As the UFC tries to stake its claim on the Brazilian market, the promotion again will bring two of the biggest Brazilian stars to their homeland to compete. Jose Aldo and Vitor Belfort return to their native Brazil hoping to put on a great show for their countrymen. Both fighters will be tested though, as their competition is stiff.
In the main event of UFC 142, Aldo looks to make his fifth consecutive title defense against what many people are calling his toughest test yet in Chad Mendes. There is no guarantee that Mendes will give Aldo a significant challenge, but his wrestling and style of fighting could be the perfect recipe to dethrone the champion. If Aldo is successful in his title defense, he will once again be in the conversation of pound-for-pound best.
In the co-main event of the pay-per-view broadcast, Vitor Belfort has the task of welcoming Anthony “Rumble” Johnson to the middleweight division, and Belfort wants to make a statement before he begins his coaching duties on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil reality series. In a very highly anticipated fight, the winner will move one step closer to title contention while the loser will be forced to climb back up the mountain.
The MMA Corner’s panel of Rob Tatum, Jason Schielke and Josh Davis look at all five main card contests in this edition of the Round Table.
Tatum: A pivotal matchup in the lightweight division opens the UFC 142 pay-per-view card, as dangerous Muay Thai striker Barboza locks horns with British grappling ace Terry Etim.
Barboza possesses an arsenal of strikes that is largely unmatched in the sport. In addition to his six knockout wins in his nine bouts, he scored an impressive 22 finishes in his 25 kickboxing wins. The undefeated fighter has powerful leg kicks and punches that can end a fight in an instant.
For Etim, this fight will be all about getting it to the mat. The Liverpool native has scored 12 submissions in his 15 wins. After nearly 18 months away from the sport, Etim needed just 17 seconds to choke Edward Faaloloto in his last bout. Etim has never been knocked out and has gone three rounds with another technical striker in Sam Stout.
Something has to give in this fight. Either Barboza will taste defeat for the first time, on the end of a quick Etim submission, or Etim will have the lights turned out for the first time in his career.
Based on what I have seen from each fighter, I have to give the edge to Barboza. His crisp, precision striking is a thing of beauty and I expect it to be too much for Etim to handle. If Barboza doesn’t finish, he’ll take home a lopsided decision win.
Schielke: For the better part, I’m agreeing with Rob on this one. Barboza has been on my radar for quite a while now, and I believe this bout against Etim will be the break-out performance he has needed to put himself in the mix at lightweight.
By no means do I believe Etim will be a walk in the park for Barboza. As Rob brought up, Etim is a beast on the ground. If he can get the fight to the mat, he could present Barboza some major problems that could throw him off of his game.
But with that said, I also believe Barboza’s striking will be way too much for Etim to handle. I believe the fight will be a little closer than some expect, but I have little-to-no doubts that Barboza’s hand will be raised in victory via TKO in the late second or third round.
Davis: In what could be the fight of the night, these two lightweights will put it all on the line to move one step closer to title contention. Barboza is a solid striker with power in both hands and he will want to get a quick knockout before Etim has the chance to get this fight to the mat. If this fight does go to the ground, Barboza will be at a significant disadvantage.
As Rob stated above, it did not take Etim long to get the victory in his return bout after a significant layoff. Etim is a very exciting fighter and is very well-rounded, but he will want to get this fight to the ground where he has a significant advantage.
I like Etim in this fight. I think he will find a way to get this fight to the ground and get a submission. Etim wins by second-round submission.
Schielke: In a battle of relative unknowns outside of the hardcore MMA fan, Erick Silva will be facing off against Carlo Prater in a welterweight bout.
For Prater, this will mark the first time he has stepped inside the Octagon. In his 40 professional fights, he has fought for Strikeforce, Shine Fights, MFC, WEC and too many other smaller promotions to list. While his resume includes a few big names, he has not performed very well against them.
Silva made his UFC debut at UFC 134, and walked away with an easy 40-second TKO victory over Luis Ramos. Silva has only tasted defeat once in his career, and has since gone undefeated in his last 10 fights. Silva is a beast on the ground, but based off of his last performance, you can not overlook his striking prowess.
I think I may be a little too quick to write off Prater on this one, but I’m going to do it anyway. For some reason, I really can’t look at a fighter who lost twice in the same night against lesser competition than Silva and say to myself, “I think this guy has a chance to win.” I look at this as nothing more than a showcase bout for Silva. Expect to see him win violently and quickly, just like he did against Ramos. Silva scores a TKO victory less than midway through the first round.
Davis: As Jason said, this is a fight between two virtually unknown fighters, but do not sleep on it. This could be the most underrated fight on the card. It took Prater 40 fights to get his chance in the UFC and I expect him to make the most of this opportunity. Yes, Prater has wilted under the pressure of stiff competition in the past, but UFC 142 will be different. Prater is currently riding a four-fight win streak and finally has the confidence of an elite-level fighter. In addition to finally having confidence, Prater is an excellent fighter with solid striking and excellent submissions.
Silva is looking to get his second consecutive win under the UFC banner and continue his run towards stardom. He will need to be at his best though if he is going to come away victorious. Silva is a very dynamic fighter with knockout power in his hands and world-class submissions skills. In order to win this fight, he will need to use his striking to keep Prater on the outside. Then he needs to get the fight to the mat and work his submissions.
Prater has worked long and hard to get this opportunity, but Silva will be too much for him to handle. Silva will win this fight by second-round submission.
Tatum: I think both of my colleagues are on the the right track, as Silva is a strong up-and-comer that the UFC can build around with its Brazilian fanbase. And while he had it easy in his promotional debut, Silva is likely to have to work a little harder to finish a veteran like Prater.
Prater’s well-rounded attack has the potential to stifle the young Brazilian, but I expect Prater to eventually succumb to Silva’s athleticism and explosiveness.
I’ll agree with Jason’s assessment and take Silva by first-round TKO.
Davis: This is a very intriguing battle in the middleweight division, as both fighters need a win to continue their climb towards title contention. Palhares is currently riding a two-fight win streak, and a win over Massenzio would certainly put him in title discussion. A loss, however, will send him to the back of the line.
Palhares has world-class submission skills and if he gets a hold of a limb, he does his best to take it home with him. However, that is where his strengths stop. His striking and grappling are nothing special and if he is going to win this fight, he is going to have to figure out a way to get it to the ground without just pulling guard.
Massenzio also has excellent submissions, but he also has solid wrestling. Massenzio, however, has struggled with the elite competition that the UFC has to offer. He is only 1-4 in his UFC career and Palhares will not be an easy opponent. If Massenzio is going to come away with a victory, he will have to be the aggressor in this fight. He will need to use his striking to set up a takedown and get this fight to the ground where he can use his superior wrestling skills to inflict some ground-and-pound damage.
In the end, it will be Palhares that gets his hand raised. He will be able to use his jiu-jitsu to control the fight and eventually get a submission. Palhares wins this fight by second-round submission.
Tatum: It’s hard to argue with Josh’s prediction on the outcome of this fight, but I see it happening even faster.
This might be the biggest mismatch on the entire card. Palhares’ submission game is leaps and bounds ahead of nearly everyone in the middleweight division, including an experienced BJJ practitioner like Massenzio.
While I agree with Josh that Massenzio’s wrestling could be a wild card, it’s unlikely to do him much good. Palhares’ striking is vastly underrated and the Brazilian showed marked improvement in his last bout with Dan Miller. If not for a bizarre, in-fight celebration, Palhares likely would have put Miller away in the first round.
Massenzio will again be released from the promotion after Palhares latches onto one of his legs and forces a tap due to first-round heel hook.
Schielke: Any way you look at it, it’s difficult to not see Palhares winning his fight.
If the fight is standing, Palhares’ striking is much better than Massenzio’s. If the fight hits the mat, Massenzio’s superior wrestling may be able to buy him a little time, but like Rob was saying, Palhares’ submission game is incredible. Massenzio’s wrestling would do little more than buy him some time before Palhares slapped a submission on him.
While I think Silva versus Prater is the biggest mismatch on the main card, this fight is a very close second. This is going to be Palhares’ fight all day. Expect to see a quick first-round finish via either submission or TKO.
Schielke: The co-main event of UFC 142 features an interesting match-up between Vitor Belfort and Anthony Johnson. Belfort will be stepping inside the Octagon for the second time since he suffered a knockout loss via the bottom of Anderson Silva’s foot. In his most recent bout, Belfort blew Yoshihiro Akiyama out of the water by knocking him out in the first round at UFC 133.
Johnson will be making his middleweight debut, a move that surprised absolutely nobody given the extreme amount of weight he had to cut to make welterweight. In his most recent bout, Johnson was quick to dispose of Charlie Brenneman with a nasty head kick at UFC Live 6.
In this bout, we have another classic striker versus grappler matchup. However, in this match, the grappler also happens to have some massive power in his hands and feet. This scenario leads to a couple of questions.
First, you have the ever-present question regarding which Vitor will show up this Satuday night. Will we see the uber-aggressive Belfort that destroyed Akiyama, or the Belfort that was extremely hesitant to engage with Silva? Also, if Belfort finds himself on his back, will he be able to use his jiu-jitsu to mount any effective submissions, which has been Johnson’s Achilles heel?
As far as Johnson goes, I believe the biggest question facing him is whether he will engage Belfort on the feet. Also, if Johnson decides to go this route, will the power he had at welterweight carry with him to middleweight?
We all know that when he is on his game, Belfort is a very dangerous striker. For this reason, I believe Johnson will use his superior wrestling to keep the fight on the mat, despite the fact he has never been knocked out in his MMA career. I don’t think Johnson’s middleweight debut will be easy on the eyes, but I believe he will utilize the same gameplan he used against Dan Hardy to ride out a unanimous decision.
Tatum: As with every Belfort fight, you have to wonder which version of the Brazilian will show up in the cage. Much like Jason alluded to, Belfort has the ability to end any fight quickly, but consistency has always been an issue for the veteran.
Johnson’s move to middleweight is long overdue. His past weight cutting issues were a black eye for his career and with his large frame, the 185-pound division is a much better fit. Again, as Jason pointed out, will his overwhelming power carry over to his new division?
Although Johnson is the better wrestler, I believe he will struggle against Belfort’s lightning-fast hands. Johnson is used to having a significant size and power advantage in his bouts, but now he’ll have to rely on technique. That is a recipe for his first career knockout loss.
I’ll disagree with Jason on this one and take Belfort to end this one quickly by knockout.
Davis: On paper, this fight does look like a typical striker versus grappler match-up and the number one question in this fight is which Belfort will show up? With that being said, there is more to it. This fight is going to boil down to who can execute their game plan, but also to who can execute first.
Belfort is an explosive striker and he will need to use this aggression to keep Johnson on his heels and neutralize Johnson’s takedowns. Belfort does have excellent jiu-jitsu, but make no mistake about it, Belfort wants this fight on the feet.
Even though Belfort is a very explosive striker, Johnson’s striking should not be overlooked. Johnson has knockout power in both his hands and his feet and he will enjoy the reach advantage in this fight. With his reach advantage, he will be able to stay on the outside and use his striking to set up the takedowns. Even though Johnson has solid striking, he does not want to stand and trade with Belfort.
I have to agree with Rob on this one: Belfort will get the early knockout.
Tatum: The main event of UFC 142 is a traditional striker versus grappler matchup, as the explosive Brazilian Jose Aldo looks to defend his featherweight strap against wrestling stalwart Chad Mendes. Both fighters enter the contest riding lengthy win streaks. Aldo hasn’t tasted defeated since 2005, a stretch of 13 bouts. Meanwhile, Mendes will step into the Octagon sporting an undefeated record of 11-0.
The biggest factor in this bout will be where it takes place (not literally, although it will take place in Aldo’s native Brazil). Aldo neutralized Mendes’ teammate, Urijah Faber, with an onslaught of leg kicks that prevented him from scoring a takedown. Aldo is unlikely to surprise Mendes with that technique in this fight, but Mendes will still have to overcome Aldo’s strong takedown defense and balance. If Mendes can’t get the fight to the mat, he’s going to be in trouble on the feet against the more experienced Muay Thai practitioner.
Another important aspect of this fight will be conditioning. Aldo has continued to add muscle with each bout and has struggled recently to shed the weight to make the 145-pound limit. While he was able to run through his opponents in the WEC, Aldo has gone the distance in each of his fights in the UFC. His pace has slowed as the fights have entered the later rounds, which could prove to be a huge advantage for a seasoned wrestler like Mendes. The longer the fight goes, the more it favors the former All-American at Cal Poly.
Mendes may have the best wrestling in the UFC’s featherweight division, but he is still raw as a fighter. Over the course of a five-round fight, Aldo will have plenty of opportunities to inflict damage on the feet. The wild card might be the often-ignored fact that Aldo is a Nova Uniao black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While he’s never had to utilize it in the cage, Aldo’s experience on the mat may be just what he needs to hand Mendes his first defeat.
Look for Mendes to score with takedowns early, but his lack of finishing ability will spell his doom. Aldo will connect with a knee as Mendes shoots, claiming yet another knockout and retaining his featherweight belt.
Davis: I have to agree with Rob when he states that the key to this fight will be where it takes place. On the feet, there is no question that Aldo will have a significant advantage. However, if Mendes is able to get this fight to the ground, it might be an entirely different story.
Aldo is the champion for a reason. He is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport. He is a dominant striker that is hard to take down and even if the fight goes to the ground, Aldo is a jiu-jitsu black belt. Aldo is able to use his striking to dictate the pace of a fight, which allows him to choose where the fight takes place and how much energy he needs to use in each round, allowing him to control his cardio for later rounds.
As Rob stated above Aldo was able to dominate Mendes’ training partner, Urijah Faber, with his leg kicks, neutralizing the threat of the takedown, which allowed Aldo to use his striking to pick Faber apart. Mendes, however, should be prepared for this. One of the best weapons you can have in preparation for a fight is a training partner that has fought the guy you are facing, and Mendes has that. Faber will be able to help train Mendes for the things that Aldo does well.
Aldo can win this fight anywhere it takes place. Mendes, however, needs to get this fight to the ground if he wants to win, and with his wrestling pedigree there is a good chance that he will be able to take Aldo to the mat at some point during the fight. The question is, even if he does get Aldo down, can he finish the fight? I don’t think he can. I think that Aldo will dominate this fight everywhere it takes place and eventually get the TKO. Aldo will win by third-round TKO.
Schielke: It looks like I stand alone on this one, as I think Chad Mendes will leave the Octagon as the new featherweight champion.
Nobody can question the skills of Jose Aldo. He is a terror on his feet and is no slouch on the ground. During his run in the WEC, he looked like an unstoppable force. However, he has not shown the killer instinct in the UFC that he had in the WEC.
In his last two fights, Aldo has actually looked human. Even though he won a clear decision against Mark Hominick, Aldo appeared to be off his game. In his most recent fight against Kenny Florian, Aldo seemed content to do just enough to win a decision. If he comes in against Mendes like he has in his previous fights, he will be in for a world of trouble.
Yes, Aldo defeated Mendes’ stablemate Urijah Faber, who is a very good wrestler. However, Mendes is a great wrestler. While Mendes’ stand-up isn’t nearly as good as Faber’s, he can easily overcome this with his superior ground control. Aldo has shown that he is good off his back, but he has yet to face off against someone who will be able to control him on the ground the way Mendes can.
Don’t expect a whole lot of fireworks in this one, as Mendes is going to do what he does best, which is get the fight to the mat and put on a workman-like performance. Mendes will win a decision by at least a combined 10 points on the judges’ scorecards.
Top Photo: Jose Aldo and his team (Sherdog)