Vitor Belfort (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)The MMA Corner Round Table: UFC on FX 8 The MMA Corner Staff May 15, 2013 Events, Previews In mixed martial arts, there are few names more synonymous with Brazil than that of Vitor Belfort. Since 1997, when UFC fans first witnessed what Belfort can do inside the eight-sided cage, he has been a star. Now, 16 years later, the 36-year-old is seeking to write yet another chapter to his career. This most recent chapter finds Belfort on a quest to obtain another shot at UFC middleweight gold. But in his way stands another man with a similar goal in mind. That man is former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold. The American Kickboxing Academy product wasn’t afforded the same opportunity as some of his Strikeforce counterparts, such as Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. Rockhold doesn’t get to go straight from holding Strikeforce gold to challenging for UFC gold. He has to earn the right to challenge Anderson Silva. But he’ll have to get through Belfort first. And he’ll have to do so in Jaragua do Sul in Belfort’s native Brazil. The bout headlines UFC on FX 8, which features a main card that also includes a middleweight showdown between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Chris Camozzi, a lightweight battle pitting Evan Dunham against Rafael dos Anjos and a middleweight clash between Rafael Natal and Joao Zeferino. The action gets underway with three fights, including two highly intriguing flyweight bouts, on Facebook at 4:30 p.m. ET, moves to Fuel TV at 6 p.m. ET for the remaining six fights of the preliminary card and concludes with the featured attractions on FX at 9 p.m. ET. The MMA Corner’s Eric Reinert, Riley Kontek and Bryan Henderson break down the entire 13-fight lineup in this edition of the Round Table. MW: Rafael Natal (15-4-1) vs. Joao Zeferino (13-4) Reinert: A pair of Brazilian middleweights open the latest UFC on FX main card in a fight that’s sure to ignite the hometown crowd. Rafael Natal is a respectable 3-2-1 in the UFC since debuting in 2010 and is coming off a win against Sean Spencer in January. That said, he hasn’t done much to stand out among his fellow 185-pounders, winning just once inside the distance. He could be one of those fighters whose job is on the line Saturday night. Hoping to steal Natal’s spot in the UFC is Joao Zeferino, who makes his UFC debut under some high-pressure circumstances after Natal’s original opponent, Chris Camozzi, was promoted higher on the card due to an injury to Costa Philippou. Zeferino, while a rookie in the Octagon, has compiled 13 wins, most by submission, and should give Natal the fight he’s looking for. Both fighters are obviously going to be highly motivated to succeed, but to expect Zeferino to pull off a victory under such trying conditions is probably asking too much. I see Natal winning this one by decision. Kontek: Natal again gets a late-notice replacement when he kicks off the UFC on FX card against Zeferino. And in looking at it, Natal should have a match-up that is more than accommodating to his style. Natal is a submission fighter, but he has recently made improvements to his striking. In fact, the outright advantage that Natal has is that he will be the better striker. He has shown that he can stand and bang for a bit, though for the most part he prefers to get his opponents on the ground. Zeferino is also a grappling specialist, but he is not as good as Natal. There aren’t a lot of places Zeferino can go and be better than Natal, who also benefits from more experience and better opponents. Zeferino (Sherdog) Natal will look to establish his striking and mix in the occasional tease on the ground. Wherever the fight goes, Natal will pull off a decision victory and continue to inhabit the lower-mid card of the UFC. Henderson: Natal certainly benefits from the change in opponents. In Camozzi, Natal was fighting a streaking fighter that has been inching his way towards contention with win after win. Now, Natal draws a submission specialist whose resume does not feature many notable names, unless you consider Sean Salmon to be notable. However, this can’t be considered a cake walk for Natal. Zeferino sports a record that’s very similar to Natal’s record. Both tend to win via submission, but have at least one win by some form of knockout and a handful of decision victories. And both have suffered all but one of their losses courtesy of knockouts and TKOs. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lineage runs deep here. Both men have some link to the Gracie clan—Natal, who earned his black belt under Vinny Magalhaes, trains out of Gracie Fusion and has taught at Renzo Gracie’s academy and Zeferino earned his belt under Alexandre de Souza, who in turn was mentored by Crolin Gracie, and trains at Gracie Floripa. Natal’s biggest benefit in the change of opponents is that he now holds a decided experience edge in the Octagon over his foe. The 27-year-old Zeferino has 17 fights, but has never competed for a significant promotion. Natal has had six UFC fights over the span of three years. That will be the one thing that carries Natal to a victory via decision. LW: Rafael dos Anjos (18-6) vs. Evan Dunham (14-3) Kontek: Lightweights collide on the main card when Brazil’s Rafael dos Anjos continues his charge toward the top of the division against the well-rounded and motivated Evan Dunham. Dunham’s motivation comes from the fact that a sports writer wrote that dos Anjos would “murder him” if they fought. Dunham (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog) Dos Anjos has improved and found consistency since a shaky start to his Octagon career. His ground game is his bread and butter, but since he has developed his hands and stronger takedowns, he is as dangerous as ever. Dunham was once seen as the top prospect in the 155-pound division before he hit a rough patch against several top fighters. He also possesses a strong ground game, whether he is on top or the bottom. Dunham has also developed his striking nicely, which has allowed him to be more versatile in the cage. In terms of how this fight goes down, Dunham would be wise to stick and move on dos Anjos, who does have power in his hands. A healthy dose of leg kicks, jabs and clinch work, with the occasional takedown, could be the difference for Dunham as he takes a decision. Henderson: These two fighters have had UFC careers that have gone in opposite directions. Dunham started strong and looked to be a contender before running into tougher opposition and losing three of his last six. Dos Anjos, meanwhile, keeps flirting with disaster before turning in a stretch of performances that inches him towards contender status. Despite a 3-3 record over his last six outings, Dunham is 3-1 over his last four bouts, with two “Fight of the Night” performances but no clean stoppage wins (his one finish in that span came courtesy of a doctor’s stoppage). The telling factor in Dunham’s UFC career is who he has fought and where those opponents have gone since then. At the height of his impressive undefeated stretch, his signature wins included an armbar finish of Efrain Escudero and a split decision of Tyson Griffin. Neither of those fighters are still under UFC contract. And in his more recent wins, Dunham has gone the distance with Shamar Bailey and Gleison Tibau. Although the BJJ black belt is a talented fighter and has a tendency to take part in entertaining fights, he’s failed when going up against the better half of the division. He’s suffered losses to Melvin Guillard, Sean Sherk and T.J. Grant. That leaves us to look at where dos Anjos falls in relation to Dunham’s prior opponents. Is he a top lightweight or is he the type of mid-tier fighter that Dunham can overcome? The Brazilian has impressed against the likes of Terry Etim, George Sotiropoulos and Kamal Shalorus, with stoppages in each of those outings. He’s also recently posted decision wins over Anthony Njokuani and Mark Bocek. As far as common opponents go, dos Anjos did lose a decision to Tyson Griffin, but it came in his attempt to rebound from the devastating knockout loss to Jeremy Stephens in his UFC debut and dos Anjos still turned in a “Fight of the Night” effort. His striking has improved, but dos Anjos remains a ground fighter with a black belt in BJJ and will be hunting for a submission. Dos Anjos (Dave Mandel/Sherdog) This has “Fight of the Night” potential, wherever it takes place. If it stays standing, dos Anjos has the edge. If it goes to the ground, it should be an evenly matched battle and provide fans with a grappling showcase. Dunham’s struggles against the better fighters in the division and dos Anjos’ ability to overcome grapplers like Bocek and Sotiropoulos has me leaning towards the Brazilian in this fight. Dos Anjos will win the exchanges in the stand-up and do enough in scrambles on the mat to earn the judges’ nods on the scorecards. Reinert: Of the two fighters in this contest, Dunham needs the win more. As both of my colleagues in this round table have noted, he has fallen considerably from his former position as one of the top lightweight prospects, particularly after his TKO loss to Guillard. He’s certainly improved his standing since that time, going 3-1 with the loss to lightweight contender T.J. Grant, but a loss here could mean he gets his walking papers from the UFC. Dos Anjos is the man who will try to hasten Dunham’s ouster, and he will at the very least enter this fight with the Brazilian crowd firmly behind him. His three recent UFC wins have earned him some well-deserved attention, and a victory over Dunham would certainly force the company’s executives to consider placing him against top-10 opposition. Since neither fighter is particularly prone to being stopped, I agree with Bryan and Riley that this one will go to a decision. Of the two, though, I see Dunham having greater ease in controlling the action, and thus have him winning on the scorecards. MW: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (17-3) vs. Chris Camozzi (19-5) Henderson: The injury to Costas Philippou resulted in a major shuffling of the lineup for this card. The biggest winner, as far as opportunity is concerned, has to be Chris Camozzi, who steps up from his fight with Rafael Natal to take Philippou’s place opposite Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. “Jacare” (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner) Although the opportunity is great for Camozzi, somehow a fight with Jacare doesn’t seem like a great gift. Jacare is an improving striker, but he’s lethal on the mat. Jacare’s trophy case is overflowing with gold from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition. It has translated well to MMA, where the 33-year-old has tallied 13 submission wins. His recent upgrades in the striking department to accompany black belts in BJJ and judo makes Jacare an all-around threat. The Black House fighter has lost only three times—in his MMA debut versus Jorge Patino, in Dream against Gegard Mousasi and in Strikeforce versus Luke Rockhold. The losses to Patino and Mousasi came via knockouts, so there is a chance Camozzi could test Jacare’s chin. The big problem for Camozzi is that he’s not much of a ground fighter. He holds a purple belt in BJJ, but his comfort zone is in turning fights into kickboxing bouts. He has more submission wins than knockouts, sure, but that’s hardly telling of his true style. And even if he is skilled on the mat, there’s no way he wants to test those skills against someone as accomplished in the grappling arena as Jacare. Camozzi does have a puncher’s chance, but there’s little doubt in my mind that he’s at a significant disadvantage in this fight. He’s not a dominant striker and he’ll be outclassed on the ground. That leaves very few paths to victory for Camozzi. Jacare’s improved striking means that the Brazilian will have no hesitations about standing with Camozzi, and the judo and BJJ black belts mean that Jacare can get this fight to the canvas and tie Camozzi in knots. Camozzi is tough, but he may not even make it out of the first round before he gets submitted. Reinert: It’s difficult to disagree with Bryan’s reasoning here. Jacare is a proven assassin on the ground whose only recent loss has been to former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Camozzi, on the other hand, is in the midst of a four-fight winning streak that has generated some renewed interest in the middleweight. Despite his recent success, though, Camozzi is probably done for if this fight goes to the ground, and with Souza’s world-class jiu-jitsu always in play, it’s likely only a matter of time before Camozzi ends up on his back. I’m predicting a relatively quick submission victory for Souza in this fight, but Camozzi should still remain employed by the UFC given his willingness to step up on extremely short notice to take on a truly dangerous opponent. Kontek: Camozzi has got a brass set for taking a dangerous fight in the midst of his impressive winning streak against a proven veteran like Souza, especially in a late-notice situation. Camozzi has rattled off some big wins as of late, using his striking, clinch work and takedown defense to make his opponents uncomfortable. His ground game has developed, but knowing how amazing Souza is on the ground raises red flags about Camozzi’s chances of winning. Jacare will always be a grappler, but he has developed some power in his hands to complement it. If you don’t believe me, ask Derek Brunson, who got drubbed by Jacare in under a minute in Strikeforce. Souza is rounding out nicely and could be a contender in the 185-pound division. Camozzi is as tough as they come and has a heart of a lion, but he will be in shark-infested waters when Jacare gets him to the ground. Souza will prove why he is one of the best grapplers in the business, eventually choking out Camozzi to end the co-main event. MW: Vitor Belfort (22-10) vs. Luke Rockhold (10-1) Kontek: It’s main event time and the old guard of the sport meets the new guard when Vitor Belfort welcomes former Strikeforce kingpin Luke Rockhold to the UFC. This makes for an interesting stylistic match-up. Belfort has seemingly not lost a step in his career, despite being a true old-school veteran of the sport. Belfort has a tight ground game, but it’s his fast hands and power on the feet that incites fear into those who bang with him. Just ask Michael Bisping, as much as he doesn’t want to admit it. Rockhold utilizes solid kickboxing with a reserve wrestling game in his pocket if necessary. He has some solid wins, but has never faced anybody as talented and well-rounded as Belfort. This could be a rude awakening for the promising American Kickboxing Academy fighter. Rockhold is tough, so I don’t think he will be taken out early. That being said, Belfort is a shark when he smells blood. Belfort will earn a knockout at some point in this fight, effectively throwing his cap in the ring for a rematch with Anderson Silva for the belt. Reinert: This fight is not nearly as closely contested as it looks on paper. Belfort has faced the world’s top MMA fighters for his entire career and has beaten a whole bunch of them. Since 2006, Belfort is 9-4, with those four losses coming to Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones—a veritable Murderers’ Row of opponents. Belfort was immediately thrust into title contention when he returned to the UFC in 2009 and has been a top-five middleweight ever since. Let’s take nothing away from Rockhold, though. The man is 11-1 as a professional and was the last Strikeforce middleweight champion. That said, however, his most impressive victories have come over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Tim Kennedy, who are great fighters, but not top-10 opponents. In addition, Rockhold will be making his UFC debut against Belfort, so there will be the added pressure to perform due to that factor as well. Truthfully, I just don’t see how Rockhold wins this fight unless he’s somehow able to take Belfort down and keep him down for three full rounds. He’d be foolish to try to trade punches with Belfort, one of the most devastating strikers in MMA history, and only two other fighters (Jones and Overeem) have ever caught Belfort in a submission. Rockhold is going to try to put Belfort on his back, and in the process will get caught with a punch or a knee that will rudely welcome him to the UFC. Belfort by knockout. Henderson: Jacare and Kennedy aren’t top-10 middleweights? I have to disagree there. Jacare, who has bounced back from his loss to Rockhold with three impressive victories, very well could be ranked as high as Rockhold at this moment. And Kennedy is certainly flirting with a spot in the top 10. To discount Rockhold’s opposition, and therefore his own standing in the division, is to do the AKA fighter a disservice. Those victories actually show that Rockhold can overcome high-level opponents. However, it also shows that his finishing abilities dissolve against such tough competition. It isn’t Belfort’s well-rounded skill set, his experience or his status as a top middleweight that makes him the pick in this fight. It’s simply his hands. Rockhold has never been faced with defending against this level of striking ability. Kennedy and Jardine don’t come close to displaying the hand speed and technical ability of Belfort. Rockhold has one loss in his career, and it came via TKO against Tony Rubalcava. Who? Exactly. It may have been just his second pro fight, but a TKO loss to a low-level opponent certainly stands out to me as a red flag for Rockhold’s chances in this fight. Despite not seeing eye to eye with Eric on the standing of Jacare and Kennedy within the division, I certainly agree that Rockhold has very few paths to victory against Belfort. Rockhold won’t be able to finish him on the mat, where the BJJ black belt’s skill set is vastly underrated. Then there’s the striking department, where Belfort should overwhelm his opponent. The two will get off to a slow start as they feel each other out, but once Belfort starts letting his fists go, this one will end in a flurry. I’ll say the end comes via TKO early in the second stanza. Preliminary Card LW: Lucas Martins (12-1) vs. Jeremy Larsen (8-3) Reinert: Lucas Martins and Jeremy Larsen will be looking to prove they belong in the UFC after both suffered losses in their respective promotional debuts. Martins will have the hometown crowd in his corner, and his eight wins by KO/TKO should not be overlooked. Look for Martins to try to put Larsen away quickly en route to another TKO win. Henderson: In his Octagon debut, Martins was tasked with taking on Edson Barboza. There aren’t many debuting UFC fighters who will come out of that battle with a win. That counts as the only negative mark on Martins’ record. Meanwhile, Larsen has run into trouble whenever he has encountered a significant opponent. He dropped a decision to Edgar Garcia, suffered a submission loss to Efrain Escudero and a TKO defeat courtesy of Joe Proctor. As Eric suggested, Martins should make quick work of Larsen. This one ends in the first round when Martins scores an impressive knockout. Kontek: Give Martins a mulligan for his late-replacement drubbing at the hands of Barboza, as he is better than that. As for Larsen, I am not quite sure why he is still with the UFC, especially since he lost at the TUF Finale in quick fashion. Martins’ Muay Thai is very solid, so expect him to batter Larsen with a mid-round stoppage from strikes. FlyW: Jussier “Formiga” da Silva (14-2) vs. Chris Cariaso (14-4) Henderson: If it were ever possible for me to look forward to a Facebook preliminary card portion of a UFC event more than the main card, this is it. Jussier “Formiga” da Silva’s fight with Chris Cariaso is one of two extremely intriguing flyweight battles that has criminally been relegated to the bottom of the card. Formiga has long been considered a top 125-pounder and has only lost to top flyweights Ian McCall and John Dodson. Cariaso is a decision machine who previously fought at bantamweight, but is now 1-1 as a flyweight. Cariaso is coming off a submission loss to John Moraga, but Formiga doesn’t have Moraga’s striking. Still, the Nova Uniao product is far superior in the grappling department and should get the better of Cariaso. Formiga isn’t an overwhelming finisher, so this one will hit the scorecards with the Brazilian getting the nod. Kontek: This is an interesting match-up for several reasons. The first is that da Silva (I refuse to call him Formiga) is a stud on the ground. But can he get Cariaso, who has shown solid takedown defense in the past, down? Secondly, if da Silva can’t get Cariaso down, how does he deal with his superior striking? I am going to go with the criminally underrated Cariaso to sprawl and brawl to a decision. Reinert: How the UFC could justify putting a fight between two top-10 flyweight fighters on the Facebook portion of the card is baffling. I mean, none of the other Fuel TV prelim fights are between title contenders. Does the UFC know something about a Brazilian prejudice toward small fighters that we don’t? Anyway, this fight is almost definitely going to the ground, with the two fighters having combined for a total of just two KO/TKO wins in their 28 wins, and it’s there that Formiga will assert his submission skills en route to tapping Cariaso inside the distance. FlyW: John Lineker (20-6) vs. Azamat Gashimov (7-2) Reinert: In this battle between two young flyweights, John Lineker looks to advance into title contention with a win over Azamat Gashimov. Lineker is coming off a win over Yasuhiro Urushitani and has advantages in both experience (26 pro fights to Gashimov’s nine) and in his ability to finish fights in a variety of ways. Look for Lineker to continue his winning ways with a TKO victory on Saturday. Kontek: Gashimov is making the drop to flyweight from bantamweight after one short appearance in a loss against Ivan Menjivar. Lineker reversed his lackluster debut against Louis Gaudinot to power his way through Urushitani. The jury is still out on Gashimov, so the proven Lineker will earn a knockout somewhere in the fight. Henderson: Despite the fact that Lineker is just 1-1 in the UFC and Gashimov is 0-1 and making his flyweight debut, this fight could turn out a winner that is only a short step or two away from a title bid. With both fighters checking in at 23 years of age, it could also spell the future of the 125-pound division (assuming it remains intact once these fighters are in their late 20s). Gashimov, a Jackson’s MMA product, tends to get his wins on the mat, whereas Lineker does his work in the striking department. The red flags with Gashimov start with his resume. Of his nine fights, six have seen him deal a loss to fighters making their pro debuts, one has seen him lose to a debuting fighter and the only other win came against a fighter who is now 3-1. Gashimov might seem like a scary submission threat to Lineker, who has lost three times via submission, but Lineker’s experience and skills make him more comparable to Menjivar in terms of opponents Gashimov has faced. And that spells victory for the Brazilian over his Russian counterpart. LHW: Fabio Maldonado (18-6) vs. Roger Hollett (13-4) Kontek: Two strikers will meet at 205 pounds with their jobs on the line when Brazilian Fabio Maldonado locks horns with Roger Hollett. Hollett was less than impressive in his UFC debut, dropping a lackluster decision to Matt Hamill. Maldonado has been durable and exciting in his UFC career, but is on a three-fight losing streak. Maldonado will out-box Hollett using his granite chin en route to a late stoppage or decision. Henderson: Maldonado’s losing streak is troublesome. Not only did he lose to a beast like Glover Teixeira, but he dropped fights to Kyle Kingsbury and Igor Pokrajac, a pair of fighters that will never be mistaken for contenders. Hollett’s loss to Hamill isn’t any better. Hamill is far from the fighter he once was, but he is a veteran and was able to control the action in taking the fight the distance and winning on the scorecards. This is a loser-leaves-town fight and it’s on Maldonado’s home turf. It should be a striking affair, and Maldonado’s power will be the deciding factor. The Brazilian will knock out Hollett by the midway point of the fight and celebrate his continued UFC employment with the “hometown” crowd. Reinert: I’ve gotta side with Riley and Bryan here. Maldonado has yet to be stopped by someone other than a doctor during his UFC tenure, and given that Hollett has a grand total of one victory by KO/TKO since 2009, I don’t see him threatening Maldonado on his feet. Hollett is also the shorter fighter, which is going to make it more difficult to get inside Maldonado’s 75-inch reach. This one could very well be a bloodbath, but Maldonado will emerge victorious after three rounds. BW: Iuri Alcantara (27-4) vs. Iliarde Santos (27-6-1) Henderson: Iuri Alcantara was originally slated to fight Marcos Vinicius, but with Vinicius injured, he instead draws UFC newcomer Iliarde Santos. With 27 wins in 34 outings, Santos’ UFC debut seems long overdue. Santos has 12 wins by some form of knockout and six by submission, so he can get the job done anywhere. What he lacks is UFC experience, whereas Alcantara will be making his fifth Octagon appearance. Alcantara is a BJJ black belt and has a well-rounded game with effective striking. In other words, he seems to be a better in all aspects than Santos. It should be an entertaining fight, but the edge has to go to Alcantara, who will take this fight on the scorecards. Reinert: What makes Alcantara especially dangerous, aside from the items Bryan correctly lists above, is the fact that 23 of his 27 wins were secured inside the distance. Furthermore, Alcantara’s relatively even split of 11 KO/TKO and 12 submission victories makes him a threat wherever this fight should go. Couple that with his higher level of opposition and his extended UFC tenure, and it’s a recipe that’s going to be too much for Santos to overcome. I’m going with Alcantara by TKO. Kontek: Santos is a great prospect and could have a future with the company, but this late-notice bout against an established Alcantara is just too tall of a task. Alcantara’s drop to bantamweight gives him a newfound advantage of size to go along with his skill, athleticism and speed. Alcantara should get the judges’ nod in an entertaining bout. WW: Paulo Thiago (14-5) vs. Michel Prazeres (16-0) Kontek: Paulo Thiago really got bailed out here. He was originally supposed to fight Lance Benoist in a loser-leaves-town bout. Instead, he’ll now see Michel Prazeres. Prazeres is a good-looking prospect, but he has not faced a guy on the level of Thiago yet. Thiago will use his better all-around skills to earn a late stoppage, whether it be a knockout or a submission. Reinert: Looking at Thiago’s recent 1-4 record, one might be tempted to ask if the Brazilian is past his prime. Consider, however, that only one of his four losses came by stoppage and all four were to upper-level competition. He’ll be looking to get back on the winning track, but he’ll have a stiff test in front of him in the undefeated Prazeres, who makes his UFC debut. If Thiago loses, he probably deserves to get cut, but I see him eking out a close decision to keep his job. Henderson: Prazeres is an astounding 16-0. He even holds a win over Anderson Silva. The problem is, it’s not Anderson “The Spider” Silva, but Anderson “Banana” Silva, an 0-2 fighter. Granted, Prazeres has faced more relevant competition than “Banana,” but he’s still a far cry from the UFC. Further complicating matters for the grappler is the fact that he has competed just twice since 2010 and a mere four times since 2007. Eric is right—if Thiago loses, he does deserve to get cut. Thiago has lost four of his last five, but those losses have come against Dong Hyun Kim, Diego Sanchez, Martin Kampmann and Siyar Bahadurzada. Prazeres doesn’t even come close to being in the same league. Thiago should easily dispose of Prazeres within the span of a round. LW: Gleison Tibau (26-9) vs. John Cholish (8-2) Reinert: Both fighters in this lightweight contest will be looking to get back on the winning track after losses in their most recent bouts. Gleison Tibau, a longtime UFC employee, has never quite been able to crack the elite level of the 155-pound division. He’ll put together a few wins, only to have his progress stymied by a loss. John Cholish, on the other hand, fights for just the third time in the UFC and surely wants to establish himself in one of the sport’s toughest weight classes with a win over a crafty veteran. It’s tough to bet against the ground game of Tibau, so I’m picking him to win by submission. Henderson: Tibau may not always win fights, but he is an extremely difficult opponent to finish and has won his fair share of bouts against quality competition. It’s his strength and experience that give him the advantage in this fight. Whereas Cholish is a purple belt in BJJ, Tibau is a black belt. Tibau will use his size to his advantage in dictating where this fight takes place. Neither fighter will earn a finish, so this one will head to the scorecards, with the judges handing Tibau the decision. Kontek: What my colleagues have not mentioned is one extremely important factor: Tibau’s size. Tibau is an absolute lurch for a 155er, usually holding a strength advantage over anyone. Cholish is a good prospect, but he is really getting thrown the wolves against a longtime veteran with solid all-around skills. Tibau will dominate a decision. LW: Francisco Trinaldo (12-2) vs. Mike Rio (9-1) Henderson: It’s a battle between TUF veterans when TUF Brazil alum Francisco Trinaldo meets TUF 15 alum Mike Rio. Rio’s base is his wrestling. He won numerous championships at the high school and collegiate levels. Trinaldo is a strong lightweight with a background in kickboxing. Both men are capable wherever this fight may go, which could lead to a back-and-forth affair. Rio’s wrestling may be the difference. He’ll be able to take Trinaldo to the mat and work from top position. That strategy will earn him either a close decision win or a late submission stoppage. Kontek: Although I agree with a large part of Bryan’s assessment of this fight, there is an x-factor that must be explored: physical strength. Trinaldo is a specimen and a powerhouse that can take the fight down as well. Rio does not want to keep his chin out, as the Brazilian could put him to sleep. I think Trinaldo will daze Rio and tap him out for the “W.” Reinert: Talk about a couple of remarkably comparable fighters. Although both bring well-rounded skill sets to the cage, Trinaldo owns victories over both Iuri Alcantara and Gleison Tibau, two guys who are also fighting on this card and both of whom I’ve picked to win their fights. Fighting is not a logical game, but using the criterion I’ve just outlined, I’m picking Trinaldo to win by decision. FW: Hacran Dias (21-1-1) vs. Nik Lentz (23-5-2) Reinert: Nik Lentz is a brave man, stepping in on short notice to face a Brazilian who has won his last nine fights, six by stoppage, in Brazil. Lentz does have quite a bit more UFC experience, though, and has therefore likely fought a higher caliber of opponent. This one will probably be all over the cage, but look for Lentz to stop Hacran Dias in his tracks with a surprise punch en route to a TKO victory. Kontek: Dias’ debut in the UFC was a shock to many, as he took out Iuri Alcantara. Nik Lentz, on the other hand, has looked like one of the best at 145 since dropping from lightweight. Dias is very talented and well-rounded, but the main factor here will be wrestling. That edge goes to Lentz, who will run a decision victory. Henderson: There’s a reason that when Dias tried out for TUF Brazil, the UFC instead signed him to an immediate contract and allowed him to bypass going the TUF route. The Nova Uniao product trains with the likes of Jose Aldo, Marlon Sandro and Renan Barao. His debut against Alcantara illustrated his ability to wrestle, grapple and reverse takedowns. Lentz has looked good since moving to featherweight, but remember that Alcantara shared a similar path coming into this fight and still lost. Lentz will score some takedowns, true, but he’ll have to deal with Dias’ submission attempts and sweeps. And if Dias gains top position, Lentz is in a world of trouble. I just can’t share my fellow panelists’ visions of how this fight plays out. Instead, I see Dias getting the best of Lentz and eventually submitting him.