The winner of the Gegard Mousasi vs. Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida bout at UFC Fight Night 36 in Brazil doesn't deserve a shot at the middleweight crown yet, but he should be one step closer.
The co-feature is actually even more intriguing than the fight receiving top billing. Brazil's Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza will face Francis "Limitless" Carmont.
Saturday's main card is very important to the immediate future of the 185-pound division. Four of the best will do battle, and it seems only right that the two men who emerge victorious from the featured bouts should tangle some time soon.
Mousasi clearly has his sights set on UFC gold. He dropped from 205 pounds to 185 because he felt the route to a title shot was easier. In an interview with ESPN's Brett Okamoto, Mousasi said:
There are a lot of popular names in the light heavyweight division. At middleweight there isn’t a No. 1 contender. You have Vitor Belfort next and then no one is really in line. At 205, the next guy is Glover Teixeira, then you have Alexander Gustafsson and then Daniel Cormier or Rashad Evans. You have three guys in front of you at that weight. At middleweight, you only have Belfort.
It's clear Mousasi wants respect and notoriety. He's even taken to Twitter to boost his name recognition.
Hey Everyone. I want to ask a favor from my true fans. Please ask your friends and followers to follow me on Twitter. Really appreciate!!— Gegard Mousasi (@mousasi_mma) February 13, 2014
Unofficial social media campaigns are understandable, but beating The Dragon on Saturday will go the furthest in efforts to build his brand.
This card will be the first to feature the revamped fight night bonus structure. Dana White tweeted this just days prior to UFC Fight Night 36.
New fight bonus structure http://t.co/EewvytBxG4— Dana White (@danawhite) February 11, 2014
The bottom line is that the Fight of the Night bonus will remain, but instead of KO and Submission of the Night, those bonuses will be replaced by two Performance of the Night awards.
The $50,000 prize amount will remain the same.
Here's a look at the card, viewing information and predictions. Just below the table is a closer look at the fights and fighters that could win bonuses.
|Location||Date and Time|
|Jaragua, Brazil||Saturday, Feb 15 - 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Matchup||Weight Class||Prediction||Viewing Info|
|Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Zubaira Tukhugov||Featherweight||Andrade by KO||UFC Fight Pass|
|Ildemar Alcantara vs. Albert Tumenov||Welterweight||Tumenov by Decision||UFC Fight Pass|
|Felipe Arantes vs. Maximo Blanco||Featherweight||Blanco by Decision||UFC Fight Pass|
|Iuri Alcantara vs. Wilson Reis||Bantamweight||Alcantara by Submission||UFC Fight Pass|
|Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jesse Ronson||Lightweight||Trinaldo by KO||UFC Fight Pass|
|Rodrigo Damm vs. Ivan Jorge||Lightweight||Jorge by Decision||UFC Fight Pass|
|Cristiano Marcello vs. Joe Proctor||Lightweight||Marcello by Submission||UFC Fight Pass|
|Charles Oliveira vs. Andy Ogle||Featherweight||Oliveira by Submission||Fox Sports 1|
|Viscardi Andrade vs. Nico Musoke||Welterweight||Andrade by Decision||Fox Sports 1|
|Erick Silva vs. Takenori Sato||Welterweight||Silva by KO||Fox Sports 1|
|Ronaldo Souza vs. Francis Carmont||Middleweight||Carmont by TKO||Fox Sports 1|
|Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi||Middleweight||Machida by Decision||Fox Sports 1|
Fight of the Night: Cristiano Marcello vs. Joe Proctor
This fight is shaping up to be one of those bouts between a talented submission artist in Marcello and a man who prefers to handle business with his striking like Proctor.
Marcello will have the home-field advantage in his native Brazil, but Proctor will enjoy the edge in stand-up encounters.
Whose style wins out? It's tough to say definitively. Proctor hasn't fought since Dec. 2012, and the cage rust could be a major factor.
Considering the fact that Marcello will be charged to produce a solid showing for his countrymen, he's my pick to win.
Because both men have something to prove, the sense of urgency and contrasting styles should make this one of the best—if not the best—fight of the night.
Performance of the Night 1: Charles Oliveira
Despite the fact that Oliveira has lost two fights in a row, he's still one of the best young fighters in the UFC. If you look at the four losses on his record, not one of them is embarrassing.
There's no shame in losing to Jim Miller, Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar or Donald Cerrone. Oliveira is still only 24 years old.
Here's how Tapology.com describes Oliveira:
An immensely talented youngster with a carefree style, Oliveira throws freely on the feet with rangy kicks and punches and shows little regard for getting taken down. That is little surprise as he also sports one of the more dangerous submission games in the lightweight division. As Oliveira seasons he has already been pegged as a possible title contender in the coming years.
Oliveira was just 21 when he lost to Miller and Cerrone. His upside is exciting, and we're going to see some of it on Saturday against Andy Ogle.
Don't take this praise to mean that Ogle isn't a good fighter. He is, but he's not on Oliveira's level. Look for Oliveira to win submission—err—Performance of the Night by making Ogle tap out.
Performance of the Night 2: Francis Carmont
I've got mounds of respect for Souza, but Carmont has been one of the most impressive fighters in the UFC over his last two fights. He completely dominated Lorenz Larkin and Costas Philippou.
The latter may never look the same again as it appeared Carmont completely ruined his confidence.
Both Souza and Carmont are excellent grapplers, but Carmont is the bigger, stronger and more fluid athlete. I can see him catching Souza with one of those vicious knees and then pounding him out for the TKO victory.
Machida Will Win The Main Event
The Dragon has become like Benson Henderson in that he can consistently win because of his technical skill and defense. But he's not doing a great deal of damage to his opponents and thus not wowing the crowd.
It feels like we're in for another one of those performances from Machida. He's longer and comfortable standing or grappling.
He'll outwork Mousasi and keep him at bay with leg kicks and such. It'll be enough to win the bout but not a lot of new fans.
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