Well, it's something at least.
With former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos, scratched thanks to injury, Light Heavyweight bruiser Fabio Maldonado will step up to the plate to face power-punching Stipe Miocic in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 3" Finale, which goes down this Saturday evening (May 31, 2014) from Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Joining them on the FOX Sports 1 main card are the tournament finals for both the Heavyweight and Middleweight divisions -- Team Wanderlei Silva's Antonio Carlos Jr. faces Team Chael Sonnen's Vitor Miranda in the former, while teammates Warlley Alves and Marcio "Lyoto" duke it out in the latter.
As with UFC Fight Night 41's "Berlin" card (read that full "Prelims" preview here), we're putting all the "Prelims" fights in one post to keep you guys from getting inundated. We're good like that.
Without further interruption, check out the TUF: "Brazil 3" Finale "Prelims" preview and predictions (the first three on Fight Pass and the rest on FOX Sports 1):
155 lbs.: Rodrigo Damm vs. Rashid Magomedov
After a short run at Featherweight with mixed success, Rodrigo Damm (12-6) returned to the Lightweight division in Feb. 2014, taking on former Jungle Fight champion Ivan Jorge. Damm’s grappling proved just as effective at 155 pounds, taking home a unanimous decision win and, in the process, achieving his first multi-fight win streak since 2008.
He will give up two inches of height to Rashid Magomedov (16-1).
Rashid picked up the M-1 welterweight title in March of 2012, defending it later that year against Alexander Yakovlev, who debuts against Demian Maia. He made the drop to 155 last February, escaping an airtight armbar to defeat the massive Tony Martin by decision. He has scored seven knockouts in his career and split a pair of bouts with Bellator standout "Frodo" Khasbulaev.
Magomedov’s takedown defense remains something of a liability, but there’s a difference between getting taken down by big men like Martin and Yakovlev and getting taken down by a part-time featherweight. Damm’s takedowns, while solid, shouldn’t have extended success against the Dagestani striker, making this a striking battle.
Damm’s great jab isn’t a match for Magomedov’s kicks and combination punching. Rashid is also the faster of the two on the feet and has the counterstriking to punish Damm should he overextend. Though Damm grinding out a win is feasible, it’s less likely than Magomedov chewing him up on the outside for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Magomedov by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Elias Silverio vs. Ernest Chavez
Elias Silverio (10-0) brought the Jungle Fight Welterweight title into his Octagon debut opposite Joao Zeferino, defeating the bigger grappler via decision. He showed that he was even more dangerous at lightweight soon after, dominating Isaac Vallie-Flagg.
"Xuxu" has knocked out three opponents.
Ernest Chavez (7-0) was a sizeable underdog in his UFC debut, taking on powerful Cuban Yosdenis Cedeno. After a rough first round, however, he dominated Cedeno on the mat, eventually earning a split decision win. That trip to the judges stopped a two-fight knockout streak for "EJ."
This strikes me as one of those fights where one fighter is just kind of better than his opponent everywhere. Chavez is well-rounded and a solid striker; unfortunately, Silverio is all that as well, only faster and with possibly-superior wrestling.
Silverio’s speed ought to be the deciding factor here as he pieces Chavez up with rapid combinations. He’s an intriguing talent that I expect to go far in the division.
Too bad for Chavez.
Prediction: Silverio via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Paulo Thiago vs. Gasan Umalatov
After starting his UFC career 3-1, including stoppages of Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick, Paulo Thiago (15-6) has recently struggled to regain that form, going just 2-5 in his last seven. Most recently, he followed up a close win over Michel dos Prazeres with a brutal knockout loss to rising star Brandon Thatch.
Eight of his wins have come via submission.
Gasan Umalatov (14-3-1) began his UFC career against the rapidly-improving Neil Magny, struggling to impose his grappling on the bigger man. He had won eight of his previous nine bouts, finishing six.
Seven of his fourteen wins have come via submission.
As rough as Thiago’s had it recently, he hasn’t lost to any truly bad fighters in this stretch, with the possible exception of Siyar Bahadurzada. Umalatov is neither a devastating striker nor an overwhelming grappler -- the two archetypes that have foiled Thiago in the past -- and so should prove a winnable out. Both men are likely to chase the takedown and I believe Thiago’s the better takedown artist.
On the ground, we should have some fun scrambles. Though this may be the sentimental side of me (which I usually drown in alcohol), I think the Brazilian supercop gets back in the win column after a fun ground battle.
Prediction: Thiago via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Edimilson Souza vs. Mark Eddiva
Edimilson Souza (14-3) entered the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) organization having knocked out seven straight opponents, picking up the Jungle Fight Featherweight title in the process. "Kevin" was forced to see the judges for the first time in his career but came out on top in his UFC debut, defeating Chute Boxe’s Felipe Arantes.
At 6’0," he will enjoy a four-inch height advantage over Mark Eddiva (6-0).
A member of the Phillipines’ Team Lakay, Eddiva took on Chinese standout Jumabiekke Tuerxun in March 2014, a fight in which the latter was heavily favored. Despite Tuerxun’s noted wrestling credentials, Eddiva dominated, using his length and takedown defense to win a primarily standup-based bout. The win marked his first via decision, his previous four fights having ended in the first round.
I horribly underestimated Eddiva his last time out, so I’m probably asking for trouble by picking him to get blown out here. Nonetheless, Silva figures to have the advantage. He’s significantly taller and longer and has an absolute bomb of a right hand; though he’s reckless with it, Eddiva might not have the length to capitalize on the openings he presents.
That size and length should also help "Kevin" keep this on the feet should Eddiva elect to switch gears. Though Souza isn’t likely to exploit Lakay’s traditional takedown defense trouble, he ought to win this handily, landing that monster right hand sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Souza via first-round knockout
185 lbs.: Ricardo Abreu vs. Wagner Silva
Ricardo Abreu (4-0) impressed enough in the elimination round on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 to become Wanderlei Silva’s first middleweight pick. After beating Guilherme "Bomba" in the quarterfinals, "Demente" lost a narrow decision to Team Sonnen’s top middleweight, Marcio "Lyoto," in the semifinals.
His four professional fights have ended in a combined 2:48.
Wagner Silva (3-0) -- Silva’s third pick -- defeated Team Sonnen’s second in the quarterfinals, earning a split decision over Joilton Santos. An early mistake cost him against Warlley Alves, though, as he left his neck exposed during a rapid takedown attempt.
"Wagnao" has two first-round submission wins to his credit.
Demente’s cardio is a bit of a question mark, but I’m guessing that having a full camp to get the weight cut down ought to help that out. Assuming he comes in in shape, he should win without much trouble. Abreu is a world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu player and Silva’s grapple-heavy gameplan will backfire in a hurry.
Abreu also seems to be the more powerful man on the feet, making this his fight to lose no matter where it takes place. How long this takes depends on how long he waits to go for the takedown. And judging by his record, that won’t be particularly long.
Prediction: Abreu via first-round submission
265 lbs.: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Richardson Moreira
Marcos Rogerio de Lima (11-2) fell in his lone Strikeforce appearance and first fight thereafter, but went unbeaten in his subsequent four fights before his TUF appearance. Once there, he choked out Bellator veteran Thiago Santos in the elimination round and defeated Jollyson Francisco before succumbing to the grappling prowess of jiu-jitsu champion Antonio Carlos Junior.
"Pezao" has scored eight knockouts in his career and is a kickboxing veteran.
Richardson Moreira (7-1) wasted little time in his first two fights in the house, picking up two straight first-round finishes to reach the semifinals. Vitor Miranda proved a sterner test, knocking Moreira out in the second round.
All of his wins have come inside the first round, five via submission and four of them leglocks.
De Lima is not suited for 265 pounds. Hell, he’s been trying his luck at Middleweight lately. Luckily, Moreira’s traditionally a 205-pound fighter, too, so size shouldn’t play a huge factor. So long as he can stay on the feet, "Pezao’s" heavy kicks and power punches should win him this fight.
Remember my eternal gripe about takedown defense? Mentally substitute it in here. De Lima should be able to control where the fight takes place and -- as long as he doesn’t dilly-dally in the clinch -- ought to land something big late in the first round on his less-polished foe.
Prediction: de Lima via first-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Pedro Munhoz vs. Matt Hobar
Pedro Munhoz (10-1) showed impressive chutzpah earlier this year, taking on top contender Raphael Assuncao less than one month after his previous bout. Though he gave a good account of himself, "The Young Punisher" ultimately fell to the Bantamweight veteran, coming up short both striking and on the ground.
The former RFA champion has submitted six opponents, including in five of his previous six wins.
Matt Hobar (8-1) picked up a title of his own in July 2013, choking out Angel Huerta for the LFC bantamweight strap. The win marked his fourth by form of choke and fifth finish overall.
"The Crowbar" is three inches taller than Munhoz.
I admit that I have yet to locate any good recent footage of Hobar. What I’ve read suggests he’s a solid wrestler, though not devastating on the feet nor on the ground.
Which is pretty bad news, considering Munhoz is.
Indeed, Munhoz combines excellent groundwork with an impressive takedown game. And while they didn’t work on Assuncao, there’s a reason the latter is the No. 1-ranked division contender. He has the means to force Hobar to the mat on his terms and, once there, should be able to polish him off in relatively short order.
Munhoz picks up his first UFC win in impressive fashion.
Prediction: Munhoz via first-round submission
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will offer LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF: "Brazil 3" Finale fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" at 6:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" at 8 p.m. ET and, of course, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised main card bouts at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 67-33 (1 NC)