Many of Brazil's finest fighters will be in action when the UFC returns to Brazil on Saturday. Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil, will be rocking as the legendary Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort headlines a Brazil-centric card for UFC on FX 8.
The 36-year-old veteran will serve as Luke Rockhold's welcome wagon to the UFC.
Rockhold is 10-1, but he had a 9-0 run in Strikeforce. He comes to the UFC with a good measure of hype, but facing The Phenom in Brazil is no small task.
Will this be the event that launches a successful UFC run for Rockhold and sends Belfort's career possibly to an end; or will The Phenom prove yet again that he isn't done?
Here's how you can watch.
Date: May 18, 2013
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Where: Arena Jaragua, Jaragua do Sul, Brazil
TV: FX; FUEL TV and Facebook prelims
Predictions with asterisks (*) have deeper analysis beneath
|Matchup||Weight Class||Network||My Pick|
|Jeremy Larsen vs. Lucas Martins||Lightweight||Martins|
|Chris Cariaso vs. Jussier ‘Formiga’ da Silva||Flyweight||Cariaso|
|Azamat Gashimov vs. John Lineker||Flyweight||Lineker|
|Roger Hollett vs. Fabio Maldonado||Light Heavyweight||FUEL||Hollett|
|Yuri Alcantara vs. Iliarde Santos ||Bantamweight||FUEL||Alcantara|
|Paulo Thiago vs. Michel Richard dos Prazeres ||Welterweight||FUEL||Thiago|
Gleison Tibau vs. John Cholish ||Lightweight||FUEL||Tibau|
|Francisco Trinaldo vs. Mike "The Wolverine" Rio||Lightweight||FUEL||Rio*|
|Hacran Dias vs. Nik Lentz||Featherweight||FUEL||Dias|
|Rafael "Sapo" Natal vs. Joao Zeferino||Middleweight||FX||Natal*|
|Rafael dos Anjos vs. Evan Dunham||Lightweight||FX||Dunham*|
|Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza vs. Chris Camozzi ||Middleweight||FX||Souza*|
|Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold||Middleweight||FX||Rockhold*|
The Wolverine Will Prove Too Much for Trinaldo
Rio is not just one of the more interesting personalities in the UFC; he's also a well-rounded fighter.
He'll be facing a raucous Brazilian crowd who will be firmly in the corner of his opponent Francisco Trinaldo, but Rio's size and versatility will win out.
Although Rio is a very good striker, his submission win over John Cofer in his UFC debut showed he could handle himself on the ground as well. He isn't going to out-grapple Trinaldo, but his length and power will stifle the Brazilian in the stand-up game.
If the fight does go to the mat, Rio can hold his own. Look for The Wolverine to come away with a unanimous decision victory.
Natal's Athleticism Will Give Him the Edge Over Zeferino
Both of these men are excellent submission artists; which could turn this into a stand-up battle. Staying on the ground could continually end in a cat game, so this is an opportunity for both to prove their mettle as strikers.
If that happens, Natal's agility and varied striking attacks gives him an edge.
Sometimes he gets a bit too comfortable and it leads to careless defense. This was the case when he was finished by a head kick from Andrew Craig on UFC on Fuel 4. However, when he's focused, he's a handful for most middleweights.
I actually like Zeferino's ability, but with no major edge on the ground in this matchup, I favor Natal more as a striker.
Look for Sapo to win by unanimous decision.
Evan Dunham's Improvement Will Show
I'm expecting Dunham to make a huge statement on Saturday night.
What fighter from the UFC on FX 8 card will win or regain a title first?
Since he lost to T.J. Grant in a war in September 2012, Grant has destroyed Matt Wiman. That bout only makes Dunham's performance against Grant look even better.
Dunham rebounded well with a close decision victory over Gleison Tibau in February. But he'll be facing a tough Brazilian submission artist in dos Anjos. Dunham is at home on the ground and has never lost a fight via submission in his career.
The 28-year-old has a three-inch height advantage and is the stronger man physically. If the fight stays in the stand-up for any length of time, Dunham should pick dos Anjos apart.
I fully expect the two men to go to the ground eventually, but Dunham's ability to handle himself on his back and in top position will serve him well.
I predict yet another unanimous decision victory for Dunham.
Souza Will Best the Gutsy Carmozzi
Carmozzi will always put up a great fight; the guy has tremendous heart and will. But sometimes, he's just overmatched from a talent standpoint and this will be one of those times.
Jacare is the real deal. The only losses he's had in the past five years came to Gegard Mousasi and Rockhold. Carmozzi has the size advantage, but I don't believe he has the takedown defense to keep Jacare from taking over this fight.
The Brazilian is quicker and he'll use that advantage to close distance. I predict a submission win for Jacare.
Rockhold Will Take Down the Legend
I truly believe Rockhold will be the next serious challenger for Anderson Silva. Belfort has surprised me in both of his last two fights, though.
He nearly submitted Jon Jones and he stopped Michael Bisping, but at some point, the age will show on a consistent basis. Rockhold is young, hungry, versatile and strong; his future in the UFC seems quite bright.
Belfort isn't quite as quick as he used to be. The striking edge he might have had in the past he won't have on Saturday night. I think stamina will be the biggest factor in this fight.
If Rockhold survives Belfort's initial charge and adrenaline rush, he will take over the late rounds of the fight with takedowns and top position control.
Follow me, because Royce Gracie started me on this MMA path, and now I'm out of control.