By Jaime C. Feal
The UFC makes a second trip to Brazil in short order after not holding an event in the country for over thirteen years. At UFC 142: Rio, live on Pay-Per-View this Saturday Night, Jose Aldo will defend his featherweight title against undefeated Team Alpha Male representative Chad Mendes. In the co-main event, an exciting Middleweight bout is scheduled between renowned strikers Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
Welterweight Division (170 lbs.):
Erick “Indio” Silva (13-1, 1-0 UFC) vs. Carlo “Neo” Prater (29-10-1, 0-0 UFC)
Fight fans may recognize Carlo Prater’s name as he once challenged for the WEC 170 pound title. The 30 year old Brazilian faces his countryman and one of Brazil’s hottest prospects in Erick Silva. The last time Silva lost was over five years ago, and he subsequently tore through Jungle Fights; Brazil’s best MMA promotion. In his UFC debut, he demolished Luis Ramos in 40 seconds with lightning quick precision striking. Prater is simply too old and lacks the skill-set to hang with that type of talent on the feet. While they are both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts, Prater has more experience and his only chance to realistically win the fight is on the ground. However, his movement is too plodding and slow for him to secure a takedown, and Silva will dazzle on the feet en route to a dominant performance.
Prediction: Erick Silva wins by KO, Round 1.
Lightweight Division (155 lbs.):
Edson Barboza (9-0, 3-0 UFC) vs. Terry Etim (15-3, 6-3 UFC)
In what will be a theme all night, at least one Brazilian will partake in a fight in front of his home country. This time, undefeated Brazilian banger Edson Barboza squares off against Englishman Terry Etim. Barboza owns some of the most pinpoint and lethal leg kicks in the division, and for once Etim won’t have a reach advantage over his opponent. Without being able to control the distance, Etim figures to be picked apart by the superior standup of Barboza. Etim has extremely long limbs which aid him in his submission game; 12 of his 15 wins have come by way of submission. That said, unless he locks in a standing guillotine or flying armbar, he’s going to have to be on the ground to submit Edson Barboza. This will prove difficult, as Barboza has superior upper body strength, and better balance than Etim. Expect Barboza to come out and show his diverse and superior striking, en route to either a measured decision win or a calculated finish.
Prediction: Edson Barboza wins by TKO, Round 2.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares (13-3, 6-2 UFC) vs. Mike Massenzio (13-5, 2-3 UFC)
Palhares’ only two losses in the UFC are to Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson. “Toquinho” is on the verge of becoming a top ten middleweight, having faced elite competition and coming out with a stellar record. The BJJ black belt has vicious leg locks and improving stand up, which he flashed in his fight with Dan Miller as he dazed him badly with a head kick. Massenzio, a decorated wrestler, is somewhat of a journeyman in the UFC, having lost badly to C.B. Dollaway, Brian Stann, and Krzysztof Soszynski. With losses to mid-tier talent, Massenzio does not appear to have the skill to defeat Palhares. Furthermore, Massenzio really only has one dominant skill, which is his wrestling, and that will land him on the ground which is Palhares’ world. “Toquinho,” the physically imposing middleweight, has finished an astounding five fights by heel hook, and fight fans can expect the trend to continue.
Prediction: Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares wins by Submission (heel hook), Round 2.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (20-9, 9-5 UFC) vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (10-3, 7-3 UFC)
Anthony Johnson, who used to cut all the way down to 170 pounds to get his massive body eligible for welterweight, makes the move up to his more natural weight class of middleweight. He gets Vitor Belfort, a legitimate top 10 middleweight and legend of the sport. Belfort, who was knocked out by a highlight reel front-kick from champion Anderson Silva in February, got back on track when he knocked out Yoshihiro Akiyama in August. After the fight against Anthony Johnson, Belfort is set to coach opposite Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva for The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. In the instant contest, Anthony Johnson, a kickboxer, usually likes to stand and bang with his opponents. Belfort, who possesses some of the quickest and most powerful hands in the business, also loves to box and trade strikes. The X-factor in the fight is Johnson’s wrestling against Belfort’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If Johnson decides to take this fight to the ground, he has the ability to do so with his wrestling tools. Belfort doesn’t have the takedown defense to stop it. But “Rumble” Johnson also has notoriously weak submission defense, as he was submitted by Josh Koscheck, who is not at all known for his BJJ skills. Will Johnson’s corner allow him to approach the fight with a wrestling-based approach and risk being submitted? Or does Johnson feel as though his superior reach and more diverse striking will earn him the edge on the feet? This fight could go a number of different ways, but the safe play is to bet on Johnson controlling the distance, and scoring the occasional takedown with conservative top control to get the win. Alternatively, with the small gloves and power these two men have in their hands, someone could be getting knocked out.
Prediction: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson wins by unanimous decision.
UFC Featherweight Championship (145 lbs.):
Jose “Scarface” Aldo (20-1, 2-0 UFC) vs. Chad “Money” Mendes (11-0, 2-0 UFC)
On paper, Mendes poses one of the biggest threats to Aldo’s featherweight crown. Aldo has never faced a wrestler with the pedigree of Mendes before. When Aldo faced Urijah Faber, who has very good wrestling skills, he neutralized Faber with blinding speed in his striking and movement. That said, Faber was far too eager to prove he could hold his own on the feet with Aldo. Chad Mendes knows his ticket to success is his wrestling, and he will relentlessly be pushing for the takedown as long as this fight lasts. The undefeated Mendes is a decision victory machine, winning six of his last seven fights by decision.
In a five round title fight, with each round beginning standing up, one has to give a huge edge to Aldo. The thought of Mendes taking three of five rounds from Aldo, or ground and pounding him out for a finish, is difficult to fathom. “Scarface” has some of the sickest and most lethal striking in the game; by far the best in the featherweight division. On top of that, Aldo is a high level Nova Uniao black-belt in BJJ. He rarely shows these skills on the ground because he so often finds dominant success on the feet, but these ground skills may come in handy in the fight against Mendes. Expect Mendes to come out and try to clinch, muscle, and tire Aldo on the cage, as Kenny Florian tried to do. Aldo will come out looking for the finish as he always does, and when Mendes shoots in for the takedown he must be wary of Aldo’s razor sharp flying knees. Look for Aldo to time Mendes by Round 2 and catch him with something nasty, turning his lights out and emphatically solidifying his status as an MMA pound-for-pound great.
Prediction: Jose Aldo wins by KO, Round 2.