Rony Mariano Bezerra (left) and Godofredo Pepey (right) celebrate victories on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.
Two very promising young featherweights will meet this Saturday night as Romy Mariano Bezerra and Godofredo Pepey will decide the winner at 145 pounds for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil on the UFC 147 main card in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Romy or "Jason" as he was better known as due to the fact he wore a Jason mask during his fighter entrances, was one of the most experienced and impressive featherweights on the TUF Brazil season. He won his three fights to get to the final via knockout, submission and decision, proving his well-roundedness in the process.
Pepey was the sixth pick for his team, but stuck around, utilizing his length and superior ground game to frustrate and submit his opposition. He had two submissions (armbars) and a split decision to advance to the show's finale and he's hoping to score the most impressive victory of his young career on the big stage.
Will "Jason" slaughter Pepey? Can Pepey rise to the occasion in by far the biggest opportunity of his life? What's the key to victory for both young Brazilians on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 10-3 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Felipe Arantes (Samurai Fight Combat)
Key Losses: Renan Barao (Cage Fight Nordeste), Genair da Silva (Platinum Fight Brazil 2)
How he got here: Rony Bezerra got an early start in MMA, beginning his training at just 16 years old to get away from a life of poverty, the perils of drugs and worse.
In just his third professional bout, he faced current bantamweight interim title challenger Renan Barao, taking the top Brazilian talent to a split decision, although he would be on the losing end.
2009 was a rough year for him as he would lose twice, the latter to current top Bellator featherweight Genair da Silva. Since then, however, he's been on a solid five fight win streak and he tore through the featherweight season of TUF Brazil, crushing all his opponents to advance to the finale. He was the first pick for Team Wanderlei and proved it in impressive fashion.
Now, he'll be fighting for glory against Pepey on Saturday night.
How he gets it done: "Jason" has some serious talent both standing and on the ground, but I suggest he keep this fight on the feet and really mix up his attack. He's probably a little bit better than Pepey on the canvas, but why risk it when he could tear his opponent up on the feet?
In the stand-up, Bezerra possesses some terrific knees and a very quick front kick if he wants to keep the fight at a distance. In terms of punches, he throws a mean left and right hook, but he does have a tendency to loop both blows, so he's going to have to make sure to keep his hands high and pull them back quickly after throwing.
If he hurts Pepey on the feet, he needs to swarm him cautiously as his lanky Brazilian foe is still very dangerous off his back and wiling to aggressively attack with submissions even if he's taking punishment.
Record: 8-0 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Godofredo Pepey began actively fighting in 2010, although, under the tutelage of his brother, he took three bouts in 2003, 2006 and 2007, winning all via submission.
Upon his return in 2010, he's defeated all five of his opponents via first round stoppage, three submissions and two knockouts, to remain undefeated.
He was given a relatively easy road on TUF Brazil, defeating the number seven pick via lackluster decision in his quarterfinal fight. He was set to face veteran Rodrigo Damm in the semis but a kidney issue prevented Damm from advancing. Instead, Pepey faced Vina Borges Pancini, who had already lost in the quarterfinals.
After losing the first round to Vina, Pepey came back and scored a second round submission to advance to the finals. Now, he'll be facing by far his most experienced opponent yet.
How he gets it done: On the feet, Pepey absolutely needs to use caution and if he's going to throw punches, he'll have to snap his left and right hand out very straight. His opponent, "Jason" tends to loop his shots so if Pepey can throw crisp straight strikes, he could tag Bezerra repeatedly.
Striking is not his forte, however, and I expect to see Pepey consistently work for takedowns. If he can't put Bezerra on his back, I wouldn't be surprised to see him pull guard as Pepey is extremely comfortable off of his back, almost to a fault.
Bezerra is extremely aggressive with his submission and guard-passing attempts, often giving up position in an effort to finish the fight. If he can overwhelm Bezerra on the ground or actually have some zip on his straight punches while utilizing his length, he's got a shot.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest factor in this fight has to be the experience disparity. Bezerra has stepped in there against some of the best Brazilian featherweights and bantamweights out there while Pepey has not. Pepey also had a much easier road to the finals. If he hasn't improved dramatically since taping finished for the show, I don't like his odds.
Bottom Line: Both fighters are very aggressive especially on the ground. "Jason" is extremely dangerous on the feet as well with his flying knees, front kicks and those crazy hooks. I have a gut feeling that this will be the most entertaining fight between Brazilians on the entire card as Pepey does not give up when he's getting hit and he's extremely stubborn. Both men are reckless at times and can leave big openings so there's serious potential for a finish here.
Who will come out on top at UFC 147? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!