Light heavyweights Rafael Cavalcante and Igor Pokrajac will go to war on the main card of Saturday night's (Nov. 9, 2013) UFC Fight Night 32 event on FOX Sports 1 from Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil.
The bout has the potential for fireworks with a combined 24 knockouts on the mixed martial arts (MMA) resumes of both fighters.
Cavalcante, a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, has only had one fight in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He's looking to get back into the win column after being knocked out by Thiago Silva at UFC on FUEL TV 10 this past June. Prior to that, he saw a submission win over Mike Kyle get changed to a "No Contest" after he failed a post-fight drug test (stanozolol).
Cavalcante hasn't recorded a win since Sept. 2011 and his chances in UFC may be running short if he fails to notch a win this weekend in Brazil.
Pokrajac has gone through a comparably bad run lately, losing three straight bouts to Ryan Jimmo, Joey Beltran, and Vinny Magalhaes. His latest loss to Jimmo was an ugly one-sided affair that left much to be desired. The Beltran loss was changed to a "No Contest" after "The Mexicutioner" failed his drug screen.
That may be the only detail that's keeping "The Duke" alive inside the Octagon.
The Team CroCop-trained fighter has extremely powerful striking and wrestling to match. He just hasn't seen it translate to recent success. Before his downswing, Pokrajac racked up a three-fight win streak, so there's potential for him to turn things around.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Rafael Cavalcante vs. Igor Pokrajac:
Record: 11-4 (1) overall, 0-1 UFC
Key Wins: Muhammed Lawal (Strikeforce: Houston), Yoel Romero (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov)
Key Losses: Dan Henderson (Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson), Thiago Silva (UFC on FUEL TV 10)
Keys to Victory: It's no secret that Cavalcante is a headhunting striker who looks for the knockout every trip to the cage. That strategy has worked for him so far in his career, but he's yet to prove himself against the top-level talent in UFC.
Cavalcante has been knocked out three times himself. He can't get careless against Pokrajac or he'll be on the wrong end of a stoppage. "Feijao's" punches have a ton of power behind them, but they can tend to get a bit wild at times.
To win in Goiania, Cavalcante should utilize a sharper, more polished version of his stand-up. He has big knockout power, now it's time to add some precision his strikes.
He should have a noted speed advantage over "The Duke," and that will pay immediate dividends at UFN 32.
Cavalcante hasn't been tested much on the ground. He's never tapped out and his only submission win was eventually overturned. Despite having a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, "Feijao" is content to engage in slugfest after slugfest. Perhaps he could add a new wrinkle to his game by looking for some surprising submissions should he get taken down.
Pokrajac is a good boxer as well. However, he most likely knows that Cavalcante's glaring strength is on the feet. Look for Pokrajac to go for multiple takedowns during the fight. If Cavalcante can avoid it, there should be an opening for him to unleash his power punches. Takedown defense will be key to victory on Saturday.
This isn't the biggest name opponent "Feijao" has ever faced, but it may be his most pivotal. He needs to bring his best gameplan to the Octagon and follow through on it.
Record: 25-10 (1) overall, 4-5 (1) UFC
Key Wins: Fabio Maldonado (UFC on FUEL TV 3)
Key Losses: Ryan Jimmo (UFC 161), Stephan Bonnar (The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Pokrajac is a brutal finisher who has only seen the judges' scorecards in four of his 25 wins. Problem is, those wins have stopped rolling in as of late.
If he wants to end his snide in Goiania, Pokrajac needs to show up with his striking defense sharp. He'll need a good amount of head movement and footwork to keep the wild swings of Cavalcante at bay. Pokrajac also needs better timing in a bout where one huge punch could end the fight in an instant.
"Feijao" has shown he can be knocked out, and Pokrajac won't likely shy away from too many exchanges on the feet.
But a slugfest isn't what he should be looking for. Against a hulking hitter like Cavalcante, Pokrajac's best bet is to tire him out. Repeated takedown attempts will go a long way in limiting "Feijao's" chances to throw bombs, even if they don't succeed. Pokrajac has a decent amount of submission wins with eight, but that will be an outside shot as Cavalcante has never tapped.
If Pokrajac can drag this fight to the mat and land some ground and pound, Cavalcante's power punching will be greatly decreased as the fight wears on. Cavalcante will eventually gas after throwing too many haymakers, so Pokrajac will need excellent conditioning to outlast "Feijao."
A win over the former champion would arguably be the biggest victory of his career, but he needs to stay upright long enough to realize that potential.
Bottom Line from Goiania: The bottom line for this fight is that it's going to be fueled with a ton of emotion. With two power hitters like Cavalcante and Pokrajac, we could see a "Knockout of the Night"-winning performance from either side.
There needs to be more of a sense of urgency from Pokrajac because technically, he's dropped three straight fights. A win will be absolutely necessary to stay employed in UFC. At this point in his career, he's not much more than a gatekeeper.
He may not even be that if "Feijao" knocks his block off.
Cavalcante is well known for his striking-heavy brawls, so his job is more secure than Pokrajac's for now -- though a loss to "The Duke" will definitely have him on thin ice. He'll look to throw an arsenal of big hooks and uppercuts to end Pokrajac's night early.
There's no doubt he has the skills to easily do so.
But he'll need a good amount of distance to accomplish this in Goiania. Avoiding the takedown will be key to success, as will conserving energy to fight on in the later rounds if need be. This should be Cavalcante's fight to lose; he's got to be on top of his game to make sure he gets the win.
One shot might just end this fight. Because of that, this bout could definitely be an entertaining and unpredictable affair.
It’s not likely to last long when Rafael Cavalcante and Igor Pokrajac hit the Octagon in Goiania. Who do you pick to regain lost momentum at UFC Fight Night 32?