UFC On FUEL 10: Main Card forecasts

Opponents Antonio Rodrigo 'Minotauro' Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum
Antonio Rodrigo 'Minotauro' Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum face off during the UFC On FUEL TV...
Special to FOX Sports E. Spencer Kyte
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UFC On Fuel TV 10, the second of the UFC’s three Brazilian visits this summer, hits the airwaves and Octagon on Saturday evening from the Paulo Sarasate Arena in Fortaleza, headlined by a heavyweight matchup between Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the two men who captained and coached opposing sides on Season Two of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.

While a little short on big name stars casual fans will recognize, Saturday’s main card is long on promising talent from the host nation, and should carry on the tradition of smaller shows delivering big-time entertainment from start to finish.

Fabricio Werdum (16-5-1) vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-7-1)

Werdum has become the forgotten man in the chase for the UFC heavyweight championship, having been out of action since defeating Mike Russow at UFC 147 last June, but the 35-year-old veteran has a chance to return to the forefront of the title conversation this weekend when he squares off with fellow coach and countryman Nogueira.

While they have squared off in the past, this is simply a second meeting between the two, as opposed to a rematch. Nearly seven years have passed since their initial encounter, and both fighters are significantly changed since the time they shared the cage under the Pride banner.

Though Nogueira is always game and remains dangerous, the wear and tear of a 14-year-career that includes numerous grueling battles and more than 40 fights overall has clearly taken its toll. Still technically strong both standing and on the ground, “Minotauro” has lost a step or two. While his will remains as strong as ever, you can no longer say the same for his chin, and that tips the scales decidedly in Werdum’s direction.

The highly decorated grappler has put forth a pair of impressive striking performances since returning to the UFC in early 2012. His fight with Roy Nelson at UFC 143 was a clinic on working from the clinch, and showcased the amount of hours Werdum has put in under the watchful eye of Master Rafael Cordeiro, and his first-round knockout win over Russow showed everyone that the one-time submission specialist is more than capable of ending a fight with his hands as well.

As much as you can never count Nogueira out of any fight, Werdum simply brings more to the table at this point in their careers than his legendary countryman. He’s quicker and has a more diverse arsenal in the stand-up game, and that will prove to be the difference, as Werdum pressures Nogueira along the cage, and puts him away with a barrage of strikes late in the opening round.

Prediction: Fabricio Werdum by Technical Knockout, Round 1.

Leonardo Santos (11-3) vs. William Macario (6-0)

Much like in Season One of TUF when Daniel Sarafian — who we’ll discuss momentarily — was bumped from the middleweight finals with an injury, Season Two’s final fight is a pairing between a victorious semifinalist and an opponent who lost to an injured fighter.

Santos dropped his semifinal fight, but gets the call against Macario in place of the man who bested him, Santiago Ponzinibbio, who broke his hand in the victory. The 33-year-old is the brother of former WEC contender Wagnney Fabiano, and fights out of the renown Nova Uniao camp that has produced UFC champions Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, and countless other high level talents.

Unbeaten through his first six professional fights, Macario is clearly a promising young fighter, who earned his place in the finals with knockout victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals. The 21-year-old has been beyond the first round just once in his career, and that second-round experience lasted just 46 seconds.

In a battle between youth and experience, the more seasoned Santos should emerge victorious. With more than twice as many fights as Macario under his belt, and a career spent preparing alongside some of the best fighters in the country, look for the veteran to weather an early rush from his young adversary, find an opening, and secure the submission finish.

Prediction: Leonardo Santos by Submission, Round 2.

Thiago Silva (14-3) vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (11-3)

This battle between Brazilian light heavyweights Silva and Cavalcante has been tabbed as an early favorite for Fight of the Night. It is also a pairing of two fighters in dire need of a strong showing.

Once unbeaten and positioned opposite Lyoto Machida in a battle of potential contenders, Silva has struggled mightily as of late. After beginning his career with 13 consecutive victories, the once devastating striker has battled injuries and a pair of suspensions while amassing a grim 1-3 record with two “No Contest” results over the last four years.

While this is Silva’s first bout since serving a six-month suspension following his fight with Stanislav Nedkov, Cavalcante is returning from a suspension as well. The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion was hit with a one-year ban after his impressive first-round submission win over Mike Kyle after testing positive for a banned substance following the bout.

Silva and “Feijao” are both capable of being contenders in the light heavyweight division when they’re at the top of their games, but it has been some time since we’ve seen either man at that level.

Despite having been sidelined since last May, I tend to favor Cavalcante here. Silva hasn’t been remotely close to the fighter who looked poised to make a championship push early in his career, and dropped the first two rounds of his fight against Nedkov before catching the gassed Bulgarian wrestler late in the third round.

Silva is usually willing to stand and exchange, and Cavalcante has the power to hurt him if he does. Over the course of three rounds, the former Strikeforce champion will be the more active of the two and do the more damage, earning the nod from the judges in the process.

Prediction: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante by Unanimous Decision

Daniel Sarafian (7-3) vs. Eddie Mendez (7-1-1)

Sarafian was favored to win the middleweight competition on Season One of TUF: Brazil, but was forced from the finale with an injury. His UFC debut came earlier this year, when he shared the cage with C.B. Dollaway in the co-main event of January’s UFC on FX card in Sao Paulo.

Though he eventually lost a decision to Dollaway, Sarafian looked good early, dropping the Power MMA representative in the opening round, and hanging tough throughout the 15-minute affair.

Now he’s paired off with Mendez, who makes his first appearance in the Octagon coming off a 13-month layoff. In hostile territory. Against an extremely popular Brazilian fighter who has already received a moderate push from the UFC. You see where I’m going with this, right?

Save for one win under the Strikeforce banner, Mendez’ 7-1-1 record has been compiled exclusively on the regional circuit, and he simply hasn’t faced anyone as talented as Sarafian to date.

This one should be all Sarafian. He’s gotten the Octagon jitters out of the way, and showed promise in his initial pairing with Dollaway. Mendez is a step back in competition from the former Ultimate Fighter finalist, and bolstered by the rabid, partisan crowd in Fortaleza, Sarafian should confidently dispatch his foe and collect his first UFC victory.

Prediction: Daniel Sarafian by Submission, Round 1.

Erick Silva (14-3) vs. Jason High (16-3)

Though not receiving a great deal of attention, this is a tremendous welterweight pairing that should entertain.

Silva is regarded as one of the top young fighters in the organization. His first three appearances in the UFC cage were all impressive, producing two wins and a disputed disqualification loss. Last time out, the 28-year-old Team Nogueira representative shared the cage with perennial contender Jon Fitch, and though he came out on the wrong side of the result, Silva dominated the second round, and showed he is worthy of the hype and praise that has carried him to this point in his career.

Given a one-fight audition with the UFC in March 2010, High came up short against Charlie Brenneman. He hasn’t lost since. Over his last seven fights, “The Kansas City Bandit” has collected wins over Jordan Mein, Hayato “Mach” Sakurai, and Quinn Mulhern, and used his strong wrestling game to control opponents on the canvas and stack up wins.

Losing to Fitch doesn’t change the fact that Silva has top-tier potential; it simply shows he wasn’t quite ready to take the next step last October. He’s far more dynamic and explosive than High, and if he’s able to turn aside a few takedown attempts early, Silva will find the opening he needs to let go with his strikes, and collect the stoppage win.

Prediction: Erick Silva by Technical Knockout, Round 2.

Rony Jason (12-3) vs. Mike Wilkinson (8-0)

The winner of TUF: Brazil Season One’s lightweight competition, Jason continues to face reality competition contemporaries, stepping in Saturday with The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes contestant Wilkinson in the main card opener.

Wilkinson is somewhat fortunate to still be undefeated at this point of his career, having earned a questionable split decision victory over Brendan Loughnane in his UFC debut back in December. Though he was the aggressor throughout, “The Warrior” missed more often than he connected, but earned the nod from two of the three ringside officials.

He won’t be as fortunate if he repeats that performance this time around.

Jason squeaked by Godofredo Pepey to win the lightweight competition back at UFC 147, with his tearful entrance standing out as the most memorable moment of that contest. He showed his true form in his sophomore effort last October, stopping TUF 15 cast member Sam Sicilia in the second round, marking the 11th time he’d finished a foe inside of the distance.

Expect more of the same from the popular Brazilian here. He’s far more fluid and powerful in the stand-up department than Wilkinson, and will look to find his range and timing early, before connecting with a counter, dropping the Brit, and pounding out the finish.

Prediction: Rony Jason by Technical Knockout, Round 1.

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