The Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 106: Belfort vs. Gastelum

Patrick Wyman@@Patrick_WymanMMA Senior AnalystMarch 9, 2017

The Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 106: Belfort vs. Gastelum

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    Vitor Belfort tries to win one last fight in the Octagon.
    Vitor Belfort tries to win one last fight in the Octagon.Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The UFC returns to Fortaleza, Brazil for the first time since 2013 with a fine card on Fox Sports 1 this Saturday, March 11. 

    In the main event, 20-year veteran Vitor Belfort tries to right the ship and retain his position at the top of the division against the surging Kelvin Gastelum, the 25-year-old former welterweight and The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner who is testing the waters at 185 pounds following multiple incidents of missing the 170-pound limit. 

    It's a barn burner of a matchup that promises fireworks. With the future of the middleweight division up in the air, the bout has real implications for the title picture as well.

    The rest of the card is about as good as a Fight Night event on FS1 can get these days. The co-main event features former light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua in a slobber-knocker of a fight with Gian Villante, but the best fight on the card may well be the 155-pound matchup between rising lightweights Edson Barboza and Beneil Dariush.

    If that weren't enough, the flyweight bout between prospect Ray Borg and veteran Jussier Formiga has Fight of the Night potential, as does the main-card opener featuring the rematch between Alex Oliveira and Tim Means.

    Even the preliminary card features fights worthy of attention: Keep an eye on the lightweight fight between Francisco Trinaldo and Kevin Lee, along with the debuts of prospects Davi Ramos and Paulo Borrachinha. 

    Let's take a look at each individual matchup.

The Fight Pass Prelims

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    Rony Jason tries to salvage his UFC career.
    Rony Jason tries to salvage his UFC career.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Middleweights

    Garreth McLellan (13-5; 1-3 UFC) vs. Paulo Borrachinha (8-0; 0-0 UFC)

    Entry-level middleweights open the show on Fight Pass as South Africa's McLellan draws Brazil's Borrachinha. McLellan has lost two in a row and three of four in the UFC, and he will surely be done with a loss here. The Brazilian was a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 and has won five in a row, all of them inside the distance, since his time on the show.

    McLellan can do a bit of everything but doesn't stand out anywhere. He's a competent striker on the feet, can wrestle a bit and grapples reasonably well, but that's about it. Borrachinha is a fantastic athlete with brutal power in his shots and great speed, but he's also a technical striker who puts together good combinations and picks his shots well.

    Prediction: Borrachinha should win this one handily. He knocks out McLellan in the second round.

     

    Featherweights

    Rony Jason (14-6, 1 NC; 4-3, 1 NC UFC) vs. Jeremy Kennedy (9-0; 1-0 UFC)

    Canada's Kennedy gets a tough but interesting matchup in the form of TUF Brazil 1 winner Jason in the Fight Pass headliner.

    Kennedy debuted with a grinding win over Alessandro Ricci last August, while Jason has fallen on tough times since beginning his UFC career with a three-fight winning streak: His only win in his last four turned into a no-contest when he tested positive for a banned substance, and Dennis Bermudez dismantled him last August.

    Jason is quick and athletic, but his game has never really come together into something coherent. He's dangerous everywhere, flinging heavy punches and kicks on the feet, and has a lethal grappling game, but he's a bad wrestler and is prone to bouts of inactivity on both the feet and the ground, where he does next to nothing.

    Kennedy isn't a great athlete, but he's tough, durable and knows how to make his skills work for him. He likes to get after his opponent, working punching combinations on the feet as he pushes forward to drive his opponent into the fence. Once there, Kennedy works takedown chain after takedown chain and grinds it out as long as he can.

    Prediction: It's impossible to trust Jason after his recent run, and even in better days Kennedy's grinding style would seem like a nightmarish matchup. Kennedy wins a decision.

The Fox Sports 1 Prelims

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    Francisco Trinaldo headlines the Fox Sports 1 prelims.
    Francisco Trinaldo headlines the Fox Sports 1 prelims.Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Lightweights

    Michel Prazeres (21-2; 5-2 UFC) vs. Josh Burkman (28-14, 1 NC; 6-9, 1 NC UFC)

    Brazil's Prazeres takes on the veteran Burkman in a potentially interesting lightweight fight. Prazeres has won three in a row since a loss to Kevin Lee, including a decision from Gilbert Burns in his last outing. Burkman is just 1-4 in his last five fights, dropping decisions to Zak Ottow and Paul Felder in his most recent UFC appearances. This is likely Burkman's last stand.

    Prazeres is thickly built and strong. He's a surprisingly sharp striker, putting together nice combinations in the pocket and slinging heavy kicks, but he's at his best working takedowns in the clinch and controlling from the top. Burkman can do a bit of everything, striking well from both stances on the feet, wrestling from time to time and looking for a nasty guillotine choke on the mat.

    Prediction: Prazeres gets inside, hits takedowns and controls Burkman for a decision.

     

    Bantamweights

    Rani Yahya (23-8, 1 NC; 8-2, 1 NC UFC) vs. Joe Soto (17-5; 2-3 UFC)

    Two well-traveled bantamweights meet in a fun matchup. Soto has rebounded from a brutal start to his UFC career by winning his last two by submission, taking out Chris Beal and Marco Beltran in succession. Yahya has won four in a row, though none against major names. The winner will likely get a crack at a top-15 opponent.

    Yahya is a grappler, pure and simple. He clinches up or shoots for a takedown as soon as he can, and when he gets his opponent to the mat, he goes to work with passes and submission attempts. Soto too is a dangerous and skilled grappler, but he also throws nice combinations on the feet. Despite a deep wrestling background, Soto's takedown defense is lacking.

    Prediction: If Yahya can get this to the mat, he should be able to work his control game. Yahya wins a decision.

     

    Welterweights

    Sergio Moraes (11-2-1; 5-1-1 UFC) vs. Davi Ramos (6-1; 0-0 UFC)

    Elite grappler Ramos, the 2015 ADCC champion, steps up on a week's notice to fight fellow decorated BJJ ace Moraes in a fun welterweight scrap. Moraes has lost just once in the UFC since compiling five wins and a draw. He defeated Zak Ottow in November in his most recent outing.

    Moraes is a well-rounded veteran. Despite his grappling credentials, he's comfortable on the feet, where he throws well-timed, powerful punches and kicks. Functional wrestling leads into his slick, world-class ground game, though he doesn't shoot takedowns as often as he should. On the mat, he passes well, is dangerous from his back and can do just about everything with skill.

    Ramos, normally a lightweight, stands just 5'8". He's quick and explosive, though, which allows him to cover distance quickly. He's a sharper striker than you might expect, flicking a crisp range-finding jab and throwing vicious single punches and kicks. His takedown game is excellent and builds off the threat of his power punches, while he's everything you'd expect from such a decorated grappler on the mat.

    Prediction: If Moraes can stick Ramos at range, it's his fight to lose: He's the more diverse, experienced striker and has a substantial four-inch height advantage. If Ramos gets inside, though, this will be interesting. Ramos has a big edge in power and is a fantastic wrestler, while his top game is world class. Ramos wins a decision.

     

    Lightweights

    Francisco Trinaldo (21-4; 11-3 UFC) vs. Kevin Lee (14-2; 7-2 UFC)

    Brazil's Trinaldo draws the American Lee in a heck of a lightweight matchup. Trinaldo has quietly won seven fights in a row in the UFC's most difficult division, stopping Paul Felder by cuts in his most recent outing. Lee has won three in a row since a knockout loss to Leonardo Santos in December 2015, finishing Magomed Mustafaev and Jake Matthews in his last two. The winner will have earned a matchup with an elite lightweight.

    Trinaldo is a technical southpaw striker. Despite turning 39 later this year, he's still quick, athletic and packs serious power in his shots. He works at an excellent pace as well, putting out a great volume of punches and kicks. He's just a mediocre defensive wrestler, but he can hit the occasional takedown of his own and does good work from the top.

    Lee's speed and athleticism is also a strength. He's a meat-and-potatoes fighter by nature, throwing a steady jab and fundamentally sound punch-kick combinations on the feet, but he's at his best mixing in explosive takedowns and short bursts of control on the ground.

    Prediction: Trinaldo is a quicker-paced and more dangerous striker, but Lee's wrestling advantage should bail him out here. The American wins a close, back-and-forth decision.

Alex Oliveira vs. Tim Means

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    Means and Oliveira first met in December.
    Means and Oliveira first met in December.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Welterweights

    Alex Oliveira (16-3-1, 2 NC; 5-2, 1 NC UFC) vs. Tim Means (18-7-1, 1 NC; 8-4, 1 NC UFC)

    Means and Oliveira get back to business after their first fight ended in a no-contest due to Means' illegal knees at UFC 207 in December. Both are established action fighters looking to take the next step in a welterweight division that badly needs some new blood at the top.

    Means is an aggressive fighter who likes to pressure his opponent toward the fence and unload a high volume of damaging shots. The southpaw uses his 6'2" frame nicely, using straight punches and long kicks to stick his opponent on the end of his reach and bury him in a steady stream of punches, knees and elbows.

    The clinch is the best part of Means' game. His long frame gives him tremendous leverage in the tie-ups, which he puts to good use as he lands knees, elbows and short punches at close range. His trips are excellent as well. He's a decent defensive wrestler and nasty with strikes and submissions when he gets to top position.

    Oliveira is an athletically gifted fighter with tremendous speed and power. At range, he likes to bounce around and pick his opponent apart with kicks and single punches before moving forward into the clinch, his best area. He excels at pinning his opponent against the fence and going to town with knees while working the occasional takedown, and his 76-inch reach gives him serious leverage in the tie-ups.

    There isn't much depth to Oliveira's grappling game, but he's effective at what he does. He can control from the top as he lands ground strikes and really excels at getting to the back in transitions, his specialty.

     

    Betting Odds

    Means -255 (bet $255 to win $100), Oliveira +215 (bet $100 to win $215)

     

    Prediction

    The first fight, as long as it lasted, was clearly going in Means' direction. He's by far the sharper striker and increasingly slick in the clinch, the area where Oliveira might conceivably have an advantage. Means finishes Oliveira with strikes in the second round.

Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau

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    Correia looks to make it two wins in a row.
    Correia looks to make it two wins in a row.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Women's Bantamweights

    Bethe Correia (10-2; 4-2 UFC) vs. Marion Reneau (7-3; 3-2 UFC)

    Former title challenger Correia meets Reneau in a fun bantamweight fight. Correia rebounded from a pair of losses by winning a tight decision over Jessica Eye, while Reneau finished Milana Dudieva to snap a two-fight losing streak of her own. The winner will be right in the mix in a wide-open division.

    Correia has turned into a solid striker. She moves well and showcases good footwork, cutting angles and pivoting regularly as she gauges the range with a regular jab. Her combination flow is excellent, and she does a good job of mixing up the timing and rhythm on her sequences of punches. Counters are a strong suit for her. While not especially powerful, she works at a good pace and is willing to bang it out.

    That's basically the extent of Correia's game. She has strong takedown defense and is a competent grappler, but she rarely looks for takedowns of her own. Nobody will confuse her for much of a submission threat, either.

    Reneau is a fantastic athlete with great speed and explosiveness, especially considering the fact she turns 40 very soon. With that said, her skills don't really stand out in any phase. She's fast on the feet and throws her punches and kicks with some power, but Reneau doesn't have much depth to her game; once opponents figure out her timing and quickness, she tends to fade.

    Solid defensive wrestling mostly keeps Reneau standing, and she can hit the occasional trip or shot takedown of her own when the mood strikes. She'd be well served to do more wrestling; she's a dangerous grappler with a nice arsenal of passes and submissions.

     

    Betting Odds

    Reneau -125, Correia +105

     

    Prediction

    Reneau is a vastly superior athlete, but Correia is a more skilled and well-rounded striker with the takedown defense and workrate to impose her game. Correia wins a competitive decision.

Jussier Formiga vs. Ray Borg

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    Ray Borg is a serious talent at 125 pounds.
    Ray Borg is a serious talent at 125 pounds.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Flyweights

    Jussier Formiga (19-4; 5-3 UFC) vs. Ray Borg (10-2; 4-2 UFC)

    The rising Borg takes on established veteran Formiga in an outstanding flyweight matchup. Formiga fell to future title contender Henry Cejudo in November 2015 and got back on track with a decision over Dustin Ortiz in September, firmly establishing himself as a gatekeeper to the elite. Borg dropped a fight to Justin Scoggins, the second loss of his career, and bounced back with a big win over Louis Smolka in December.

    If Borg wins, he'll set himself up for fights with the division's top dogs, while Formiga needs a win to stave off a fresh wave of up-and-coming flyweights.

    The 23-year-old Borg is an athletic and quick youngster. He likes to circle and cut angles on the outside, slowly working his way into range and then exploding into hard punching combinations and the occasional kick. His closing speed is exceptional, and he carries some pop in his hands, but he could stand to work at a more consistent pace and throw more strikes.

    For the most part, Borg's striking game serves to set up his wrestling. Borg excels at covering his level changes with strikes or drawing out his opponent's shots and then ducking under for the takedown. He's fast, technical and authoritative when he gets his hands on his opponent and really drives through to finish his doubles. 

    Scrambles are the heart and soul of Borg's game. He can control from top position and isn't bad at passing or landing ground strikes, but he really excels when the fight gets messy. His transitions to the back are truly outstanding and once he gets there, a rear-naked choke isn't far behind.

    Formiga is a well-rounded veteran who can do everything at this point in his long and productive career. He's a crisp if low-output striker who does his best work with a counter right hand as his opponent comes in, and Formiga has enough pop to make his opponent think about it.

    The clinch and wrestling exchanges are where Formiga does his most important work. He's strong in the tie-ups and has a nice arsenal of trips and throws, but what makes him dangerous is his ability to spin around to the back and hit a standing back-take.

    A world-class grappler, getting to the back is the heart and soul of Formiga's game. He can do it on the feet, but he's even better on the ground proper, either in extended grappling sequences or scrambles. His technique is outstanding, and he's a nasty finisher when he gets the neck. If he can't find the choke, however, he's still capable of maintaining control for an entire round without breaking a sweat.

     

    Betting Odds

    Formiga -125, Borg +105

     

    Prediction

    It depends on how far Borg's striking has come in the last few months. If he fights his usual style against Formiga, mixing strikes with takedowns and working madcap scrambles at a quick pace, he could have his back taken and either be finished or controlled for long periods. Formiga is just a better technical grappler, and that would be playing with fire.

    On the feet, though, Borg is far quicker and more athletic. If he makes the takedowns a complement to his strikes rather than the whole story, Borg can confuse Formiga and open up opportunities for both. Borg wins a close decision.

Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush

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    Barboza is one of the sharpest strikers in the division.
    Barboza is one of the sharpest strikers in the division.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Lightweights

    Edson Barboza (18-4; 12-4 UFC) vs. Beneil Dariush (14-2; 8-2 UFC)

    Top-10 lightweights meet in an outstanding clash. Barboza has established himself as one of the stacked division's elite after a pair of convincing decision wins over Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez and a tight loss to top contender Tony Ferguson. Dariush hasn't claimed quite such impressive wins, but he got back on track following a submission loss to Michael Chiesa by defeating James Vick and Rashid Magomedov.

    With the futures of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor up in the air, the winner of this fight will have a good claim on a slot at the top of the division. Leaving aside the broader implications, it's also a barn burner of a matchup and should feature technical action in all phases.

    Barboza is a lightning-fast athlete, one of the quickest and most explosive fighters in a division full of great physical specimens.

    A crisp and well-trained striker, the Brazilian works a technical game on the feet. He uses a sharp jab and the occasional front kick to set a long distance, where he picks his opponent apart with a steady diet of some of the hardest round kicks in the sport. Potent head-body punching combinations follow, and Barboza is perfectly willing to sit down on his punches and exchange when an opponent tries to pressure him.

    Footwork is the foundation of Barboza's game. He's difficult to pin against the fence, and it's not easy even to get into the pocket with him. His feet are constantly moving, cutting angles with crisp pivots and sidesteps. There's no wasted motion here, just smooth and consistent movement built on a strong technical base.

    Pace is a strong suit for Barboza. He's constantly throwing and landing, not to the extent that he's blowing out his gas tank but always enough to be winning rounds. It's a sound, consistent process that worries less about the finish than scoring. His power, especially in his kicks, makes him dynamic enough to end it with a single shot at any time.

    Outstanding takedown defense keeps Barboza standing, and he has added a bit of an offensive wrestling game in recent years. He doesn't look to maintain control on the ground for long, just enough to break the opponent's rhythm and mix things up. 

    Pressure will always be an issue for Barboza. He's a range striker, plain and simple, and while he has tools to keep the opponent at bay, Barboza can't always succeed in keeping him at distance. The Brazilian is hittable at close range and doesn't have a great chin, which makes him vulnerable to aggressive, durable opponents.

    Measured aggression is the hallmark of Dariush's game. The southpaw likes to press forward behind a steady jab, then fires off a devastating left kick and sharp left hand behind it as he steers his opponent toward the fence. Dariush's pressure footwork is subtle and excellent, and only the most skilled and mobile strikers have been able to keep him at bay.

    If forced to strike exclusively, Dariush is competent, but he does his best work when he can mix in the clinch and takedown attempts. While not an especially large or imposing lightweight, Dariush is surprisingly strong when he gets his hands on his opponent. He makes good use of underhooks, collar ties, frames and other technical tools in the clinch to land knees and work trips. His shot takedowns are competent but not outstanding.

    Grappling is the strong point of Dariush's arsenal. The longtime jiu-jitsu black belt and high-level competitor is smooth and technical on the mat, with a fantastic arsenal of passes, strong control and a knack for using ground strikes to open up both passes and submissions. His move to the back is crisp and quick, and he can finish both in extended sequences or in transitions.

     

    Betting Odds

    Barboza -170, Dariush +150

     

    Prediction

    This is a close matchup. Pressure has been Barboza's bogeyman in the past, and Dariush is by nature an aggressive fighter who likes to close the distance. He'll get in Barboza's face and make this dirty, doing his best to take the Brazilian's smooth range striking out of the equation.

    Dariush will have some success with that approach, but Barboza isn't the same fighter he was in the past, when pressure wore him down mentally and shut off his volume and activity. He'll punish Dariush on the way in and pick him apart with kicks on the way to a competitive, back-and-forth 29-28 decision.

Shogun Rua vs. Gian Villante

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    Shogun Rua is still a dangerous puncher.
    Shogun Rua is still a dangerous puncher.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Co-Main Event: Light Heavyweights

    Shogun Rua (24-10; 8-8 UFC) vs. Gian Villante (15-7; 5-4 UFC)

    Former light heavyweight champion Rua takes on New York's Villante in a banger of a light heavyweight fight. Rua has won two in a row, taking tight decisions from Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Corey Anderson in his recent outings to snap a two-fight losing streak. Villante dropped a decision to Ilir Latifi last March but rebounded by knocking out Saparbek Safarov in December.

    After more than a decade at the top of the light heavyweight division, contending is no longer an option for Rua, while Villante has settled in as an action fighter. Both will stick around either way, and the hope here has to be for a fun fight.

    Villante is big for the division at a thickly built 6'3", but he's a good athlete with surprising quickness and real power in his shots.

    Striking is Villante's wheelhouse. He presses forward behind a sharp, consistent jab that he follows with a hard right hand and crushing low kicks. The New Yorker is perfectly willing to stay in the pocket to land counters and doesn't mind exchanging in the slightest. Pace is a strong suit for Villante, and he routinely throws 15 or 20 strikes per minute, but he also carries legitimate pop in his punches.

    Defense is the real problem for Villante. He has made real improvements and does a decent job of layering head movement with parries and blocks, but his fondness for working at close range and throwing a lot of volume leaves him open to getting hit. He gets tired, too, which is a problem considering his preference for pushing the pace.

    Villante has a strong wrestling background, which shows in his excellent takedown defense. When he gets in on his opponent's hips, he's not a bad takedown artist, but he does a subpar job of setting up his shots. On the mat, he's nothing special, with a basic command of top control, but the power in his hands makes him a decent ground striker.

    While he's now 35 years old and has clearly lost a step compared to his incredible run in PRIDE or even his time at the top of the UFC's light heavyweight division, Rua is still quick, athletic and extremely dangerous.

    On the feet, Rua probes with his lead hand, firing off the occasional jab, but mostly he slashes at his opponent's legs and body with vicious round kicks before committing to brutal power punches in the pocket. He has turned into a lethal counterpuncher in recent years and excels at gauging his opponent's timing and distance and then following him back with an overhand or hook. 

    Rua is one of the best in the division at reading his opponent and picking the correct shot. He works around and under the guard and does a great job of catching his opponents with uppercuts or hooks as they duck down or slip. This, in addition to his raw power, is what gives every one of his punches fight-ending force.

    The clinch is another strong suit for Rua. He throws vicious knees and short punches at close range and mixes in a strong repertoire of trips and throws. As a wrestler, he has a technical array of shot takedowns, but he's always been a subpar defensive wrestler. 

    While he struggles to stay off the mat, Rua isn't easy to hold down. While not a threat from the guard, he has a nice variety of sweeps from the deep half-guard. When he can get on top, he's one of the most dangerous ground strikers in the history of the sport.

     

    Betting Odds

    Rua -140, Villante +120

     

    Prediction

    This is a close fight, made closer by Rua's age, decline and the omnipresent questions of where his focus lies and how hard he trained. Villante is still improving and will probably show up better than he did last time.

    The basic outlines of the matchup favor Rua, though. He's the quicker, more accurate and more dangerous puncher, while Villante's porous defense is a serious problem against a seasoned knockout artist like Rua. The Brazilian's gas tank isn't great, but it's still better than Villante's, and he manages it more effectively.

    Shogun finds a knockout on the counter in the second round after a wild, back-and-forth opening frame.

Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum

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    Kelvin Gastelum looks to make a run at middleweight.
    Kelvin Gastelum looks to make a run at middleweight.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Main Event: Middleweights

    Kelvin Gastelum (13-2; 8-2 UFC) vs. Vitor Belfort (25-13; 14-9 UFC)

    The veteran Belfort tries to hang on at the top of the middleweight division against his youthful challenger Gastelum in a strong main event.

    Gastelum failed to make it down to 170 pounds for the last time in November, but he destroyed Tim Kennedy in December to announce his arrival in the middleweight division. That made for two wins in a row since his last loss, a split decision to Neil Magny. Belfort is clearly at the end of the road, though he's still competitive with elite fighters. He has lost two in a row, both inside the distance, to Gegard Mousasi and Jacare Souza.

    This is Belfort's last chance to stick around the top of the division, and there's a good chance he'll retire whether he wins or loses. Gastelum has his whole career ahead of him, but if he wins here, he'll be ready for fights with the aging elite of a thin division.

    Aggression and work rate are the hallmarks of Gastelum's game. The 25-year-old Arizona native loves to get in his opponent's face from the opening bell, forcing him back to the fence and then unloading a hailstorm of potent punches. This minimizes the negative effects of Gastelum's 5'9" frame, which makes him tiny for the middleweight division.

    Gastelum loves to pressure, and he's good at it. The southpaw rarely follows his opponent through the cage, instead cutting off his lateral movement and using kicks and looping punches to catch him when he tries to circle out. Gastelum excels at getting his lead foot outside his opponent's as he moves forward, which gives him advantageous angles from which to land both his straight left and his right hook.

    There's nothing especially flashy about Gastelum's strike selection: He throws a crisp jab, left hand and right hook while mixing in a vicious round kick to the leg or body. That's about it. What makes him special is his power—he has bricks for fists—and his ability to throw in combination.

    It's never just one shot with Gastelum; he always throws two or more shots and excels at avoiding the counter while staying in the pocket to exchange. This makes him hittable, which his basic defensive game doesn't help, but he's tough, and his opponent wilts under the stream of offense before he does. Even well-conditioned opponents fail to match Gastelum's cardio.

    Gastelum is a competent wrestler. He has an explosive, driving double leg that he masks with punches before he shoots, but his takedown game isn't especially diverse. Competent defensive wrestling mostly keeps him standing, but he tends to rely on his ability to scramble if planted on the mat, and this leaves him open to getting his back taken.

    On the mat, Gastelum really excels from the front headlock. He has an outstanding move to the back, one of the quickest and most technical in the sport, and from there has a nasty rear-naked choke. On top, he drops bombing ground strikes and maintains good control, but he isn't an especially well-rounded or dangerous grappler in extended sequences.

    Although he turns 40 next month, Belfort remains quick and extremely dangerous. He has worked through multiple incarnations over the course of his 20-year MMA career, beginning as a hyper-athletic puncher before turning into a grinding wrestler for a while. He showcased more measured work on the feet for a while, then his grappling, and has spent the last few years as a clean, technical and slow-paced range striker.

    Belfort has never been a high-volume striker, but his output has slowed even further over his last several fights. That's fine; he's never been much for winning rounds anyway, instead relying on a shocking burst of offense to finish his opponent or be finished himself. It's feast or famine in its peak form.

    Circling at extremely long range, Belfort cuts angles and patiently waits for openings while he gauges the distance and timing. He doesn't do much to create those openings, though he feints a bit; he's mostly just biding his time until the right opportunity presents itself. When it does, Belfort explodes into a vicious left kick or his trademark left hand, throwing shot after shot until he gasses or his opponent falls.

    This is essentially it. If Belfort lands cleanly with either a punch or a kick, any single shot can finish the fight. If he doesn't, he's either going to tire out or mentally break under his opponent's pressure. 

    In open space, Belfort is hard to get to the floor: His sprawl is quick and he excels at grabbing underhooks or immediately breaking the clinch. Against the fence, though, he struggles to shut down chained takedown attempts.

    Belfort hasn't completed a takedown in a decade and is unlikely to do so here. He's a good grappler, though, and can threaten from his back with triangles and armbars. Extended grappling sequences tend to wear him down both mentally and physically, though, and opponents who keep the pressure on will break him sooner rather than later.

     

    Betting Odds

    Gastelum -420, Belfort +335

     

    Prediction

    This is Gastelum's fight to lose. While he's giving up height and reach to Belfort, who stands three inches taller, Gastelum is a pressure fighter by nature. Pressure has always been Belfort's kryptonite, and that problem hasn't improved in recent fights: Jacare and Mousasi both used the fence to their advantage, and Gastelum is a more dangerous, higher-output fighter at close range than either of them.

    Gastelum is also more hittable than either Jacare or Mousasi, but he's young and durable. Unless Belfort lands that one big shot—always a possibility—the younger fighter will blast him with combinations in the pocket. The American eats a few scary punches, but he finishes with strikes in the second round.

     

    Odds courtesy of OddsShark and current on Tuesday, March 7.

    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. For the history enthusiasts out there, he also hosts The Fall of Rome Podcast on the end of the Roman Empire. He can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.