In a relatively thin middleweight division, champion Anderson Silva has few marketable challengers outside of Chael Sonnen. But Rousimar Palhares remains a talented, albeit enigmatic, product with an imposing skill set.
Gifted with crushing strength and a nasty ground game, Palhares is somewhat plodding, but brutally committed on the feet, heaving big punches that aren't technically sound, but powerful nonetheless. His compact base and athleticism make for good takedowns and takedown defense, too.
Mike Massenzio's had mixed results thus far in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), showing flashes of skill alongside disappointing performances. His stand up will be key in the this bout on the UFC 142 main card pay-per-view (PPV) from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as Palhares' incredible ability to wrest lower-leg attacks from almost any position make taking him down an extremely dicey proposition, assuming an opponent can do it in the first place.
Plainly put, Massenzio will have to keep this on the feet early and use long one-two combinations to punish Palhares as he tries to close the gap. Circle away, keep it somewhat static, and extricate himself from tie-ups, which Palhares will use, especially against the cage, to dump him on the mat.
It doesn't figure to be much of a stand up battle as both men will eventually be looking to take it down, but the key for Massenzio is to wear Palhares down early and frustrate him, before shifting to a ground fight.
Another wild card is Palhares' recurring inability to control his emotions in a fight, which has cost him. Whether it was complaining about Nate Marquardt allegedly being greased, and subsequently getting KO'd, holding submissions too long, or thinking the fight against Dan Miller was over, while referee Herb Dean and everyone else wondered why he'd stopped fighting, Palhares' head just isn't all there at times.
He'll need to focus and avoid fouling, throwing fits or generally subverting his own efforts. It's a shame, too, because at his best he's one of the most dangerous middleweights in the game.
This is a good style match up for Palhares, and he shouldn't be at too much of a stand up deficit to pull it off. While he's made headlines for his occasional outbursts and controversial antics, check his fight with Dan Henderson to see how difficult an assignment he can be.
In the decision loss to Hendo, Palhares tried endless takedown attempts, ate plenty of massive right hands, and still kept coming. At times, he'd get drilled hard and dropped, only to immediately transition into a leg submission.
He's simply too tough and capable here.
With some refinements to his raw stand up game he could be an elite contender, and he'll have too much for Massenzio, pushing a fast pace early and unleashing brutal ground and pound and overwhelming grappling en route to a second-round submission.
Palhares via submission
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