Let's see if the mixed martial arts (MMA) magic will happen again.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is headed back to Brazil this Sunday (March 23, 2014) with a rematch of the "Fight of the Year" in 2011 in tow. Pride FC superstars Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Dan Henderson will battle it out once more in the main event of UFC Fight Night 38, which takes place at Nelio Dias Gymnasium in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.
In addition, inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" winners Cezar "Mutante" and Rony "Jason" will be in action as the former faces C.B. Dollaway and the latter takes on Steven Siler in FOX Sports 1-televised main card action.
Before that action gets going, however, six "Prelims" under card bouts are scheduled, the first two of which will stream online via UFC's Fight Pass service, while the rest will join the FOX Sports 1 main card.
Let's first examine the former:
145 lbs.: Godofredo Pepey vs. Noad Lahat
Godofredo Pepey (9-3) opened his MMA career with eight consecutive finishes, seven coming in the first round. This effort got him a spot on TUF: "Brazil," where he made it to the Finale before dropping a decision to Rony "Jason." He is 1-2 since, winning a very questionable decision over Milton Vieira before being knocked out twice in a row by strikes from guard courtesy of Felipe Arantes Sam Sicilia.
Noad Lahat (7-0), fighting out of American Kickboxing Academy, is just the second Israeli-born fighter to join the world’s largest fighting organization, the first being UFC 10’s Moti Horenstein. After a two-year absence from the sport, Lahat returned last August with a win over longtime vet Shad Smith.
The win, a decision, was the first of his fights to go beyond the second round.
As fond as I am of people being willing to pull guard, this is the end of the line for "Pepey." He’s not at a level where he can afford to give up position that easily and doesn’t have the wrestling nor striking ability to be a factor on the feet. Lahat -- a highly-skilled top control specialist -- should have a field day here taking down "Pepey" or working him over when the Brazilian surrenders guard.
The potential for "Pepey" scoring a submission from his back is there, of course, but it’s a remote one. Lahat ought to control this fight beginning to end even if he does wind up forced to fight off a Kimura or two. He’s not quite adept enough to finish "Pepey," though, so expect some good ole’ fashion grinding for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Lahat via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Francimar Barroso vs. Hans Stringer
Francimar Barroso (16-3) picked up his thirteenth win in 14 fights in his Octagon debut, defeating Junior dos Santos training partner Ednaldo Oliveira. The win marked just the second time he’s gone to the judges, eleven of his wins coming inside the first round.
He is more than seven years older than his Dutch opponent.
Hans Stringer (21-5-3) made his stateside debut last October, drawing with "Kiko" France because of a point deduction at World Series of Fighting 6. The draw extended his unbeaten streak to six since a loss to Germany’s Jonas Billstein in 2010.
Stringer -- who has 17 finishes to his credit -- has tasted defeat just once in his last 14 fights and drawn with Bellator champion Attila Vegh.
Stringer bucks the Dutch trend by being a grappling specialist; unfortunately, while solid from top position, he doesn’t seem to have the wrestling to crack the notorious Nova Uniao takedown defense. On the feet, he seems a bit below Barroso’s level, meaning he’s likely in for a long night.
It remains to be seen how much of a finisher Barroso is when he’s not fighting regional level opposition or gangly former heavyweights he’s looking to takedown, so I can’t say with any confidence that he’ll get Stringer out of there. I’ll err on the side of entertaining, though.
Stringer commits to engaging after a round of failed takedowns and eats something violent in an exchange.
Prediction: Barroso via second-round technical knockout
You know the drill by now -- four more UFC Fight Night 38 "Prelims" matches to preview and predict tomorrow.
See you there, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 38 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" at 4 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" at 5 p.m. ET and, of course, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised main card bouts at 7 p.m. ET.