By: William Holmes
The UFC comes back to Brazil after thirteen years with a card packed with….you guessed it, Brazilian fighters. Brazil has long been considered a hotbed of MMA talent, and if the UFC is serious about expanding their reach into the international market, it’s of the upmost importance for them to put on live shows in Brazil. The following is a preview of Saturday’s card.
Luiz Cane (11-3) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (11-0); Light Heavyweight
This matchup features UFC veteran Luiz Cane against UFC rookie Stanislav Nedkov. Luiz Cane shows flashes of brilliance when he fights, but is 4-3 in his UFC career. He lost his last fight against Eliot Marshall after a 10 month layoff. Nine of Cane’s victories have come by KO or TKO, and he has yet to be tested on the ground. Nedkov is an undefeated fighter whose biggest fight to date was against an aging and over the hill Kevin Randleman, a fight in which he won by split decision. Nedkov is a world class wrestler from Bulgaria, and his best bet is to take the fight to the ground to ground and pound Luiz Cane. Some fighters with an undefeated record are not as good as their record suggests, and Nedkov is likely such a fighter. Luiz Cane should win this fight by 1st or 2nd round KO.
Ross Pearson (12-4) vs. Edson Barboza (8-0); Lightweight
This fight is one of the most interesting matchups of the night, and will probably be the most competitive. Ross Pearson, a former Ultimate Fighter winner, is one of the few bright stars from England that is currently competing in the UFC. Edson Barboza worked his way up the regional circuit in the United States before making his debut in the UFC. Pearson is 4-1 in the UFC, including impressive victories over Dennis Siver and Spencer Fisher. Barboza showed an impressive striking display in his last fight against Anthony Njokuani, and is a fighter that many consider to have the potential to be a championship fighter. Both Perason and Barboza like to stand and bang, this is a possible fight of the night candidate. Don’t be surprised if Barboza pulls off a close decision victory.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6-1) vs. Brendan Schaub (8-1); Heavyweight
This is a make or break fight for both fighters. Nogueira has not fought in over a year since being viciously knocked out by current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, and needs to prove to his bosses that the wear and tear of the fight game has not rendered him incapable of competing at the highest level of mixed martial arts. Schaub is a fighter who’s trying to crack into the top 10 of the heavyweight division, and after defeating Mirko Cro Cop, adding another legend to his victory column will help his case. Every single one of Schaub’s victories have come by KO or TKO, and Nogueira’s formerly legendary iron chin has shown signs of cracking as two of his last three fights have been losses by KO or TKO. However, Nogueira is a legend in this sport, and he’ll likely have that extra motivation to pull off a victory in front of his fellow Brazilians. Nogueira has pulled out a victory from the clutches of defeat before, and Shaub has yet to be tested against a world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, so anticipate Nogueira to pull off a submission victory.
Mauricio Rua (19-5) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-6); Light Heavyweight
Who doesn’t love a rematch of a classic battle? Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Forrest Griffin rematch from their classic battle at UFC 76 in 2007 which saw Griffin batter Shogun for three rounds before getting the submission victory. After their first matchup Shogun had knee surgery to repair damaged ligaments and was able to briefly hold the light heavyweight title. Griffin won the title from Quinton Jackson only to later lose it to Rashad Evans. At the time of their first matchup, Griffin’s victory was considered a huge upset. If Shogun’s stamina and conditioning is at its peak, he should perform much better this go around, as he will need it since Forrest is not known to tire easily. Since their first fight, both Shogun and Griffin have gone 3-2. This is a tough fight to call, as both match up equally in their standup and ground game. However, Griffin’s victory over Shogun the first time was so dominating it may be tough for Shogun to psychologically recover from the first fight. Griffin should defeat Shogun again, but not as dominating as the first time they fought.
Anderson Silva (30-4) vs. Yushin Okami (26-5); Middleweight
The last time Anderson Silva tasted defeat was a disqualification loss to Yushin Okami in 2006 based on an illegal upkick. Anderson Silva’s last real defeat was to Ryo Chonan in 2004 by an out of the blue flying heel hook. Since then, Anderson Silva has been absolutely devastating and has gone 13-0 in the UFC. Okami has worked hard to get this title shot, and since losing a decision to Chael Sonnen he has gone 3-0 with victories over Nate Marquardt and Mark Munoz. Yushin Okami is 10-2 in the UFC, and should be considered a very live underdog in this fight. Styles make fights, and Chael Sonnen exposed possible holes in Anderson Silva’s game when they fought. If Silva has a weakness, and that’s a big if, it’s to strong wrestling takedowns and solid ground and pound. Okami has strong wrestling, and since Sonnen has been helping Okami train, his wrestling ground and pound should only have improved. However, it is hard to choose against a fighter who has gone 13-0 in the UFC, and is widely considered the best pound for pound fighter in the sport. Silva should win this fight by KO or TKO, but if he loses, Okami should credit Sonnen for exposing his weaknesses.