Is it handsome in here, or is it just him?
The last man to hold the Strikeforce Middleweight championship and part-time mixed martial arts (MMA) dreamboat Luke Rockhold is finally in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), taking on knockout artist and two-division contender Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC on FX 8 this Saturday night (May 18, 2013).
The event, which takes place at Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil, will also feature the Octagon debut of Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend and former Strikeforce 185-pound champion "Jacare" Ronaldo Souza, taking on late replacement Chris Camozzi, who is presently riding a four-fight win streak.
Yesterday, we previewed the first five bouts that comprise the initial UFC on FX 8 Facebook/FUEL TV portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining four that will air live -- and for free -- on FUEL TV before the FX-televised event starts at 9 p.m. ET.
Let's get cracking:
145 lbs.: Hacran Dias vs. Nik Lentz
One of Nova Uniao’s top prospects, Hacran Dias (21-1-1) proved his mettle in his UFC debut, defeating dangerous veteran Yuri Alcantara at UFC 147. While injuries scrapped a fight with Chad Mendes in Australia, an injury to Manny Gamburyan in March opened the door for a clash with Nik Lentz (23-5-2) this weekend.
The sole loss of Dias’ career came against ROAD FC Lightweight Champion Nam Yui Chul, the "Korean Bulldozer," in 2009.
An above-average career at lightweight, culminating in two straight losses didn’t leave fans waiting with bated breath for his Featherweight debut, but Lentz has been an absolute monster since dropping to 145 pounds. A quick stoppage of Eiji Mitsuoka, the first technical knockout of his UFC career, was followed by utter domination of contender Diego Nunes, firmly establishing "The Carney" as an elite featherweight.
Dias is an excellent fighter, but his game revolves around powerful top control -- the one guy who managed to beat him was a hyper-aggressive wrestler, which happens to be a Lentz hallmark.
"Barnabe" could most likely give most of the Top 10-ranked fighters in the division hell, but Lentz just strikes me as his worst stylistic match up this side of Chad Mendes, short notice notwithstanding. Dias’ wrestling can’t stand up to Lentz’s and he’s not a threat off his back.
Expect a slightly less one-sided version of the Nunes fight, with Lentz taking him down and laying on the hurt with painful regularity.
Prediction: Lentz by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Mike Rio
Possibly the single largest member of the UFC’s lightweight division, former Jungle Fight champion Francisco Trinaldo (12-2) was a member of the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" cast as part of Team Wanderlei Silva. Competing at Middleweight, "Massaranduba" crushed Charles Maicon in seconds in the opening round, only to succumb to the exhausting pressure of former Light Heavyweight Thiago Perpetuo in the quarterfinal round.
Though his grappling skills made him an early favorite on TUF 15, Mike Rio (9-1) of Team Dominick Cruz fell in his first fight in the house proper to Team Urijah Fabe r’s penultimate pick, Andy Ogle. Injured ribs from the bout delayed his UFC debut until the next season’s Finale, when "Wolverine" submitted John Cofer in the waning seconds of a bout he was on his way to losing.
All but one of Rio’s victories have come inside the distance, split evenly between technical knockouts and submissions.
Cardio issues notwithstanding, Trinaldo is a beast, and his sheer size and strength should make him a pain in the ass for Rio. Despite his wrestling credentials, "The Wolverine" was getting handled by Cofer in that department before pulling off the submission. And considering the ease with which Trinaldo shut down Delson Heleno’s takedowns, I’m willing to blame the issues he had against Tibau to that fight being his first cut back to 155 pounds in a while.
If Rio can establish top position consistently, he can most likely grind down Trinaldo for a late finish. More likely, though, "Massaranduba" shuts down his takedown game and punishes with heavy left hands en route to a mid-round stoppage.
Prediction: Trinaldo by second-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau vs. John Cholish
Competing for the nineteenth time in the UFC, Gleisen Tibau (26-9) remains unable to take that last step into the elite, losing two of his last three after putting together three straight for the first time since 2007. Most recently, an impressive victory over Francisco Trinaldo was followed by a narrow decision loss to Evan Dunham at UFC 156.
Now 29 years old, Tibau has competed in MMA since the age of 15 and originally debuted in the Octagon in 2006.
John Cholish (8-2), a protege of the great Renzo Gracie, entered the UFC on a seven-fight win streak, including a kneebar finish of TUF 12 veteran Marc Stevens under the Strikeforce banner. Since then, he has gone 1-1, pounding out Mitch Clarke in his debut before losing an uninspiring decision to Danny Castillo this past May.
Cholish has not competed since, an injury scuttling a bout with Yves Edwards at UFC on FOX 5.
Cholish is an entertaining fighter, using his wrestling to facilitate finishes. In fact, he’s finished every one of his victims save the very first. What Castillo showed, though, is that he doesn’t really have a Plan B when he can’t get the takedown. Tibau is a fairly limited fighter, but he’s damn near impossible to take down and can deal some damage with that big left hand. Plus, he can go three hard rounds despite his size, another area in which he has Cholish beat by a fair margin.
Tibau isn’t precise enough with his hands to get the finish standing nor offensively savvy enough with his submissions to tap Cholish, but he should pick up the win without too much trouble, denying Cholish’s takedowns and landing enough power left hands to earn a unanimous nod.
Prediction: Tibau by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Paulo Thiago vs. Michel dos Prazeres
Batalhao de Operacoes Policiais Especiais (BOPE) badass Paulo Thiago (14-5) started his UFC career 3-1, taking out the likes of Josh Koscheck, Jacob Volkmann and Mike Swick. Unfortunately, it’s been more or less all downhill from there, as he now finds himself 1-4 in his last five with dominant losses to Siyar Bahadurzada and Dong Hyun Kim chief among those defeats.
Thiago has tapped eight opponents and finished another two via technical knockout, including the aforementioned Koscheck, and has been finished just once.
A competitor on the Brazilian circuit since 2000, Yuri Alcantara stablemate Michel dos Prazeres (16-0) replaces the injured Lance Benoist on short notice. After competing just once between June 2008 and March 2012, Prazeres reeled off two straight wins in 2012, one via the rear-naked choke that has brought him five victories.
"Trator" has tapped eight opponents in total, primarily utilizing a powerful double-leg and effective top control-oriented jiu-jitsu.
I like Thiago. I really do. He’s fun to watch, always goes for the finish, and is a genuine, real-life badass. And that is what makes it a shame that he’s going to lose for the fifth time in six fights.
Prazeres’ striking game isn’t anything special, but he makes up for it with a fantastic double-leg takedown. And considering Thiago’s porous takedown defense, that spells upset. Barring a serious case of UFC jitters, "Trator" should put Thiago on his back early and often, staying aggressive enough on top to prevent a standup and shrugging off Thiago’s submission attempts to take home a clear decision victory in his Octagon debut.
Prediction: Prazeres by unanimous decision
The supporting "Prelims" cast may not take the breath away from collective combat sports fans, but that is one hell of a UFC on FX 8 main event.
See you Saturday, 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.