UFC on FX 7: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

John Heinis@HeinisHardNewsSenior Analyst IJanuary 17, 2013

UFC on FX 7: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    UFC on FX 7 takes place at the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil and features a high-profile middleweight tilt between Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping

    UFC president Dana White has announced that with a win, Bisping will get his long-awaited shot at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva—but Belfort clearly has other plans. 

    Kicking off the main card, Thiago Tavares takes on Khabib Nurmagomedov in a lightweight clash, followed by a heavyweight matchup between Gabriel Gonzaga and Ben Rothwell. 

    The co-main event of the evening features submission specialist Daniel Sarafian facing off against decorated wrestler C.B. Dollaway. 

    Take a look inside to see who will have their hands raised in this FX installment.  

Thiago Tavares vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

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    John Heinis: Nurmagomedov is a perfect 18-0, though he was undeniably gifted a decision against Gleison Tibau in his last outing at UFC 148 in July.

    Having said that, the Russian has a much more well-rounded game than Tavares, whose only path to victory in this fight is via submission.

    Nurmagomedov, unanimous decision 

    Sean Smith: I find the skill sets of these two fighters very similar. However, Nurmagomedov is younger, looks hungrier and is more technical on his feet than Tavares.

    Nurmagomedov, unanimous decision

    Kyle Symes: Nurmagomedov has been getting some time in at AKA, and I think we will see a more dynamic striker this time around than we saw when he faced Gleison Tibau.

    Tavares will be feeding off the crowd's energy, but it won't be enough.

    Nurmagomedov, TKO, Rd. 1

    Scott Harris: Tavares can't seem to break out of that Sam Stout/Spencer Fisher type of zone. He'll be tough in front of his home crowd, but Nurmagomedov, I think, will simply overpower him.

    Nurmagomedov, unanimous decision

    McKinley Noble: Although I'm highly suspicious of Nurmagomedov's ridiculously long undefeated streak, a perfect 18-0 record doesn't happen by accident against some of the guys that he's fought.

    Tavares is a game opponent, but his inconsistency doesn't give me a lot of confidence that he'll put together a finishing sequence here.

    Nurmagomedov justifies himself by looking more impressive than he did against Gleison Tibau.

    Nurmagomedov, unanimous decision

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell

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    John Heinis: I can see Gonzaga pulling off a submission here, but given the markedly different results these two had when they faced Brendan Schaub, I have to go with Rothwell. 

    Rothwell, KO, Rd. 2

    Sean Smith: Rothwell just knocked out the dude who sent Gonzaga into a temporary retirement. This is a much different stylistic matchup than Rothwell's fight with Brendan Schaub, but the outcome of that bout gives a good indication of the better fighter here.

    Rothwell, unanimous decision

    Kyle Symes: Rothwell looked great in his last bout in terms of his fighting and his physique. He seems to be more focused on his MMA career and will need it against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in Gonzaga.

    Rothwell takes this easily if it stays on the feet, but I'm not sure he is ready for the ground game of someone like Gonzaga.

    Gonzaga, submission, Rd. 2

    Scott Harris: Ben Rothwell and Gabriel Gonzaga both fighting, and doing so on the same card? Must be a leap year.

    I want to pick Rothwell, but every time I picture him up in that thin Colorado atmosphere, huffing and puffing like a defensive lineman who just returned a fumble to the 1-yard line, I just can't do it. 

    Gonzaga, unanimous decision

    McKinley Noble: Rothwell is possibly one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC, and his physical transformation is just one tool that's going to see Gonzaga get outworked here.

    Hopefully, one of them goes for the finish. If that happens, I'll put more faith in Rothwell's chin over Gonzaga's.

    Rothwell, TKO, Rd. 2

Daniel Sarafian vs. C.B. Dollaway

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    John Heinis: Dollaway generally fares pretty well against grapplers who are lacking in the wrestling department, but he just hasn't looked good lately, even having a couple scares in a win over Jason "Mayhem" Miller. 

    I just have a gut feeling Sarafian pulls this one out. 

    Sarafian, submission, Rd. 2 

    Sean Smith: The Brazilian looked promising on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, but fighting UFC veterans will be a whole different animal for Sarafian. Dollaway wrestles his way to a win, and Sarafian chalks this up to a learning experience.

    Dollaway, unanimous decision

    Kyle Symes: Sarafian looked good while competing on TUF: Brazil, and while C.B. Dollaway hasn't been able to do much in his UFC career, he represents a big step up in competition for the Brazilian. Dollaway uses his wrestling game to grind out a decision victory.

    Dollaway, unanimous decision

    Scott Harris: It's a case of delayed gratification for Sarafian. Before an injury kept him out of the TUF: Brazil finale, he certainly seemed UFC ready. Now he gets his chance, and the hometown crowd should carry him to an upset win.

    Sarafian, TKO, Rd. 1

    McKinley Noble: Both Sarafian and Dollaway have some good submission skills, but the key thing here is whether Dollaway's wrestling will smother the young prospect.

    Given that Sarafian doesn't finish fights on the feet a lot, I can see Dollaway trying to smother him for three rounds. I guess I'll flip a coin.

    Dollaway, unanimous decision

Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping

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    John Heinis: I'm surprised more people aren't talking about the fact that Bisping has been in this situation twice before (against Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen) and lost both times. 

    However, I honestly believe that Belfort has to score a knockout in the first minute or his goose is cooked. The third time will be the charm for "The Count" as he wrestles and point fights to a decision. 

    Bisping, unanimous decision 

    Sean Smith: Bisping's chin may be more solid than advertised, but Belfort moves much faster than Dan Henderson and hits almost as hard. It's back to the drawing board for the Englishman.

    Belfort, KO, Rd. 2

    Kyle Symes: Bisping lets his opponents hang around far longer than they should when he's winning. Hopefully, he's worked on being able to finish guys when he has them rocked, but I don't think it matters here.

    Although Belfort is getting up there in age, he'll be able to land a one-punch KO to take the win.

    Belfort, KO, Rd. 2

    Scott Harris: Bisping will need to play matador to Belfort's bull when it comes to takedowns and close-range standup exchanges.

    Luckily, Bisping holds a black belt in matador. I feel slightly lemmingish making this prediction, but the planets seem aligned for Bisping.

    Bisping, split decision

    McKinley Noble: Nothing on this card would make me happier than seeing Bisping win. Unfortunately, he always seems to come up short when a title shot is within reach.

    He could make things tricky for Belfort, but "The Count" is both out-muscled (possibly due to TRT) and out-gunned in this fight.

    Belfort, KO, Rd. 2