UFC Fight Night 32 Preview: Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson


By Jaime C. Feal

A busy November schedule for the UFC continues Saturday night with UFC Fight Night 32: Belfort vs. Henderson, live on Fox Sports 1 from Brazil. The main event is worthy of headlining a pay-per-view, as two MMA legends in Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort and Dan Henderson square off. The co-main event features Cezar Ferreira, a Vitor Belfort protégé and winner of TUF Brazil, taking on the man who was originally supposed to face him in the TUF finale but had to withdraw due to injury; Daniel Sarafian. The main card is very solid from top to bottom, and fight fans won’t want to miss this great opportunity to watch some great MMA for free.

Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):

Rafael “Feijao” Calvacante (11-4, 0-1 UFC) vs. Igor Pokrajac (25-10, 4-5 UFC)

Feijao, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, was impressive early in his Octagon debut against Thiago Silva, before gassing out and succumbing to strikes from his fellow Brazilian. At the weigh-ins on Friday, Calvacante looked cut and in great shape, and he is trying to prove the critics wrong who question his gas tank.

He will need all the cardio and endurance he can get as he faces the rugged and durable Igor Pokrajac. Just like Thiago Silva, Pokrajac will not go away early if Calvacante connects with some hard shots. Calvacante must either pace himself, or rely on his assumed new and improved cardio, to stay on top of Pokrajac with his striking. This match does not figure to go to the ground as both men absolutely love to stand and bang. Pokrajac favors a boxing-centered approach, focusing on punches, whereas Feijao has the more diversified Muay Thai striking arsenal utilizing kicks, knees, and elbows much more frequently. Look for this variety in striking, and improved cardio, to carry Feijao to his first statement win inside the Octagon.

Prediction: Rafael “Feijao” Calvacante wins by TKO, Round 2.

Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):

Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira (6-2, 2-0 UFC) vs. Daniel Sarafian (8-3, 1-1 UFC)

The original season of TUF Brazil, one of the best seasons in the Ultimate Fighter history, was won by Cezar Ferreira. In the finals, “Mutante” made short work of replacement Sergio Moraes, who got a chance to fight in the finale despite getting knocked unconscious by a flying knee from Daniel Sarafian in the semis. The finale was therefore supposed to be Ferreira versus Sarafian, but Sarafian had to withdraw due to an injury. A year and a half later, the true finale finally comes to fruition, matching two explosive Brazilian strikers in their home country.

Ferreira comes from a capoeira background, and throws crazy spinning kicks, as well as employing tons of movement and speed. Sarafian, on the other hand, likes to fight like a bulldog, staying compact, coming forward, and utilizing his Muay Thai skills. Sarafian really loads up on his shots and goes for power, whereas Mutante focuses on speed. The edge therefore has to go to Ferreira on the feet, as he is used to picking apart slower opponents. Ferreira is also a massive middleweight, one of the biggest in the division, meaning Sarafian’s power shouldn’t give him too many problems.

On the ground, both men have earned submission victories and are black belts in Brazilian Jiu0Jitsu. Sarafian has shown a propensity to finish with the rear-naked choke, and Mutante’s favorite submission is the guillotine choke. If the fight goes to the ground it will be fascinating to see who controls position, as we haven’t seen much of either man on the mat. Ferreira, a Vitor Belfort protégé, assumingly has better training partners, so his black belt could mean slightly more than Sarafian’s. Expect fireworks early in the first round, as the two men slug it out, before Mutante starts to establish the distance and control the pace in the later rounds to earn the decision victory.

Prediction: Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira wins by unanimous decision.

Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):

Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (23-10, 12-6 UFC) vs. Dan Henderson (29-10, 6-4 UFC)

Normally when you have two legends of MMA over the age of 35 fighting each other, it is merely for their pride, the bragging rights, and their legacy. While that may be the case for Henderson, who has looked progressively older and slower in recent years, that is definitely not the case for Belfort. The man they call “The Phenom” has been on a tear of late, winning 4 of his last 5 fights in the UFC, with the only loss to current light heavyweight champ Jon “Bones” Jones. What makes Belfort’s recent success even more impressive, of course, is the manner in which he’s dispatching foes: With lightning quick power and speed.

With Belfort turning in vintage performances and showing no signs of slowing down, he has positioned himself back into title contention ,whereas many had already written him off. Hendo now plays the spoiler in this fight, and will be looking to derail Belfort’s title hopes with his monstrous right hand. The punch nicknamed “The H-Bomb,” Dan Henderson has possibly the most powerful right hand in all of MMA. In addition, he has formidable Greco-Roman wrestling skills, having represented the U.S.A. in the Olympics in that discipline.

Unfortunately for Henderson fans, he has been getting injured more in recent years, and has looked slower and more plodding in his fights. His gameplan to load up on the right hand has become extremely predictable, and with Belfort holding the edge in speed and footwork, Henderson is facing an extremely tough matchup. While Henderson should have no problem keeping the fight standing and therefore avoiding the submission skills of his opponent, a black belt in BJJ, there is no guarantee that the fight goes well for Henderson on the feet, either. Expect Belfort to come out fast and aggressive, but unable to finish Henderson due to his legendary toughness and durability. In fact, Henderson has never been finished by strikes in his entire MMA career, and one shouldn’t expect that to change. Instead, Belfort picks Henderson apart methodically over the course of five rounds to earn the decision nod, and start the talk of Dan Henderson’s retirement from MMA.

Prediction: Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort wins by unanimous decision.

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