Two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contracts will be up for grabs this Saturday night (May 31, 2014) when Vitor Miranda faces Antonio Carlos Jr. at heavyweight and Warlley Alves goes to war with Marcio Alexandre Jr. at middleweight on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" 3 Finale, airing live at 10 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1 from Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Miranda ran through his competition on the show, finishing both Antonio Branjao and Richardson Moreira via technical knockout. Two of "Lex Luthor's" three mixed martial arts (MMA) losses have come by decision to noted UFC slugger Fabio Maldonado.
He'll face an opponent of similar momentum in Carlos Jr., the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who beat Edgar Castaldelli via knockout and Marcos Rogerio via submission to gain his spot in the finals. "Cara de Sapato" only has three professional fights under his belt, all first round tapout victories. He'll storm onto the UFC scene if he can make Miranda his fourth victim.
Alves blazed a trail through his TUF opponents , also scoring two first round finishes by defeating Ismael de Jesus and Wagner Gomes. Undefeated at 6-0, Alves owns three submissions, two decision wins, and one knockout victory.
Alexandre Jr. is the only fighter of this bunch who had trouble along his path to the finals, inching by Paulo Costa and Ricardo Abreu with two split decisions. Despite the close calls on the show, "Lyoto" is a perfect 12-0 with 10 knockout finishes. He's got some big shoes if he wants to live up to the namesake of former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Miranda vs. Carlos Jr. and Alves vs. Alexandre Jr.:
Record: 9-3 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Joao Paulo Pereira (NCF - Nitrix Champion Fight 15), Elton Rodrigues (Mestre do Combate)
Key Losses: Fabio Maldonado (BC - Bitetti Combat 4, MTL - Mo Team League 2)
Keys to Victory: Miranda is a relentless finisher, having only gone to a decision after one of his wins.
He's going to be looking to push the pace on the feet and score an early finish against noted submission wiz Carlos Jr. Despite his decent ground game, he has to avoid falling into "Cara de Sapato's" dangerous trap on the ground.
Utilizing strong takedown defense and punishing Carlos Jr. for attempting to drag the fight to the canvas will be crucial for Miranda.
As the heavier fighter, if he can keep this fight standing and use his perceived power advantage, a path to sealing up the contract will open up for him.
Antonio Carlos Jr.
Record: 3-0 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Edinaldo Novaes (Champion Fights 2)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: At around 218 pounds, Team Wanderlei Silva first pick Carlos Jr. is relatively small for a heavyweight.
He should be able to neutralize that discrepancy against the 230-pound Miranda if he can turn this into a ground war early on. "Lex Luthor" has only tapped out once in his entire career, and that was to punches, so Carlos Jr. will have his hands full in attempting to submit Miranda.
However, given his recent track record and fearless performances on the show, he's ready to take on the best and succeed. Obviously his biggest advantage will be his substantial Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, but he also scored his first knockout victory on TUF: "Brazil" 3.
Implementing his gameplan with a solid mix of level changes and chain submission attempts will make this fight play out in "Cara de Sapato's" favor.
Record: 6-0 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Mike Jackson (Jungle Fights 56), Ederson Moreira (Jungle Fights 53)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Alves is a lethal mat practitioner who has put away three foes using guillotine, rear-naked, and arm triangle chokes.
He also has the ability to do some damage on the feet, but with his opponent owning 10 of his 12 wins by knockout, there's not much reason to take on "Lyoto" in his glaring strong suit.
Alves should be looking for takedowns and slams to stop Alexandre Jr.'s momentum before it starts.
Making this fight ugly with a heavy dose of clinch work and ground and pound will be Alves' safest path to a big victory. If he can secure a takedown and go to work with strikes and submission attempts, Alexandre Jr. will be unable to find a flow for his vaunted striking combinations.
Marcio Alexandre Jr.
Record: 12-0 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Douglas Penning Pilati (SF - Sombrio Fight), Nelson Rodrigues de Andrade Jr. (Big Bang - MMArilla)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Team Sonnen first pick "Lyoto" looked human on the show aside from his flawless record.
However, he got to the finals, and that's all that counts right now.
In order to lock up the TUF contract, Alexandre Jr. has to keep this fight standing. He has a couple submission wins, but his stand-up game is where he pays the bills.
With a nickname like his, it had better be.
Exercising a high volume of pinpoint jabs, hooks, kicks, and counters will begin to frustrate Alves' rhythm and soften him up for the kill.
Alexandre Jr. will definitely be looking for the big knockout on Saturday night, but he has to stay calm and calculating while doing so. Allowing his emotions to get the best of him could see him slammed to the canvas and controlled.
Alexandre Jr. is finally on the grand stage with a chance to make a big statement. Picking Alves apart on the feet is his best chance of accomplishing that.
Bottom Line from Sao Paulo: The bottom line for the first fight is that Miranda has a noted experience advantage over Carlos Jr. However, "Cara de Sapato" can deliver on his massive potential by locking up another big submission win.
Miranda is the only fighter in the TUF: "Brazil" finals who has lost a bout. The elder fighter at 35 years old, he has a lot more at stake than 24-year-old Carlos Jr., who could rebound well even if he loses on Saturday night.
Miranda should be looking to turn this into a slugfest, while Carlos Jr. obviously wants to use his slick ground game to score his biggest-ever victory.
It'll be interesting to see if experience or youthful energy comes out with the heavyweight contract in Sao Paulo.
Alves vs. Alexandre Jr. could be a very exciting match-up. Both of Alexandre Jr.'s fights on the show were close, and both fighters are undefeated.
Neither one will give an inch, but Alves should have a huge edge in the wrestling and grappling department. But he's got to get it there first, and Alexandre Jr. is an explosive knockout artist who has twice as many fights as Alves.
Expect a war, with a ground battle favoring Alves and a kickboxing match heavily leaning towards Alexandre Jr.
The coaches may not be fighting to culminate TUF: "Brazil" 3, but there are two solid contract match-ups on tap for the Finale. Which Brazilian prospects will arrive on the UFC scene in Sao Paulo?