With fellow champions Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz a disappointing 1-3 in their current Octagon runs, Middleweight kingpin Luke Rockhold has set out to carry the winning torch, starting with a bout against longtime contender Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC on FX 8, which takes place this Saturday night (May, 18, 2013) from Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Another former Strikeforce champion "Jacare" Ronaldo Souza and surging Lightweight contender Rafael dos Anjos, who will collide with Chris Camozzi and Evan Dunham, respectively, will also be featured on the televised main card on fight night.
However, before we get to the juicy stuff on FX Networks there are nine "Prelims" under card bouts that will air beforehand on Facebook and FUEL TV for your mixed martial arts (MMA) entertainment.
Let's take a look:
135 lbs.: Yuri Alcantara vs. Iliarde Santos
Despite nearly locking up his lightning-fast armbar in the second, Yuri Alcantara (27-4) succumbed to Hacran Dias's powerful wrestling game at UFC 147, prompting the former lightweight to cut 10 more pounds to Bantamweight. "Marajo" looked absolutely vicious in his 135-pound debut against Pedro Nobre, taking his back and pounding away with big shots before poor refereeing -- and a solid acting job from Nobre -- resulted in a no-contest because of strikes to the back of the head.
Replacing Marcos Vinicius on short notice, Iliarde Santos (27-6-1) has firmly established himself as the top bantamweight on the Brazilian circuit, going 14-2 (with one "No Contest") in his last 17 fights. Said losses were tight decisions to prospect Renato "Moicano" and current Flyweight contender John Lineker.
The tough-as-nails veteran has been finished just twice in more than 30 fights, putting away 18 himself.
Santos is one of the best bantamweights to have not fought in a major organization and is undeniably skilled. Sadly, Alcantara is a flat-out monster. Santos’s wide power shots open him up for Alcantara’s bone-crushing left hand and I don’t see his takedown game paying dividends.
And even if he does wrangle down Alcantara, he will be forced to deal with his killer armbar.
Santos took one hell of a beating from Lineker in the first round of their fight before turning it around and arguably winning the next two; therefore, I’ve been vacillating on whether to call a stoppage, but Alcantara is just too strong, too fast and too vicious to let the openings Santos leaves go to waste.
I sincerely hope they give him another fight because his debut is going to end with him asleep on the canvas after a huge counter left hand.
Prediction: Alcantara by first-round knockout
205 lbs.: Fabio Maldonado vs. Roger Hollett
Fabio Maldonado (18-6) and his rib-breaking finish of James McSweeney in his Octagon debut caused a stir, one that only intensified following narrow losses in slugfests against Kyle Kingsbury and Igor Pokrajac. Unfortunately for him, Glover Teixeira was unimpressed, laying down the beating of a lifetime on Maldonado for two rounds before the referee mercifully waved it off.
The notoriously-durable veteran, training under Team Nogueira, had never been stopped with strikes, instead stopping 12 opponents in that fashion.
Roger Hollett (13-4) entered the world’s largest fight organization on the heels of five consecutive wins, but left pretty much everything to be desired against Matt Hamill, getting unceremoniously ground down over 15 minutes at UFC 152. Holett, training out of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, had previously competed in Bellator, with its notorious "matching clause" keeping him in career limbo afterward despite fighting for the promotion just once.
Despite his gaudy boxing record, I feel it’s been clearly demonstrated that Maldonado is a limited striker. While he certainly has power and a willingness to go to the body generally unseen in MMA, he lacks defense and a jab, forcing him to rely on his concrete head to get inside and do work.
Luckily, that should be plenty against "The Hulk."
Frankly, Hollett is just kind of average. He is not a great striker nor a grappler, falling every time he’s taken a step up in competition. He doesn’t have the wrestling to drag down Maldonado, nor the ranginess to stay out of the way of his rib-roasting assault.
It should be an entertaining slugfest while it lasts, which should be somewhere late in round two when Hollett’s torso finally gives up the ghost and Maldonado dutifully pounds him out for his second UFC victory.
Prediction: Maldonado by second-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: John Lineker vs. Azamat Gashimov
While the "Fight of the Night" bonus certainly softened the blow of a debut loss, John Lineker (20-6) came out with a vengeance in his sophomore effort, battering former Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani from pillar to post at UFC on Fuel TV 6 in Macao, China. The victory marked number 14 in his previous 15, a submission loss to Louis Gaudinot in his Octagon debut marking his only loss since Dec. 2009.
And in the 9:54 he spent against Gaudinot, much of that on his back, "Mao de Pedra" threw an absurd 240 punches, an average of more than one punch every three seconds..
Unlike fellow Jackson-trained Russian Rustam Khabilov, Azamat Gashimov (7-2) was thrown to the sharks right off the bat, facing crafty veteran Ivan Menjivar in his debut. While he succeeded in taking down "The Pride of El Salvador" early, the latter used the opportunity to secure a fight-ending armbar little less than three minutes into the first round.
This will signal the Flyweight debut for "Tough Guy," most likely prompted by his current 2-2 run.
I’ll readily admit that I am incredibly biased toward Lineker -- he’s the single most aggressive fighter I have ever seen, which includes the likes of Wanderlei Silva. In fact, Sherdog.com described his fight style as looking like someone button-mashing in Mortal Kombat.
And I readily agree.
That said, Gashimov’s size and grappling ability do have me somewhat worried. Lineker has historically proven adept at staying on his feet, but did struggle against Gaudinot when the latter got it into his head to take it to the ground. I’m willing to blame that on the fact that it was his 125-pound debut and that his corner was stuck in Brazil at the time. Plus, this is Gashimov’s first cut against someone whose style pushes his opponents’ cardio to the absolute limit.
Azamat could certainly enjoy early success, but Lineker’s obscene punch output and endless cardio will have him struggling to keep up around the midpoint. By the time the third rolls around, Gashimov should be running on fumes, allowing Lineker to batter him into the ground for an emphatic stoppage win.
Prediciton: Lineker by third-round technical knockout
After losing his spot as the world’s premiere flyweight to Ian McCall in 2011, Jussier Formiga (14-2) bounced back with five consecutive victories, including a decision over division stalwart Mamoru Yamaguchi and four submissions. Despite his grappling talent, he had no answer for the power and takedown defense of John Dodson, who pounded him out late in the second round.
Prior to the McCall fight, Formiga picked up wins over top-tier prospect Jose Maria Tome and former division kingpin Shinichi "B.J." Kojima.
A dominant performance against Josh Ferguson in his flyweight debut made it look like Chris Cariaso (14-4) might finally crack the elite, as did two solid rounds against John Moraga. The latter’s wrestling prowess proved the deciding factor, however, as he locked in a vicious front choke early in the third round.
The 31-year-old will be giving up two inches in height and three years of youth to his Brazilian foe.
I’ve mentioned it before, but this is the fight I least like to predict: one where everything boils down to Fighter A’s takedowns against Fighter B’s takedown defense. Cariaso kind of sucks at finishing people, but he’s leagues better than Formiga on the feet. If Formiga drags him down, though, "Kamikaze" isn’t getting back up without a malevolent backpack trying to choke him out for the rest of the round.
I’ve been flip-flopping on this, but I think I’m going to lean toward the latter.
Formiga has some of the best back control in the sport -- he’s not always great at locking up the rear-naked choke, but if he gets to your back, the only thing that’s getting him off there is the bell. Cariaso did shut down Josh Ferguson and went tit-for-tat with Moraga in the wrestling department, but it’s hard to forget the success Michael McDonald, Renan Barao and Takeya Mizugaki had taking him down.
Cariaso’s addiction to the left body kick will be his undoing as Formiga catches it, takes him down and secures back mount. From there, the only question is whether Cariaso survives to the judges or succumbs for a late tapout.
Prediction: Formiga by second-round submission
155 lbs.: Lucas Martins vs. Jeremy Larsen
While the bravery of Lucas Martins (12-1) in facing Edson Barboza on short notice is to be commended, his performance left something to be desired. While "Mineiro" immediately got in Barboza’s face in true Chute Boxe fashion, Barboza buckled him with a vicious counter jab, prompting Martins to submit to the follow-up beatdown.
Martins had previously knocked out eight opponents, all inside the first two rounds.
Despite his opponent suffering a point deduction, Jeremy Larsen (8-3) succumbed to eventual The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 winner Michael Chiesa after winning a decision to get into the house. Things didn’t improve at TUF 15 Finale, when castmate Joe Proctor knocked him out in less than two minutes.
It will have been over 11 months since Larsen last stepped into the cage when he faces Martins.
As humiliating as it was for Martins to become the first UFC fighter to officially submit to strikes since Paul Buentello decided he couldn’t stomach taking one more elbow to the thigh from Cheick Kongo, I’ve still got faith in him. He’s young, strong and a very effective striker. Larsen, on the other hand, is sort of "meh."
Martins is unproven off his back, but I don’t imagine Larsen having the chops to take advantage of that fact. Martins’ power and aggression should overwhelm him early, putting a bright smile on the hometown crowds faces to kick the event off.
Prediction: Martins by first-round technical knockout
There are still four more UFC on FX 8 "Prelims" bouts to break down, including a clash between elite featherweights when Hacran Dias takes on Nik Lentz.
See you tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember, too, MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FX 8 fight card on fight night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FUEL TV-televised under card bouts at 6 p.m. ET and then main card action, which is slated to begin at 9 p.m. ET on FX channel.