UFC 134: Rio will be held this Saturday, August 27 from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The second trip to this beautiful country for the UFC, the night's action is loaded with tremendous matchups.
Highlighting the card will be a middleweight showdown between Brazil's own Anderson "The Spider" Silva as he defends his coveted title against Japanese sensation Yushin "Thunder" Okami.
The co-main event of the night is a bout between two former UFC light heavyweight champions. Another Brazilian star, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua will attempt to avenge his previous loss to the American, Forrest Griffin.
In heavyweight action, Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub will attempt to add to his seven knockout victories as he battles the legendary Brazilian, Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.
With 13 Brazilian-born fighters on the card, the UFC's return to their native land will be a showcase for the seasoned veterans as well as the rising stars.
Please follow along as I dissect all 12 fights and provide analysis and predictions for the outcomes.
Enjoy the fights!
I welcome your comments.
The evening's action begins with a bantamweight frenzy between Canadian born Yves "Tiger" Jabouin and American Ian "The Barn Owl" Loveland.
Making his bantamweight debut, Yves "Tiger" Jabouin is a talented kick-boxer training out of the Tristar gym in Quebec.
With an overall MMA record of 15-7 with 11 knockout victories, Jabouin looks to stand and trade in the center of the Octagon relying on his knockout power to secure a victory.
Conversely, Loveland has a solid wrestling pedigree. Training with Team Quest in Gresham, Oregon, Loveland's pedigree as a grappler is very solid.
A stylistic clash, Jabouin will want to keep this fight standing, whereas Loveland will be looking to secure a take-down and unload the trademark ground-and-pound exhibited by the members of Team Quest.
Somewhat susceptible to the TKO defeat, Jabouin will need to keep his hands end to defend the power of Loveland who has six knockout victories.
The skill-set of "The Barn Owl" will be very challenging for the striker-minded "Tiger." If Loveland can vary his strikes, secure take-downs and then come over the top with a powerful right hand, this fight will end in his favor.
Winner: Ian Loveland via Round 3 TKO
The first action in the featherweight division is a contest between two Brazilian countryman. Yuri "Marajo" Alcantara will step inside the Octagon against Felipe "Sertanejo" Arantes.
This will be a tremendous matchup between these two featherweight dynamos. Alcantara has an overall MMA record of 24-3 with 12 knockout victories and 10 submission wins. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Alcantara is extremely balanced in his fight game.
Similarly, the less-experienced, but also extremely fluid fighter, Arantes is 13-3-2. This Muay Thai practitioner is explosive and aggressive, driving forceful leg kicks into his opponents, has dynamite in his punches and is a true athlete.
Matching styles between these two featherweights will dominate this bout. Both are exceptional in their stand-up. Both enjoy trading in the center of the Octagon. However, Alcantara holds a slight advantage in the grappling department.
Because of that minimal advantage, I am predicting a decision victory for Alcantara.
Winner: Yuri Alcantara via unanimous decision victory
Another matchup of Brazilian-born fighters introduces the evening's first welterweight bout.
Erick "Indio" Silva will square off against Luis "Beicao" Ramos.
Training with Team Nogueira in Brazil, a black belt in jiu-jitsu, Silva has amassed an impressive 12-1 MMA record with seven submission victories.
Well versed in BJJ, Silva is also a black belt in judo and a very prolific striker who will utilize his punches and kicks to lock up a submission victory.
Ramos is a Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu practitioner as well. Relying more on his cardiovascular conditioning to grind out his previous victories by decision, Ramos is less a threat to finish a fight by knockout or submission when compared to his fellow countryman.
Because of Silva's ability to finish fights, I am going to predict a victory for "Indio" in his UFC debut.
Winner: Erick Silva via Round 2 rear-naked choke
The evening's second bantamweight duel features Raphael Assuncao versus Johnny Eduardo.
Assuncao, now training in Atlanta, Georgia, has a combined MMA record of 16-4 with nine submission victories.
Debuting in the UFC in March, Assuncao was defeated by Erik Koch via KO. Looking to capture his first UFC victory, Assuncao knows that the seasoned veteran Eduardo will not be an easy win.
Eduardo enters the Octagon on an 11-fight win streak dating back to 2007. With an overall MMA record of 25-8, 19 of the Brazilian's career wins have been by stoppage.
A skilled stand-up striker with fast hands and dynamite kicks and with the propensity to finish his fights, I am providing Eduardo the slight advantage in this matchup.
Winner: Johnny Eduardo via Round 3 TKO
The final Facebook preliminary matchup features Brazilian Paulo Thiago versus the American David "Daudi" Mitchell in a welterweight showdown.
Thiago has been on a roller-coaster of a ride since arriving in the UFC in 2009. In his first ever matchup within the world's largest promotion, Thiago knocked out Josh Koshcheck with a vicious uppercut earning Knockout of the Night honors in England.
Bouncing between success and victory, Thiago subsequently lost to Jon Fitch, defeated Jacob Volkmann and Mike Swick, then was defeated by Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez.
With two straight defeats, Thiago will be fighting for his contract come this Saturday.
Hoping to provide the walking papers for the Brazilian, Mitchell brings his overall MMA record of 11-1 (0-1 in the UFC) to the cage.
"Daudi" has earned nine submission victories in his 11 overall wins. A solid jiu-jitsu practitioner, a submission win against the black belt in jiu-jitsu in Thiago will be a challenge for the American.
Mitchell's less-polished stand-up game will be the American's Achilles' heel versus the Brazilian. Thiago should keep this fight standing where he can secure a knockout or decision victory on their feet and remain employed by the UFC.
Winner: Paulo Thiago via unanimous decision
Coverage provided by Spike TV begins with a middleweight flurry between the Brazilian Rousimar "Tree Stump" Palhares and the American Dan Miller.
An interesting grappling matchup in this bout, both competitors are black belts in jiu-jitsu and both practitioners have secured a high number of victories by submission.
Palhares is 5-2 inside the UFC, suffering defeats at the hands of Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt.
Similarly, Dan Miller is 5-4 inside the UFC, suffering defeats to top-tier talent as well, including Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Michael Bisping and the aforementioned Nate Marquardt.
A compelling matchup, Miller's losses in the UFC have all been by decision whereas Palhares has been defeated by TKO.
Neither competitor is overpowering in the stand-up game. Because of Miller's acceptance of this fight last minute, he may not have had the adequate time to prepare for the aggressive ground game exhibited by Palhares.
Truly a toss-up when it comes to a prediction, this battle between these two jiu-jitsu practitioners should exhibit a high level of grappling and needed cardiovascular conditioning throughout.
Winner: Rousimar Palhares via split-decision
The final preliminary matchup is a lightweight bout featuring the Brazilian Top Team pupil Thiago Tavares versus the Team Evolution prodigy Spencer "The King" Fisher.
Tavares is making his 10th appearance inside the famed Octagon with an overall UFC record of 5-4-1.
A skilled jiu-jitsu talent, Tavares has secured victories over Tyson Griffin, Matt Wiman and Kurt Pelligrino.
Known for his submission skills, Tavares will need to keep his hands high to protect against the boxing advantage exhibited by Fisher.
A seasoned veteran, Fisher has engaged in memorable battles inside the UFC including a tremendous contest against Sam Stout in 2007.
Never one to shy away from contact, Fisher will stand and trade in the center of the Octagon, confident in his hands to secure a victory.
With 10 knockouts and nine submission wins in 24 total victories, "The King" epitomizes the term mixed martial arts.
Even though Fisher is a solid striker, Tavares will be take "The King" down to the mat and neutralize Fisher's advantage in the stand-up game.
Grinding out a decision victory, Tavares will earn his sixth win under the UFC banner.
Winner: Thiago Tavares via unanimous decision
Main-card action begins with a light heavyweight bout between Luiz "Banha" Cane and Stanislov Nedkov.
The quintessential striker versus wrestler, Cane brings his nine knockout victories to the Octagon against the two-time Bulgarian national champion wrestler.
"Banha" looked terrific in his last fight, defeating Eliot Marshall with a first-round TKO.
Nedkov has competed worldwide securing victories against former UFC competitors Travis Wiuff and Kevin Randleman.
If Cane does not over-commit to his strikes and keeps his range from the take-down offense of Nedkov, "Banha" will be successful in this matchup.
Conversely, Nedkov will need to utilize his striking to maneuver inside on the Brazilian and take this fight to the ground where can unleash his ground-and-pound.
Conditioning has been a factor for the Bulgarian in the past. Additionally, Cane has a black belt in jiu-jitsu and can challenge off of his back.
In the end, the versatility of "Banha" will be to much for Nedkov to overcome. Cane will keep the Bulgarian at bay with his striking and secure a victory in this main-event bout.
Winner: Luiz Cane via Round 2 TKO
Two highly-touted lightweights will challenge on the main card in Brazil this Saturday. British born Ross Pearson takes on the Brazilian Edson Barboza in what will surely be a terrific fight.
Pearson, winner of season nine of The Ultimate Fighter, has an overall MMA record of 12-4. With a 4-1 record in the UFC, Pearson's only defeat was a submission loss to Cole Miller.
Barboza rides the momentum of his undefeated 8-0 mixed martial arts record.
A professional kick-boxer with an overall 25-3 record with 22 knockouts, Barboza is a truly gifted striker who can attack from all angles, from all planes and with all weapons.
Pearson will need to utilize his wrestling background to neutralize Baraboza's arsenal of offense. Clinching with the Brazilian and taking this fight to the mat will be the Brit's best offense.
If Barboza can exhibit good take-down defense and keep this fight standing, it will be a challenging night for Pearson.
Winner: Edson Barboza via unanimous decision
A heavyweight clash features the young prospect Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub versus the seasoned veteran Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.
Schaub has been on a tear since debuting on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights. A technically skilled boxer, "The Hybrid" has an 8-1 MMA record with seven knockout victories.
Continuing to evolve in his skill-set with every UFC matchup, Schaub is looking to defeat another decorated veteran and add Nogueira's name to his list of victories alongside that of Mirko Cro Cop and Gabriel Gonzaga.
Nogueira needs no introduction. A former Pride heavyweight champion and a fighter who has engaged in monumental battles including matchups with Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, Fabricio Werdum and Randy Couture, "Minotauro's" accomplishments inside the cage are prolific.
A very good striker with a solid chin, Nogueira is also one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport and can secure victories on the ground and on his feet.
The youth, speed, and power of Schaub will challenge the wisdom, savvy, and jiu-jitsu skills of Nogueira.
It would be simple to choose a knockout victory for Schaub in this matchup. Yet considering that "Minotauro" has only one defeat by KO, I do not expect "The Hybrid" to provide Nogueira his second knockout defeat.
This will be an interesting battle with excellent potential. In the end, however, Schaub's boxing and athleticism will be too much for the aging Nogueira to overcome.
If "The Hybrid" can keep Nogueira at bay with his range and his excellent footwork, he will hold the advantage in this matchup.
Winner: Brendan Schaub via unanimous decision
A battle of two former UFC light heavyweight champions is the co-main event of the evening.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua will be looking to avenge his previous loss to Forrest Griffin in his home country of Brazil.
Griffin defeated Rua in a huge upset nearly four years ago. During that contest, Shogun was suffering from an undisclosed knee injury.
Fast forward to 2011, and Rua has re-injured that knee on one verifiable occasion.
When healthy, Shogun is a lethal striker. With savage leg kicks, tremendous power in his hands and unrivaled movement on his feet, a fit and strong Rua is a force to reckoned with within the division.
A mainstay since winning first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin is a consummate professional who enters the Octagon ready to engage in a bloody contest if needed, reliant on his cardiovascular conditioning and solid skill-set.
Speaking with MMANation.com, Griffin stated an aspect of his game plan.
I hope he's still dealing with a lot of injuries. I figure he's been motivated, he's trained hard. I figure he's gonna come out and go right at me from the beginning. Just weather the storm is my plan. Run a little, weather the storm, see if I can push him against the fence and then open my bag of tricks.
Griffin seems intent on wearing Shogun down and grinding out a victory. If Rua's knee troubles have prevented a solid training camp in which his conditioning is a liability, Griffin will once again defeat the Chute Boxe Academy veteran.
However, if Rua is 100 percent healthy and mimics the former devastating Pride fighter he once was, Shogun will avenge his loss in front of his brethren.
A tough contest to predict, I will provide a slight advantage to Mauricio Rua in his second matchup with Forrest Griffin.
Winner: Mauricio Rua via unanimous decision
The main event of the evening is a middleweight championship contest between the current UFC middleweight king Anderson "The Spider" Silva, and Japanese star Yushin "Thunder" Okami.
Silva has achieved more in the sport than any fighter to date. The greatest striker on the planet has made fellow professionals, including Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin and many more, look like amateurs.
Extremely gifted as a striker, "The Spider's" head movement is unmatched within all of mixed martial arts. Possessing the talent to deliver strikes from all angles, all planes and with all weapons, Silva has a highlight knockout reel that will never be surpassed.
Truly an incredible stand-up and ground tactician, "The Spider" has exhibited virtually no holes in his skill-set.
The only weakness that Silva seemingly has is his take-down defense against stronger grapplers.
"Thunder" is a black belt in Judo and is a very strong and athletic 185-pound competitor.
Known for his ability to take fights to the ground and deliver brutal shots from his opponent's guard, this game-plan awarded Okami victories en route to his quest for the title.
Developing a solid stand-up game to compliment his ever-increasing talents in the grappling department, Okami has worked diligently to sew up any holes in his skill-set.
Okami will need to get inside on the longer, taller, and clearly better, striker Silva for any chance of defeating the Brazilian.
Conversely, "The Spider" will remain on the outside delivering a wide array of strikes looking for his opportunity to end the fight at a moment's notice.
The hype surrounding Okami's size and strength and Silva's past challenges with strong grapplers will not make a difference in this matchup.
Anderson Silva is the greatest striker on the planet. He will display his talents in front of his home country and add to his already-incredible record of eight title defenses.
"The Spider" will defeat "Thunder" in glorious fashion earning Knockout of the Night honors in the process.
Winner: Anderson Silva via Round 2 KO