The (mini) drought is over.
After a two-week stretch with no major mixed martial arts (MMA) action from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the gang is all here for another trip down south to get busy on this Saturday night's (May 18, 2013) UFC on FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" fight card, which features a compelling middleweight main event between Vitor Belfort and the last man to hold the Strikeforce 185-pound strap, Luke Rockhold.
The man he took it from, Ronaldo Souza, is also in action at Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil, where he takes on late replacement Chris Camozzi, who was promoted to the "Jacare" fight when Constantinos Philippou came up lame in practice.
Surging lightweight submission specialist Rafael dos Anjos tries to inch his way closer to a 155-pound title shot at the expense of the rough-and-tumble Evan Dunham while Joao Zeferino gets to fill the empty slot on the main card opposite hot-and-cold Rafael Natal.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FX 8 fight card below, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FUEL TV-televised under card bouts at 6 p.m. ET and then main card action, which is slated to begin at 9 p.m. ET on FX channel.
Now, enough with the formalities ... let's get cracking.
185 lbs.: Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort (22-10) vs. Luke Rockhold (10-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's hard to criticize a guy who not only wins, but also finishes fights, because he's essentially doing everything right. At the same time, you want to make sure that you don't let wins and losses make your decision for you when it comes to predictions.
Vitor Belfort is a perfect example.
The self-described "dinosaur" has three wins at middleweight since making his catchweight debut against Rich Franklin back at UFC 103. Two of those have come over fighters who are no longer in UFC (Anthony Johnson and Yoshihiro Akiyama).
He looked great against Michael Bisping earlier this year in Brazil. Lean and quick (thanks to a little help from the needle), he thrashed "The Count" with relative ease. But Bisping made the same mistake against "The Phenom" as he did against Dan Henderson.
He fought in fear of the knockout.
Luke Rockhold, who sounds a lot like Chris Weidman in the way he projects his confidence against one of Brazil's finest, won't make that same mistake. That's because this isn't pre-fight trash talk or some lame attempt to convince fans he's legit.
He really believes he is far superior to Belfort and expects nothing less than a finish.
I'm also convinced he's too intelligent to make this a straight-up boxing match, where he would get smoked. I think his wrestling, honed at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), will be used in earnest, not only to dump the Brazilian on his back, but also to tire him out and take away the power shot.
Five rounds is a long time.
It's hard for me to imagine a scenario in which Rockhold leaves his hands low or allows himself to be battered across the better part of 25 minutes. I don't think a submission win is out of the question, but I would be comfortable predicting a clear cut unanimous decision win by way of athletic gameplan.
The boo birds have just moved to DEFCON 1.
Final prediction: Rockhold def. Belfort via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Chris Camozzi (19-5) vs. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (17-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm just going to go ahead and say it: It's very hard for me to give Chris Camozzi a chance in this fight because three of his five losses have come by way of submission. Under normal circumstances, that would hardly make losing a foregone conclusion, but then again, there is nothing normal about the ground game of Ronaldo Souza.
"Jacare" is one of the best in the world.
The only saving grace for Camozzi is the fact that the Brazilian has fallen in love with the stand up and prefers to bang it out on the feet instead of relying on his bread and butter. It didn't stop Derek Brunson from getting KTFO and Souza did tap Ed Herman and Robbie Lawler, but he will throw hands if "Kamikaze" lets him.
Ronaldo hits hard, no question, but his technical flaws can be taken advantage of.
I'm not sure Camozzi is the right guy to do it. That's what made the Constantinos Philippou bout so intriguing, but alas, "Costas" went and hurt himself and this is plan B. It's not totally unwarranted, as the Coloradan has won four fights in a row, but he's going to need to be flawless in this bout to get past the alligator.
Decision wins over Nick Ring and Luiz Cane aren't making compelling arguments.
I have to imagine that within 15 minutes, at home and in front of his fans, Souza finds the opening he's looking for. I wouldn't be surprised to see Camozzi rocked on his feet before being taken down and tapped out. Not the boldest prediction, but certainly the most plausible.
Final prediction: Souza def. Camozzi via submission
155 lbs.: Rafael dos Anjos (18-6) vs. Evan Dunham (14-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Man ... remember when Evan Dunham was the cat's meow? He was supposed to be the next big thing at 155 pounds and a lot of people were up in arms over his split decision loss to Sean Sherk back in late 2010.
Didn't hurt his momentum.
Then he got dismantled by Melvin Guillard and dropped off the radar. But hey, that's life in the fast lane and MMA fans are a fickle bunch. A loss to T.J. Grant derailed his rebuilding phase and at 31 years old, he needs to do something special to get himself "in the mix."
Crazy thing to say about a guy who is 14-3.
The same can be said about his opponent, Rafael dos Anjos. The Brazilian, on the surface, has all the tools to be a contender, including knockout power (ask G-Sots) and slick submissions (Terry Etim's arm still aches on a rainy day).
What he doesn't have, is a decent win streak.
Yes, he's now got three straight victories, but going to the scorecards against Anthony Njokuani and Mark Bocek isn't going to put anyone on notice and you can blame Ben Henderson for making fans of the lightweight division hate decisions ("Smooth" has eight in a row).
This could actually be a pretty entertaining scrap, as both guys are well rounded fighters with experience against tough competition. However, when push comes to shove, I have to favor Dos Anjos, because he's demonstrated more consistency over the last two years and I think he steals this one in the final frame.
Final prediction: Dos Anjos def. Dunham via split decision
185 lbs.: Rafael "Sapo" Natal (15-4-1) vs. Joao "The Brazilian Samurai" Zeferino (13-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: I don't know dick about Joao Zeferino nor will I pretend to, because quite frankly, I have a hard enough time keeping up with the 300+ fighters currently on the ZUFFA roster. There's just not enough RAM in the ol' Nostracranium to follow every fighter currently doing work across the globe.
I do, however, know a thing or two about Rafael Natal.
"Sapo" joined the promotion on the strength of a knockout win over former UFC middleweight number one contender Travis Lutter, but his "run" inside the Octagon has been mediocre, at best. The former Ring of Combat (ROC) star is 3-2-1 with just one finish.
He was also put out to pasture by Andrew Craig last summer.
You can argue that Zeferino is at a disadvantage because he's never fought a "name," but if you look at Natal's wins and losses, there isn't really anything that elevates him above the promotion newcomer. That means the only real obstacle, in my eyes, is Octagon jitters.
This is a pick 'em as far as I'm concerned.
That said, I like the "The Brazilian Samurai" by way of opportunistic offense. Natal has already shown a penchant for tomfoolery inside the cage and I believe he's taking this fight lightly, based on the fact that Zeferino is wet behind the ears and stepping in on short notice.
Final prediction: Zeferino def. Natal via split decision
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FX 8 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Belfort vs. Rockhold."
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's event.