The last time the UFC was in Brazil, for UFC 134, the card was stacked with Brazilian fighters who showed they were worth their weight in gold, as the Brazilians dominated the matchups against foes from other countries. The UFC has done it once again, as the UFC 142 preliminary card will feature a number of Brazilians set to face foreign opposition.

One match-up however, will pit two Brazilians against one another due to an originally-slated fighter pulling out with an injury. Beyond that, every fight will provide fodder for the debate of which country breeds the most dominate MMA practitioners. The fighters on the preliminary card may not impact the debate in the same manner that main card fighters such as Silva, St-Pierre, Aldo, Jones, etc. would have; however, the talent on the preliminary card should provide some value to the debate.

The Brazilians have long been known for their mastery on the ground, when utilizing a form of martial arts they created in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The evolution of the Brazilian fighter has seen the sharpening of striking skills. The Brazilian fighters on the prelim card of UFC 142 are no different. Gabriel Gonzaga prefers to stand and bang, Ricardo Funch has more wins via KO than submission (four to one), and Felipe Arantes is a Muay Thai-based fighter, to name a few examples.

The Brazilians put on a wonderful display of the modern MMA fighter at UFC 134. Will they be able to continue the momentum at UFC 142?

Answers will be provided on Jan. 14 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the HSBC Arena. The preliminary card is set to air on two different media outlets. The Arantes vs. Carvalho match-up will air on Facebook and the remaining preliminary card will air on FX.

Providing expert analysis on the preliminary card match-ups is The MMA Corner’s Round Table panel of Duncan Price, Richard Wilcoxon and Chase Buzzell.

FW: Felipe Arantes (13-4) vs. Antonio Carvalho (13-4)

Price: Things often come round in circles, and that is what appears to have happened with this bout.

Carvalho was orginally scheduled to make his promotional debut against Yuri Alcantara at UFC 134, but an injury forced him out and he was replaced by, you guessed it, Arantes. Now the two featherweights will battle it out between themselves to see who truly deserved that opportunity.

Arantes is a solid, if unspectacular, striker with decent ground skills. Unfortunately, his career record shows that whenever Arantes has faced a fighter of any particular note, he has not been able to get the job done. In the bout with Alcantara, he was unable to mount any serious offense and eventually lost via unanimous decision, but admittedly, he had stepped into that contest on short notice.

Although Carvalho has only competed sparingly in the past few years, he does hold prestigious victories over the likes of Rumina Sato and Hatsu Hioki in the Shooto organization. This will be Carvalho’s debut in the UFC though, and to a certain extent it is impossible to gauge how a fighter will perform once he steps into the Octagon for the first time. Carvalho is another guy that likes to stand toe-to-toe but can compete on the mat, so this should be an interesting match-up between two seemingly well-matched combatants.

Antonio Carvalho (top) battles Yuji Hoshino (Stephen Martinez/Sherdog)

My issue with Arantes is that he has never defeated an opponent of any real note and didn’t show much promise last time out. I don’t profess to know a lot about Carvalho, but I’m leaning towards him purely based on former glory. I’m not convinced one man has the tools to finish the other decisively, so I’m going for Carvalho to pick up the unanimous decision win.

Wilcoxon: I can’t argue with anything Duncan has said. Arantes has looked unspectacular in the limited number of bouts of his that I have seen. He appears to be well-rounded, but has not faced really stiff competition.

While Carvalho has only had four fights since 2007, his record is littered with recognizable names from Sato and Hioki to Takeshi Inoue and UFC veterans Doug Evans and Brian Geraghty. However, as Duncan pointed out, he has not yet stepped foot in the Octagon.

“Iron sharpens iron” is the old saying and, if that holds true, Carvalho should win this fairly easily. Arantes has only been stopped once in his career, so I will also go with Carvalho wining via decision.

Buzzell: Both of my colleagues have done a splendid job covering each respective fighter for this match. I will second the sentiment with regard to Arantes’ career, he has fought no one of significance and his UFC debut was unspectacular. However, I feel Arantes deserves a little more credit regarding his stand-up game. He is versatile from his feet with both his hands, legs and in the clinch. I believe that if Arantes can secure a classic Muay Thai clinch, he may have success.

Carvalho is by far the more experienced in terms of exposure to high-quality fighters, but this factor is not dispositive in determining a victor. Carvalho, as mentioned, has had a relatively light fighting schedule over the last few years, with almost 50% of his fights coming in the first three years of his career (2002- 2005). Furthermore, after running his record to 8-0 to start his career, Carvalho is merely 5-4 over the last six years. Thus, although Carvalho has been in against stiffer competition, his success has been modest.

I believe Carvalho is more experienced and probably more well-rounded than Arantes. However, I also believe that Arantes is younger, aggressive and more likely to finish a fight. With that being said, I believe that Arantes has the UFC debut-jitters behind him and will be able to pull off a victory over Carvalho via split decision.

WW: Ricardo Funch (8-2) vs. Mike Pyle (21-8-1)

Buzzell: Ricardo “Golden Boy” Funch will be looking for a better outcome in his second go-around at UFC success. Funch was originally heralded as an up-and-comer when he signed a four-fight deal with UFC back in 2009. However, after two consecutive losses, Funch was dropped from the organization. His lack of success in the UFC came as a surprise to many, as he possesses good size for the welterweight division and a solid skill-set to match. On the regional circuit, Funch displayed both good striking and submission skills. For whatever reasons, the excitement surrounding Funch dissipated as the fighter did not show up in the Octagon, as the fans received another version instead.

Another trend that may have an impact on this fight is Funch’s relative inactivity. He started his pro career in 2006 and since has only managed to step in the ring 10 times. Given the level at which Funch competes, this is seemingly low and may cause him to lack the legitimate experience necessary to compete at the UFC level.

Mike “Quick Sand” Pyle, on the other hand, is the embodiment of ring experience. Pyle has been fighting for 12 years and has amassed 30 fights. Along the way, Pyle has fought some of the stiffest competition at his weight class, fought in numerous organizations, and held a WEC championship belt at welterweight. Although Pyle has been in the MMA game for many years, he does not excel at one particular aspect of the sport. Rather, Pyle is solid all the way around, possessing solid striking, BJJ and wrestling. Pyle’s game may be well-rounded, but his BJJ is superior to other aspects, as it is responsible for 16 of Pyle’s 21 wins.

Pyle’s utilization of his BJJ skills may inherently be thwarted due to facing a Brazilian in Funch; however, the “Golden Boy” is not your typical Brazilian, as he possesses only one win via submission. Nonetheless, beyond analyzing how each fighter’s respective skill sets match up, there are some ancillary elements that will most likely determine the outcome of this fight. Pyle trains with Xtreme Couture and is one of the most experienced fighters around, because of this I believe Pyle’s overall pedigree will carry him to victory, via second-round referee stoppage due to strikes.

Price: This is going to be a tough task for Funch. Firstly, he is stepping in on short notice, so he will not have had a full training camp. And secondly, Pyle has a ton more experience.

In his original UFC stint, Funch was very disappointing, a submission loss to Claude Patrick being a particular low. He may hold a slight advantage over his opponent on the feet, but I don’t see it being enough to finish the fight.

Pyle is someone, in my mind, who will forever be a gatekeeper of the welterweight division. You have to be pretty good to beat him, but he will never be considered a top contender.

A wizard on the mat, Pyle can also hold his own on the feet, although he is not particularly powerful.

My concern for Funch centers around the loss to Patrick. If he can be tapped out by someone like that, then Pyle can almost certainly do the same. I would be shocked if this was anything other than a submission win for the veteran Pyle, perhaps as early as the first round.

Wilcoxon: Pyle is a long-time veteran. He had to take the long road to make it the UFC, that saw him have over 20 fights at a high level before he ever debuted for the organization. Now that he is in the UFC, he has shown he belongs. He primarily uses solid wrestling and great submission skills to earn a victory, but as a veteran, he does have some skill on his feet also.

As Chase said, Funch was originally brought into the UFC as a solid prospect. He was undefeated at the time, but lost his first two fights with the organization before being cut. He returns as a late replacement.

As with all sports, sometimes a prospect just doesn’t pan out. I think that is what we are seeing with Funch. He is a prelim fill-in type of fighter in the deep waters of the UFC. Unfortunately, he is facing a legit fighter. Pyle only loses to big names in MMA. He will overwhelm Funch before sinking a submission early in this one.

FW: Yuri Alcantara (26-3) vs. Michihiro Omigawa (13-10-1)

Wilcoxon: Omigawa is the type of fighter that makes me love MMA. He started his career at lightweight, where he went just 4-7 including going 0-2 in the UFC. He then dropped to featherweight and turned his entire career around once fighters were not significantly bigger than him. He is now entering the twilight of his career.

Alcantara has strung together a great record, mostly in Brazil. He is currently on a 12-fight win streak that dates back to 2009 that includes an impressive win over Ricardo Lamas in the WEC. He has also gone 1-0 in the Octagon. He tends to finish his fights with 23 of his bouts ending in a stoppage.

Yuri Alcantara (Sherdog)

While I like the comeback story Omigawa represents, Alcantara is the future. I look for the Brazilian to end this bout on the feet in the second.

Price: Omigawa is one of those guys who is regarded as a world-class fighter, but his record doesn’t back it up. To me, he’s someone who likes to stifle his opponent’s offense rather than utilizing his own, and I think that often works against him.

I was impressed by his game-plan against Jason Young in his last bout at UFC 138, although it may not be wise to go to the ground so often with Alcantara, who holds a total of 11 victories by submission.

Alcantara dominated his last opponent, the aforementioned Arantes, but he was unable to finish the fight, which rings alarm bells with me. I am impressed by his all-round ability though, as Alcantara holds almost as many wins via knockout as he does via tapout, demonstrating his ability to adapt to each individual foe.

Overall, I agree with Richard though: one competitor is on the way up and one, seemingly, on the way down. My feeling is that Alcantara will win, but I’m not sure he can finish off the tricky Omigawa. The Brazilian steals it by razor-close split decision.

Buzzell: Although Omigawa does not have an impressive record, his time in the cage is still impressive given the recent success he has found in the twilight of his career. Omigawa has put together some wins against solid competition such as Nam Phan, Micah Miller and Cole Escovedo. Unfortunately, when looking at the entire body of his work, expectations should be subdued. Beyond the pure numbers that display a barely-above .500 winning percentage, it is the competition that Omigawa has faced that causes concern. He is versatile in his MMA skills, but seems to lack the aggression necessary to avoid punishment and inflict it upon his opponent.

I do not know much about Alcantara, but what I have heard is impressive. Although he has primarily fought in his homeland of Brazil, it should be noted that Brazilian MMA is a good community in which to refine one’s craft. Moreover, his two fights stateside have been impressive. Alcantara has a good mix of BJJ and striking and is the more aggressive fighter when compared to Omigawa.

I have Alcantara winning this fight in the first round via submission.

HW: Gabriel Gonzaga (12-6) vs. Ednaldo Oliveira (13-0-1)

Price: Gonzaga was sent packing by the UFC in 2010 after two successive losses to Junior dos Santos and Brendan Schaub. He now gets an opportunity at redemption against fellow Brazilian heavyweight Oliveira after Rob Broughton was forced to withdraw due to injury.

After an exciting start to his UFC career, including a highlight reel knockout of Mirko CroCop, Gonzaga stumbled as he rose up through the rankings and faced the divisional elite. As a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you would think that Gonzaga would favor the ground game, but he is more than happy to scrap it out on the feet, an attribute which has been to his detriment in the past. One thing Gonzaga does have is experience though, with two-thirds of his entire career taking place within the hallowed Octagon. If his rival is apprehensive in the slightest, Gonzaga will definitely capitalize on that and assert his dominance.

To a certain extent, Oliveira must be cursing the injury to Broughton. His new adversary is certainly not a walkover for your UFC debut and most people would agree that Gonzaga is the more dangerous opponent. Oliveira has a reputation for being a power-puncher, and that is backed up by his record of eight KO/TKO finishes from 14 contests. Having trained with the current heavyweight champion, dos Santos, this guy is going to hurt you should you stand and trade with him. Although Oliveira is undefeated so far in his career, he has never faced anyone close to the level of Gonzaga.

Ednaldo Oliveira (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)

Much as I respect the ability of Gonzaga, my question is over his chin. Of his six total losses, five have come via knockout and that is the area in which Oliveira is strongest. In this battle of the big men, I’m once again taking the newcomer here as Oliveira knocks Gonzaga out in just the first round.

Buzzell: At times, it seems that Gonzaga did himself a disservice with his highlight reel knockout of CroCop. At the time, CroCop’s entry int the UFC was one of the most highly anticipated debuts and the relatively unknown Gonzaga finished the fight in spectacular fashion. I believe this caused unjusitfied attention to be paid towards Gonzaga, who has always had flaws in his game, and ultimately caused fans to be unfairly disappointed in a very solid fighter. Gonzaga has striking ability, but his real bread and butter is his submission game, but for whatever reasons, as alluded to by Duncan, Gonzaga has preferred to stand and strike to his detriment. This penchant for striking compounds the unlikelihood for success, as Gonzaga has a very suspect chin. If Gonzaga wants to return to the upper echelon of this division, he must adapt his game-plan to his true strength: taking opponents down and submitting them.

This task will be very difficult against the newcomer, Edinaldo “Lula” Oliveira. Oliveira is not well-known in UFC circles; however, in his native homeland of Brazil, “Lula” is a name that garners good reviews. Oliveira stands an enormous 6-foot-7 and weighs a solid 240 pounds. With his size, he is both rangy and effective with his jab and his hands are known to be very heavy. Despite the heavy-handed ability of Oliveira, he does not look for the one home-run punch that so many other big punchers look for. Rather, he is a well-rounded striker that will mix in hooks, body punches and counter strikes. Although Oliveira’s hands grade out at a plus rating, there is a weakness: hand speed, or lack thereof. Oliveira also possesses a strong BJJ game, especially a good defensive guard and submission awareness.

In conclusion, this fight features two fighters that both are adept at striking, but possess the ability to submit opponents on the ground. For Oliveira, his chin has not been tested, but Gonzaga’s has, and the results are not good. Thus, Gonzaga should look to take this fight to the ground, but Oliveira has shown an ability, given his height and length, to effectively sprawl and avoid fighting off of his back. Because Oliveira has the ability to keep the fight standing and Gonzaga has a suspect chin, I have Oliveira finishing this fight via knockout in the first round.

Wilcoxon: Why do so many great submission fighters choose to stand and bang rather than fight to their advantage? There is plenty of blame to go around. The UFC can be blamed for demanding “exciting fights” and punishing successful fighters who don’t put on an exciting show, and blood-thirsty fans with limited knowledge of what is happening on the ground who boo the second the fight hits the mat are just two of the culprits. I call it the “Jorge Gurgel Syndrome” because Gurgel was the first fighter I remember throwing away his ground game for sloppy striking. This strategy costs fighters wins and in the hyper-competitive world of the UFC where a loss could mean being cut, it costs good fighters their job.

As both of my colleagues mentioned, Gonzaga falls into this category. He started off his career relying on his submission game. In fact, four of his first five fights were finished via submission. However, the last time Gonzaga finished an opponent by submission was 2008 and his previous submission was two years before that.

I don’t know a lot about his opponent, Oliveira, but a quick look at his record shows he has won eight fights by TKO. I have no reason to doubt Chase’s breakdown of Oliveira’s striking ability. However, this is his Octagon debut and he is taking a step up in competition when he meets Gonzaga.

To be successful as a striker requires two pieces: aggressive offense and effective defense. Gonzaga has not shown much in the way of effective defense. Fabricio Werdum, a BJJ ace with limited striking skills, holds two KO victories over Gonazaga. Could Gonzaga come into the fight with a gameplan that plays to his strengths? Sure, but I have no faith that he will. Gonzaga will continue to follow in the footsteps of Gurgel and this fight will result in him suffering another TKO loss, coming in the second round.

LW: Thiago Tavares (16-4-1) vs. Sam Stout (17-6-1)

Buzzell: To me, it is a surprise, at this point in his career, that Thiago Tavares is still fighting on the undercard. Tavares debuted in the UFC in 2007 as an highly anticipated undefeated prospect. At first, Tavares lived up to the billing, winning his first two fights, but since losing to Tyson Griffin, Tavares is an underwhelming 4-4-1. Tavares possesses all the talent in the world, he has all of the raw tools to be an elite fighter, but he has been unable to put it all together once inside the cage. Tavares is naturally quick, explosive, powerful and athletic. Moreover, he flaunts a solid Muay Thai game, black belt level jiu-jitsu and decent wrestling. Where Tavares seems to falter is his game-planning and fight preparation.

Although not shrouded in the same hype as his opponent, Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout has nevertheless experienced a similar UFC career. Stout made his UFC debut back in 2006 and, after initial success, has seen his ups and downs, putting together quality wins against the likes of Spencer Fisher and Matt Wiman, but losing to fighters such as Rich Clementi and Jeremy Stephens. Stout will be looking to continue a two-fight win streak and cement his stay in the UFC. However, it will be a tall order against Tavares. Stout is similar to Tavares in that he is well-rounded in all aspects of the MMA game, the difference being Stout is not a supreme athlete like Tavares. Moreover, Stout sometimes gets tunnel vision on standing and striking with his opponent, which can cause his offense to stall altogether.

Sam Stout (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Because each of these fighters have shared their respective ups and downs, and each is well-rounded with no glaring weakness, I must default to raw talent and skill. In doing so, I have Tavares winning via submission in the second round.

Wilcoxon: I have to disagree with Chase’s breakdown of this fight in one sense, because I see this as a striker versus grappler match-up. Both guys are veterans and have some skill in the other’s world, but at the end of the day, their bread and butter lies in one area.

Stout is a kickboxer. He is a former IKF North American Kickboxing champion and has a 16-4 record in the sport, including competing in a K-1 fight. He also has extensive experience in Muay Thai and is a former Canadian champion in that sport. Stout possesses solid takedown defense, which helps him fight to his strength.

That leaves Tavares to be the grappler. Tavares is a BJJ black belt and holds 11 submission victories in his MMA career. He possesses solid wrestling. One thing that is not normally talked about in MMA is who will be the better athlete going into this fight and how that will translate into his speed and cardio.

This fight will be determined by who dictates where the fight happens. If the fight goes to the ground often, Stout may be able to survive for a little while, but I would expect Tavares to win the fight. If the fight stays standing, Stout should win. Stout has steadily improving takedown defense, which gives him a slight advantage in this one. I will take Stout winning by a decision.

Price: I have to say that my colleagues have done a great job of summarizing the two fighters, and I agree with elements of both pieces.

I agree with Chase when he says that Tavares has an excellent skill-set, but it just never seems to come together for him.
I also agree with Richard when he says that this is a striker versus grappler match-up, and those type of bouts are notoriously difficult to call, especially when both men have similar records.

When a match-up could go either way, I like to look at a fighter’s career record, particularly recent victories and defeats. My concern with Tavares is that he can be knocked out, and indeed was recently by Shane Roller, who is certainly not renowned as a striker. On the other side, Stout hasn’t been submitted since 2006 and has fought the likes of Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon, both excellent jiu-jitsu guys, since then.

I’m going to agree with Richard once again, but I do think Stout has the power to finish Tavares off. This contest makes into the third, where Stout takes it late by TKO.

Top Photo: Sam Stout (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)