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.