Last weekend was a very big day for the world of MMA. Despite the best of intentions for the final Strikeforce card last Saturday a rash of injuries, politics and bad luck the card wasn’t what was initially planned as a big sendoff for the promotion. Despite that the card was fairly entertaining. Despite that however, the ratings were absolutely terrible, drawing a mere 310,000 viewers for the event on Showtime. But, as always the runaway locomotive that is the UFC will continue to roll on this weekend.
The UFC returns to the birthplace of MMA for UFC on FX 7, as they host yet another event in Brazil. The event airs on FX from the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The main event features loud-mouthed British fighter Michael Bisping takes on Brazil’s own Vitor Belfort for a shot at the Middleweight title. Brazilian’s are featured in all of the other main card bouts on FX as the co-main event sees TUF: Brazil’s Daniel Sarafian takes on C.B. Dollaway. Heavyweights collide in another bout as Gabriel Gonzaga takes on Ben Rothwell and a Lightweight bout with high potential for violence as Thiago Tavares takes on Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Francisco Trinaldo vs. C.J. Keith
Quick Pick: Francisco Trinaldo via TKO in Round One
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Light Heavyweight Bout: Wagner Prado vs. Ildemar Alcantara
Wagner “Caldeirao” Prado is a 26-year-old fighter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Prado is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who trains with Team Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Prado holds a career record of 8-1 with 1 No Contest. Iledmar “Marajo” Alcantara is a fighter from Soure, Para, Brazil. He is the younger brother of fellow UFC fighter Yuri Alcantara who is taking this bout as a last minute replacement with only two weeks’ notice. He holds a career record of 17-5, with most of his fights coming in the Jungle Fight promotion.
Quick Pick: Wagner Prado via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Bantamweight Bout: Yuri Alcantara vs. Pedro Nobre
Yuri “Marajo” Alcantara is a 32-year-old Brazilian fighter from the island of Marajo in Brazil. He is a member of the Pattaya Fight Team in Brazil. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who holds a career record of 27-4. Pedro “The Rock” Nobre is a 26-year-old from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He trains with the Brazilian Top Team and is another late notice replacement for this fight card. He was also a cast member from TUF: Brazil. The natural Flyweight will be moving up in weight for this bout, but holds a career record of 14-1-2 as a professional.
Quick Pick: Yuri Alcantara via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Lightweight Bout: Edson Barboza vs. Lucas Martins
Edson “Junior” Barboza is a 26-year-old Brazilian fighter from Rio de Janeiro. A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, Barboza trains out of The Armory in Jupiter, Florida. Barboza is a former professional kick boxer, who holds a 10-1 record in his professional MMA career. Lucas “Mineiro” Martins is a 24-year-old Brazilian fighter from Minas Gerais, Brazil. He is a member of the Chute Boxe Academy who is taking this bout on short notice. He heads into his UFC debut with a perfect professional record of 12-0.
Quick Pick: Edson Barboza via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Diego Nunes vs. Nik Lentz
Diego “The Gun” Nunes is a 30-year-old Brazilian fighter from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Nunes is a member of the Nova Uniao Gym in Brazil who holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Nunes holds a professional record of 18-3. Nik “The Carny” Lentz is a 28-year-old from El Paso, Texas. He is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from the University of Minnesota who trains with the American Top Team. He has a professional MMA record of 22-5-2-1.
Quick Pick: Diego Nunes via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Middleweight Bout: Ronny Markes vs. Andrew Craig
Ronny Markes is a 24-year-old Brazilian fighter from Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. Markes is a member of the Nova Uniao Gym in Brazil. Markes is a talented grappler who is very large for the Middleweight division. He holds a professional record of 13-1. Andrew Craig is a 26-year-old from Houston, Texas. Training out of the Team Tooke Gym in his hometown, he is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He holds a perfect professional MMA record of 8-0.
Quick Pick: Ronny Markes via TKO in Round Three
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Godofredo Castro vs. Milton Vieira
Godofredo “Pepey” Castro is a 25-year-old fighter from Fortaleza, Brazil. He is best known as a finalist on the first season of TUF: Brazil. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who trains at his own MG Pepey Gym in Brazil. He holds a professional record of 8-1. Milton “Miltinho” Vieira is a 34-year-old Brazilian fighter. A member of the Brazilian Top Team and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, he is widely acknowledged as the man who created the anaconda choke. He holds a professional fighting record of 13-7-2.
Quick Pick: Milton Vieira via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Thiago Tavares vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Thiago Tavares is a 28-year-old Brazilian fighter from Florianopolis, Brazil. Tavares is a talented grappler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He trains with the Brazilian Top Team and Ataque Duplo Gym in Santa Catarina. Tavares entered the UFC as a top undefeated prospect back in 2007. He has had twelve fights since then, going 7-4-1 in the promotion. His striking has been improving throughout his career to the point where it’s still not his best strength, but it’s not a glaring weakness either. Overall, his professional MMA record stands at 17-4-1.
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov is a 24-year-old Russian fighter. He is a well-rounded fighter who holds a black belt in Judo and is an International Master of Sports (a top rank) in Combat Sambo. Nurmagomedov currently splits his training time between Russia and the USA. He trains with the Red Fury Fight Team in Russia and the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. He is one of the top Lightweight prospects to ever come out of Russia. He holds a perfect career record of 18-0, but is coming off of a fairly controversial decision victory over Gleison Tibau in his last bout.
Analysis and Prediction: This will likely be a close bout as Nurmagomedov takes another significant step up in competition. Tavares is tough and well rounded and has very impressive cardio, which is something that Nurmagomedov has struggled with in the past. Tavares does his best work on the ground, but so far in his UFC career the young Russian has defended all ten takedown attempts against him. If Nurmagomedov is able to stuff Tavares’ takedowns attempts and punish him as he shoots, if Tavares is able to work the bout to the floor, he’ll likely be able to earn a decision based on positional dominance and top control. I think the more likely outcome is that he struggles to work the fight to the floor and Nurmagomedov punishes him with kicks and punches from in close en-route to a decision victory. Khabib Nurmagomedov via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FX): Heavyweight Bout: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga is a 33-year-old Brazilian fighter from Rio de Janeiro. Gonzaga now trains stateside in the USA with Team Link in Ludlow, Massachusetts. Gonzaga is a former member of the Chute Boxe Academy, who is best known for his highlight reel head kick knockout of Mirko Filipovic at UFC 70. Gonzaga has had numerous successes in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club submission grappling tournaments as well as the Mundials Grappling Tournament in Brazil. He holds a professional record of 13-6.
“Big” Ben Rothwell is a 31-year-old fighter from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rothwell is a former professional kick boxer who has trained under famed coaches Duke Roufus and Pat Miletich throughout his career. He now owns and fights out of his own gym in Kenosha, Wisconsin called Rothwell MMA/LCCT BJJ. Before making his debut in the UFC, Rothwell fought for a number of major MMA promotions including M-1 Global, King of the Cage, IFL and Affliction. Rothwell is a veteran of the sport who has over 40 career bouts on his ledger and holds a career record of 32-8.
Analysis and Prediction: Rothwell looked very impressive in his last outing against Brendan Schaub and appears to have gotten himself in better shape recently. After the bout he credited a new training regimen and lifestyle and dietary changes for the improvements. Rothwell does his best damage from in close using dirty boxing and clinch work to batter his opponents. This could present problems, as it will give Gonzaga ample opportunity to work the fight to the ground from in close. I don’t think that Gonzaga can keep up with Rothwell’s pace however, as he fades later in the fight and succumbs to strikes in the third. Ben Rothwell via TKO in Round Three
Main Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Daniel Sarafian vs. C.B. Dollaway
Daniel Sarafian is a 30-year-old Brazilian fight from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He was a competitor on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Sarafian has a background in Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He was a favorite to win the show and made it to the finals, but an injury forced his withdrawal. Sarafian has fought for a number of promotions in Brazil, Philippines and USA. Sarafian holds a career record of 7-2.
C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway is a 29-year-old fighter from Mount Gilead, Ohio. Dollaway is a member of the Power MMA Team training in Tempe, Arizona. Dollaway is best known as a finalist on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. Dollaway is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Arizona State University. Dollaway uses his wrestling throughout his bouts, but his striking is still somewhat raw. Due to this, he often struggles against fighters that he cannot easily takedown. He holds a professional MMA record of 12-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Daniel Sarafian was one of the top Middleweights on TUF: Brazil. He is very well rounded and packs big power in his punches. Dollaway is a talented wrestler, but that is basically the extent of his skills. Dollaway has struggled throughout his career against fighters that can stop his takedowns. Expect a sprawl-and-brawl heavy game plan for Sarafian, as he’ll try to punish Dollaway every time he shoots in. Dollaway has a pretty low fight IQ and isn’t talented enough to fight Sarafian in a striking contest, if he doesn’t take this one to the ground quickly, he’s probably going to sleep. Daniel Sarafian via TKO in Round Two
Main Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort is a 35-year-old fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A veteran of the sport of MMA, he has been fighting professionally since 1996. Belfort won the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament and is also a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Belfort holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a black belt in Judo and a purple belt in Shotokan Karate. Although originally from Brazil, Belfort now lives and trains in the United States, previously with the Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada but for this bout he has switched his training to the Jaco Hybrid Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida with the Blackzillians. This will be Belfort’s return to Middleweight after a failed attempt against Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Belfort holds a career record of 21-10.
Michael “The Count” Bisping is a 33-year-old fighter from Manchester, England. Bisping is best known as the winner of the Light Heavyweight portion of the third season of The Ultimate Fighter. Despite given a bad reputation as having “pillow fists” Bisping is one of the best technical strikers in the Middleweight division and his defensive boxing is usually sound (his knockout loss to Dan Henderson not withstanding.) Bisping is a member of the HB Ultimate Training Center in Huntington Beach, California. Bisping has excellent footwork and a strong jab, which are key components to his defensive boxing skills. He is also a well-rounded fighter who has been improving his wrestling and grappling skills. In his last bout against Brian Stann, Bisping used his defensive boxing skills, mixed with well-timed takedowns to take a Unanimous Decision. He holds a career record of 23-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Belfort does his best work in the opening rounds. Bisping certainly knows that and he’s not going to be putting himself at risk in the opening rounds. Bisping has solid defensive striking and is a talented counter-puncher. With the monumental error in judgment that he showcased against Dan Henderson withstanding, Bisping has never been stopped in his career. The backbone of his striking defense is his movement and footwork, he’s going to need to be moving constantly, as standing in front of Belfort is going to be a big mistake.
I think Belfort is going to come out flying in the first round, looking for the big Hail Mary punch. Bisping is going to be too wise for that. Bisping will spend most of the first two rounds playing a lot of defense and looking for a chance to work this fight to the ground. As the fight wears on, Belfort will slowly begin to fade, and that’s when I expect Bisping to come alive. He becomes more active and more aggressive as the fight wears on. I expect he takes a Unanimous Decision. Michael Bisping via Unanimous Decision