Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back in Brazil for the second time in just over a month, bringing mixed martial arts (MMA) fans UFC Fight Night 29: "Maia vs. Shields," which airs later TONIGHT (Oct. 9, 2013) on FOX Sports 1 from Barueri's Jose Correa Arena in the outskirts of Sao Paulo.
Six compelling fights ... and they won't cost you a dime.
As the name would suggest, Demian Maia looks to move to the head of the welterweight class at the expense of fellow grappler and former division number one contender Jake Shields. In addition to getting closer to the gold, this evenly-matched headliner could determine the best ground fighter at 170 pounds.
Oh wait, that title already belongs to Dong Hyun Kim.
That's what "Stun Gun" said in this pre-fight interview prior to slinging leather opposite Erick Silva in enemy territory. Hopefully, "Indio" learned a valuable lesson in his Jon Fitch fight, or the Brazilian (and fans in attendance) could be in for a long night.
Not just for the ramifications of a Korean mugging, but for the health and safety of Matt Hamill, as he puts his well being at stake against light heavyweight smashing machine Thiago Silva. "The Hammer" flirted with retirement a couple of years ago and tonight will prove if he made the wrong decision by coming back.
That's the top half of the card.
The bottom half boasts a reformed heavyweight, a reborn bantamweight and a welterweight tree trunk who is looking to Pierce the top 10 rankings at 170 pounds. How, when and with what method these fighters get the job done is unknown, but that won't stop me from making an uneducated opinion.
See for yourself:
Nostradumbass predicts: This 170-pound headliner is being touted as an evenly-matched grappling contest between two of the division's top welterweights. While that may be true, it doesn't really do anything to convince me it will play out that way.
The proof is in the pudding.
Can anyone honestly say they've seen an impressive Jake Shields performance inside the Octagon? I can't, and it's a shame, too, because he's got some pretty big names on his resume. But he was given a gift by Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut, because the brain-dead "Hitman" insisted on takedowns, despite tooling Shields in the stand up.
Then came consecutive losses to Georges St. Pierre and Jake Ellenberger.
He rebounded with a snoozer over Yoshihiro Akiyama, failed a drug test against Ed Herman and damn-near got booed out of the building for his split-decision nod opposite Tyron Woodley earlier this year in Winnipeg. His cardio stinks, he can't throw a punch and hasn't scored a submission win in over four years.
He ain't startin' tonight, either.
Like Shields, Demian Maia was also a successful middleweight, but came down to a more fitting division when shit got a little too real at 185. Since then, he's been the opposite of his Fight Night opponent, scoring three consecutive wins with two finishes, while beating Jon Fitch at his own game.
This is his fight to lose.
Since every bout starts on the feet, it would not surprise me to see these guys banging it out early and often. Maia's hands have improved, but I wouldn't consider them to be anything worth bragging about. Sooner or later, someone is going to clinch and then things will get interesting.
Shields is durable enough on the ground to keep out of harm's way, and his size and strength will definitely be an advantage, as well as his experience, but I believe he spends the majority of this fight trying not to lose.
He won't be successful.
Final prediction: Maia def. Shields via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: So it turns out Erick Silva is not concerned about the takedown heading into tonight's fight against Dong Hyun Kim, despite being out-wrestled by Jon Fitch last year at UFC 153.
There's no question that Silva is a fantastic fighter with frightening submission skills, but this is the UFC 170-pound division and he's not going to be climbing any ladders if his opponents can take him down and hump him for 15 minutes.
And let's just go ahead and say it: Silva didn't lose to the 2008 Fitch, who won 17 in a row and fought Georges St. Pierre for the division title, he lost to the one who is 1-3-1 over his last five and can't stay conscious on the regional circuit.
To make matters worse, four of Silva's last five opponents are no longer employed by UFC, getting released because they just weren't up to snuff. One of them even dropped to lightweight. That means his biggest win to date is over Jason High.
Sorry, I'm not ready to drink the Kool-Aid just yet.
Not to suggest that it has been all wine and roses for Kim, either. He was starched by Carlos Condit and pulled a McRib against Demian Maia. At least you can argue those were top 5/10 welterweights and he was able to offset those defeats with wins over Paulo Thiago and Siyar Bahadurzada.
Not that it matters.
This fight is all about the wrestling. Kim is going to bring it and Silva is going to ignore it. I don't know if that's Brazilian posturing, or he just believes he can win the fight anywhere it goes, but until I see otherwise, this one feels like a fairly easy pick.
Final prediction: Kim def. Silva via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Duff Holmes, longtime friend and trainer of Matt Hamill, chose to part ways with "The Hammer," rather than accompany the former "Ultimate Fighter" to Brazil. Let that digest for a second. The one guy who knows Hamill better than anybody was so concerned about what might happen in a bout against Thiago Silva, that he had to step down as coach.
That tells me all I need to know about tonight's fight.
Maybe he needs the money. I don't know. Perhaps he can't shake the desire to compete. It's not for us to decide when and where a fighter should call it quits, but there was nothing in Hamill's (cough) "win" over Roger Hollett back at UFC 152 -- his first after being temporarily retired by Alexander Gustafsson -- that leads me to believe he's got anything for the ruthless Brazilian.
This one could be tough to watch.
Silva has experienced his own share of setbacks, including a pair of piss tests that came up snake eyes. One thing that hasn't changed over the years, despite his many troubles outside the Octagon, is his violence inside it. He's an aggressive brute with serviceable wrestling, powerful strikes and a black belt in jiu jitsu.
The result is 14 finishes in 15 wins.
If Hamill thinks he's going to paw that jab and lazily shoot for a takedown against this maniac, he's going to get himself killed. True, Silva's gas tank isn't exactly the stuff of legend, and he did miss weight, but compared to "The Hammer," he's the goddamn Roadrunner.
That makes Hamill Wile E. Coyote, and there isn't an Acme rocket big enough to blast him out of Brazil in one piece.
Final prediction: Silva def. Hamill via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: I know it's impossible to say this without sounding like a jack-off, but Joey Beltran is not a UFC-caliber fighter. He's managed to endear himself to the MMA fan base by doing his best Homer Simpson/Drederick Tatum impression, but 2-5 in UFC with 1 NC and a failed drug test is not a good look.
Dropping to light heavyweight makes him a bit more spry, but as far as overall skill set, I'm not sure anyone in the top 10 is looking over their shoulder. He's the benefit of favorable matchmaking here, as he gets paired off against a fighter who is also struggling to find a spot in the division's crowded roster.
But at least with Fabio Maldonado, you can build a case for keeping him around.
The Brazilian is 2-3 since making his Octagon debut, recently snapping a three-fight losing streak at the expense of Roger Hollett. Like the "Mexicutioner," he's also found success against the bottom of the barrel, but faltered when the competition got a little stiffer.
Still, who doesn't love to watch him work the body?
Maldonado has some sweet boxing, but his defense is laughable and he's taken down way too easily. The good news is, Beltran will be willing to bang it out on the feet, because he's not well-rounded enough to exploit his opponent's deficiencies elsewhere.
That means we can expect 15 minutes of back-and-forth action, and barring a second-round chin-checker, Maldy should turn his foe into a punching bag for the better part of three rounds.
Final prediction: Maldonado def. Beltran via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: I remember thinking a few years back, "Man, if this guy ever laid off the free weights and made a run at 170, he'd be unstoppable." I don't think that anymore, now that I've had a chance to see him in action. He's got the scariest heel hook in MMA, but when it comes to fight I.Q., he goes full Sling Blade.
Palhares does a good job of beating up washouts, but if you pair him against a confident veteran with a solid submission game, he's easily exposed as the one-dimensional fighter that he is. Dan Miller nearly knocked him out in a decision loss and Alan Belcher safely rolled with him on the ground before cleaning his clock.
Let's not even mention what Hector Lombard did. That was just mean.
If "Toquinho" can't get a hold of your leg, or gorilla-mug you into fighting scared, then he's pretty easy to neutralize. Mike Pierce may not be at the top of the welterweight division (yet), but he's one of the toughest outs at 170 pounds. He's also got a big mouth and a general disdain for every single one of his peers.
That's why I like him!
Pierce is 9-3 inside the Octagon and three of those losses have been razor thin decisions against three division number one contenders, and I still argue that he won the Josh Koscheck fight. His biggest crime is boredom, but he's started to turn things around with second-round finishes over Aaron Simpson and David Mitchell.
I don't know how the weight cut will affect Palhares in tonight's fight, if at all, but even if he's on point, I have a hard time building a case for his win. Pierce is too good a wrestler, has already fought the best the division has to offer and is too smart to silver-platter any extremities.
Final prediction: Pierce def. Palhares technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: This is a great fight for fans of the bantamweight division and specifically, fans of T.J. Dillashaw. I wasn't too impressed with his run through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and when he was starched by John Dodson in the Season 14 Finale, I expected him to fade away.
Dills roared back with a vengeance and rattled off four straight wins, displaying an impressive blend of striking and submissions. The fact that he's finishing people tells me that he's no longer just a wrestler looking to hump his way to the scorecards.
The one knock on Dillashaw is that he hasn't exactly faced the cream of the crop, so going head-to-head against Raphael Assuncao will undoubtedly be his stiffest test to date. The Brazilian is also the winner of four straight and like tonight's opponent, shares a submission win over Vaughan Lee, as well as a technical knockout victory over Issei Tamura.
Assuncao -- which is pronounced ah-sun-sow and not ass-and-cow (I just found that out like, two days ago) -- has faced much stiffer competition, but in bantamweight battles against the aforementioned Faber, as well as Jeff Curran, Diego Nunes and Erik Koch, he's come up short.
I believe he falls short here, as well.
While I think he can give Dillashaw the fits on the feet and create precarious situations on the ground, the younger, hungrier fighter is going to revert back to his bread-and-butter, using his wrestling to score late takedowns to win points when he has to.
Final prediction: Dillashaw def. Assuncao via split decision
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 29 fight card TONIGHT (Oct. 9, 2013) right here, starting with the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card action (also on FOX Sports 1), which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET.
TUF 18 (episode six) rolls into town immediately following that.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC Fight Night 29 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Maia vs. Shields."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.