The injury bug knows no mixed martial arts (MMA) mercy.
This Saturday (Oct. 13, 2012), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will make its third trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And while things haven’t gone according to plan, the world's leading MMA promotion has once again cobbled together an entertaining series of scraps.
In the main event, Stephan Bonnar will look to succeed where eternal rival Forrest Griffin failed, taking on Middleweight champion and destroyer of manly worlds, Anderson Silva. In addition, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will compete for the first time since his disastrous arm-snapping submission loss to Frank Mir, squaring off against Dave Herman in the co-main.
That's not all ... not even close.
Yesterday, we previewed the first three bouts that comprise the initial UFC 153 Facebook/FX portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining three that will air live -- and for free -- on FX before the pay-per-view (PPV)-televised event starts at 10 p.m. ET.
Let's get cracking:
145 lbs.: Rony Jason vs. Sam Sicilia
While Flyweight standout Dileno Lopes proved a tougher out than expected in the qualifying rounds of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil," coach Wanderlei Silva was impressed enough to select Rony Jason (11-3) as the first overall pick. The sole member of his squad to win in the quarters, Jason submitted Anistavio "Gasparzinho" and decisioned Hugo Viana to earn a place in the finals opposite Godofredo Pepey. An emotional Jason defeated the grappling specialist by unanimous decision, winning the Featherweight bracket.
Jason, who fights out of Team Nogueira, has finished 10 of 11 foes, including seven by submission.
A competitor on TUF: "Live," Sam Sicilia (11-1) made one of the more impressive statements in recent memory in the elimination round, crushing Erin Beach in eight seconds with an overhand right and prompting coach Dominick Cruz to pick him second. Unfortunately, he was unable to build on his momentum, dropping a close decision to Team Faber’s Chris Saunders in the house proper.
Sicilia bounced back by finishing teammate Cristiano Marcello on the Finale and will make his 145-pound debut this Saturday.
I’m going to flat-out say that I want Jason to win this one -- he’s a blast to watch and, seeing how much this opportunity meant to him during his UFC 147 walkout, I don’t know how anyone with a heart couldn’t want him to succeed.
As much as I hate to say it, however, I don’t see this ending well for him. For one, he may be better suited to Bantamweight, having expressed an interest in dropping to 135 pounds in that past. In addition, he got dropped a bit too hard by a blown-up flyweight for me to have too much confidence in his chin, and for all his many flaws, Sicilia does hit pretty hard.
Sicilia couldn’t telegraph his punches more obviously if he emailed his opponents a list of every strike he was going to throw beforehand, but Jason isn’t a paragon of pugilistic brilliance himself and doesn’t have the wrestling to bring that wicked ground game of his to bear. Any striker worth his salt is going to take Sicilia’s lunch money, but against Jason, expect something a lot like the Marcello fight, with plenty of sloppy striking exchanges before one of Sicilia’s ridiculous haymakers lands.
Prediction: Sicilia by second-round technical knockout
After being stuck as a fringe contender for the majority of his UFC career, which dates back to 2006, Gleison Tibau (25-8) looked to have finally turned the corner at UFC 139, battering Rafael dos Anjos to secure a close decision victory. Unfortunately for the Brazilian goliath, he hit yet another roadblock in the form of unbeaten Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, whose relentless attack kept his "0" intact via decision.
Tibau, now 5-2 in his last seven fights, first debuted in the sport at the age of 16 and will be make his seventeenth Octagon appearance.
Constrictor Team’s Francisco Drinaldo (11-1) had firmly established himself as the top lightweight in Brazil by winning the Jungle Fight lightweight title before his time on TUF. Impressively, despite going up two weight classes to compete at 185, Drinaldo savaged Charles Maicon in seconds to earn a spot on Wanderlei Silva’s team. Former Light Heavyweight Thiago Perpetuo put an end to Drinaldo’s chase for the "six-figure" contract by exhausting him to the point where he could not answer the bell, but "Massaranduba" came back with a vengeance in the UFC proper, pummeling IFL veteran Delson Heleno for a first-round stoppage.
Honestly, I’m probably more excited about this fight than for any other on the "Prelims," if only because I’m pretty sure this is literally the biggest lightweight fight ever. Drinaldo is every bit as big as Tibau, who himself weighs more than 180 pounds on fight night. While I have some concerns about whether he bulked up too much to compete on the show, I see "Massaranduba" coming out on top in this one.
In addition to having a fantastic sprawl, he’s got serious power in his hands and far less robotic striking than his counterpart. His cardio may be a red flag, but considering that his TUF appearance was the first time the issue cropped up, I’m inclined to blame it on Perpetuo’s size and strength. Some entertaining striking exchanges await, with Drinaldo punishing Tibau’s takedown attempts and finding a home for his big left hand en route to an impressive stoppage.
Prediction: Drinaldo by second-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Diego Brandao vs. Joey Gambino
Hopes were high for Diego Brandao (14-8) after his 47-second annihilation of Jesse Newell in the elimination round of TUF 14 and, as Team Bisping’s top pick, he delivered in style, knocking out Steven Siler and Johnny Bedford before coming back from a knockdown to submit Dennis Bermudez in the finals. Unfortunately for the heavy-handed Jackson’s representative, Darren Elkins had no intention of being another piece of his highlight reel, surviving a hellacious first round to grind out a fading "Ceara."
The loss was the first since 2010 for the Brazilian, who knocked out welterweight UFC veteran Brian Foster early in his career.
Top-ranked Featherweight prospect Joey Gambino (9-1) looked to make a good first impression opposite Steven Siler on the undercard of UFC on FX: "Maynard vs. Guida." Despite his wrestling prowess, however, he had no answer for the lanky Siler’s attack, getting cut wide open with a heavy knee before succumbing to a guillotine less than three minutes into the fight.
"The Raging Warrior" had previously faced Bellator veteran Kenny Foster, winning a five-round decision in his first trip to the judges.
I’m willing to believe that Gambino is a better fighter than he looked against Siler, but I’m not convinced that this is anything but a horrible match up for him. Brandao needs to fix his cardio and tighten up his striking defense to keep his suspect chin out of harm’s way before cracking the division elite, but Gambino does not have the tools to exploit those vulnerabilities. The Brazilian is the faster, harder striker of the two and is more than competent enough off his back to survive there if things hit the mat.
If Gambino can drag this into deep waters, he may have a chance, but he’s going to eat something unpleasant in the early going as Brandao returns to show form.
Prediction: Brandao by first-round knockout
No use fretting over what could have been ... what we’ve got is something that ought to be a damn fine show.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 153: "Silva vs. Bonnar," beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 6:45 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming Saturday, starting promptly at 10 p.m. ET.