By Jaime C. Feal
Tomorrow night in Brazil, two former middleweight champions face off in a rematch from their “fight of the night” clash at UFC 99 in Germany. Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, the former PRIDE middleweight champion, takes on former UFC middleweight champ Rich “Ace” Franklin. Also on the main card are the finales for TUF Brazil, which was an incredible season. The production, music, talent, quality of fights, and the coaching rivalry was all top notch.
In fact, the tried and true method of a taped show used for TUF Brazil was so vastly superior to the “TUF Live” experiment seen on FX that Zuffa has decided to scrap the TUF live concept all together. All future Ultimate Fighter seasons will be taped and produced in the usual format. The first TUF finale tomorrow night is the featherweight finale between Rony “Jason” Mariano and Godfredo Pepey. The TUF middleweight finale is Vitor Belfort’s protégé Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira taking on Sergio “Serginho” Moraes. Serginho lost in the semi-finals to Daniel Sarafian, but due to an injury suffered by Sarafian training for the fight, Moraes now gets the unexpected shot in the finale.
TUF Brazil Featherweight Finale (145 lbs.):
Rony “Jason” Mariano (10-3) vs. Godofredo “Pepey” de Oliveira (8-0)
Those who made the extra effort to watch TUF Brazil were treated to some phenomenal talent coming out of the show. Rony “Jason” Mariano is already an upper echelon featherweight, ready for prime time. He has torn through tough competition on the show with an impressive knockout, submission, and a decision victory where he toyed with his opponent.. Rony wears the “Jason” hockey mask during his pre-fight walk outs, and it’s often a horror show once he gets in the cage. Jason has sick jiu-jitsu, a black belt from Team Nogueira. His stand up is crisp and aggressive, as he stalks his opponent looking for the finish. At 27 years old, Rony is in his fighting prime, and has “Pepey” completely outgunned.
Pepey is a jiu-jitsu fighter, using his athleticism and tall frame to look for takedowns. He is relatively young and inexperienced at 24, and his jiu-jitsu is at best equal to Jason’s. While it may be somewhat close on the ground, it’s not even fair standing. Pepey was very pedestrian with his striking on the show, often looking lost and getting tagged consistently. While anything can happen in MMA, Jason appears to be in line to be the next TUF Featherweight champion.
Prediction: Rony Jason wins by TKO, Round 1.
TUF Brazil Middleweight Finale (185 lbs.):
Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira (4-2) vs. Sergio “Serginho” Moraes (6-1)
Cezar Mutante has shown well-rounded skills on this season of TUF Brazil. Mutante scored two submission victories, both in the second round, en route to a semi-final bout with Thiago Bodao. It only took Mutante about one minute to knock Bodao senseless with a left head kick, and he earned the knockout of the season in doing so. Mutante is trained by Vitor Belfort, is in excellent condition, and seems comfortable wherever the fight goes. Mutante is neither overly aggressive nor cautious, and appears to be a smart and talented fighter who is both capable of recognizing opening and seizing them.
His opponent, Sergio Moraes, is an absolute prodigy on the ground. He is a four-time BJJ World Champion, and if he gets the fight to the mat its big time danger for his opponent. The question is whether “Serginho” has anything to offer Mutante on the feet. Mutante is a tremendous athlete, much bigger and stronger than Serginho, with good takedown defense. Mutante comes form a capoeira backround and has phenomenal kicks, and a powerful straight left from the southpaw stance to boot. Moraes got knocked out cold by a flying knee when he tried to stand with Daniel Sarafian, and he would be much wiser to immediately look to take Mutante down. Serginho may even want to pull guard because he is so skilled on the ground. Mutante knows Serginho’s only chance is on the mat, however, and Mutante will do everything he can to keep the distance and pick his opponent apart.
Prediction: Cezar Mutante wins by KO, Round 2.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva (28-6) vs. Rich “Ace” Franklin (34-11-1)
What was supposed to be a grudge match between rival coaches from TUF Brazil has now turned into this main event, as Rich Franklin steps in to replace the injured Vitor Belfort. The good news is this is also a rematch where Wanderlei Silva gets a chance to avenge one of his losses in his native country. At UFC 99 in Germany, Franklin took a decision over Silva by winning two of the three rounds. Franklin was clipped, hurt, and wobbly at one point in the fight. Otherwise he used the distance and his reach advantage well to score points and keep Silva at bay.
Tomorrow night, one can expect Silva to come out much more aggressive. He will be looking for one of his patented 1st round knockouts in an attempt to please his Brazilian fans. This is the first time in well over a decade Silva has fought in Brazil. He will be completely amped up and looking for a finish.
Franklin, a former mathematics teacher, uses a very cerebral approach to MMA, and will maintain his cool under pressure early. With all main events now being five-round fights, Franklin will be in it for the long haul, looking to weather Silva’s early storms. If “The Axe Murderer” gets inside with his ferocious hooks and knees it could be a short night for Franklin, reminiscent of what happened to him twice in title fights against Anderson Silva. Otherwise one can expect a methodical Franklin to exploit his natural advantages and take a hard-earned decision victory. Either way, expect a fiercely contested battle between two hall of fame mixed martial artists.
Prediction: Rich “Ace” Franklin wins by Unanimous Decision.