Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is poised to make its pay-per-view (PPV) return tomorrow night (Sat., Aug. 3, 2013) at UFC 163, where hometown hero Jose Aldo will defend his 145-pound title against top featherweight contender Chan Sung Jung, LIVE from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It ain't "Showtime," but as far as short-term replacements go, "Korean Zombie" will suffice.
Joining them will be former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida, who is counting on a "Wonderful" co-main event performance against the durable Phil Davis, who like "The Dragon," could move into title contention with a fire-breathing performance in Rio.
One of the more interesting stories -- aside from the main and co-main -- is the return of Thales Leites. The 32 year-old submission wizard is looking to silence the inordinately lippy Tom Watson, who beat the snot out of Stanislav Nedkov prior to taking a digital dump on Wanderlei Silva.
Whatever keeps you in the headlines, I suppose.
A middleweight scrap between Cezar Ferreira and Thiago Santos joins a flyweight contest pitting John Lineker opposite Jose Maria Tome and that folks, is your UFC 163 main card. Is it worth $50? That depends on how well you think these combatants match up.
Here's what I think.
Nostradumbass predicts: Fans expecting me to build a fair and objective case for both fighters in this championship contest are likely to be disappointed, as there's really no point in dicking around with this one, so let's just get it out in the open and go from there.
I know this is mixed martial arts (MMA) and "anything can happen," but Chan Sung Jung hasn't seen the inside of the Octagon in over a year and may I remind you that he was KTFO by George Roop back in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
This is the guy who's going to upset Jose Aldo?
You may not agree that "Junior" is the third-best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport -- as the "official" UFC rankings indicate -- but it's difficult not to recognize him as the finest featherweight fighter on the planet, at least until proven otherwise.
Does he have a weakness?
I suppose if you get him sick before a fight, then force him to suffer through a horrible weight cut, much like he did before sleepwalking through his UFC 129 fight against Mark Hominick, you may have a chance at capitalizing on an empty gas tank.
But dominant, five-round decision wins against Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian and Urijah Faber, prove that faltering in the final minutes is the exception for Aldo, not the rule. He's also damn-near impossible to take down. Chad Mendes, prior to the illegal fence grab, whiffed on his first three shots.
What hope does Jung have?
I'm not calling the challenger a tomato can, as he's established a terrific body of work since graduating from WEC, but he's simply "good" in every area, whereas the champion is "great." There's a reason Aldo is 22-1 and I know fans like to call his opponent "The Korean Zombie," but come Saturday night in Rio, he'll just be The Walking Dead.
Final prediction: Aldo def. Jung via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: I remember some of the kind words directed toward Phil Davis after a lackluster unanimous decision win over Vinny Magalheas earlier this year at UFC 159 in New Jersey, analysis preceded by complimentary fluff such as, "Well, he showed improved stand up."
Having better striking than "Pezao" is like having a better hairline than Nostradumbass. All you have to do is show up and you're already in the lead by default.
The question for me isn't whether or not Davis loses, it's whether or not he gets finished.
"Mr. Wonderful" is probably one of the most talented wrestlers in the sport -- in any division -- but his offense goes into sleep mode when the takedowns prove to be unavailable (see Evans, Rashad). That's bad news against Lyoto Machida, who is not just difficult to hit, but also difficult to get a hold of.
Cool hips, bro.
Just ask fellow wrestlers Ryan Bader and Randy Couture, though I'd gather they probably have no memory of getting slayed by "The Dragon," thanks to a pair of highlight-reel knockouts. Dan Henderson didn't fare much better, but the Ma-cheetah dance was out of fear of the "H-Bomb."
There will be no such apprehension in Rio.
That's because Davis does not have knockout power. He does, however, have a great ground game and is not to be taken lightly when it comes to submissions (just ask Alexander Gustafsson). Again, in order for that gameplan to be effective, the Brazilian must be taken down and kept down.
I'll believe it when I see it.
Final prediction: Machida def. Davis via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Combined, these two have just one fight in UFC. That should give you a pretty good indication of what kind of mess we had to sort through prior to getting the main card PPV line-up set. Neither fighter qualifies as an "unknown," thanks to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and hey, we're in Brazil.
It's kind of hard to build an objective case for Thiago Santos. Not only does he come in on short notice, he's also a puffed up welterweight. The fact that Cezar Ferreira hasn't competed in over a year is of no help, since "Marreta" has also been idle for about the same time.
Ordinarily, this would be on the "Prelims."
I wish I had something awesome to say about this fight, but without a body of work inside the Octagon, or at least some form of accomplishment outside of reality television, this fight boils down to a pair of up-and-coming prospects trying to make a name for themselves.
All things considered, I'd be surprised if this saw a second round.
Final prediction: Ferreira def. Santos via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: People who weren't around or just can't remember why Thales Leites was packed up and shipped out back in 2009 will have an "Oh, that's why" moment by the second round. While the Brazilian grappler has been known to shine on the regional circuit, he's just not a big-game player.
Is Tom Watson?
Too early to tell. He laid an egg in his Octagon debut, but everyone gets a fee pass, thanks to the "jitters" excuse, and he was able to follow that up by knocking around Stanislav Nedkov. His level of competition to date is about on par with Leites and this is the fight to determine which of these combatants graduates to the next level.
Like they chant on Skull Island: Kong ... Kong ... Kong
Since his unceremonious exit from UFC, Leites was busy as a beaver, but has competed just twice over the last three years. In addition, he hasn't been inside the cage for nearly 15 months, which means I have concerns about how well his cardio will hold up if he's looking for takedowns.
Or fighting out of the clinch against the cage.
Watson may not be a league above his opponent on fight night, but he doesn't have to be. He just needs to stay off the canvas and tire his foe out. The Brazilian is too durable to finish, but there's no reason to think "Kong" won't be ahead on the judges' scorecards when all is said and done.
Final prediction: Watson def. Leites via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: What a great time to be a flyweight. It's easy to see just how small this weight class is (har har) when your division champion is already talking about "super fights" after just two title defenses. That's not his fault, but it sure would be nice to have a couple of contenders on hand.
Heck, I'd settle for just one.
John Lineker can be that guy with a big night in Rio. He stumbled out of the gate in his UFC debut, but has continued to look impressive inside the Octagon, most recently beating the brakes off Azamat Gashimov for his twelfth stoppage in 21 wins.
One more may be all he needs.
Standing in his way is a Brazilian can crusher names Jose Maria Tome, who has made a mockery of the regional scene for the past nine years. While on paper, he looks to be the favorite, we really don't know what we're getting until the cage door closes. Trying to fight in front of an arena full of howling lunatics isn't like having a few friends in folding chairs on the gym floor.
Is he up to snuff?
Consider this: Tome hasn't lost in 16 fights. 17 wins and one "no contest." How many of those opponents have a winning record? Just one. That means over the last five years, he has a 1-1 record against fighters above the .500 mark and his toughest test to date resulted in a submission loss to Jussier da Silva.
I think I've seen all I need to see here.
Final prediction: Lineker def. Tome via technical knockout
That's a wrap, folks.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 163 card tomorrow night (Sat., Aug. 3, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 163 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Aldo vs. Korean Zombie."
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.