UFC On FUEL 10: Main Card forecasts

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.