UFC Rio: Preview & Predictions

"The Footercut"

Our look at tomorrow’s event in Rio

Like most cards outside of the United States, this event has an undercard heavy on local talent. Much like every Canadian event being full of fighters who say “aboot,” just one bout at UFC 134 is free from Brazilian representation.

I really do hope people don’t let that fact stop them from watching the prelims on Facebook. There are some promising talents hidden there.

Erick Silva (12-1) vs. Luis Ramos (19-6)

A Team Nogueira product originally scheduled to face Mike Swick, Silva is the first of the relative unknowns worth watching on this card. He brings a nine-fight unbeaten streak into the cage, though not having fought since last October is a bit concerning.

Like Silva, Ramos looks like an intriguing talent as well. It’s hard to get a gauge on his talents, however, because — again, like his opponent — he’s competed almost exclusively in Brazil against his countrymen.

We could be in for a decision to start the night: 16 of Ramos’ 25 fights have gone the distance, while Silva has seen the scorecards in four of his 14 contests.

Yves Jabouin

Yves Jabouin (14-7) vs. Ian Loveland (14-8)

It’s the only bout on the schedule that doesn’t involve a Brazilian, and I have high hopes for this fight.

Jabouin has found little success thus far while under contract with Zuffa, going 1-3 as a featherweight. But he faced some tough competition — Raphael Assuncao, Mark Hominick, Pablo Garza — and remained competitive with the first two.

Loveland scored a unanimous decision win in his UFC debut back in December 2010 over Tyler Toner. He was then thrown to the wolves at UFC 128 against Jospeh Benavidez.

Though he lost, Loveland put up more of a fight than many expected against Benavidez and should be able to gain confidence from that performance.

Raphael Assuncao (20-4) vs. Johnny Eduardo (25-8)

There was a time not too long ago when Assuncao was considered one of the top 10 featherweight fighters in the world. Then he got asked to welcome Urijah Faber back to the cage after his second loss to Mike Brown. It’s been down hill ever since.

Assuncao has lost three-of-four and needs a return to form here. At his best, he mixes his hands well with a strong grappling game, but he’s struggled against quicker opponents.

A member of the Black House team, Eduardo makes his UFC debut riding an 11-fight winning streak. I can’t tell you how much stock to put into that, but I think it’s safe to assume that he’s a crafty veteran with a good ground game who could certainly give Assuncao trouble.

Yuri Alcantara (25-3) vs. Felipe Arantes (13-4)

Arantes is the third man to be penciled in opposite Alcantara for this event. His last fight against TUF alum Andy Main ended in a no contest; Arantes caught Main with an illegal knee.

Previous to that, however, he had rattled off seven consecutive victories. He’s intriguing, but this fight is really all about Alcantara.

Like Johnny Eduardo, Alcantara brings an 11-fight winning streak into the cage, including a dominant performance against Ricardo Lamas at WEC 53. He’s 18-2 over his last 20 fights and has shown an equal fondness for submissions and knockouts over his career.

Paulo Thiago (12-3) vs. David Mitchell (11-1)

Remember when Paulo Thiago was a top 10 welterweight in the UFC?

After brushing onto the scene by going 3-1 in his first four fights, Thiago has since lost back-to-back fights and seemingly evaporated from memory. He looked good for the first six minutes of his fight with Diego Sanchez at UFC 121, then had no answers the rest of the way. There is no question that this is a must-win fight for him.

Mitchell had his unbeaten run ended in his UFC debut by TJ Waldburger. No disrespect to the man whose sister stood up at the Ultimate Fight Night 24 Q&A with Carlos Condit to ask Joe Rogan his thoughts on her brother, but you can’t like a guy’s chances against top 25 welterweight when he can’t beat TJ Waldburger.

Spencer Fisher

Rousimar Palhares (12-3) vs. Dan Miller (13-5)

This is a better fight that people are giving it credit for being.

Palhares is a nasty submission fighter whose only losses in the UFC have come to Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt. Miller has a similar track record in the Octagon, losing to top 10 middleweights and consistently beating guys in the middle tier and below.

The winner of this becomes the permanent gatekeeper to the middle tier of the 185 pound division.

Thiago Tavares (15-4-1) vs. Spencer Fisher (24-7)

Last time we saw Tavares, he was crashing to the canvas like a freshly felled tree courtesy of a Shane Roller right hand. Up until that point, the compact Brazilian lightweight was in control, hurting Roller in the first and showing improved striking.

Fisher is probably looking at a “win or you’re out” situation in this one, having lost three of his last four fight.

Luiz Cane (11-3) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (11-0)

Will the real Luiz Cane please stand up?

After impressive wins over Jason Lambert, Sokoudjou and Steve Cantwell, Cane was considered a fringe top 10 light heavy and thrown into the deep end against Rogerio Nogueira in his UFC debut. He followed up the loss to “Little Nog” with an equally poor showing against Cyrille Diabete, but just when you thought he was a completely lost cause, “Banha” came back with a first round shellacking of Eliot Marshall at UFC 128.

His Bulgarian opponent has been waiting to make his UFC debut for over a year. Bouts at UFC 117 and UFC 120 fell through, which has kept Nedkov out of action since May 2010. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, the 29-year-old holds wins over veterans Travis Wiuff and Kevin Randleman, but those came long after either man was remotely relevant, so it’s hard to know what to expect here.

Ross Pearson (12-4) vs. Edson Barboza (8-0)

The first bout featured in our new pre-event feature The Face-Off, this lightweight battle should prove to be entertaining.

Pearson has had solid results since winning Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter. Though he’s 3-1 with quality wins over Aaron Riley, Dennis Siver, and Spencer Fisher, he struggled against Cole Miller’s length and faces the same obstacle here with Barboza. While getting choked out isn’t a huge concern, getting his legs kicked off is a very real possibility.

Since debuting in the UFC last November, Barboza has looked impressive. That night, he eventually took Mike Lullo’s legs out from under him, then followed it up by pairing with Anthony Njokuani for a Fight of the Night winner at UFC 128. While that decision could be argued either way, his potential is indisputable.

Everything hinges on how well Pearson can close the distance and keep this one in the trenches.

Brendan Schaub (8-1) vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6)

I honestly have an icky feeling abut this fight.

The explosive and improving Schaub has looked good since emerging from The Ultimate Fighter, racking up four consecutive victories against increasingly more experienced and dangerous competition. He has serious power in his hands and stands as one of the top young talents in the heavyweight ranks.

Mauricio Shogun Rua

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (photo by Josh Hedges/UFC.com)

That last sentence is what gives me the queasy feeling in my guts; he’s got the right combination of traits to flatten Nogueira, and I’m not interested in seeing the venerable old war horse take that kind of punishment again.

The former Pride heavyweight champion could make me look utterly stupid for saying that, but let’s look at the facts. He hasn’t fought since getting similarly flattened by Cain Velasquez in February 2010 and has been battling numerous injuries since then. Does that sound like the kind of lead-in you want to fighting someone like Schaub?

Mauricio Rua (19-5) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-6)

Can Griffin pull off the upset again?

This is the first fight back for Rua after losing the light heavyweight title to Jon Jones in March, and you can bet he’s looking to make a statement. On paper and on video, he’s at a different level than Griffin, but that was the case the first time around too and we all remember how that went.

Griffin is a scrappy cuss who you can never count out of a fight. Lest we forget, he’s won two straight and looked solid shaking off the rust against Rich Franklin back in February. Plus he’s already beaten Rua, so what’s to stop him from doing it again?

Anderson Silva (30-4) vs. Yushin Okami (26-5)

I wish I could deliver one of those “the rematch that was five years in the making is finally here” pitches in my best movie trailer voice-over guy voices, but I’m not that excited about this fight.  I haven’t been counting down the days until Silva and Okami meet again.

Now, that being said, if Okami has learned anything from his time training with Chael Sonnen, we could be in for an interesting contest. Okami is deceptively strong and has very good grappling of his own. Depending on what he’s picked up working with “The Gangster from Oregon,” he could potentially have a blueprint for beating Silva on the ground.

But if the champ keeps it standing…

It’s time for me to be completely honest with you: Anderson Silva is the best fighter in the history of this sport. There, I said it, and yes, I do feel better.

I’d throw a little asterisk in there with the words “as of right now” next to it because I think there are some cats out there who could one day pass him.

The facts are beyond impressive: 14-fight winning streak, 13-0 in the UFC, eight consecutive title defenses, and a couple of wins at light heavyweight thrown in for good measure.

Silva needs to change his nickname from “The Spider” to “The G.O.A.T” if you ask me.