Two very promising Brazilian featherweight fighters will duke it out this Saturday night (June 23, 2012) as the established Yuri Alcantara takes on Nova Uniao prospect Hacran Dias in the opening bout of the UFC 147 main card in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Alcantara has quietly gone 3-0 in his Zuffa career, defeating three current UFC featherweights and gradually moving up the rankings. This will be his first appearance on a main card and he's hoping to showcase his talents to a much wider audience this time around.
Hacran Dias was a Shooto Brazil featherweight champion and he was so talented that the UFC straight up signed him to a contract after he tried out for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil. Dias is a very impressive prospect out of Jose Aldo's Nova Uniao fight team and he'll be looking to make a huge impact against Alcantara on Saturday night.
Will Alcantara continue his run of success in the UFC? Can Dias prove the hype is real by thoroughly dismantling Marajo with his grappling prowess? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 27-3 overall, 2-0 i the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Yuri Alcantara has now fought 30 times professionally, believe it or not. The Brazilian got his start working in some very small regional promotions and slowly began to build up experience from 2004-2009. It wasn't until he'd fought over 20 times before his life would change forever in 2010.
Alcantara would compete in Jungle Fight, one of the largest Brazilian MMA promotions and would hook up with Brazilian legend Wallid Ismael. He turned into a destructive force there, becoming the inaugural Jungle Fights lightweight champion, which drew the attention of Zuffa.
He was invited to compete in the final WEC event ever where he would knock out Ricardo Lamas inside the opening round.
Once the UFC merged with WEC, he was brought over to the big show where he dropped to featherweight and has quietly gone 2-0, defeating the likes of Felipe Arantes and Michihiro Omigawa, both times fighting in his native Brazil.
He'll be fighting in Brazil for the third time in his UFC career when he takes on Dias on Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Alcantara is very powerful on the feet and that's where his biggest advantage lies. He's a pretty large featherweight and I think he should put some effort into pressuring Dias, keeping this fight standing and trying to work him over with his likely striking advantage.
Alcantara is very dangerous with his hands, but his key will be to try and avoid getting taken down, as Dias is a strong and very aggressive grappler. He should utilize his footwork to keep distance, work a jab and try to force Diaz into striking exchanges.
If he can force Dias to stand with him, or perhaps if the fight goes to the ground and he can fluster Dias from top position, he's got a good chance of pulling out the win.
Record: 20-1-1 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Willamy Freire (Shooto Brazil 3)
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Hacran Dias is a very bright talent hailing from the reputed Nova Uniao team in Brazil. He competed for the likes of M-1, Jungle Fight and Shooto Brazil in his 22 fight professional career, which has spanned nearly seven years already. He had a terrific 2011, going 4-0 and winning the Shooto Brazil featherweight crown.
When UFC announced that there would be an "Ultimate Fighter" held in Brazil, Dias tried out for the show, but he was so impressive that instead of bringing him into the house, the promotion immediately signed him to a fight contract instead.
It's not surprising, as Dias had recently been named the top featherweight prospect in 2012 according to Leland Roling.
Now, Dias will be making his promotional debut against a sturdy veteran in Alcantara this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Dias is an extremely potent grappler. His striking is not his strong suit by any means, but he's serviceable there, especially if he can take the fight to the clinch and work some short inside blows.
What Dias needs to do is either clinch or shoot in for takedowns. He wants to get this fight to the ground where he can utilize his very lethal submission and overall ground attack. The majority of his career victories have come on the ground either by submission, decision or ground and pound.
I expect to see "Barnabe" burst out of the gates guns blazing and looking to close the distance with a trip takedown in the clinch. Once on the ground, he'll be working to pass guard and throw submission attempt after submission attempt. Dias is a true artist once he's in control on the canvas.
If he can drag Alcantara to the ground we could be seeing a new player at 145.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is how Dias responds to his first appearance with the big show. He's got a lot of hype behind him, but he's disappointed before when he was given a big opportunity to showcase his skills.
Dias drew against Japanese fighter Takafumi Ito and then suffered his only career loss against South Korean Yui Chul Nam when he was brought outside his comfort zone. This bout is taking place in Brazil, but the bright lights of the UFC have gotten to more than a handful of young fighters making their promotional debuts. If he gets the jitters, Alcantara could easily seize control.
Bottom Line: Both men are well-rounded and dangerous just about everywhere. Even though Alcantara would likely want to avoid the ground against Dias, he's still a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. I have a feeling this fight is going to take place all over the Octagon both on the feet, in the clinch against the fence and on the ground. I also think it's going to be very entertaining in all three positions. Expect the unexpected here as both men are capable of finishing a fight just about at any moment. Both have a lot to prove as well if they want to be a future contender. This should be a very fun battle.
Who will come out on top at UFC 147? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!