On the heels of two events last week, the UFC heads down to Belo Horizonte, Brazil for the third and final fight card in their “8 Days of Action” series.
OK – that’s not an official title, but it works, right?
Wednesday’s fight card at the Mineirinho Arena is built around a trio of fights that carry title implications in the flyweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight divisions. While the remainder of the card is loaded with Brazilian talent that is relatively unknown to the North American audience, these fight cards have historically turned into some of the most entertaining events the UFC puts forth.
Don’t let the lack of major names on the undercard push you away. This will be a fun little mid-week event, and it could produce three new title contenders by the time all is said and done.
Here are my predictions for UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Bader.
Glover Teixeira (21-2) vs. Ryan Bader (15-3)
This one was originally supposed to take place at UFC 160 in May, but Bader was forced out with an injury. James Te Huna stepped up, and Teixeira took him out, collecting his 19th consecutive victory by submitting the tough-as-nails New Zealander in the opening round.
Bader’s injury feels like it was simply a stay of execution. As much as Teixeira has yet to face anyone that could be considered a contender since arriving in the UFC, he’s dominated the competition, and will do the same to Bader in the main event.
The 33-year-old veteran is a dangerous threat wherever the fight goes. He can beat you standing with his powerful striking or take you to the ground and wrap you up with his high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu. While he’s a little too willing to stand in the pocket and trade, he’s also shown an ability to take some big shots and keep coming forward.
I really don’t see a way for Bader to pull out a victory here. He’s not the kind of power wrestler with superior top control that can just drive Teixeira into the canvas and keep him there.
The Brazilian light heavyweight contender – who could certainly position himself for a title shot with a victory – will press forward, trade hands, and catch Bader with a big shot. When the former TUF winner crumples to the canvas, Teixeira will latch onto a submission, and secure the tap.
Prediction: Glover Teixeira by Submission, Round 1
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (18-3) vs. Yushin Okami (29-7)
This is the kind of fight I love – a battle between a proven former title challenger (Okami) and a guy that has looked outstanding against lesser competition so far (Jacare), with a place on the short list for a title shot at stake.
“Jacare,” a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, has earned four straight submission wins since dropping that title to Luke Rockhold two year ago, including three consecutive first-round finishes. He has looked scary-good over those three appearances, and really developed the other aspects of his arsenal since arriving on the larger stage as primarily a grappler.
And I think he continues to roll.
Okami is a phenomenal guardian to the upper echelon of the middleweight division, but Souza is the type of fighter that can give him trouble – he’s quick, strong, and gifted on the ground, so Okami’s primary talent of control guys on the canvas is diminished.
“Jacare” has shown an increased aggressiveness, and I expect that to pay dividends here. Souza will close the distance, sting Okami with his hands, and find an opening on the ground to secure the submission. This is going to be the fight where everyone realizes that Souza is a legitimate title threat, and one a different level than most when it comes to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills.
Prediction: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza by Submission, Round 1
Joseph Benavidez (18-3) vs. Jussier da Silva (15-2)
The winner of this one will most likely be lined up alongside Demetrious Johnson in a battle for the flyweight title in early 2014, as Benavidez has posted a pair of impressive wins since losing to “Mighty Mouse” last September, while “Formiga” rebounded from a debut loss to John Dodson with a strong showing against Chris Cariaso last time out.
As much as picking a second consecutive non-Brazilian seems crazy given that they’re 13-48 over the last two years when facing Brazilian opponents in Brazil, I’m going with Benavidez.
Everyone from the Team Alpha Male camp in Sacramento has been on-point this year, and they’ve posted a perfect 10-0 mark in the UFC so far in 2013. Benavidez looked outstanding last time out, dropping Darren Uyenoyama with a kick to the body, and “BC” is a similar type of fighter as da Silva.
More than anything, I believe Benavidez is the more complete fighter, and capable of winning this fight in a number of different ways, where “Formiga” needs to get top position to earn a victory.
“Joe B. Wan Kenobi” is the faster, more powerful striker, and he’ll tag da Silva early, giving Team Alpha Male another victory, and setting up a championship rematch with Johnson.
Prediction: Joseph Benavidez by TKO, Round 1
Francisco Trinaldo (13-2) vs. Piotr Hallmann (13-1)
Hallmann is an interesting lower-tier prospect from Poland, but he couldn’t be walking into a worse situation in his UFC debut.
Trinaldo is a monster at lightweight – a physically imposing specimen with powerful hands and great grappling that has earned consecutive wins since losing to veteran Gleison Tibau at UFC 153. Add in the fact that Hallmann is making the long trek to Brazil, and I can’t see the UFC neophyte coming away with a victory.
“Massaranduba” will charge across the cage early, close the distance, and get this to the ground quickly, looking to finish. As much as Hallmann has a shiny record, Trinaldo is a big step up in competition, and the difference between the UFC and European regional circuit will be on full display here.
Prediction: Francisco Trinaldo by Submission, Round 1
Rafael Natal (16-4-1) vs. Tor Troeng (16-4-1)
Middleweights with matching records looking to move up the ladder square off in this one, with Natal looking to extend his winning streak to three, while Troeng hasn’t lost in his last five overall.
Despite all the evidence that tells me non-Brazilians are at a disadvantage fighting in Brazil, I’m taking Troeng in this one.
Natal has won four of five overall, but there hasn’t been a dominant performance in the group. He went the distance with Joao Zeferino last time out, and needed into the third round to beat short notice opponent Sean Spencer (who was fighting up in weight too) before that.
Troeng is the more well-rounded of the two, and I think Natal has moments where he gets overconfident, and “The Hammer” will be able to capitalize on those openings.
Prediction: Tor Troeng via Unanimous Decision
Marcos Vinicius (20-4) vs. Ali Bagautinov (10-2)
Bagautinov has won eight straight heading into his UFC debut, and has needed just 52-seconds combined to win his last two bouts. Overall, eight of his 10 career victories have been stoppages, and the only times he’s lost, he’s gone the distance…
But I’m picking Vinicius.
This will be his flyweight debut, which makes me a little nervous, but I can’t keep going against the Brazilian fighters competing at home. While he lost last time out (December’s TUF 16 Finale), he’s shown knockout power and a solid submission game in the past, and the home-field advantage will help carry him to a win.
Prediction: Marcos Vinicius by TKO, Round 2
Felipe Arantes (15-5-1) vs. Edimilson Souza (13-3)
This has absolutely nothing to do with the match itself, but I just love the fact that Souza’s nickname is “Kevin.” That’s right up there as one of the best MMA nicknames of all time.
Getting to the actual bout itself, Souza, the Jungle Fight featherweight champion, is stepping up as an injury replacement here. He’s won his last seven contests, all by T/KO, and could be a handful as a six-foot-tall featherweight fighter.
That being said, I really like Arantes, both in this fight and going forward as a lower level prospect.
He got jobbed out of a victory over Milton Vieira last June at UFC 147, and looked very, very good earning a first-round stoppage win over Godofredo Pepey back in June. His only loss in the last four years came against Yuri Alcantara, who just fought Urijah Faber on the initial Fox Sports 1 event in Boston.
Arantes has a significant advantage on the ground, and will look to put Souza on the canvas as quickly as he can, both to nullify his striking skills and look to expose his weak submission defense.
Prediction: Felipe Arantes by Submission, Round 1
Joao Zeferino (13-5) vs. Elias Silverio (8-0)
This is another bout impacted by injury, as Silverio steps up to fill the void left by Kenny Robertson opposite Zeferino. It’s a great opportunity for the Jungle Fights welterweight champion to get his foot in the door with the UFC, but Zeferino should come away with the win here, probably rather easily.
“The Brazilian Samurai” was in Silverio’s position last time out, stepping up on two week’s notice to face the aforementioned Rafael Natal back in May. He came out on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result, but acquitted himself nicely, and should showcase his grappling in a victory here.
Prediction: Joao Zeferino by Submission, Round 1
Lucas Martins (13-1) vs. Ramio Hernandez (13-4)
Hernandez is a veteran of the North American regional circuit, having shared the cage with the likes of Michael Johnson and former UFC competitors Chris Tickle and Eric Wisely. He’s won six of his last seven to earn this opportunity on the biggest stage in the sport, but I think this is a fight Martins wins.
I will preface this by saying the young Brazilian talent takes far too much punishment, as he did in his debut loss to Edson Barboza and again in his win over Jeremy Larsen last time out. But he clearly has power, is ultra-aggressive, and when you combine that with the home-field advantage and “first-time jitters” Hernandez will undoubtedly experience, I think the 24-year-old Chute Boxe student will earn his second straight victory inside the Octagon.
Prediction: Lucas Martins by TKO, Round 2
Keith Wisniewski (28-14-1) vs. Ivan Jorge (24-3)
Jorge, the Jungle Fights lightweight champion, is stepping up to replace Marcelo Guimaraes here. He’s won six straight and 10 of 11 overall, all by submission. Wisniewski is a seasoned veteran, coming into this one on a two-fight losing streak. He’s been out of the cage since dropping a split decision to Chris Clements back at UFC 145, and is probably facing a “win or else” situation here.
And I think we’re going to find out what the “or else” is.
Wisniewski is a game competitor and a tough out, but Jorge is a talented veteran finally getting the chance to compete on the biggest stage in the sport, and I fully expect him to make the most of it. Jorge will close the distance, drag this fight to the ground, and work until he either (a) has to stand up because the round is over or (b) he gets the submission win.
Prediction: Ivan Jorge by Submission, Round 3
Yuri Villefort (6-2) vs. Sean Spencer (9-2)
Both men lost their UFC debuts on short notice – Spencer to Rafael Natal back in January, Villefort to Nah-Shon Burrell a month later at UFC 157 – but get a chance to rebound with the benefit of a full camp here.
Villefort was heralded as one of the top prospects in the sport a couple years ago, but that has failed to materialize since he’s moved to Strikeforce and now the UFC. He’s dropped back-to-back contests, and if he’s ever going to take the next step in his development and fulfill some of his promise, now is the time. Spencer, on the other hand, has made a slow and steady climb to the biggest stage in the sport, working his way through the regional circuit without much fanfare.
I’m going to roll the dice with Villefort; he has too much talent to continue to struggle. While everything he’s shown in his last two fights says otherwise, I still believe in his raw skills and potential.