UFC Fight Night 32: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Sean SmithAnalyst INovember 8, 2013

UFC Fight Night 32: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Vitor Belfort is looking to earn a title shot in the middleweight division, but he may do so with a win in a light heavyweight bout against an opponent, Dan Henderson, who has lost two in a row.

    Having knocked out Top 10 middleweights in his past two outings, Belfort has already separated himself from the rest of the 185-pound contenders not named Anderson Silva. In doing so, the Brazilian decided he was no longer willing to cut weight while waiting for his opportunity to fight for the middleweight championship.

    So, at UFC Fight Night 32, Belfort will return to the 205-pound division for a bout with Dan Henderson. Having lost two in a row, Henderson may be considering a drop down to 185 pounds. This matchup is his way of testing that division's waters without having to hit the sauna.

    As this bout between two MMA greats approaches, Bleacher Report's own Riley Kontek, Craig Amos, Scott Harris, James MacDonald and Sean Smith have teamed up once again to provide their predictions for every bout on the UFC Fight Night 32 main card.

     

Rony Jason vs. Jeremy Stephens

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    This fight has Fight of the Night written all over it. Jeremy Stephens looked great in his featherweight debut, but he takes a significant step up from Estevan Payan when he takes on Rony Jason. On the feet, both men are powerful. Stephens has wrestling while Jason is a jiu-jitsu practitioner. Jason has a high ceiling in terms of potential, but it will be tough for him to get "Lil' Heathen" to the mat. The American might pull off a minor upset here.

    Stephens, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Now 3-0 in the UFC, Jason has improved every time he's fought inside the Octagon. While Stephens' wrestling and skull-crushing ground-and-pound certainly pose problems for the Brazilian on paper, I'm convinced that at this point in time, he's simply a more talented fighter, with more tools.

    Jason, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Scott Harris

    Stephens has a history of underperforming against guys he can't bully. He can't bully Jason. The undefeated Brazilian has the full game to hang with Stephens where things unfold and then pass him on the straightaway.

    Jason, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    James MacDonald

    Jason just keeps getting better and better. Stephens always has a puncher’s chance, but Jason is a much more complete fighter. If the Brazilian can impose his will, look for him to secure a submission on Stephens before the third round.

    Jason, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    Stephens has scary knockout power in the featherweight division, but Jason's only knockout loss was due to a doctor stoppage nearly four years ago. The Brazilian should be able to hold his own when standing with Stephens and has the ability to hand the American a fourth submission loss on the ground.

    Jason, Submission, Rd. 2

     

Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Ryan LaFlare

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    Riley Kontek

    One of the few talents that made it out of TUF: Brazil 2 is Argentine Santiago Ponzinibbio, who would have been in the finals of the season if he didn't get injured. Ponzinibbio is 18-1 and trains with Thiago Tavares, holding a well-rounded skill set that includes heavy hands and underrated submissions. That being said, Ryan LaFlare is vastly underrated, as the American has good wrestling and kickboxing skills. This should be a fun firefight on the feet, but look for LaFlare to outpoint Ponzinibbio with a more balanced approach.

    LaFlare, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    I'm picking LaFlare here, and it isn't just because I can't spell Santiago's last name, even with cut-and-paste. The reason I'm siding with the American over Mr. P is because of how he's demonstrated an ability to control the tempo and direction of past bouts, and my belief that he will once again do so this Saturday night.

    LaFlare, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    We have a TUF: Brazil contestant here taking on, eh, LaFlare. Not the most star-studded bout, but LaFlare looked pretty good in his UFC debut, a manhandling of Ben Alloway. Methinks he makes it two for two this weekend.

    LaFlare, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    I shan’t pretend that I’m high on either fighter’s potential, but LaFlare looks to be the more complete fighter. I expect him to stop the TUF: Brazil veteran late in the fight.

    LaFlare, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Sean Smith

    A broken hand robbed Ponzinibbio of a chance to compete in the TUF: Brazil 2 finals, which Leonardo Santos went on to win despite losing to "El Rasta" in the semifinals. While he probably could have been a TUF winner, Ponzinibbio's skill level is still very much unknown heading into this matchup. LaFlare, on the other hand, has already picked up a win inside the Octagon and has shown fewer holes in his game as an owner of an undefeated record.

    LaFlare, TKO, Rd. 2 

Paulo Thiago vs. Brandon Thatch

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    Who else is absolutely stoked to see Brandon Thatch return to the Octagon? I know I am. Paulo Thiago has become a gatekeeper at welterweight, and he is likely keeping the gate here for "Rukus." Thatch has heavy hands and a pleasing, aggressive style which should lead to another violent finish.

    Thatch, KO, Rd. 1

     

    Craig Amos

    The Thatch hype train will depart circa 9 p.m., Saturday, November 9, en route to a first-round TKO victory over Thiago. I've got my ticket.

    Thatch, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Scott Harris

    I love me some Thatch, as it seems everyone does. But Thiago's a tough bean, who only loses to top guys. Thatch is not a top guy yet, and Thiago should be able to grapple him down to size. Sound the upset alarms.

    Thiago, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    I’m a fan of Thatch. At 28, it’s probably a little late to call him a hot prospect, but he demonstrated a lot of potential in his UFC debut. In Thiago, he is facing a rugged veteran who is capable of shutting down his game, though. Still, I reckon Thatch gets the job one and his stock continues to rise.

    Thatch, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    After stopping Justin Edwards in his UFC debut, Thatch meets another grappler in Thiago. While he may be more experienced, Thiago's wrestling is no more daunting than that of Edwards. Thatch's outstanding run of first-round stoppages should continue on Saturday.

    Thatch, KO, Rd. 1

Rafael Cavalcante vs. Igor Pokrajac

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    Igor Pokrajac is a guy who is lucky to still be in the UFC with the record he holds. Rafael Cavalcante is on his last leg with Zuffa due to a failed drug test in Strikeforce and failed UFC debut. Both men like to stand and bang, so this could be a fun one to watch. Unfortunately for the Croat, "Feijao" is a better striker, which is where this fight will be contested. Notch one for Brazil.

    Cavalcante, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Craig Amos

    Pokrajac is a tough guy who isn't afraid to eat a punch if it means he's granted the right to fire one back in return. Unfortunately for the Croatian Sensation, "Croatian Sensation" is not Pokrajac's actual nickname. Also unfortunate is that Cavalcante hits like a hammer.

    Cavalcante, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Scott Harris

    Loser-leaves-town if I've ever seen one. Neither man has been impressive of late, but Cavalcante seems more poised to see the worm turn his way, especially given that he has a power edge over an opponent willing to trade with him.

    Cavalcante, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    James MacDonald

    Cavalcante has no shortage of potential, so it’s a shame he is in such a precarious position. That being said, he’ll never have a better opportunity to get a UFC win. Pokrajac has been hanging onto his job by his fingernails. Unfortunately, I fear it may be the end of the line for the Croat on Saturday night.

    Cavalcante, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Sean Smith

    This looks like one of those matchups designed to get a popular fighter back on track while bouncing an unpopular one from the UFC roster. There's little reason to believe that plan will backfire. Cavalcante avoids the stifling clinch of Pokrajac and picks the Croatian apart with his striking.

    Cavalcante, TKO, Rd. 3

Cezar Ferreira vs. Daniel Sarafian

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    Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    The long awaited, true TUF: Brazil final will finally take place. Cezar Ferreira, a disciple of Vitor Belfort, has heavy hands and a good submission base. Daniel Sarafian is similar, but his gas tank has come into question after an exhausting battle with CB Dollaway. Ferreira doesn't have the wrestling chops of Dollaway, so Sarafian doesn't have to worry as much about getting taken down. But, Ferreira is more technical on the feet and should win a fun battle here.

    Ferreira, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    The game plan for both men should be clear as day in this one—Ferreira would be wise to keep the action vertical, while Sarafian's goal should be to get it horizontal. Question is, which man will have their way? The answer is difficult to settle on, but I believe that Ferreira can recover if he is taken down, while Sarafian is toast if he has to stand.

    Ferreira, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Any time most other things are reasonably equal, I go with the guy with the ground advantage. In this case, that would be Sarafian.

    Sarafian, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This is a mouthwatering co-main event. Am I right, guys? Guys? As you may have gathered, I don’t expect much out of this fight. Sarafian has a few more tools at his disposal, in my opinion, so I’m giving him the slight edge.

    Sarafian, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    It took awhile, but the middleweight final of TUF: Brazil 1 that should have been will be contested on Saturday. Both Ferreira and Sarafian have looked very promising in their early UFC bouts. However, Sarafian proved more in a close loss to veteran CB Dollaway than Ferreira has in his victories over a couple low-ranked Brazilians.

    Sarafian, Unanimous decision

Dan Henderson vs. Vitor Belfort

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Riley Kontek

    This is a rematch where both men are a little older and wiser. Unfortunately, one man has slowed down a bit while the other has put the pedal to the metal. Vitor Belfort has looked like a new man as of late, which may come from some outside therapy he has been receiving. Dan Henderson is 40-something and showing it more these days, as he has struggled to snag a win in recent times. Henderson is still as tough as they come and has better wrestling, so he will make this close. It won't be enough though.

    Belfort, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Aside from robots Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, the last entity to beat Belfort in a mixed martial arts match was Henderson, all the way back in 2006. Since that time, Belfort has really hit his stride while Henderson has slowed considerably, and what it all adds up to, in my humblest of opinions, is history in the making—Henderson is finally going to be knocked out. Technically.

    Belfort, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Scott Harris

    I was happy to see both men received their TRT exemptions. Now, and only now, do I feel ready to rumble. Henderson has looked a step slow for quite a while, while Belfort has looked anything but. Could he challenge a top middleweight? Sure he could, given the right settings on the, you know, variables. He won't be able to finish Ol' Ironsides Henderson, but he sure will batter him.

    Belfort, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This fight couldn’t have come at a worse time for Henderson. The 43-year-old is finally starting to look his age, while Belfort’s totally-above-board diet of TRT has turned the Brazilian into Benjamin Button. The young dinosaur might not knock ol’ leatherface out, but I don’t expect this fight to be all that competitive.

    Belfort, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    I just don't understand this piece of matchmaking. One of the top contenders in the middleweight division moves to another weight class to meet a fading fighter on a two-fight skid. Henderson may have had a better career, but he's headed in the wrong direction, while Belfort is surging. God forbid anyone suggest Henderson can be stopped with strikes, but let's not pretend he's never been rocked.

    Belfort, TKO, Rd. 2