By Jaime C. Feal
Live tomorrow night from Brazil, UFC veteran Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort takes on former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold. This exciting matchup figures to vault one of the men into the top 5 of the middleweight rankings. Also on the card is the UFC debut of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, also a former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, and a lightweight clash between Rafael Dos Anjos and Evan Dunham. Catch all the action for free on FX starting at 9 PM EST, and the prelims beginning at 6pm EST on FUEL TV.
Lightweight Division (155 lbs.):
Rafael Dos Anjos (18-6, 7-4 UFC) vs. Evan Dunham (14-3, 7-3 UFC)
A lightweight matchup pitting two Brazilian jiu jitsu black belts against each other often means the ground game cancels out, much like when two wrestlers fight one another. This results in a stand up war, and while Dos Anjos has nasty leg kicks, he is at a serious disadvantage in height and reach. Dunham, if he uses his length properly, can control the distance, and jab Dos Anjos while remaining out of his kicking range. Dos Anjos’ best shot is to land a power punch on the feet.
If this fight does hit the mat, it figures to be highly technical. Both men actively look for submissions and can work off their back. Both men are excellent in scrambles and transition quickly from one move to the next. Both men have solid cardio, but Dunham fights at a more controlled pace, and it could serve him well in this fight. A thinking man’s fighter, Dunham should be able to implement a methodical gameplan and slowly outstrike Dos Anjos for the win.
Prediction: Evan Dunham wins by unanimous decision.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (17-3, 0-0 UFC) vs. Chris Camozzi (19-5, 6-2 UFC)
The first of two gigantic UFC debuts by former Strikeforce stars begins with Jacare Souza taking on UFC vet Chris Camozzi. Zuffa is breaking Souza in lightly with this matchup, giving Jacare a solid yet unspectacular opponent. Jacare is a subkission wizard, there are not many mixed martial artists with a better ground game than Souza. His anaconda choke is filthy, but he can submit you with anything, and once he gets your back it’s all over. Camozzi absolutely has to keep this fight standing if he wants to be competitive.
Camozzi has little to no ground game in terms of submission defense and jiu jitsu. A big middleweight who is extremely durable with a great chin, Camozzi could win this fight if he was just able to keep it standing. The problem is, Jacare knows this, and has good enough wrestling and takedowns to get the fight where he wants. Camozzi may able to resist for the first five minutes, but expect Souza to quickly capitalize on a submission opportunity once the fight hits the mat. Jacare impresses in his UFC debut, in part by getting spoon-fed an opponent with a skillset that is tailor-made for Jacare to eat alive.
Prediction: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza wins by submission, Round 2.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (22-10, 11-6 UFC) vs. Luke Rockhold (10-1, 0-0 UFC)
Belfort refuses to go the way of an irrelevant and old fighter as he continues to stay towards the top of the rankings after his impressive knockout win over Michael Bisping. “The Phenom” proved he still has that one-strike KO power and timing, and his speed is still towards the upper echelon of the middleweight division. Belfort’s biggest weakness, however, is Luke Rockhold’s greatest strength: Cardio and Endurance. Belfort, a notoriously fast starter, will likely be looking to smash Rockhold inside the first round.
Also helping out Belfort is the home-turf advantage, as the fight will be in front of a raucous Brazilian crowd. This further adds to the drama of the first round, as Belfort usually comes out guns blazing, and the crowd will be amped up expecting a great show.
Should Rockhold be able to escape the blitz in the opening frame, the fight really figures to open up for him. Rockhold is younger and fresher, and seems to get stronger as his fights go on. Rockhold has the superior wrestling, with the edge in striking going to Belfort. Rockhold needs to turn this into a grind-fest, taking Belfort down and wearing him out. “The Phenom,” conversely, will want to keep the fight upright so he may land his heavy power shots and end the fight quickly. Rockhold is a better all-around athlete than Vitor, and is coming into his prime as a mixed martial artist. This could be the first fight where we see Belfort’s old age start to show.
Prediction: Luke Rockhold wins by unanimous decision.