The UFC has taken a few weeks off to catch our breath after UFC 159. That all ends this weekend as the UFC returns to the land of free television airwaves and to the land of Brazil for UFC on FX 8. In the main event of the evening the final Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold looks to move immediately into contention for the UFC Middleweight title as he battles Vitor Belfort in a Middleweight bout. The co-main event features former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo Souza making his UFC debut against Chris Camozzi; himself a late replacement for injured Costa Philippou. Other main card action features a potential Fight of the Year candidate between always exciting Lightweight bangers Evan Dunham and Rafael dos Anjos.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Lucas Martins vs. Jeremy Larsen
Quick Pick: Lucas Martins via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Flyweight Bout: Jussier Formiga vs. Chris Cariaso
Jussier Formiga is a 28-year-old fighter from Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. He is a member of the famed Nova Uniao Gym in Brazil and is a former Shooto South American 123-pound champion. Formiga is one of the top Flyweight grapplers and holds a career record of 14-2. Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso is a 31-year-old fighter from San Jose, California. Cariaso trains at the Fight and Fitness Gym in northern California. Cariaso is a talented striker who holds a professional record of 14-4.
Quick Pick: Chris Cariaso via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Flyweight Bout: John Lineker vs. Azamat Gashimov
John “Mao-de-Pedra” Lineker is a 23-year-old fighter from Parana, Brazil. A fairly large Flyweight, Lineker is a former Jungle Fight Bantamweight Champion, winning that title in 2011. Lineker is a tough and well-rounded scrapper who is dangerous anywhere the fight takes place. He is a member of The Emporium Gym in Brazil and he holds a professional record of 20-6. Azamat “Tough Guy” Gashimov is a 23-year-old fighter from Dagestan, Russia. He trains with Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico, one of many Russian fighters to recently flock there. He holds a professional record of 7-2, but will be making his Flyweight debut in this contest.
Quick Pick: John Lineker via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Light Heavyweight Bout: Fabio Maldonado vs. Roger Hollett
Fabio Maldonado is a 33-year-old fighter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. A former professional boxer with a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he is a tough match up for almost anyone. He trains with Team Nogueira in Florianapolis, Brazil. He holds a professional MMA record of 18-6. Roger “The Hulk” Hollett is a 34-year-old fighter from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Hollett is a former MFC Light Heavyweight Champion and spends most of his training camp at Titans Gym in Nova Scotia. He holds a professional MMA record of 13-4.
Quick Pick: Fabio Maldonado via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Bantamweight Bout: Yuri Alcantara vs. Iliarde Santos
Yuri “Marajo” Alcantara is a 32-year-old fighter from Marajo, Brazil. After coming to the UFC from the WEC as a Featherweight, he has since dropped to Bantamweight, but his lone bout at 135-pounds is a No Contest. Alcantara is a talented grappler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is a member of the Marajo Brothers Fight Team, holding a record of 27-4 with 1 No Contest. Iliarde Santos is a 32-year-old fighter from Belem, Para, Brazil. He is a member of the Ulisses Pereira Team in Brazil. He is a late replacement for Marcos Vinicius who was forced to pull out of this bout due to injury. He holds a professional record of 27-6-1 with 1 No Contest.
Quick Pick: Yuri Alcantara via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Welterweight Bout: Paulo Thiago vs. Michel Prazeres
Paulo Thiago is a 32-year-old fighter from Brasilia, Brazil. He is a member of the Constrictor Fight Team and is notable as one of the UFC’s most dangerous and successful part time fighters. He is a member of the BOPE (Brazil’s Special Forces Unit.) He holds black belts in BJJ and Judo and holds a career record of 14-5. Michel “Trator” Prazeres is a 31-year-old fighter from Belem Para, Brazil. Prazeres is a teammate of Yuri Alcantara who is taking this bout as a late replacement for Lance Benoist. He holds a perfect professional record of 16-0.
Quick Pick: Paulo Thiago via TKO in Round One
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Lightweight Bout: Gleison Tibau vs. John Cholish
Gleison Tibau is a 29-year-old fighter from Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. Tibau is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who currently trains in the United States with the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. Tibau has been fighting in the UFC since 2006 and this will be his 19th time fighting in the Octagon. He holds a career record of 26-9. John Cholish is a 29-year-old fighter from Hackettstown, New York. Cholish is notable as a part time fighter, holding down a full time job on Wall Street as a broker and being a Cornell University grad. Cholish trains with the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, New York. He holds a professional record of 8-2.
Quick Pick: Gleison Tibau via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Lightweight Bout: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Mike Rio
Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo is a 34-year-old fighter from Amarante, Brazil. He was a competitor on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, where he competed as a Middleweight. He is a member of the Brazilian Top Team and the Constrictor Team in Brazil. He holds a professional MMA record of 12-2. Mike “The Wolverine” Rio is a 31-year-old fighter from Miami, Florida. Rio is also a TUF-alum, competing on the fifteenth season of the American version of the show. Rio trains with the Young Tigers Gym in Miami, Florida. He holds a professional record of 9-1.
Quick Pick: Francisco Trinaldo via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Hacran Dias vs. Nik Lentz
Hacran “Barnabe” Dias is a 28-year-old fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dias is a member of the Nova Uniao camp in Rio de Janeiro. Dias is a talented wrestler who is absolutely smothering from top position. This will be Dias’ first fight since June 2012, almost a year ago due to injuries. He holds a professional record of 21-1-1. Nik “The Carny” Lentz is a 28-year-old fighter from El Paso, Texas. Lentz is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from the University of Minnesota. Lentz trains with the American Top Team as well as the Minnesota Martial Arts Gym in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Lentz holds a professional MMA record of 23-5-2-1, but is 2-0 in the UFC since dropping to Featherweight.
Quick Pick: Nik Lentz via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Rafael Natal vs. Joao Zeferino
Rafael “Sapo” Natal is a 30-year-old fighter from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Natal now trains stateside in the New York City, New York at the Gracie Fusion Gym. He is a talented grappler who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Natal was originally scheduled to face Chris Camozzi at this event, but an injury to co-main event fighter Costa Philippou caused the card to be shuffled. Natal is a fairly one-dimensional fighter whose stand up is somewhat lacking, but his ground control is top-notch. Natal holds a career record of 15-4-1.
Joao “The Brazilian Samurai” Zeferino is a 27-year-old fighter from Santa Catarina, Brazil. Zeferino is a member of the Nitrix Fight Team in his hometown of Florianopolis, Brazil. Zeferino will be making his UFC debut in this bout and is entering the UFC on a seven-fight winning streak. Zeferino is tough and well rounded and has a number of victories via Submission. Despite a strong 13-4 record, he lacks a signature win on his resume and the most notable fighter on his docket is probably Sean Salmon.
Analysis and Prediction: Natal has many faults, he’s overly cocky and thinks very highly of himself, which often leads to blunders inside the cage. That same arrogance cost him in his bout against Andrew Craig. Still he should have the skills necessary to dispatch of Zeferino. Natal controls the action on the mat throughout all three rounds as he takes Zeferino down in all three rounds. Rafael Natal via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Evan Dunham
Rafael dos Anjos is a 28-year-old fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is a member of the Evolve MMA Gym, training in his hometown. Dos Anjos is a talented grappler who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Despite his grappling prowess, in his most recent fights he has been having a great deal of success using his rapidly developing Muay Thai skills. Dos Anjos is currently riding a three fight-winning streak and it includes two dominant decision victories over Anthony Njokuani and Mark Bocek. Dos Anjos holds a career record of 18-6.
Evan Dunham is a 31-year-old fighter from Eugene, Oregon. Dunham trains at the Throwdown Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada and he occasionally spends time at his former gym Xtreme Couture. Dunham is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who is prone to getting into brawls at times. Dunham is known as a somewhat slow starter, who takes a while to get going in some of his fights, but once he does, he is one of the most exciting fighters in the Lightweight division to watch, holding three Fight of the Night Bonuses. He holds a career record of 14-3.
Analysis and Prediction: This has to be considered a front-runner for the Fight of the Night bonus. Dos Anjos is coming along nicely with his skill development and seems happy to brawl it out on the feet recently. Dunham is a notoriously slow starter, which means he often has to fight from behind on the scorecards. That could be a problem, because dos Anjos doesn’t give up rounds easily. Dunham is a talented wrestler, but dos Anjos’ grappling is top-notch which means he could be tough to corral on the ground. In the end I think Dunham’s slow start will be his downfall. Rafael dos Anjos via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Ronaldo Souza vs. Chris Camozzi
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is a 33-year-old fighter from Vila Velha, Brazil. Souza is a member of the Black House Training Center in Manaus, Brazil. He is one of the most talented grapplers in the world, holding black belts in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. Souza is a 5-time World Jiu Jitsu Champion, including a number of open weight titles in submission grappling tournaments. Despite Souza’s excellent grappling credentials, his overall MMA game has come a long way as his striking has improved by leaps and bounds since his initial entry into MMA in 2003. Souza is a former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion who holds an MMA record of 17-3 with 1 No Contest.
Chris Camozzi is a 26-year-old fighter from Alameda, California. Camozzi was a cast member on the eleventh season of The Ultimate Fighter but was ultimately removed from the competition due to injury. Camozzi is a member of the Factory X Muay Thai Gym in Lakewood, Colorado. He is currently riding a four-fight winning streak and is getting a shot in the co-main event after some card shuffling resulting from an injury to Costa Philippou. Camozzi is a grinder who doesn’t really excel at any one thing, but is capable of fighting anywhere the fight goes. He holds a career record of 19-5.
Analysis and Prediction: Camozzi is currently riding an impressive winning streak, but it’s hardly been against top-notch talent. Jacare on the other hand is going to be a whole different animal to deal with. Camozzi is a grinder, but Souza is going to put him through a meat grinder. Souza’s Muay Thai has improved to the space where he can hang with Camozzi on the feet and if he gets Camozzi on the ground, he’s submitting him. By the end of round two, I think he does just that. Ronaldo Souza via Submission in Round Two
Main Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort is a 35-year-old fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Belfort is a veteran of the sport, who has been competing professionally since 1996. Belfort is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and also won a UFC Heavyweight Tournament at UFC 12. Belfort has fought for a number of major MMA promotions, including Cage Rage, Affliction, Strikeforce and PRIDE. He holds black belts in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, although he is most well known for his striking skills. Brazil lives and resides in the United States. Belfort is a member of the Blackzillians, training in Boca Raton, Florida at the Jaco Hybrid Training Center. He holds a professional MMA record of 22-10.
Analysis and Prediction: Many fans and media pundits have questioned the UFC continually putting Belfort on Brazilian cards, where there is no athletic commission and it’s widely believed that he’s using TRT constantly. I have to agree with them, but like Kenny Florian recently stated on UFC Tonight, this fight isn’t going to be about Testosterone, it’s going to come down to skill.
Belfort is an absolute demon in the first round, but as we’ve seen throughout his career he has struggled in fights where he gets dragged into deeper waters. Rockhold on the other hand is a top-notch competitor with excellent cardio. One thing that could affect this fight is the dreaded case of Octagon jitters. Fighting in hostile territory, in his first UFC fight after nearly a year layoff, could certainly mess with Rockhold’s head come fight time.
I think that Rockhold as the striking skills to exchange with Belfort on the outside without getting lit up. Rockhold is hard to hit and his footwork and timing are excellent. On the ground, Belfort probably has the higher credentials, but Rockhold has shown more impressive ground skills throughout his career and is probably the smarter fighter, which means he might be looking for takedowns. In the end this fight is really close, but I think the longer the fight lsts the more it favors Rockhold who is accustomed to fighting for five full rounds already from his reign as Strikeforce Champion. Luke Rockhold via TKO in Round Four