The UFC heads back to Brazil for a long-overdue rematch between Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson.

The two squared off in 2006 at Pride 32 in Las Vegas. Henderson earned a unanimous decision victory over Belfort in that meeting. Subsequently, Belfort tested positive for elevated testosterone levels. Since then, Belfort has been battling with the notion that his success has been dependent upon TRT use.

Being certain Belfort is within the normal levels of testosterone is of no concern to Henderson, however. “I beat him the first time when he was on steroids, I suppose it won’t make a difference,” Henderson said in September. Although Henderson is also using TRT, the Hendo camp believes Belfort should not be able to, since “The Phenom” was caught cheating in the past.

As the TRT debate rages on, fans will be treated to a very well-balanced card fighting below the headliners. Even the preliminary card starts off with an intriguing match-up between flyweights Jose Maria Tome and Dustin Ortiz. There’s also a slugfest in store as Thiago Perpetuo battles Omari Akhmedov. While the names on the preliminary card may not be recognizable to many MMA fans, fans would be doing themselves a disservice by ignoring the talent hidden in this lineup.

The main card starts off with Rony “Jason” Bezerra battling Jeremy Stephens. From there all the way up to the main card, there is a nice combination of good grapplers and heavy hands. It’s a Fox Sports 1 card that should be a pleasant surprise to those who tune in and may not be expecting much from plenty of new faces.

UFC Fight Night 32 takes place at the Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil on Nov. 9. The fights start with the preliminary card on Facebook and UFC.com at 5:15 p.m. ET, with the main card airing on Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Joe Chacon, Dale De Souza and Dan Kuhl break down the entire card in this edition of the Round Table.

FW: Rony “Jason” Mariano Bezerra (13-3) vs. Jeremy Stephens (21-9)

De Souza: If Rony “Jason” Mariano Bezerra wanted a step up in competition, he’ll get it in the form of UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens. Both men come into this contest on the strength of featherweight victories achieved earlier this year. Stephens scored a victory in a UFC 160 bloodbath with Estevan Payan, and The Ultimate Fighter Brazil’s featherweight winner choked Mike Wilkinson into unconsciousness this past June.

In any other fight, Stephens would win nine times out of 10 in just about every aspect of the fight. Every time he competes, he remains mentally composed, always comes hungry for a fight and loves a knockout. Aside from knocking out 14 unlucky individuals in 21 professional victories, he proves so tough that only three men can claim a submission win over “Lil’ Heathen,” and only Yves Edwards can say he knocked Stephens out.

Still, Stephens won’t get “any other fight” from out of the man in the Jason Voorhees mask. Bezerra looks to showcase his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizardry more than his striking, but that does not mean that he can’t stick leather on some unfortunate foe. Against the likes of Sam Sicilia, who also fights on this card, Jason stood with a powerful one-shot artist and chalked up a TKO win.

Granted, Sicilia doesn’t bring the same power as Stephens, but Stephens can only use his power if he can get inside on Bezerra. Although Bezerra only holds an edge of two inches in the reach department, he won’t think twice about forcing Stephens to stay on the outside. If the fight goes to the ground, Bezerra holds an edge, provided Stephens doesn’t do more of what he did to Payan. Expect that Jason will look for any way to gain an edge on the ground, though, as he finds a choke and locks it up for an early submission win in the first round.

Kuhl: Dale’s right in saying this is a big step up in competition for Jason. I mean, a huge step up. In the last three years, Stephens went to a decision against Donald Cerrone, Melvin Guillard and current lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, whereas Jason was mopping up nobodies on the local Brazilian circuit. In his three fights in the UFC, Jason has only fought unranked guys with mixed records. Furthermore, he has only fought for the UFC in Brazil. Stephens has been fighting top-tier guys, and never on his home turf.

Stephens may have won his last fight, but he remains badly in need of a win if he wishes to stay with the promotion, because a loss would put him at 1-4 in his last five Octagon appearances. Jason is on a sort of meteoric rise, but he better not look at Stephens’ recent record and assume he has this one in the bag. The American is a veteran scrapper, is tough as nails, and really isn’t subpar in any aspect of the sport.

I see Jason coming out cocky and Stephens coming out confident, and I’ll take confident over cocky any day of the week. Jason is not going to just walk through this former lightweight contender. I see Stephens shocking Brazil and taking this one by TKO.

Chacon: Both of my colleagues give a nice prelude to this fight, although they are on the opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to the result.

I don’t put much stock into Bezerra’s eight-fight winning streak, due in large part to the reasons Dan listed pertaining to the people against whom the Brazilian has stepped into the cage. Stephens has been fighting in the UFC for the last seven years and seems to have difficulty winning against upper-echelon opponents. I’m not ready to put Bezerra in that category yet.

Stephens hasn’t been submitted in over four years, and Bezerra isn’t going to be able to knock out Stephens or out-point him over three rounds. Stephens use his outstanding, and often overlooked, BJJ skills to grind out a unanimous decision win over Bezerra.

WW: Ryan LaFlare (8-0) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (18-1)

Kuhl: Ryan LaFlare and Santiago Ponzinibbio make for an excellent match-up for the main card. Both of these guys have accurate striking, submission skills and are successful with finishing their opponents. They have both been around since 2008, but Ponzinibbio has fought in over twice as many fights.

Regardless of number of fights, LaFlare has long been the Ring of Combat champion, continuing his winning ways in his UFC debut, much like Brandon Thatch, who is also fighting on this card and is a former Ring of Fire champ. LaFlare may not have the total experience, but he has yet to be beaten, so that says a lot. He is best on the ground, but a very effective striker as well.

Ponzinibbio has one loss, but it was over two years ago and he has been on a seven-fight tear ever since. Ponzinibbio is probably the more well-rounded of the two, solely for the fact that he has much better all-around striking, whereas LaFlare is more of a close-distance striker.

Both men are riding awesome winning streaks, but one will have to end on Saturday night, and I believe it will be LaFlare that gets the first ding on his record. Ponzinibbio is a beast of a fighter, and he will be amped out of his mind to rock his opponent in his UFC debut. Ponzinibbio by first-round TKO.

Chacon: Before anyone gets excited about Ponzinibbio’s 18-1 record, I implore you to take a look at the people he has defeated. There’s one fighter, Sebastian de Oliveira Jr., that has a record of 1-11 with two of the losses coming to Ponzinibbio. Just about everyone Ponzinibbio has on his “hit list” is below or just above the .500 mark.

LaFlare’s undefeated record is a bit more impressive, based on the people he has fought as well as what I’ve seen from him in reviewing his fights. The 30-year-old is a tenacious finisher and should be able to outstrike Ponzinibbio from the opening seconds of the fight.

I don’t have any confidence in Ponzinibbio and have to disagree with Dan on this one. LaFlare via first-round TKO.

De Souza: Ponzinibbio certainly does bring a shaky version of a one-loss record to the UFC, but in fairness, he is not the first UFC talent to do such a thing, nor will he be the last. Nevertheless, it screams “step-up in competition” when the likes of LaFlare presents the best record of anyone Ponzinibbio has faced.

Ponzinibbio fought as part of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 and originally advanced to the final, where he planned on meeting eventual winner Leonardo Santos but never got the chance to fight for the crown. The lone Argentine on the show, “El Rasta” does deserve some respect for winning a good 10 of his fights by some form of knockout, which certainly suggests that he can at least rock LaFlare.

Ponzinibbio never needed to knock out a LaFlare type in the Brazilian circuit. LaFlare finished seven men before his unanimous decision win over Benny Alloway. Like Ponzinibbio, the brunt of LaFlare’s wins came by some form of a knockout.

This should suggest that the fight will stay on the feet, but LaFlare might also opt to grind out a decision, for all we know. After all, come fight time, anything and everything can go down. With the pressure of proving he belongs in the UFC, though, we will see a motivated Ponzinibbio once the Octagon door closes. I’ll ride with Dan’s outcome and see the bout for Ponzinibbio via first-round TKO.

WW: Brandon Thatch (10-1) vs. Paulo Thiago (15-5)

Chacon: Brandon Thatch and Paulo Thiago represent two contrasting styles of fighters. Thatch wants to bang, whereas Thiago wants his opponent on the ground as soon as possible. What usually happens when those two styles come together is we see the fighter who has the ground advantage hold his opponent on the mat or press him against the cage to avoid being punched in the face. Thatch will not let that happen.

If you saw Thatch fight in August against Justin Edwards, you got a glimpse as to what he is capable of. He knocks people out more often than not, and he does it with such explosiveness. Six of his 10 wins have come within the first minute of the first round. Most fighters who have that kind of track record are reckless, but not Thatch. He’s powerful and fast, but he’s also smart and precise.

I hate to throw Thiago under the bus and not give him a chance, but Thatch is going to steamroll past him as he has done to just about everyone else he has fought. Sign this man up for a first-round knockout as well as “Knockout of the Night.”

De Souza: I like the aforementioned contrast of styles. On one hand, Thatch brings a style of striking that few can replicate and even fewer can prepare for. On the other hand, the veteran, Thiago, whose five losses all came during his UFC tenure, brings the type of methodical approach and BJJ regiment needed to at least take Thatch out of the first round, even if he does not garner a win.

Thiago comes into this bout with a bit more motivation than the mere fact of his grappling. In his past five fights, all but one ended by some form of decision. It doesn’t help Thiago’s case that the one fight of the five to not go the distance came in his 42-second knockout loss to Siyar Bahadurzada, but a recent unanimous decision win over Michel Prazeres helps him out. How could the win over a relative unknown help? Because, should Thiago implement his grappling to drain Thatch of the energy needed to land effectively with his striking, the win would move him to 3-2 in five fights.

Still, don’t expect Thiago to make it look ridiculously easy simply because Thatch enters hostile territory. Thatch’s only pro loss came in his second pro bout, but since that one loss, nobody can claim to taking Thatch past the 4:12 mark of the first round, which should speak volumes about how dangerous of a striking game he possesses. Even with that striking game, though, he possesses a ground game on which none should sleep. If given the opportunity, he can take fights to the ground, maintain tight control from the top and work his way to a submission.

On paper, nobody should ever go to the ground with Thiago unless they want to get submitted, but four of his five professional losses came against guys who, like Thatch, possess an ability to control the action effectively from the top. Thatch may find his streak of first-round finishes halted when he fights Thiago, but in hostile territory, he will still find a way to win on his terms and not those of Thiago. Even if Thatch sees round two or three, he finds a way to drain Thiago on the ground and hand the Brazilian the first submission loss of his career.

Kuhl: Thatch is hands down the best fighter to come out of Colorado recently, and he‘s trained with both Georges St-Pierre’s camp at Tristar and the new Elevation MMA team back in his home state. He’s a freak of nature, and his only loss was a split decision. His UFC debut, in which he embarrassed Edwards in just over a minute, was not some sort of gimmicky statement. That’s just how he fights. Thiago doesn’t stand a chance.

To Thiago’s credit, he has always been a very respectable fighter, and his work as a paramilitary police officer will always earn him a ton of reverence. He just hasn’t ever made any big waves in the promotion. Thatch, on the other hand, has the potential to be the welterweight division’s version of Jon Jones.

Thiago is going to put up a great fight, because he’s a seasoned pro, but I see Thatch taking this one by first-round TKO.

LHW: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (11-4) vs. Igor Pokrajac (25-10)

Kuhl: In sort of an odd main-card matchup, Igor Pokrajac, who is only 4-5-1 in the Octagon, is facing off against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, who is 0-1-1 in his last two fights due to a positive test for racehorse steroids and a knockout at the hands of Thiago Silva in his UFC debut in June. Needless to say, the main card is featuring a “fight for your job” battle between these two veterans.

Both men are powerful strikers, combining for 24 knockouts, and both have effective takedown defense. Pokrajac has eight wins by submission, and although Cavalcante has yet to submit an opponent in MMA, he is a black belt in BJJ that trains out of the old home of Black House, X-Gym, which is known for churning out superior grapplers. The only problem is that Cavalcante is not really known for his grappling.

Pokrajac is a complete bulldog. He presses with persistence and doesn’t back down, even in a bad position. In his fight with James Irvin, he had great defense on his back, up against the cage, and as soon as they stood back up, he bulldogged forward, dropped Irvin and quickly transitioned into a submission. In less than two and a half minutes, he was able to utilize powerful striking, BJJ and wrestling, all like a well-rounded pro. Cavalcante has pretty much exhibited straightforward striking, which has gotten him knocked out three times, plus no ground game.

Pokrajac is the more well-rounded, more aggressive fighter and should take this by TKO in the first or second round.

De Souza: Some days, it gets tough to figure out which versions of these two fighters will show. Will we see the version of Pokrajac that knocked out Krzysztof Soszynski? Will we see the version of Feijao that broke Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal’s undefeated record?

Pokrajac finds himself in a bit of a rough spot. While a no-contest (originally a loss) against Joey Beltran did not put him in danger of the chopping block, it did put his back against the wall, and the loss to Ryan Jimmo only backed him further against that wall. He may bring more diverse striking to the table than his foe, but he needs an answer to the ground game of the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion if he hopes to keep his spot in the division.

Cavalcante, noted for his knockout power, walks into this fight with his own motivations. Yes, he brings in the frame of a big light heavyweight, but when someone pressures him and puts him on his heels, his jaw becomes an easy target. Against Thiago Silva, many saw Feijao as a favorite, but Silva found his opening and blasted Cavalcante with almost 30 seconds left in the round.

Cavalcante can beat Pokrajac if he can get him to the ground. Should he stand with Pokrajac, though, the Croatian knockout artist will force Cavalcante on his heels and finish him in swift fashion. Cavalcante will look for the takedown,. Although it will not come easily, he will get it to the ground and keep it there long enough to secure a mount. The former Strikeforce champ may hunt for a TKO on the ground, but ultimately he will get a submission win.

Chacon: This is indeed a very interesting choice to put on the main card. The thought must be that this fight will give fans an exciting finish, considering Cavalcante has never been involved in a decision and Pokrajac has had just eight fights go the distance in a professional career that spans 36 fights.

Pokrajac has only been knocked out once within the last eight-plus years, yet that’s where Cavalcante is going to be successful if he is to win this fight. Pokrajac should be able to find a way to get Cavalcante on the ground and have a smarter game plan than his opponent. The only risk he runs is getting caught while going in for the takedown.

Although Cavalcante has a BJJ background, he hasn’t utilized it inside the cage to his benefit. Until he does, I have hard time believing he’ll be able to contain himself from wanting to have a slugfest. Go with Pokrajac to give Cavalcante the first submission loss of his career.

MW: Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira (6-2) vs. Daniel Sarafian (8-3)

De Souza: If Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira vs. Daniel Sarafian sounds like a long-overdue middleweight bout, that stands true because this battle was originally slated to co-headline UFC 147, which served as the unofficial finale of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil last year. Sarafian, though, suffered an injury and Sergio Moraes took his place. Fast-forward to now, and Ferreira rides a two-fight winning streak and Sarafian earned his first UFC win in his most recent bout. Had this bout happened a little over a year ago, this would decide the first middleweight winner of TUF Brazil, but this bout in the present day represents an opportunity for one of these two Brazilians to earn a step up in competition.

Both men come off of submission wins, with Ferreira’s coming this past August against Thiago Santos. Mutante, who accepted UFC Fight Night 32 headliner Vitor Belfort as a mentor, only owns one decision win in eight professional bouts, which suggests that he will look to finish the very game submission specialist. Like Sarafian, Ferreira has not been finished since his pre-TUF Brazil days, and although Ferreira might suffer a TKO or knockout loss to a UFC middleweight, it seems unlikely (on paper) that he will lose in such a manner to Sarafian.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Sarafian cannot knock out Ferreira. Sure, Sarafian owns seven submission wins and one unanimous decision victory in eight career wins, but if Ferreira leaves an opening for Sarafian to connect, he could get his first career TKO or knockout win. Then again, Sarafian’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu serves as his bread and butter, so even if he rocks Ferreira, he will look to win by way of what brought him to the dance.

Will someone actually get finished in this co-headliner? It seems likely, since neither man likes leaving their fate up to the judges. But Sarafian and Ferreira both showcase good submission defense at this stage of their respective careers, so some form of a knockout appears likely. If that happens, Ferreira drops Sarafian and scores a TKO win either late in round one or early in round two.

Chacon: Ferreira is a lanky middleweight who is going to be relying on his reach advantage to keep Sarafian at bay, where Mutante can then utilize his striking advantage. Mutante is looking to go 3-0 inside the Octagon with previous wins over Moraes and Santos. Now, the stars have aligned and, as Dale pointed out, the original TUF: Brazil middleweight final will finally take place.

Although Ferreira has the advantage standing up, Sarafian has a much greater advantage on the ground, even though Ferreira submitted his last opponent in just 47 seconds. He has also knocked out an opponent in 17 seconds, and it’s the flash knockout power of Ferreira that Sarafian has to worry about.

Sarafian should struggle with Ferreira for the better part of three rounds en route to a hard-earned unanimous decision win.

Kuhl: I agree with Dale’s outcome on this one.

This fight is finally happening, and Sarafian is the perfect candidate for the type of kick that knocked out Thiago Perpetuo on TUF Brazil. Both guys are BJJ black belts, proficient on the ground, but Ferreira has a much deeper striking arsenal.

Ferreira should take this one by TKO.

LHW: Vitor Belfort (23-10) vs. Dan Henderson (29-10)

Chacon: Over the last seven years, Vitor Belfort has only been defeated three times. Those losses were to Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson. Following Belfort’s loss to Henderson in 2006, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. That should give Henderson some confidence going into this fight, even though it’s been quite some time since then.

Whereas Belfort is experiencing a rebirth of sorts, Henderson has looked every bit his age of late. Couple that with his ailing knee, and it would be a surprise to see Hendo be able to get the best of Belfort.

Henderson’s game plan is going to be to get Belfort down on the mat as soon as possible. He’s not going to circle around and load up that right hand of his like he normally does. If he does, then he’ll be leaving himself exposed to getting knocked out for the first time.

Belfort is going to try to keep the fight standing up, where he can utilize one of his many creative ways of striking. If he gets taken down by Henderson early in each round, chances are Henderson will be able to smother him and win a round by doing just enough to avoid having the referee stand them up.

It won’t be spectacular, but Henderson should be able to hold Belfort down long enough to earn an uneventful unanimous decision victory.

Kuhl: Okay, I have to completely disagree with Joe’s assessment of Hendo’s game plan. The guy who looks like he’s been hit in the face with a shovel does not ever worry about standing with anyone, and he still hasn’t been knocked out. The bigger problem, which I do agree with, is that his age appears to finally be catching up to him, and I have a bit of a theory on the whole TRT thing, with which both of these guys are involved.

Henderson is 43, has a beat-down chassis and is simply taking this stuff just to keep up. He didn’t actually start to juice until his late 30s, and it hasn’t really helped him that much. He’s been maintaining and that’s it. I would actually believe his use is more medically motivated as the repeated beatings he has sustained, without being knocked out, have been proven to accelerate the infamous Low-T.

Belfort is a whole other story. The Brazilian has been juicing since his 20s and is only 36 now. He hasn’t been in near the battles that Hendo has, and his size and vascularity are ridiculous. Belfort is truly receiving a performance enhancement from the use of TRT. There is a point to all of this.

Hendo has a huge advantage in wrestling skills, as Belfort has an advantage in the submission-grappling department. Both men are powerful strikers, but Belfort does have a more creative attack, which appears to keep getting better. The TRT comes in when you look at the stand-up. Hendo has three distance battles in a row and seems to have lost the “H-Bomb” knockout power, whereas Belfort looks more powerful, more ripped, and has been knocking fools out. That, to me, is a sign of enhancement versus maintenance, and, as long as they are on the spike, which it appears they both still are, I see Belfort stopping Hendo for the first time in five years.

I love Hendo as a fighter, but I’m taking Belfort by an ugly TKO of one of the GOAT’s of pro MMA.

De Souza: I cannot say how I fully feel about the TRT issue that pertains to both fighters, but at the end of the day, this bout’s outcome will stem from what both men do inside the cage. Either “The Phenom” shatters Henderson’s legendary iron jaw, or Henderson sticks an “H-Bomb” and cements another classic knockout win.

Plain and simple, it goes like this: Belfort can submit guys, as he did to Anthony “Rumble” Johnson last year, but his left hand still remains his go-to shot. As he demonstrated against Luke Rockhold, though, he can blast through solid chins with spinning kicks as well, even though many figured that Belfort’s knockout ability only came through his fists, since he rarely ever looks to stick knees, elbows or any sort of knockout kick.

MMA historians looking to summarize the career of Hendo can do so simply by showcasing some of his most legendary knockout wins, from his vaunted overhand right on Michael Bisping to his rapid barrage on Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, all the way to his behind-the-back knockout of the great Fedor Emelianenko. Recently, though, he dropped a controversial decision to Lyoto Machida and a lackluster decision to Rashad Evans. Add in that this bout marks the last fight on Henderson’s contract, and the former Pride and Strikeforce champion finds himself in a must-win situation.

Most people agree that this will not end pretty, and I agree with them. Before it ends, the action will provide for a slower-paced main event than what fans expect from Belfort and Henderson. Still, it will end by way of a finish, and Belfort will find it via a TKO after a shot to the body.

Preliminary Card
FlyW: Jose Maria Tome (33-4) vs. Dustin Ortiz (11-2)

De Souza: Honestly, I flip-flop on this fight. When Jose Maria Tome comes with his skill set on point, nobody can touch him. Some can say the same about Dustin Ortiz, who debuts for the UFC at this event. Call it a potentially close bout, because all things considered, the two match up well. However, Tome takes a unanimous decision in a bout that may see Ortiz start strong, but will see him begin to fade midway through the second frame. Tome’s powerful hands will start finding more of the mark, albeit while not landing hard enough to put Ortiz down and out.

Kuhl: I’m not sure what Dale means by “begin to fade,” but Ortiz is a Roufusport fighter, and they’re not really known for fading. This pairing is a standard case of young up-and-comer versus old guard, but Tome is not your typical “old guard,” because journeyman aren’t sitting at 33-4 over a nine-year career. Journeyman are more like 25-12 over that same time period with the same number of fights. Tome has been a well-known fighter in Brazil for a long time and has only been to a decision three times with 28 stoppages in his favor. Ortiz is a great, young fighter who could have a big future, but Tome is no stepping stone. I see the Brazilian finishing this one handily. How he finishes is anyone’s guess.

Chacon: I agree with Dan. Tome got caught and knocked out for the first time in his long career at UFC 163 and should rebound strong against the UFC newcomer, Ortiz. Ortiz’s last eight fights have gone three rounds, so don’t expect him to gas out, although the fight won’t last that long. Tome will come out extremely motivated and knock out Ortiz in the first round.

LW: Daron Cruickshank (13-3) vs. Adriano Martins (24-6)

Kuhl: Adriano Martins is a high-level BJJ black belt, a brown belt in judo and a well-seasoned MMA fighter. He is not afraid to stand and bang, and has 11 wins by knockout. Daron Cruickshank is an NCAA Division III wrestler with a black belt in taekwondo. Although he has some creative strikes, he tends to lack knockout power, unless his opponent is already battered, as in the case of Henry Martinez. Both men are very quick, but Cruickshank’s stand-up game is a bit better and he has great takedown defense, so, unless Martins can get this one to the ground, Cruickshank should take it by unanimous decision.

Chacon: Cruickshank is coming off a win over Yves Edwards in which he stepped in on short notice. With time to prepare, he should enter this fight as an even more polished version of a dangerous striker. As long as Cruickshank can keep the fight off the ground, he has a chance to win the fight. In looking at tape of Martins, however, I think that is going to be a difficult task. Look for Martins to catch Cruickshank off-balance, secure a dominant position and earn a submission victory in the second round.

De Souza: I battled with the question of whether or not I think Martins will take “The Detroit Superstar” to the ground, but after much thought, I’m believing we won’t see it. Cruickshank will fend off the majority of Martins’ attempts, outstrike him on the feet and land hard enough to TKO Martins in the third round.

LW: Justin Salas (11-4) vs. Thiago Tavares (17-5-1)

Chacon: Thiago Tavares steps in as an injury replacement to face wrestling specialist Justin Salas. Tavares has had an up-and-down UFC career and may be nearing the end of his time with the organization if he can’t beat Salas. Tavares and Salas are about even on their feet, but Tavares has the advantage on the ground. Look for this fight to go the distance with Tavares earning a narrow split decision victory.

De Souza: I agree with Joe that this will end in a decision victory for someone, but I don’t expect it to look like a very close fight. As solid as Salas is on the ground, he still must contend with a dangerous grappler in Tavares. Expect the Brazilian’s grappling to pay more dividends towards a win, but don’t be shocked if Tavares takes a unanimous decision, rather than a split verdict.

Kuhl: I have to go against the grain on this one. Tavares is indeed a BJJ black belt, but Salas is a phenomenal grappler too. He was a standout in high school and was a NCAA Division I wrestler at Wyoming, so his clinch work and takedown defense are top tier. He trains at Grudge with one of the best striking coaches in the sport and is not to be discounted. I don’t see any way that Salas lets this go the distance. He either takes the Brazilian by early TKO or gets submitted because he makes a mistake.

MW: Omari Akhmedov (11-0) vs. Thiago Perpetuo (9-1-1)

Kuhl: Most people, even hardcore fans, will most likely not know that this is a perfect match-up. Thiago Perpetuo and Omari Akhmedov are both forward-pressing fighters with heavy hands, great takedown defense, submission skills and effective cage control. Akhmedov is quicker to pull the trigger, though, and he has crazy tree-chopping leg kicks that punish the crap out of his opponents. The home-turf advantage may weigh in a bit, especially since Perpetuo has never fought outside of Brazil and this will be a new continent for the Russian, but I’m not really sure it will matter that much. I have Akhmedov taking this one by TKO.

De Souza: Every time an undefeated prospect debuts for the UFC, things get interesting very quickly. We’ve seen guys lose the undefeated tag once they got into the promotion, but others have prospered in their debut. I anticipate that the Russian prospect will do the latter. He can punish Perpetuo with leg kicks if he gets the chance, but he will score a clean knockout with a right hand to seal the deal.

Chacon: I agree with my fellow panelists. Akhmedov has phenomenal power that can end any fight early. He just needs to avoid getting overly anxious and find his spot to attack. Should be lights out early for Perpetuo.

FW: Godofredo “Pepey” Castro (9-2) vs. Sam Sicilia (11-3)

De Souza: A couple of months ago, TUF 15 standout Sam Sicilia hoped to meet Godofredo “Pepey” Castro at UFC Fight Night 28. However, the former suffered an injury and Sicilia also withdrew from the fight. Barring a taxing weight cut for either man, this should provide some fun for as long as it lasts. Castro may make it a tough fight for Sicilia, but the lightweight-turned-featherweight takes a TKO here.

Chacon: Sicilia comes into this fight having to overcome the seven-inch reach advantage of Castro. Pepey did get hammered and lost via TKO in his last fight, but his opponent was equally as long. Castro’s length and athleticism should be enough to get a submission win and send Sicilia to his third consecutive loss.

Kuhl: Well, here’s another “fight for your job” bout on this free card. It was hard to get excited about either of these guys’ prospects in the promotion after their respective TUF appearances, and after Saturday, one is probably done. Both are well-rounded, accomplished fighters, just not of UFC caliber. I’ll go with Dale on this one and take Sicilia fighting his heart out for a TKO.

Photo: Vitor Belfort (Sherdog)

About The Author

Joe Chacon
Staff Writer

Joe Chacon is a Southern California writer that has also spent time as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. Joe has a passion for the sport of MMA, as well as most other sports.