UFC on Fuel Preview: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum
By Jaime C. Feal
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 2 Finale concludes tomorrow night on FUEL TV. A season that has been unheralded, and one where most viewers in the United States haven’t watched, finalists Leonardo Santos and William Macario have a chance to make a name for themselves in becoming the latest welterweight TUF Winner. Also on the card is TUF Brazil Season 1 winner Rony Jason, who is still being brought along very slowly and faces a soft matchup where Vegas has instilled Jason as a 5:1 favorite against TUF: Smashes competitor Mike Wilkinson. The man who originally was set to compete against Rony Jason for the TUF Brazil Season 1 title, Daniel Sarafian, had to pull out with an injury back then. Now he returns to Brazil to fight UFC newcomer Eddie Mendez. Sarafian is being given what Vegas considers an easy fight, as he is a 4.5:1 favorite to beat Mendez tomorrow night.
Welterweight Division (170 lbs.):
Erick “Indio” Silva (14-3, 2-2 UFC) vs. Jason “The Kansas City Bandit” High (16-3, 0-1 UFC)
Erick Silva, once considered a major prospect in the UFC welterweight division, had his march towards a title shot seriously derailed when he got manhandled by Jon Fitch in his most recent fight. Silva looks to get back on track against Jason High, a striker vs. striker matchup.
Expect the two combatants to use their considerable Muay Thai striking experience to bang with each other and look for the knockout. Both fighters are extremely fast, and athletic, but Silva’s technique is more pure, and he has more power in his strikes. Where Silva holds a vast edge is on the ground, as he is a legit black belt in jiu jitsu. The fight is unlikely to take place there, however, as Silva does not shoot for takedowns. A Silva submission is a possibility if he drops his opponents with strikes, but the more likely scenario is a systematic breakdown on the feet before the finishing blows are landed.
Prediction: Erick Silva wins by TKO, Round 2.
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):
Thiago Silva (14-3, 5-3 UFC) vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (11-3, 0-0 UFC)
UFC veteran Thiago Silva collides with fellow Brazilian striker Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, in a fight that is sure to delight the hometown Brazilian fans. Silva is a relentless aggressor, always coming forward looking for a knockout. Silva will eat punches to trade punches, a crowd-pleading style that will keep him around for years to come.
Standing in Silva’s way is former Strikeforce champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante. Just like Silva, Feijao is an accomplished Muay Thai striker with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In another matchup tailor-made for the fans, however, both Feijao and Silva prefer to keep the fight standing and strike. There is plenty of aggression and firepower in this matchup, but Silva’s over-aggression will prove to be his mistake. Feijao will counter strike and score points, and although he will not be able to finish the durable Silva, expect him to walk away the victor Saturday night.
Prediction: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante wins by unanimous decision.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogeuira (34-7-1, 5-3 UFC) vs. Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (16-5-1, 4-2 UFC)
The main event of the evening is a rematch of a Pride fight from many years ago, which Nogeuira won via decision. In tomorrow night’s match, it will be the coaches’ fight of TUF Brazil Season 2, and a chance for Werdum to showcase how far he’s come. Werdum, currently ranked the #3 Heavyweight by the UFC, has vastly improved his striking over the past several years. Werdum now possesses a wicked Muay Thai striking game, one that he used to punish Roy Nelson en route to a unanimous decision, and a skillset he used to smash Mike Russow inside of one round.
On the ground, both men are highly talent black belts, two of the most elite BJJ artists in the world, MMA or not. Remember, Werdum is the man to submit Fedor Emelianenko, and Nogueira has a highlight reel of submission victories over excellent opposition. The fight, if it does hit the mat, figures to be a stalemate as both men’s jiu jitsu cancels out. The fight will therefore be contested on the feet, and while Nogueira has always had great boxing, his striking hasn’t diversified, and he is not getting any younger. Werdum should be able to use his height, reach, and diversity in striking in order to get his hand raised at the end of the night.
Prediction: Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum wins by split decision.