With his unreal ability to find submissions from virtually anywhere, Rousimar Palhares has become the Mike Tyson of submissions. He's the guy who inspires terror because you know precisely what he's coming to do, and yet he's incredibly hard to stop from doing it.
There's a wonderful cache Palhares' game adds to the submission element of mixed martial arts (MMA), because his setups and technical mastery of how to wrench limbs combines high science with brutal visuals. In other words, he makes submissions cool as hell again, and something you can point to to turn casual fans on to that part of the sport.
He's also built perfectly to pursue the holds he so readily exploits, with a massive, compact frame, tree-trunk limbs and the upper-body of a heavyweight.
His opponent later tonight (May 5, 2012) at UFC on Fox 3 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J., Alan Belcher, meanwhile, is aptly named "The Talent," due to an admirably well-rounded game and considerable potential. The Louisianan has developed into a potent fighter in recent outings, and after overcoming an eye injury that threatened his career, he's a win away from being considered a top-five middleweight contender.
With a huge frame for the weight class, dynamic stand up and a good jiu-jitsu game, Belcher is emblematic of the "athlete" designation that's thrown around in modern-day MMA because he moves and performs like one. Smooth and polished on the feet, he also possesses a requisite mean streak, and that is exactly the kind of guy you need to be to deter a killer like Palhares.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC on Fox 3 fight between Rousimar Palhares vs Alan Belcher:
Palhares tends to compensate for lack of technique in takedowns with brute-force shots, which he can get away with against a certain level of competition. His stand up is equally rough, but heavy-handed, and his chin is outstanding. Just watch his epic battle with Dan Henderson at UFC 88, where "Toqhuino" absorbed plenty of H-bomb right hands from "Hendo" only to shoot in time and again, often dropping for heel hooks after getting blasted. His stand up is the biggest hole in his game, but his ability to pull guard and hunt for limbs makes him eminently dangerous, even when he's dropped.
Belcher definitely needs to find the "right" range to fight, and defend and maintain it with consistency and deal. He will sometimes seem content to laze in the clinches and work for Muay Thai-style attacks, whether it's knees or dirty boxing, but that may be a bad idea here as Palhares can pull guard or create a scramble that will offer a submission attempt. In a straight standup match, Belcher was the moxie, range and technique to badly outclass Palhares, and perhaps stop him.
Palhares is back to his streaking, steamrolling self, winning his last three since getting stopped by Nate Marquardt. Belcher is an exceptionally talented guy, however, and has developed some tactical smarts, enough to not freeze up and seem like a deer in the headlights, which is a big part of Rousimar's aura. He simply overwhelms people until they can't operate, and then finishes them off.
The guess here is that Belcher knows a good shot to the puss is the best way to keep Palhares from getting too bold, and he'll deliver some good, crisp striking early, while moving readily, changing angles and using his six-inch height advantage to keep Palhares from lining up opportunities to get it to the mat.
If taken there, Belcher will be defensive and sound enough to survive, and extricate himself from impending submissions. This is a dynamite matchup that should promise some wild swings of momentum and the air of constant danger for both, but Belcher's size, athleticism and far better stand up should be enough to wear down and frustrate Palhares en route to a late stoppage.
Belcher via technical knockout
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Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or email@example.com.