The Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 83: Cerrone vs. Oliveira

Patrick WymanMMA Senior AnalystFebruary 17, 2016

The Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 83: Cerrone vs. Oliveira

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    Donald Cerrone moves up to welterweight in Sunday's headliner.
    Donald Cerrone moves up to welterweight in Sunday's headliner.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The UFC returns to Pittsburgh for the first time since 2011 this Sunday night with a solid event. Unfortunately, injuries and other unforeseen circumstances have gutted the card; while still decent, it's nowhere close to what it was scheduled to be a month ago.

    Former lightweight title challenger Donald Cerrone moved up to welterweight and was scheduled to face Tim Means in a violent special attraction. A flagged drug test pulled Means from the bout several weeks ago, however, and Brazil's Alex Oliveira stepped up to create what should be an action-packed headliner of two fighters bearing the nickname "Cowboy."

    The stakes are low in the main event. Cerrone will be on the UFC's roster for as long as he wants to be, and while he needs wins to keep making money, another title shot is probably out of the question. Conversely, nobody will look askance at Oliveira if he loses, while a win represents a huge step up for him.

    The rest of the card looked outstanding several weeks out with scheduled fights between Brandon Thatch and Siyar Bahadurzada and John Lineker and Cody Garbrandt, but both of those have disappeared. Thatch vs. Bahadurzada was moved to UFC 196, while Lineker had to pull out due to dengue fever

    The co-main event pits Derek Brunson against Roan Carneiro in a middleweight tilt that feels necessary and makes sense, though it probably won't do much to raise the pulse of the viewer.

    Garbrandt is still on the card in what should be a fun fight with elite grappler Augusto Mendes, and Dennis Bermudez takes on Tatsuya Kawajiri in an excellent featherweight matchup. The lightweight tilt between James Krause and Shane Campbell is flying under the radar but should be a great action fight.

    The prelim headliner between welterweight up-and-comers Alex Garcia and Sean Strickland is the highlight of the undercard, which otherwise features a mixture of prospects and journeymen.

    Let's take a look at each matchup at UFC Fight Night 83.

The Fight Pass Prelims

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    Marion Reneau headlines the Fight Pass Prelims.
    Marion Reneau headlines the Fight Pass Prelims.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Heavyweights

    Anthony Hamilton (14-4; 2-2 UFC) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (15-3; 0-1 UFC)

    Bottom-tier heavyweights meet in the evening's opener. Hamilton has alternated wins and losses in his four UFC outings, most recently taking a decision from Daniel Omielanczuk. Abdurakhimov, a native of Dagestan, lost his debut to Timothy Johnson last April.

    The Russian is mostly a striker, a technically skilled one who likes to stick and move on the outside. A crisp jab and nice counter right hand are his bread and butter. He's strong in the clinch to boot. Hamilton is well-rounded, and while he's a solid striker, he does his best work from top position.

    This is Abdurakhimov's fight to lose on the feet and Hamilton's to lose in the wrestling and grappling exchanges if he can get it there. The latter seems more likely, as Hamilton scores a knockout in the third round due to ground strikes.

     

    Bantamweights

    Lauren Murphy (8-2; 0-2 UFC) vs. Kelly Faszholz (3-0; 0-0 UFC)

    Following an injury to Sarah Moras, Faszholz steps up on very short notice to face Murphy, who has been on the wrong end of two close decisions in her pair of UFC outings. Fights with Liz Carmouche and Sara McMann were tight, and both could have gone in Murphy's favor.

    Faszholz is well-rounded and dangerous in multiple phases. She slings hard head-body sequences at a high volume on the feet, likes to maul in the clinch and is a decent grappler. Murphy also likes to throw combinations at a good pace on the feet, but she's at her best when working takedowns and dropping hard ground strikes from top position. 

    Murphy is the better athlete and much cleaner technician. She takes a clear decision.

     

    Bantamweights

    Marion Reneau (6-2; 2-1 UFC) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (3-1; 0-1 UFC)

    Evans-Smith returns to action after an absence of more than a year and draws Reneau in a solid women's bantamweight matchup. Reneau had won two in a row to begin her UFC career but dropped a wide decision to current champion Holly Holm in her last outing. Raquel Pennington choked out Evans-Smith in the latter's only UFC appearance.

    Evans-Smith is a solid athlete with strong wrestling skills and a good clinch game, but she's limited as a striker and isn't a particularly polished grappler. Physicality is Reneau's strength, as she's fast and powerful for the division. She backs that up with a technical grappling game and solid striking skills.

    It wouldn't be surprising if Evans-Smith imposes her game in the clinch, but Reneau's athleticism and slick grappling skills should be the difference. She takes a submission in the second round.

The Fox Sports 1 Prelims

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    Alex Garcia is a rising talent at welterweight.
    Alex Garcia is a rising talent at welterweight.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Welterweights 

    Jonavin Webb (8-1, 1 N/C; 0-1 UFC) vs. Nathan Coy (14-6; 0-1 UFC)

    Veteran journeyman Coy takes on the up-and-coming Webb in a solid matchup at 170 pounds. Coy, a Bellator and Strikeforce veteran, lost his debut to Danny Roberts by submission in December, while Webb dropped a tight decision to Kyle Noke in May.

    Wrestling and grappling are Webb's wheelhouse. He has a quick shot, good timing and strong finishes and immediately looks to attack with submissions. Counters are a specialty at range, and he fights like a much longer fighter. Coy is an aggressive grinder with some pop in his hands and good cardio, but the southpaw isn't a great athlete or particularly durable.

    If Webb can avoid getting stuck on the bottom or against the fence, his massive edges in speed and athleticism should come into play. Webb takes a decision.

     

    Middleweights

    Anthony Smith (24-11; 0-1 UFC) vs. Leonardo Augusto Guimaraes (11-1, 1 N/C; 0-0 UFC)

    Low-level middleweights meet in a potentially interesting matchup. UFC veteran Smith steps up on less than one week's notice to replace Trevor Smith following a seven-fight winning streak on the regional circuit. Guimaraes is a veteran of the Brazilian scene and defeated UFC veteran Richardson Moreira to punch his ticket to the promotion.

    Guimaraes is reasonably well-rounded but does his best work with forward-moving punching combinations that he mixes up between the head and body. He's hittable and doesn't throw much volume, however, and isn't a great wrestler. Smith is a crafty veteran who uses his 6'4" height to great advantage on the feet and pushes an excellent pace, but he's hittable and not great on the ground.

    Smith fought recently and is presumably still in shape, but this is a tough matchup on short notice. Guimaraes finds the knockout in the first round.

     

    Middleweights

    Daniel Sarafian (9-5; 2-3 UFC) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (5-1; 0-1 UFC)

    The Ultimate Fighter Brazil finalist Sarafian meets Bamgbose in a must-win fight for both contestants. Sarafian was well on his way to losing his last outing before his opponent injured a finger, and prior to that he had lost two in a row. Bamgbose, a Nigerian-American who trains in New York, lost his short-notice debut to Uriah Hall in August.

    The Brazilian is short for the division at 5'9", and that has been a consistent problem for him. While he has nice blitzing combinations and is technically solid on the feet, it's hard for him to produce consistent volume or get in on his takedown attempts to utilize his strong top game.

    Bamgbose is an outstanding athlete with great physical tools, but he might be too raw skill-wise to compete at this level. Explosive punching combinations and fast kicks are his bread and butter, and he packs serious power and works at a good pace. He has little idea what he's doing from his back, however, and relies on his physicality to defend takedowns.

    While Sarafian is a small favorite, he's a subpar offensive wrestler and nowhere near as dangerous on the feet as Bamgbose. The Nigerian-American scores a knockout in the first round.

     

    Welterweights

    Alex Garcia (13-2; 3-1 UFC) vs. Sean Strickland (16-1; 3-1 UFC)

    Welterweight prospects meet in the preliminary card headliner. Garcia, one of the prize students of Tristar Gym impresario Firas Zahabi, has yet to fully break out in the UFC. A torn ACL against Neil Magny led to a decision loss, and he failed to impress in a clear decision win over Mike Swick in July. Strickland came in with some hype and rebounded from his first career loss with a win over Igor Araujo, also in last July.

    Garcia is a physical specimen with great strength, explosiveness and power. Authoritative takedowns and grinding, stifling top control are his forte, but he's also a decent striker with a crisp jab and potent punching combinations. His lack of height (5'9") is a problem, however, and his footwork isn't precise enough to consistently pressure his opponents toward the fence and negate his height disadvantage.

    Strickland likes to fight on the outside, using his height and crisp, consistent jab to set his preferred distance and keep his opponent away. A long right hand often follows, and Strickland's strong clinch takedowns give him a secondary option. He's good on top as well, with smooth passes and hard ground strikes, and he has a nose for the submission on the mat.

    It could be a long night for Garcia if he hasn't improved his pressure footwork, because Strickland will pepper him with his jab over and over if the Canadian doesn't make a sustained effort to close the distance. While he's a slight underdog at Odds Shark, Garcia should be able to get inside, work takedowns and land power shots. The Canadian takes a decision.

Chris Camozzi vs. Joe Riggs

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    Chris Camozzi is finding his stride in his second UFC stint.
    Chris Camozzi is finding his stride in his second UFC stint.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Middleweights

    Chris Camozzi (22-10; 7-7 UFC) vs. Joe Riggs (41-16, 1 N/C; 5-6 UFC)

    Veteran middleweight Riggs takes on journeyman Camozzi in a potentially decent middleweight bout. Riggs is a veteran of nearly every MMA promotion under the sun, from the UFC to the WEC to Strikeforce to Bellator and just about everything else in between.

    His most recent UFC tenure hasn't gone well, however, with losses to Patrick Cote and Ben Saunders followed by a disqualification win over Ron Stallings. For his part, Camozzi rebounded from a second loss to Jacare Souza by taking a decision from Tom Watson in August.

    The winner will get to stick around the UFC awhile longer, and the loser, particularly if it's Riggs, will probably be cut.

    Camozzi is a meat-and-potatoes kickboxer. He doesn't have much in the way of power, but the southpaw is durable and skilled and pushes a great pace. A consistent right jab keeps him on the outside, where he wants to be, and opens up solid punching combinations that he punctuates with strong kicks to the legs and body. Volume is a strong suit, and he can wear opponents down over the course of the fight.

    If he can't stay at long range, Camozzi is happy to punch his way into the clinch, where his 6'3" height gives him great leverage. He throws sharp knees to the body and has a knack for hitting elbows, and he complements his strikes with a decent trip game. While not a wizard, his takedown defense is competent; he's solid, if not outstanding, on the mat.

    Riggs, a veteran of 58 fights in nearly 15 years as a professional fighter, has seen and done it all. His game reflects that. The southpaw is a more-than-competent striker with a clean jab and a knack for the straight left-right hook combination. Low kicks at range fill the space between punching combinations. Efficiency and skill on the counter are his strongest suits, and he still packs good power in his hands.

    Well-timed singles and doubles form the backbone of Riggs' takedown arsenal, and he's a competent defensive wrestler to boot. Ground striking is probably the strongest part of Riggs' game, and he can generate good force even inside the guard. He has little to offer from his back, however, and is vulnerable in transitions.

    At this point, Riggs' biggest problem is his lack of durability. It's not just that he has trouble taking flush strikes but also that his body might simply give up at any point during the fight.

     

    Betting Odds

    Camozzi -260, Riggs +220

     

    Prediction

    The betting odds make perfect sense given the amount of wear and tear on Riggs, Camozzi's size advantage and the general outlines of the striking matchup. The younger fighter should be able to keep Riggs at distance with his rangy kicks and jab and pile up volume while stuffing takedowns and keeping it even in the clinch.

    Riggs could land a lucky punch or have some success with his wrestling, but that seems less likely than Camozzi taking a clean decision.

James Krause vs. Shane Campbell

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    Krause is a fun action fighter.
    Krause is a fun action fighter.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Lightweights

    James Krause (22-7; 3-3 UFC) vs. Shane Campbell (12-3; 1-1 UFC)

    While this lightweight matchup between America's Krause and Canada's Campbell is flying under the radar, it should be a fun action fight between two talented fighters who have been lost in the shuffle of the UFC's most populous division.

    Krause choked out Daron Cruickshank in July and prior to that lost a tight decision to Valmir Lazaro and a clear one to Jorge Masvidal. Campbell, a former kickboxer with high-level experience, dropped his short-notice debut against John Makdessi but rebounded with a strong showing against Elias Silverio in August.

    The winner here will likely cement himself as a reliable action fighter in a stacked division.

    The American is a rangy striker. He uses the entirety of his 6'2" height and substantial reach to his advantage, consistently throwing a long jab and rangy low and front kicks to maintain his preferred long distance. Pace is a strong suit for Krause, and if his opponents don't make a sustained effort to close the distance, he'll simply overwhelm them with volume at a range they can't match.

    On the downside, Krause isn't terribly fast and doesn't have much power in his hands. Combinations aren't a specialty, either, and he tends to rely on a steady diet of single shots. His height and preferred distance mean that he's rarely there to be hit, but when he's in range Krause is defensively porous.

    The rest of Krause's game is uneven. He's an abysmal defensive wrestler but makes up for it with a dangerous submission game in transition, with a slick guillotine and a quick move to the back. The occasional takedown adds some variety, and he's competent in the clinch.

    Campbell is a decorated kickboxer but isn't a one-dimensional fighter by any stretch of the imagination. A diverse and tricky jab serves a number of purposes for the Canadian: It measures distance, sets his preferred range and lands sharply when he chooses. Cracking low kicks often follow a single or double jab, and piercing front kicks help to keep his opponents on the end of his reach.

    Technically sound combinations and a snapping right hand are the hallmarks of Campbell's game. He's smooth and crisp when he strings together sequences of strikes and can land both moving forward and on the counter. He's a little porous defensively but compensates with volume and power born of precision and accuracy.

    Strong defensive wrestling keeps Campbell standing. He excels at cracking down on an overhook and utilizing head pressure on the sprawl, defends chained attempts well against the fence and scrambles if taken down. His defensive guard is likewise sound, and it's hard to get much going against him on the mat.

    The occasional takedown, particularly trips and throws in the clinch, adds some variety. Sharp knees and elbows make him a threat in the tie-ups as well, and he can land hard shots from the top.

     

    Betting Odds

    Krause -150, Campbell +130

     

    Prediction

    It's unclear why Krause is the favorite here. Campbell is a more accomplished and more technical striker who can operate at Krause's preferred pace and range, and there's no reason to think the Canadian is giving up much in the wrestling department. Campbell takes a decision by virtue of cleaner striking and a couple of well-timed takedowns.

Dennis Bermudez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri

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    Bermudez is talented and experienced.
    Bermudez is talented and experienced.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Featherweights

    Dennis Bermudez (14-5; 7-3 UFC) vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri (35-8-2; 3-1 UFC)

    With losses to Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens in his last two outings, Bermudez's seven-fight winning streak seems like a distant memory. He looks to get back on track here against the legendary Kawajiri. The Japanese fighter was scheduled to face rising talent Mirsad Bektic in December but instead took a one-sided decision over the debuting Jason Black to run his winning streak to two.

    The winner won't exactly be in title contention in the increasingly stacked featherweight division, but a matchup with an elite opponent will be in the offing.

    A wrestler by trade, Bermudez has developed into a diverse and dangerous all-around fighter. While he's short and stocky at 5'6", he fights long on the feet. A crisp jab that he likes to double or triple sets up punching combinations that he punctuates with crushing low kicks, and he does an outstanding job of stepping off to an angle to avoid counters as he finishes the sequence.

    Volume is a strong suit for Bermudez. He almost never throws single shots, and while he sacrifices a bit of power that way, he still packs enough pop in his hands to demand respect. Few opponents can match his pace for all three rounds, and he wears them down with consistent work to the legs and body as well.

    The problems for Bermudez on the feet are defense and his crackable chin. Because of his lack of height and willingness to exchange in the pocket, he's often there to be hit, and he tends to stick to a single defensive layer of either head movement or a guard but rarely more than one.

    Wrestling is still the best piece of Bermudez's game. He's nearly impossible to take down, with a great sprawl, whizzer and vicious front headlock game that he combines with a nasty guillotine. Despite his lack of height, Bermudez is a handful in the clinch, with a strong array of knees, a nice double-collar tie and slashing elbows.

    Effortless drive and lift give him authoritative finishes to his takedowns, which he uses more as a change of pace than for extended periods of top control. He hits them early and often and forces opponents to respect his level changes. Still, he has some pop in his ground strikes and can get to the back in transitions.

    Kawajiri has the stripped-down, efficient game you would expect from a 17-year veteran of MMA. Single punches and kicks at range, along with the occasional spinning strike, distract from his forward movement and set up his level changes and clinch entries. He still has some pop in his hands and can't be taken lightly at range, but if most of the fight is taking place on the feet, Kawajiri is probably losing.

    There's nothing wrong with Kawajiri's wrestling game. He has great timing and takes excellent angles on his entries. He does a fine job of chaining his attempts together, while his incredible strength gives him great lift and authoritative finishes. The clinch is another strong suit, and he can hit nice trips and throws.

    The veteran is outstanding on the mat. His base on top is nearly unshakable; he drops hard ground strikes and passes nicely. He has an affinity for the arm-triangle choke on top and excels at getting to the back in transition.

    On the downside, Kawajiri's game is fairly predictable. He'll try to close the distance, work takedowns and make something happen on the mat, but he works at a slow pace at range and doesn't have much of a plan B.

     

    Betting Odds

    Bermudez -325, Kawajiri +265

     

    Prediction

    Barring the still-powerful Kawajiri planting a bomb on Bermudez's chin and either finishing with strikes or finding a submission in the chaos, it's hard to see a consistent path to victory for the Japanese veteran. Bermudez's takedown defense is some of the best in MMA, and at range the American throws a great deal more volume and is generally more technically sound.

    Bermudez stuffs the takedowns, lands combinations and takes a clean decision.

Cody Garbrandt vs. Augusto Mendes

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    Garbrandt is a talented striker.
    Garbrandt is a talented striker.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Bantamweights

    Cody Garbrandt (7-0; 2-0 UFC) vs. Augusto Mendes (5-0; 0-0 UFC)

    World-class grappler Mendes steps up on short notice to take on hot prospect Garbrandt after the American's original opponent, John Lineker, was forced to pull out of the bout with dengue fever. Garbrandt, a Team Alpha Male representative, knocked out Marcus Brimage in his debut and then took a decision from Enrique Briones in July. 

    Garbrandt is one of the most promising up-and-comers in the division. The 24-year-old is an excellent athlete and has a deep background as an amateur boxer, which shows up in surprising polish on the feet for such a young fighter and big power in both hands. Crisp footwork and tight pivots keep him away from the fence and in the middle of the cage, and a sharp jab both measures the distance and scores points.

    When he commits, Garbrandt launches technically sound combinations of two to five punches without losing his balance or compromising himself defensively. He has quick hands and places his shots beautifully around and through the opponent's guard.

    Counters are a specialty, which is surprising for such a young fighter. The occasional kick adds some variety, but for the most part he is a boxer.

    While he's mostly a striker, Garbrandt also mixes it up with explosive takedowns. He has excellent instincts for punching his way into the clinch and a nice series of trips once he's there, and he times his reactive doubles beautifully when his opponent gets too aggressive. Strong takedown defense keeps him standing. He's nothing special on the mat at this point, but he can control and land hard shots from the top.

    Mendes, nicknamed "Tanquinho," is strong on the ground and raw everywhere else. He throws single strikes with good mechanics on the feet, particularly his counter left hook, but he is a mess defensively, and his technique falls apart when he tries to throw combinations.

    Striking is only a bridge to bring Mendes into close range, where he can utilize his clinch game and attempt to work takedowns. He isn't an ace wrestler and struggles with setups to get in on the hips, but he is decent and has strong takedown defense.

    On the mat, Mendes is everything you'd expect. He has an active and aggressive guard from his back, and on top he passes smoothly, drops hard ground strikes and is constantly hunting for the submission.

     

    Betting Odds

    Garbrandt -330, Mendes +270

     

    Prediction

    While the short notice makes this a trickier matchup for Garbrandt than it would have been with a full camp to prepare for a grappler of Mendes' caliber, the American should still take this handily. He's a strong defensive wrestler and should be able to keep this standing, where he has enormous edges in technique and sheer power. Garbrandt knocks him out inside two rounds.

Derek Brunson vs. Roan Carneiro

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    Derek Brunson is a rising middleweight.
    Derek Brunson is a rising middleweight.Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    Middleweights

    Derek Brunson (14-3; 5-1 UFC) vs. Roan Carneiro (20-9; 3-3 UFC)

    The veteran Carneiro began his second stint in the UFC with a submission victory over Mark Munoz a year ago and looks to continue his potential career resurgence against up-and-comer Brunson. The Strikeforce veteran has won three in a row since a loss to Yoel Romero more than two years ago. Knockouts over Sam Alvey and Ed Herman in his most recent outings have him on the cusp of the middleweight Top 10.

    Brunson, a three-time Division II All-American wrestler, has evolved into a well-rounded fighter. A solid athlete with plus power in his hands, the southpaw likes to string together forward-moving combinations and sling hard kicks at range.

    Pressure and aggressiveness are his hallmarks. He has good timing and real pop, but he keeps his chin a bit high and has a bad habit of lunging forward into his strikes. Doing damage at range is secondary, however, to forcing his opponent toward the fence, where the real meat of Brunson's game lies.

    Infighting is Brunson's wheelhouse. He's a grinding clinch fighter with stifling control, strong knees and uppercuts. Transitions out of the clinch are a specialty, and Brunson never breaks off without throwing a punching combination to catch his opponent as he tries to escape.

    His wrestling remains strong. He doesn't have the most explosive shot but excels at chaining together attempts against the fence and grinding away until he can get his opponent down to the mat. Control is a specialty, and he lands hard shots while using a mixture of top control and wrestling rides to detain his opponent.

    Carneiro has the productive game of a true veteran. The longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt focuses on getting the fight to the mat and then working from the top. That aspect of Carneiro's game has never been sharper, displaying a slick array of passes, a heavy base and a consistently aggressive submission attack. The occasional ground strike helps to open up his grappling.

    Getting to the back is his forte, and he excels at doing so both from the basic takedown-pass sequence and in transitions, particularly from the front headlock. He isn't afraid to give up positions while hunting for the submission, either, but does so intelligently and with a good sense for his chances.

    The Brazilian won't be confused with a professional kickboxer or elite wrestler, but he's proficient enough in both to get him to his grappling wheelhouse. Forward-moving combinations open up his clinch entries and cover the level changes for his takedowns. He's a solid wrestler, especially against the fence. If forced to strike, he can be effective in bursts, with solid low kicks and a surprisingly crisp jab.

     

    Betting Odds

    Brunson -370, Carneiro +310

     

    Prediction

    Despite Carneiro's veteran savvy, this is Brunson's fight to lose. The Brazilian relies on his ability to control the fight in the clinch and work from top position, but Brunson has yet to concede a takedown in the UFC and is strong in the tie-ups in his own right. Brunson takes a slow-paced unanimous decision based on clinch control and in-and-out striking at range.

Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Oliveira

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    After a second loss to champion Rafael dos Anjos, Cerrone is at a crossroads.
    After a second loss to champion Rafael dos Anjos, Cerrone is at a crossroads.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Welterweights

    Donald Cerrone (28-7, 1 N/C; 15-4 UFC) vs. Alex Oliveira (13-3-1, 1 N/C; 3-1 UFC)

    Action fighter extraordinaire Cerrone looks to quickly get back on track following his one-sided title loss to Rafael dos Anjos and draws late-notice replacement Oliveira in what should be a fun matchup.

    This bout was initially supposed to pit Cerrone against Tim Means, but a potentially failed drug test (warning: strong language) pushed Means out of the bout. His replacement, Oliveira, has won three in a row since his debut loss to Gilbert Burns, most recently knocking out Piotr Hallmann in November. 

    The second loss to Dos Anjos snapped an eight-fight winning streak for Cerrone. That run, one of the longest in UFC history, included victories over Jim Miller, Eddie Alvarez, Benson Henderson and John Makdessi. 

    It seems clear at this point that a title isn't in Cerrone's future, and the bout with Oliveira represents a return to what he does best: fun, relatively low-stakes battling. For Oliveira, however, this is a huge chance to get the first big win of his young career and make a name for himself in the UFC.

    Oliveira is an intriguing bundle of athleticism and raw skills that still needs some seasoning. The Brazilian is enormous—he reportedly tips the scales at more than 200 pounds between fights—and boasts a 76" reach.

    Quickness, strength and snapping power make Oliveira a dangerous threat everywhere but especially on the feet. He bounces around at range, measuring with his jab and cracking away with low kicks as he circles, and then he explodes forward into a three- or four-punch combination. Uppercuts are a particular specialty, and his right hand packs serious pop however he chooses to throw it.

    While his mechanics can be inconsistent, Oliveira has a great understanding of rhythm and timing, which makes it difficult to predict just when he'll drop his combinations. He pushes a great pace and wears his opponent down with work to the legs and the body.

    While he excels at exiting on an angle, he's also willing to stay in the pocket to exchange. He's a bit overconfident in his head movement and relies on it to the exclusion of any other defensive skills, however, which makes him hittable.

    The same forward-moving combinations that make Oliveira a threat at range also carry him forward into the clinch, where his enormous frame and obvious strength make him a powerhouse. He's willing to grind against the fence and excels at landing sharp knees and especially uppercuts from a single-collar tie.

    From a technical perspective, Oliveira still has a lot to learn about wrestling and grappling. He's willing to hunt for takedowns but isn't a skilled finisher and expends too much energy. His constant movement and physicality make him difficult to take down, but again, he's not terribly efficient.

    The Brazilian is aggressive on the mat, with strong ground strikes from the top, and has a particular knack for finding the back in scrambles. On the downside, he's still raw and has trouble maintaining position for too long. He also has a bad habit of going for the submission before he has secured the position, which often leads to getting reversed.

    Oliveira's physicality gives him incredible potential and upside, but the skill gaps remain obvious.

    Range striking is Cerrone's bread and butter. He is an out-fighter who does everything in his power to stay at distance, using a consistent jab and front kicks to set the range.

    Given space to operate, Cerrone is a buzz saw of lengthy kicks and consistent activity. Punching combinations set up a steady diet of crushing low kicks, and the high kick—Cerrone's primary finishing tool—plays off the consistent threat of shots to the legs. The same angles and motions that lead to leg or body kicks draw the opponent's hands out of position, and Cerrone excels at setting it up.

    Cerrone is an extreme example of a rhythm fighter. He almost always starts slow and is both exceedingly hittable and inactive for the first several minutes of the fight. It takes time for him to get his timing and sense of the range, but once he does, he picks up the volume and gets his game going. Perceptive opponents jump on him from the opening bell and don't let him get settled.

    Aside from being a slow starter, Cerrone's other consistent weakness is pressure. He's an open-space fighter who needs room to operate, and aside from a stepping knee he lacks the counter game and tight footwork necessary to keep himself away from the cage against elite opposition. With his back to the fence, Cerrone's lack of power and upright stance make him easy to hit and not terribly dangerous.

    At range, Cerrone has both real strengths and defined weaknesses, and the question is whether his opponents can exploit the shortcomings before he gets his combinations and kicking game on track in the later rounds.

    While striking is Cerrone's strength, he excels elsewhere as well. His takedown defense is almost bulletproof in open space, where his quick sprawl and great whizzer come into play, but it's less effective against the fence. He has a slick arsenal of well-timed doubles and knee taps that he could probably stand to use more often.

    On the mat, Cerrone's guard is aggressive and dangerous, with slick chains of submissions and sweeps. He is competent on top and one of the best in the sport at finding openings to get to the back in transition, particularly if his opponent is hurt.

     

    Betting Odds

    Cerrone -280, Oliveira +240

     

    Prediction

    Those odds seem approximately correct. If all goes according to plan, Cerrone should be able to stick Oliveira at distance and work him over with a steady diet of smooth, technical punch-kick combinations and exploit the skill gap on the feet. The American is a better technical wrestler and a vastly superior grappler as well, and if he can get the fight to the mat, he should have a distinct advantage.

    There are reasons to be concerned, though. Oliveira is much bigger than Cerrone, who told MMA Junkie that he's walking around at 175 pounds the week of the fight. Contrast that with the 183 pounds that Oliveira carried into the cage against Hallmann in his last fight at lightweight, and the size difference becomes clear.

    If Oliveira can get this into the clinch and pressure Cerrone against the fence, that size difference and the Brazilian's edge in raw power could give American fits.

    It's more likely, however, that Cerrone gets himself into some trouble against the bigger, harder hitter early but gets himself back on track on the feet and eventually takes the fight to the mat, where he can exploit his grappling advantage. Cerrone finds the submission finish in the third round.

     

    All betting odds via Odds Shark. 

    Patrick Wyman is the Senior MMA Analyst for Bleacher Report and the co-host of the Heavy Hands Podcast, your source for the finer points of face-punching. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.