Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on FOX Sports 1 tomorrow night (Feb. 15, 2014) with UFC Fight Night 36 inside Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil, featuring a couple of intriguing match ups in the middleweight division.
In some ways, it's like a 185-pound grand prix.
That's because we could be looking at four of the best middleweight fighters not already booked for UFC 173, as Lyoto Machida takes on Gegard Mousasi, while Ronaldo Souza battles Francis Carmont. With Anderson Silva sidelined for the foreseeable future, the division is wide open.
But let's not kid ourselves, this one is all about "The Dragon."
UFC President Dana White seems to be in a big hurry to match Machida against the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort, who go to war over Memorial Day Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. A win over "The Dreamcatcher" will likely seal the deal.
A loss could open the door for "Jacare" to take his place.
That makes the main and co-main events something to talk about, and a good way to bolster a fight card that admittedly, is not big on marquee names. Erick Silva used to be a big deal, but until he starts living up to the hype, he's going to be relegated to events like these.
Speaking of which...
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 36 fight card on fight night (Feb. 15, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised main card bouts at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Now, enough with the formalities. Let's get cracking.
185 lbs.: Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (20-4) vs. Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi (34-3-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: What has surprised me about this match-up is what little respect Gegard Mousasi has gotten from not just the fans, but his fellow fighters, as well. And for what, one bad performance against Keith Jardine? Let's not pretend that Lyoto Machida hasn't had his share of stinkers, which seem to have been scrubbed from the archives after one good showing in a new weight class.
Machida pasted Mark Munoz last fall with a head kick. But before we break out the party hats, let's also remember Matt Hamill was able to do the same thing, and I don't see "The Hammer" fighting for any titles.
I've also seen Mousasi get criticized for his 15-minute jab-a-thon against the grotesquely over-matched Ilir Latifi, but that's the price you pay, as a fan, when a promoter asks a fighter with his eye on the prize to spend three rounds in a cage with a go-for-broke'r who will swing for the fences on every punch.
Safe beats stupid any day of the week.
The Moose has nearly 40 professional fights with wins over guys like Mark Hunt, Melvin Manhoef and Hector Lombard. True, he was out-wrestled by Muhammad Lawal, but "King Mo" is one of the best wrestlers in the world at 205 pounds, with or without the juice, so I'm not going crazy over it.
Point being, this is not a mismatch by any stretch of the imagination.
The reason I favor Machida, who is no stranger to world-class competition, is because he's been the more active fighter and as close as they are in skill sets, I'm not sure Mousasi can risk a pair of rounds to get his timing down after being sidelined with injury.
This one is going to the cards.
Stylistically, both guys are exceptional at defense. The Brazilian has made a career out of confusing his opponents and/or drawing them in out of frustration, but he won't enjoy that luxury here. Expect a closely-contested chess match that has Machida winning by split, because "The Dreamcatcher" will take too long to get his groove back.
Final prediction: Machida def. Mousasi via split decision
185 lbs.: Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (19-3) vs. Francis "Limitless" Carmont (22-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: Remember a few years back, when Ronaldo Souza hit like a girl? Uh ... yeah ... those days are over. Somebody taught "Jacare" how to punch and as a result, Derek Brunson and Yushin Okami took an impromptu trip to dreamland.
After all, when you're a five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, you can afford to mail it in during camp and just focus on your hands.
That's bad news for Francis Carmont, and pretty much everyone else at 185 pounds. Particularly for "Limitless," because he's looked so underwhelming in his last trio of fights. And I suppose we should just get it out in the open and acknowledge that he has seven losses, three of them by submission.
Where does he win this fight?
He's not going to submit Souza and he'd be insane to even try to drag his foe to the floor. And since the Frenchman hasn't knocked anyone out since squashing Jason "Dooms" Day in the main event of 2011's "Slammer in the Hammer," I'm not sure he's safe on the feet, either.
Oh, and this is taking place in Brazil.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a firefight right out of the gate. Carmont will likely initiate the clinch to stay out of the red zone, but Souza has a competent judo game to take things south, even if he does have a slight disadvantage in size. When you add it all up, the best Carmont can hope for is a narrow decision.
I don't like his chances.
Final prediction: Souza def. Carmont via submission
170 lbs.: Takenori Sato (17-8) vs. Erick "Indio" Silva (15-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Welcome back to reality! Erick Silva was supposed to be the golden child of the promotion's expansion in Brazil, but has failed to deliver on expectations and is now just 3-3 inside the Octagon, with his recent loss to Dong Hyun Kim being completely inexcusable.
It's the oldest saying in combat sports: Never underestimate your opponent.
It doesn't matter how talented you are, if you charge in with complete disdain for your foe, abandon any and all discipline and just try to be a big shot, chances are that sooner or later, you're going to have to pay the piper.
As a result, the mighty Silva has been relegated to FOX Sports 1 cards fighting Japanese can crushers.
I know Takenori Sato is the Pancrase welterweight champion, but that's akin to me holding the record for the most flapjacks eaten at my local IHOP. Sato has been racking up wins over (cough) "competition" like the 0-3 Islam Galayev, and the 41-year-old Keiichiro Yamamiya, who has 35 losses and a head full of creamed corn.
But a global expansion needs international fighters, so here we are.
If he has any common sense, Silva will enter the cage as a martial artist rather than a cocky hotshot. If he does, I expect him to run through Sato with relative ease. He's got the talent, all he needs now is the temperament.
I'm feeling optimistic.
Final prediction: Silva def. Sato via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Viscardi Andrade (17-5) vs. Nicholas "Nico" Musoke (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: So here is a classic case of two talented prospects who earned their way into UFC by beating up a bunch of scrubs on the international circuit. While that's normally one of my lame punchlines, it's actually what you're supposed to do to get a shot in the big leagues, as opposed to being plucked from a Starbucks drive-up window.
If the independent circuit is too easy, then you graduate to the Octagon.
Since doing so, both Viscardi Andrade and Nicholas Musoke have held up their end of the bargain. The former pounded out Bristol Marunde while the latter submitted Alessio Sakara. What I like most about this fight is that both have a well rounded game.
Combined, they have nine KO/TKO victories and 11 submissions for 20 finishes in 28 wins.
That tells me this fight can end on the feet, as well as on the floor. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see this grab one of the "Performance of the Night" bonuses, based largely on Andrade's aggression. He won't finish Musoke, who is too crafty on the ground, but should do just enough to convince the judges he's the better man.
Final prediction: Andrade def. Musoke via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Andy "The Little Axe" Ogle (9-3) vs. Charles "Do Bronx" Oliveira (16-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: It wasn't that long ago when Charles Oliveira was the darling of the 155-pound weight class, but his 4-4 (1 NC) run inside the Octagon and subsequent drop to featherweight haven't really produced the kind of results most fans were expecting.
At just 24, "Do Bronx" is still maturing inside (and outside) the cage and all four of his losses have come against competition that is, or was, ranked in the top five of both divisions. He may not be ready to swim with the sharks this early in his career, but he doesn't need to in a fight against Andy Ogle.
I haven't seen anything from the Englishman worth getting excited about.
He was upended on season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and has gone just 1-2 since making his Octagon debut in late 2012. If making it to the scorecards against the hot-and-cold Cole Miller (in defeat) is the best thing you have going for you, then I'm not sure that's enough to warrant a pick against Oliveira.
That said, the Brazilian could likely be pushed around for the better part of three rounds, but I think "The Little Axe" will try too hard to grind and as a result, end up silver-plattering a limb -- though I would love to see Oliveira follow up his destruction of Eric Wisely's calf and pull off a bicep slicer.
Final prediction: Oliveira def. Ogle via submission
That's a wrap.
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 36 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Machida vs. Mousasi."
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.