The Asian MMA scene has fallen on tough times over the last few years, with both Dream and Sengoku closing their doors. But from the ashes, One FC has risen to take charge and put on great fight cards.
In the promotion’s fifth installment, “Pride of a Nation,” the upstart promotion will feature three former UFC champions, a trio of Gracies and a plethora of rising talent from all over the globe. While casual fans might gravitate toward names like Jens Pulver, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski or Phil Baroni, the most intriguing fights on the card are likely to come elsewhere.
Specifically, the bantamweight fight between former Dream featherweight and bantamweight kingpin Bibiano Fernandes and Cage Fighting Championships title holder Gustavo Falciroli has all the makings of a tremendous fight.
Let’s take a deeper look at the fight. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another.
If you’re unfamiliar with these two fighters, and only look at their records, it might seem a little strange that Fernandes has the edge on the feet. After all, his only stoppage due to strikes came in his last fight. However, that fight was against a longtime WEC veteran in Antonio Banuelos and earned Fernandes the Dream bantamweight strap. Working under the tutelage of Matt Hume, Fernandes possesses fluid combinations on the feet. He may not have one-punch knockout power, but the Brazilian has hung with the likes of Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Hiroyuki Takaya (twice) and the aforementioned Banuelos.
Like his fellow countryman, Falciroli may not be known solely for his expertise on the feet. But since he transplanted to Australia, Falciroli has shown the ability to end a fight with a single punch—scoring KO’s against Taro Kusano and Hideki Kadowaki under the Shooto banner. The reason for concern with Falciroli’s stand-up attack lies in the fact that he’s never faced an expert striker. Nearly every opponent on his record is known for their grappling prowess. Despite his power, that inexperience may be a huge problem against someone of Fernandes’ caliber.
The story in the submission department is eerily similar to that on the feet. If you’ve never watched Fernandes work on the mat, you might not realize how good he is. And his willingness to stand and trade with opponents is a big part of why he has more decision wins than wins by submission. But don’t be deceived, Fernandes is a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with multiple World Championships on his resume. He needed less than a minute to submit Takafumi Otsuka and Joe Warren under the Dream banner and has never been submitted in competition.
Falciroli is a black belt in BJJ as well. His skills on the ground have netted him six of his 12 career wins, but he hasn’t faced anyone like Fernandes. Fighting in both Shooto and CFC, Falciroli has faced other grapplers, and like his opponent, has avoided being submitted. Falciroli has great top control and excellent flexibility. However, against the two most accomplished fighters on his resume—UFC veterans Issei Tamura and Bernardo Magalhaes—he was simply outclassed and dropped decisions.
With both fighters being more traditional BJJ stylists, neither is known for their wrestling attack. Yet, Fernandes trains in the United States with a talented team at AMC Pankration. He has worked with the likes of UFC flyweight title challenger Demetrious Johnson and without question, that training has helped improve his wrestling game.
Like so many fighters that train outside of the United States, Falciroli is limited in his wrestling. He has relied on single-leg takedowns and trips to bring the fight to the mat in the past. Most of his takedowns were set up off his strikes, but that may not work against a more experienced fighter like Fernandes.
The biggest difference in this fight is level of competition. Falciroli actually has more fights than Fernandes, but Fernandes has been competing longer. In fact, Fernandes, in just his second career bout, faced former WEC champion and current UFC fighter Urijah Faber. That loss is the only time that either of these two combatants has been finished. Can either of these high-level grapplers become the first to submit the other? Will Fernandes’ time in Dream prove to be the difference?
Verdict: There’s a reason that the UFC was pursuing Fernandes prior to him signing with One FC. He’s a top-10 bantamweight and despite Falciroli being a durable and game fighter, Fernandes is going to outwork him in every department. This fight will see the scorecards, but Fernandes will walk away with a lopsided decision win.
Top Photo: Bibiano Fernandes (Taro Irei/Sherdog)