The UFC returns to the Pay Per View airwaves this Saturday night but will you be watching? I think the UFC is taking a huge gamble with their upcoming UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes show. Returning to the homeland of BJJ, Brazil and featuring a heavy contingent of Brazilian fighters, the UFC has assured themselves success in live gate revenue. However, leading with a main event of Lighter weight fighters, that are largely unproven in the Pay Per View arena, is surely a risky venture. Despite all that, there are a number of intriguing bouts on the card worth viewing, and with several preliminary card bouts available for free on FX, it’s just another reason to tune in and watch some of the UFC’s best Brazilian fighters in action.
As previously mentioned UFC Featherweight Champion and local favorite Jose Aldo defends his title against undefeated challenger Chad “Money” Mendes. In other main card action Brazilian favorite Vitor Belfort welcomes Anthony “Rumble” Johnson to the Middleweight ranks in a bout that has the potential for a slugfest written all over it. The strange antics of Rousimar Palhares will be on full display as the sometimes strange fighter battles American Mike Massenzio. In a battle of Brazilians blue-chip prospect Erick Silva battles Lightweight turned Welterweight Carlo Prater. But let us not babble on about the match ups, let’s get right into the meat and potatoes and break these fights down.
Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Felipe Arantes vs. Antonio Carvalho
Felipe “Sertanejo” Arantes is a member of the Macaco Gold Team and also a member of the famed Chute Boxe gym in Brazil. Arantes actually made his UFC debut replacing the injured Carvalho against Yuri Alcantara at UFC 134. He lost that bout, but prior to the debut fight he was riding a nine-fight winning streak. Arantes is a solid technical striking, who has grappling that is good enough to get by, but does not excel at snatching submissions from guard. Arantes owns eight career first-round stoppage victories, and an overall MMA record of 13-4.
Antonio “The Beard” Carvalho is a 32-year-old Canadian fighter from Sault St. Marie, Ontario. Carvalho is making his UFC debut in this bout, but has fought for a number of notable organizations in the past including TKO, MFC and Shooto. Fighting out of the Abe Ani Combat Club in Oshawa, Ontario he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a green belt in Judo and a black belt in Shotokan Karate. Carvalho is best known for his stunning upset of world-ranked and fellow UFC Featherweight Hatsu Hioki in 2007. Carvalho is a grappling expert who has struggled against some of the bigger punchers in the sport. Despite his solid technical striking, he has shown himself to be somewhat susceptible to power punchers, as he has been rocked by punches previously in his career. He holds a career record of 13-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Carvalho has shown that he can be susceptible to the kill shot from power punchers. Felipe Arantes does have decent technical boxing skills, he hasn’t shown the kind of one-punch power that it would likely take to put Carvalho down. I expect that Carvalho plays it cautiously and takes this one to the mat early and often, putting Arantes through a ground clinic. Arantes has enough skills to not be submitted, but I don’t think he has the wrestling or grappling skills to avoid being blanked on the judge’s scorecards. Antonio Carvalho via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Welterweight Bout: Ricardo Funch vs. Mike Pyle
Ricardo “Golden Boy” Funch has what is quite possibly the worst hair in the sport of MMA, and that’s saying a lot. Nonetheless he remains a solid fighter who has excelled on the regional scene of the sport, but has yet to break through against top-notch competition. The Brazilian fighter has transplanted his training to the USA, where he now trains at Team Link in Ludlow, Massachusetts along the likes of Alexandre Moreno and Gabriel Gonzaga. Funch is a strong grappler, who recently received his BJJ Black belt from coach Marco Alvan. However, despite his solid technical grappling skills, he possesses a rather one dimensional game, with weak wrestling ability and below average striking skills. Still, Funch is 8-2 as a pro fighter, with his only two losses coming inside the octagon.
Analysis and Prediction: One only needs to look at Funch’s two career losses to anticipate how this one is going to play out. Funch struggles against strong wrestlers who are able to control him on the mat. He was soundly out-worked en route to a clear cut decision loss to Johnny Hendricks and followed that up by being controlled and beaten up on the mat by Canadian Claude Patrick. Pyle has the game plan sitting right there in front of him and all the tools to pull it off. I think he completely outworks Funch on the ground, but I don’t think he has it in him to pull off career Submission win number 17. Mike Pyle via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Featherweight Bout: Yuri Alcantara vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Yuri “Marajo” Alcantara is a Brazilian born fighter from Marajo, Brazil. Fighting out of Brazil, he is a member of the Pattaya Fight Gym and is a member of the Striker Team. He is well-rounded fighter who is always searching for a finish, having won a decision only three times in 29 career bouts. Alcantara is a former Lightweight fighter and a former Jungle Fight Lightweight Champion. He owns solid Muay Thai striking skills as well as black belt level BJJ skills, with big power and a strong submission game, Alcantara can finish the fight no matter where it takes place. He owns a career record of 26-3, with an impressive 23 stoppage victories and is currently riding a 12-fight winning streak.
Michihiro Omigawa is a Japanese born fighter from the Hidehiko Yoshida Dojo in Obu Aichi, Japan. Omigawa is a 3rd degree black belt in Judo and is one of the UFC’s best Judokas. Omigawa who has won medals at the Asian Games for Judo in 1999, 2001 and 2002 had initially struggled when making the transition to MMA, but ever since his drop to Featherweight he has made a big splash, defeating a number of world-ranked fighters including Cole Escovedo, Micah Miller, Hatsu Hioki, Marlon Sandro, LC Davis and Nam Phan. Omigawa has strong technical boxing with good hand and foot speed, which comes from his Judo background. In the clinch Omigawa is a master of Judo throws, often earning takedowns through impressive throws while transitioning quickly to work for submissions. Omigawa owns a career record of 13-10-1.
Analysis and Prediction: People are very high on Alcantara and there is good reason for that, he is a solid striker with under-rated ground skills and has the skills and the killer instinct to finish fights. Omigawa is no slouch though, his awkward game of tag-boxing is enough to give anyone fits and on the ground he has legitimate skills and won’t be overwhelmed. However, despite his career resurgence at 145-pounds, I think the Brazilian takes this one. I expect to see a lot of leg kicks to slow the speed of the Japanese Judoka, before a few well-timed trips or takedowns to earn a couple of close rounds on the judge’s scorecards. Yuri Alcantara via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Heavyweight Bout: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ednaldo Oliveira
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga is a 32-year-old Brazilian fighter who is making his return to the UFC, as a late notice replacement for Rob Broughton. Gonzaga is a black belt in BJJ with big power in both his hands and feet with strong Muay Thai skills. Despite that power however, Gonzaga is a bit of a plodding fighter, who doesn’t move well when striking and is often caught flat-footed in his bouts. Gonzaga is a member of the Team Link Gym, training out of Ludlow, Massachusetts. Gonzaga is probably best known to casual fans for his impressive Head kick Knockout of Mirko Cro Cop way back at UFC 70. Gonzaga owns a professional MMA record of 12-6.
Ednaldo “Lula Molusco” Oliveira is a 27-year-old undefeated prospect who is making his UFC debut in this bout. He is a training partner of the UFC’s Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos, and is often compared to JDS, as the two have a somewhat similar style. However, at 6’7″ Oliveira is slightly more lanky and awkward with his striking than the fluid boxing of JDS. Instead, he carries his hands slightly low, often exposing his chin to power punches. Nevertheless, despite these drawbacks Oliveira is an extremely powerful puncher who can turn the lights out on any fighter with one well-timed punch. Without the solid footwork to go with his boxing, he often looks awkward when standing, but has proven to be difficult to takedown in his MMA career, as very few of his opponents have been able to work the big man to the floor. He owns a career record of 13-0-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Gonzaga is definitely not the greatest fighter, however it often comes at his own detriment. Far too often Gonzaga forgets that he is a BJJ black belt and instead tries to slug it out against opponents he has no business standing with. If he has one of those brain-farts in this fight, it’s likely going to spell a quick end to this fight, as he’ll receive a hellacious beating on the feet from Oliveira. However, if Gonzaga plays it smart and looks for a takedown he should be able to exploit the lanky limbs of Oliveira and snatch him in a quick submission. I’ll guess that Gonzaga since returning to the sport is focused on fighting smart and game planning and hope he follows one. Gabriel Gonzaga via Submission in Round One
Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Lightweight Bout: Thiago Tavares vs. Sam Stout
Thiago Tavares is a 27-year-old Brazilian fighter who is a member of the Brazilian Top Team. A strong grappler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Tavares prefers to fight his battles on the mat. Tavares has constantly improved his striking skills and has been able to outwork a number of decent strikers on the feet, however, it’s unlikely he’ll want to test that against Stout in this fight. He has struggled against strong wrestlers in the past, as they are able to control him on the mat, and stifle his submission attempts. However, he remains one of the better grapplers in the UFC’s Lightweight division. Tavares has a career record of 16-4-1, including 11 Submission victories.
Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout is a Canadian fighter from London, Ontario. Stout is a disciple of the late Shawn Tompkins and still trains with the Team Tompkins gym and fight team. Stout is a kick boxer with decent grappling ability. He has strong technical grappling skills, but is often using them defensively to avoid being submitted by the wrestlers and grapplers who manage to work him to the mat. Despite his nickname, Stout has had trouble finishing fights inside the octagon, until his most recent fight when he absolutely destroyed Yves Edwards with a crushing left hand. Stout owns a career record of 17-6-1.
Analysis and Prediction: The likely outcome of this bout is that Tavares turns this one into a grappling contest where he should be able to run a clinic on Stout. As mentioned Stout does have an under-rated ground game, but it’s mostly defensive as he shows a strong ability to not get finished by his grappling based opponents, however, it’s very unlikely that he can out grapple Tavares. Standing, Stout is the better kick boxer, but despite his crushing KO of Yves Edwards, he rarely stops his opponent. I don’t think he can out-box Tavares for three rounds, without significant time being spent on the mat, avoiding a dizzying array of submission attempts from the Brazilian. Thiago Tavares via Unanimous Decision
Main Card Bout (PPV): Lightweight Bout: Terry Etim vs. Edson Barboza
Terry “No Love” Etim is an English born fighter who is a former professional Muay Thai Kick boxer. Etim trains with Team Kaobon/RFT Fight Team in the UK. At 26-years-old Etim is one of the UK’s brightest fighters under the UFC umbrella. At 6’1″ Etim is exceptionally tall and lanky for a Lightweight fighter and with his strong Muay Thai skills, he uses his range very well. He also possesses strong submission skills and a nasty guillotine choke, which he has managed to use to finish five of his career opponents. Despite his grappling skills, Etim is relatively weak as a defensive grappler and doesn’t work well from his back. If Barboza can wrestle him to the mat it will be interesting to see if Etim has an answer. Etim owns a career record of 15-3 and has won 5 of his last 6 bouts.
Edson Barboza is a Brazilian fighter and is one of the country’s top prospects. Undefeated as a professional Barboza is a former Ring of Combat Lightweight Champion. Barboza is from Rio de Janeiro and will be fighting in front of his hometown crowd for this bout. He also is a former professional Muay Thai Kick boxer. Barboza now trains out of The Armory in Jupiter, Florida. Barboza is known for his nasty Muay Thai skills, including his crushing kicks to the lead legs of his opponents. He has actually TKO’ed two of his previous opponents by leg kicks. Despite being somewhat shorter than his opponent, he will actually have a slight reach advantage in this fight, which he will likely use to attack his opponents legs. Barboza owns a professional record of 9-0.
Analysis and Prediction: Etim is a decent striker, but he isn’t really on the same level as Barboza. Etim should look to negate that edge for Barboza by constantly pressuring the Brazilian. The less time he gives Barboza to settle in and find the range, the less time he gives Barboza to take his head off. Barboza conversely is going to want to control the range and pace of this fight. After a blistering start to his career, Barboza has had some trouble with his two most recent opponents and they both were able to find success by forcing Barboza to play defense instead of offense. Leg kicks will be key to this bout as they will be one tool Barboza has in slowing the offense of Etim, and as we’ve seen Barboza is not afraid to attack his opponents legs. As it is, I think Barboza will win this fight, but he won’t be able to blow Etim out of the water like he did to Mike Lullo or Lee King. He’ll find some rocky spots along the way, but his leg kicks will eventually slow the assault of the Englishman before he is able to put together some combinations late in the fight that eventually earn him a TKO victory. Edson Barboza via TKO in Round Three
Main Card Bout (PPV): Welterweight Bout: Erick Silva vs. Carlo Prater
Erick “Indio” Silva is a Brazilian fighter from Vila Velha who trains with Team Nogueira. Silva spent most of his pre-UFC career in Brazil, most notably for the Jungle Fight organization where he was the first and only Welterweight champion. Silva is one of Brazils top 170-pound prospects and has a strong background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo, owning black belts in both disciplines, but also combines strong technical Muay Thai and boxing skills to round out his arsenal. He trains with some of the best Brazilian fighters in the sport including Anderson Silva, Jacare Souza and the Nogueira brothers. Silva owns a professional record of 13-1 and has not been defeated since 2006.
Carlo “Neo” Prater is a 30-year-old Brazilian fighter who is a veteran of the fight game. He is a former Lightweight who is returning to the Welterweight division for this bout. Prater fights as part of the Thugjitsu fight team in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is a black belt in BJJ, a black belt in Luta Livre and a brown belt in Judo, lending him solid submission and grappling skills. Prater has fought enough professional fights to know his strengths and weaknesses and while he holds serviceable stand up skills, he knows where his bread and butter is and will certainly be looking to take this fight to the mat as quickly as possible. Prater despite his somewhat unimpressive record as proven extremely durable in his career, being stopped by punches only once in his entire 40-bout career. Prater owns a career record of 29-10-1, including an impressive 16 submission victories.
Analysis and Prediction: Prater is no slouch and possesses a wealth of experience to draw from in a fight against a veteran of only 14 fights in Silva. However, there a number of factors working against Prater as he is fighting a weight-class above his usual weight, has taken the fight on short notice and is fighting one of Brazil’s top Welterweight prospects. Silva has a strong ground game as well, thanks to training with the Nogueira brothers and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. I think Silva will be able to neutralize Prater’s ground skills, while outworking and outpointing Prater on the feet. Prater has proven very durable in his career and won’t be easily finished, but I predict a fairly lopsided 30-27 victory across all the scorecards for Silva. Erick Silva via Unanimous Decision
Main Card Bout (PPV): Middleweight Bout: Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Massenzio
Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares is a 31-year-old fighter from Minas Gerais, Brazil. He is best known to fans for some of his strange antics inside the octagon including complaints of opponents greasing, premature celebrations and holding submissions for far too long. Despite his strange antics and somewhat bizarre behaviour he remains a dangerous fighter with some the nastiest leg locks in all of MMA. Palhares is a member of the Brazilian Top Team and a former Chute Boxe fighter who is a black belt in BJJ and holds decent boxing skills which are made all the more dangerous because of his massive upper body strength and the power that he is able to generate in his punches. Palhares owns a professional MMA record of 13-3, including 9 submission wins.
Mike “The Master of Disaster” Massenzio is an American fighter from Paterson, New Jersey where he is a member of the Team Bombsquad MMA gym. Like his opponent he too is a strong grappler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Massenzio is also a former US National High School Wrestling Champion in 2001, and was a JUCO National Tournament Champion in wrestling in 2004. Massenzio is a former Light Heavyweight Fighter who is returning to the 185-pound division. His biggest advantage in this bout might actually be his strong cardio. As a professional Massenzio has a record of 13-5, including a 2-3 mark inside the UFC.
Analysis and Prediction: For all his mental lapses and bizarre antics inside the cage, Palhares remains a dangerous fighter for any opponent. He is an extremely strong, hard-hitting and compact fighter, making him difficult to control in clinches or on the ground. Massenzio really holds no advantages no matter where this fight takes place. In the stand up game neither man will be mistaken for the second coming of Muhammed Ali, but Palhares is the quicker and more powerful striker. Massenzio’s best chance is to try and drag this fight into deep water and give Palhares gas tank some time to empty and hope he does something silly enough to beat himself. The more likely outcome is that Massenzio shoots for a takedown, Palhares stuffs it and ends up on top and rains down punches and hammer fists until the referee drags him off. Rousimar Palhares via TKO in Round One
Main Card Bout (PPV): Middleweight Bout: Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Johnson
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort is one of Brazil’s most recognizable and most well-known fighters. The 34-year-old from Rio de Janeiro is going to have the hometown crowd firmly in his corner for this bout. Vitor has trained with a number of gyms for this bout including the Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas, as well as the Tapout Training Center in Las Vegas and his own gym in Rio. Belfort owns a black belt in BJJ as well as a black belt in Judo, but is most well-known for his devastating striking acumen. Belfort is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and was the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament winner. Belfort has previously been plagued by inconsistency and mental lapses inside the cage, but has seemingly overcome those obstacles recently. Belfort owns a career record of 20-9.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is an American fighter from Dublin, Georgia who now fights out of the Imperial Athletics gym in Boca Raton, Florida. He is a former Welterweight fighter, who was absolutely massive for the division and routinely cut between 50 and 60 pounds per fight to make the 170 pound weight limit, with a walk-around weight like that, he will still be a fairly large Middleweight fighter. Johnson was the 2004 NJCAA National Wrestling Champion at 174 pounds, and was a two time state champion in high school. During his emergence in the UFC, Johnson chose to largely ignore his wrestling roots instead using his quick hand and foot speed and massive power to knockout a number of his first opponents. Johnson owns a professional MMA record of 10-3, including 7 wins via Knockout or TKO.
Analysis and Prediction: A lot of people are very high on Anthony Johnson coming into this fight. The massive former Welterweight still looks very large when standing beside Belfort, and it’s a wonder he ever made it to 170-pounds in the first place. Johnson has big power and could certainly hurt Belfort if he lands a power shot, his best chance at victory comes from his wrestling background. However, it has been a long time since we’ve seen Belfort absolutely controlled by a wrestler, one has to look back to his 2006 loss to Dan Henderson for that. Belfort has a very under-rated ground game, and when wrestling against Dan Hardy, Johnson didn’t look like a world-beater by any means. Belfort will still hold a hand speed and foot speed advantage in the fight. I think a lot of people are overlooking Belfort in this one and I expect him to sprawl and brawl his way to a second round TKO victory. Vitor Belfort via TKO in Round Two
Main Event (PPV): UFC Featherweight Championship Bout: Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes
Chad “Money” Mendes is a 26-year-old member of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male Gym in Sacramento, California. Mendes is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler and possesses what is likely the best wrestling in the UFC’s Featherweight Division. He is best known for his wrestling skills and his explosive takedown abilities, but Mendes has continued to work hard at his boxing skills. Preferring more of a traditional boxing stance and approach than a kickboxing approach, Mendes avoids taking unnecessary risks by kicking. Instead he uses his quick hand and foot speed to jab in and out, while using the jab to either set up a takedown or look for a big power punch. He has often been criticized for his inability to finish fights, but despite those complaints, he has shown flashes of brilliance in his recent fights. He also poses a difficult stylistic match up for nearly anyone in the division because of his ability to switch levels quickly, or use his boxing to throw power punches. Undefeated as a professional fighter, Mendes has a career record of 11-0.
Jose “Scarface” Aldo is the reigning and defending UFC Featherweight Champion. The Brazilian fighter is a member of the Nova Uniao Gym in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and will have the hometown crowd in his corner come fight time on Saturday night. Aldo is best known for his devastating Muay Thai skills, but is also a black belt in BJJ with under-rated grappling skills. Aldo is an extremely aggressive fighters, who is always moving forward, he throws nasty leg kicks, which will be essential to this fight if he wants to slow the takedown attempts of Mendes it will be important to thrash his lead leg with kicks and take away some of his ability to explode into takedown attempts. Aldo is an extremely quick and agile fighter with an amazing ability to move in and out of the pocket, striking his opponents and then retreating before they are able to answer. Defeated only once as a professional, Aldo has not lost since 2005, and holds a career record of 20-1.
Standing, Mendes has improved his striking and he looked very good against Michihiro Omigawa, using his strong jab and constant pressure to force Omigawa into back-pedalling. It will be interesting to see if he employs a similar game plan against Aldo to try and force Aldo to retreat. Standing Aldo will definitely hold a hand speed advantage and has the quicker footwork, but if Mendes makes him fight dirty, he can negate some of those advantages. It is a classic striker vs. Wrestler affair, with a number of intriguing variables that will play out in the cage on Saturday night.
One thing is how willing Mendes is to stick to his game plan. Members of his camp have been in the cage with Aldo before and he should know what to expect. He’s also going to need to avoid the crushing leg kicks of Aldo as they were a significant source of problems for Urijah Faber when he faced Aldo. For Aldo, his conditioning and his takedown defense are going to need to be top notch, because Mendes is surely going to test him in those areas.
As it is, I think the bout will be close in the beginning, with Mendes outworking and outwrestling his opponents in the Championship rounds, making it essential for Aldo to sweep the opening three frames. It will be a close bout either way, but I think Mendes can outwork Aldo for a close decision victory. Chad Mendes via Unanimous Decision
Lee McGregor is the owner and editor-in-chief of Source4MMA.com which will be launching in early 2012.
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