanislav Nedkov in the third round, but the first was turned over when Silva failed his drug test. Ironically, Rafael’s last fight was also turned over when he failed his drugtest as well.
The way I see it, this is a do-or-die fight for Silva. Thiago has failed 2 drug tests in his career, and is 1-2-2 in his last 5 fights. He’s desperate for a win streak, but desperation could very well cost him in this fight with “Feijao”. On the feet, I give an advantage to Cavalcante. He’s more relaxed, quicker, and overall more composed than Silva is. However, recently Silva has been utilizing his underrated ground game; scoring takedowns, controlling his opponents, and looking for the submission. If Silva comes into this fight with a “wrestling” mind-set, he could very well score a decision victory over Feijao and pick up an easy win.
However, I don’t see that happening. I’m predicting that Cavalcante will get Silva into a striking match, where Silva’s lack of composition will get him knocked out in what should be Silva’s last fight in the UFC. Silva will be too aggressive, and run right into Cavalcante’s dangerous muay thai attack that will leave him unconscious in round one.
Rafael Cavalcante via 1st Rd KO
William Macario vs. Leonardo Santos
William Macario and Leonardo Santos are the two finalists for the second season of TUF: Brazil. Leonardo Santos, a very experienced BJJ grappler who has transitioned to MMA with an 11-3 record, will be taking on the young lion William Macario, who is 6-0.
Given that this will be the first big fight for both of these fighters, expect nerves to be at an all time high. However, Santos has been there before in the grappling world; he’s won an Abu Dhabi championship and has competed against the best in the world. The same can not be said for Macario, who has a career of smashing low-tier fighters with losing records.
Stylistically, both are talented in the grappling department, but Santos has world-wide experience and it at an elite level, while Macario is not. On the ground, expect Santos to be more relaxed, calm, and more efficient. However, every fight starts on the feet, and Macario has the power and skills to end it right then and there. However, like I said, nerves will be at an all time high. We could very well see Macario freeze up in the beginning, let Santos find his range, and immediately get taken down. One thing Macario does have however, is dangerous power in his hands. If Macario lands something big early, he could end it.
Ultimately, I see Macario coming out too aggressive, missing his punches, and letting Santos getting ontop in the first round and ending it. He’s more experienced, and will be able to take advantage of any mistakes Macario makes because of the high amount of nerves.
Leonardo Santos via 1st Rd Submission
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum
And now we’re ready for our main event! This main card is big, but it’s got a very solid match-up at the top to close things off. The two TUF: Brazil coaches, the legendary Antonio Nogueira, and the talented Fabricio Werdum, will square off in a Brazilian “dream match” that is also a rematch from when they first stared across at eachother in Pride in 2006.
Since then, both fighters have evolved lots. However, I’d say Werdum has evolved for the better, while Nogueira’s improvement could be questioned. Watching Nogueira’s most recent performances, you’ll notice that he is not the fighter he once was. He’s slower now, injury rittled, punch-drunk, and not as explosive. However, he’s shown us time and time again not to count him out. His powerful boxing and dangerous submissions still make Nogueira a threat to anybody.
For Werdum, it’s been all about widening his arsenal. It doesn’t seem like too along ago that we saw Werdum desperately trying to pull guard against Alistair Overeem, because it was a suicide mission to try and strike. However, extensive muay thai training has improved Werdum’s confidence, skill set, and technique in the striking department and now makes Fabricio Werdum a dangerous fighter on the feet, as he is on the ground.
It’s unlikely that this fight will go the distance. Nogueira has a do-or-die attitude to fighting, and will be in Werdum’s face from the very beginning. Expect an early onslaught by Nogueira with punches in bunches as he pushes Werdum backwards and tries to tie up for a takedown. However, Werdum has been in fantastic shape, and will be able to use his long legs to keep himself up. In the clinch, it’ll be all about Werdum’s knees. Expect Werdum to do lots of damage in the clinch, and keep Nogueira from finding any success in getting it to the mat. Should this fight go to the mat, I’m expecting nothing else but a stale-mate. Both of these guys are at the highest level in grappling skill, but with Nogueira’s slowing game, don’t be surprised if Werdum is the one to catch ahold of an armbar.
With Werdum surviving an early blitz by Nogueira in round one, stifling him in the clinch and/or on the ground, expect Werdum to find his range and start landing big punches and kicks on Nogueira. Eventually, I see the finish coming in the clinch where Werdum lands a big knee to the chin and sends Nogueira crashing to the canvas late in the first round in what should be a very exciting fight.
Fabricio Werdum via 1st Rd KO