Two recently successful middleweights will meet this Saturday night (January 14, 2012) as leg lock specialist Rousimar Palhares takes on New Jersey wrestler Mike Massenzio on the main card of UFC 142 in Rio.
Palhares has won two straight bouts including an especially dominant performance against Dan Miller the last time the UFC held an event in Brazil. He's back and hoping to have his way with another American grappler hailing from "The Garden State."
Mike Massenzio needed a victory in his last UFC bout against Steve Cantwell and after a rough start, he came back and took it. He's a strong grappler with a "never-quit" attitude and he's not going to be intimidated by Palhares' violent reputation on the ground.
Will Palhares makes Massenzio's legs snap, crackle and pop? Can "The Master of Disaster" avenge the loss of fellow New Jerseyan Dan Miller? How does each man secure a victory on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 13-3 overall, 6-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Rousimar Palhares came from a very impoverished background and he left his family to compete in mixed martial arts where he earned the nickname "Toquinho" which means "tree stump" due to his stocky yet very muscular build.
Palhares took to Brazilian jiu-jitsu quickly and gained a reputation for his violent leg locks. The Brazilian won the Fury FC Middleweight Grand Prix after earning two quick first round heel hook submissions on the same night and he was quickly brought into the UFC.
Palhares won his debut against veteran Ivan Salaverry in just two and a half minutes but would have his momentum halted via decision by Dan Henderson. He would again build up steam with three straight victories in the UFC middleweight division including two more vicious heel hooks.
He pulled a bonehead move against Nate Marquardt, turning and complaining to the referee in the middle of the fight and was blasted into semi consciousness for his trouble but has since scored two straight victories, one of which being a kneebar. "Toquinho" is looking for his second consecutive victory in his native country of Brazil.
How he gets it done: It used to be very easy to strategize how Palhares would win his fight, drop down, grab a leg and rip and twist until the opponent cries "Uncle!" but that is no longer the case. In his last fight against Dan Miller, Palhares showcased some seriously improved strand up skills as well as some incredibly violent ground and pound.
While his arms are short, he's still capable of packing a significant punch if he can connect. In the stand up, expect to see Palhares try to get inside where he can actually land power shots unlike most fighters due to his shorter arm length.
If the fight goes to the canvas (and this is highly probable), Palhares now has the option of attacking with his merciless submission attack or he can work for top position and pound Massenzio senseless. Considering his opponent's wrestling background, it's much more likely that the Brazilian will be dropping for a submission whether it's a heel hook, kneebar or even an ankle lock. If "Toquinho" latches onto a limb, he's going to torque it until the ref pulls him off.
Record: 13-5 overall, 2-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Mike Massenzio was a high school and junior college national champion wrestler in the first half of the last decade. After his collegiate career was over, he transitioned into submission grappling very fluidly. After winning the N.A.G.A. world championship, he transitioned full time to mixed martial arts.
Massenzio got off to a tremendous 10-1 start in his MMA career and was given an opportunity to compete in the IFL, where his nine fight winning streak was snapped by Danillo Villefort. Despite the setback, he was invited to the UFC where he submitted the heavy-hitting Drew McFedries in the first round.
After back-to-back losses in the promotion, "The Master of Disaster" was given his walking papers. After just one fight outside the UFC, the New Jersey native stepped up on extremely short notice to take on Krzysztof Soszynski at light heavyweight. He would be pummeled by his larger foe, but would be granted another fight as a "thank you" for helping the UFC out. In that bout, Massenzio came back from a rough first round and outstruck Steve Cantwell to earn his first UFC victory in over three years.
He was offered a major step up in Palhares and accepted the opportunity.
How he gets it done: Despite his stellar wrestling credentials, Mike Massenzio would be wise to keep this fight standing. He's not the most technical striker, but he's aggressive, scrappy and his never-give-up attitude allowed him to come back against a much more accomplished stand-up fighter in his last fight.
Massenzio is six inches taller and should have a significant reach advantage over Palhares so his key to victory should be keeping this fight standing, being aggressive with his strikes and looking to land combinations. Palhares was knocked out by Nate Marquardt and even dropped by Dan Miller so if Massenzio can land something clean, there's a shot he could hurt the Brazilian.
If the fight goes to the ground, the Ironhorse MMA fighter needs to remain in top position, not allow Palhares to get off any punches and he has to protect his legs. If he leaves an opening, "Toquinho" will not gladly take it.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is Rousimar Palhares' head. He's an incredibly dangerous fighter but he can do some very puzzling things in the cage which have affected him negatively. He refused to let go of a submission against Tomasz Drwal and was suspended, he took his eyes off his opponent against Marquardt and got punched hard in the face and he also prematurely celebrated against Dan Miller and was dropped 10 seconds later. If Palhares makes a stupid mistake against Massenzio, he could leave an opening for the American to potentially finish the fight with strikes.
Bottom Line: Rousimar Palhares is a one-of-a-kind type of fighter. Unlike most submission fighters, he brings a certain type of violence to his attacks which is unique and rare. Also, if you add his unpredictable actions in the Octagon, he becomes "must-see" television. Mike Massenzio has been in several very exciting fights and is not afraid to brawl. He's not going to be intimidated by "Toquinho" and when a fighter refuses to back down or show fear, that's when the most exhilarating bouts occur.
Who will come out on top at UFC 142? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!