PRIDE never die?
After his crushing knockout loss to Dan Henderson, Pride FC kingpin and former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua is out to prove he's still a factor at 205 pounds, taking on former Tennessee Volunteers football player, Ovince St-Preux, down in Uberlandia, Brazil, this Saturday evening (Nov. 8, 2014).
The two headline UFC Fight Night 56, which will also feature a Featherweight top contender match between Ian McCall and the brick-fisted John Lineker, as well as a match between The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 3" winner, Warlley Alves, and rising prospect Alan Jouban.
The main card will take place on FOX Sports 1, with five "Prelims" being showcased on FOX Sports 2 and one on Fight Pass.
Let's see what's on the menu:
145 lbs.: Diego Rivas vs. Rodolfo Rubio
Chile’s Diego Rivas (5-0) fought for Team Fabricio Werdum on TUF: "Brazil 3," taking on the larger Gabriel Benitez in the opening round. Unable to maintain position after scoring takedowns, Rivas tapped to a rear-naked choke in the second round.
He has scored three professional victories by submission and ended a two-year hiatus from the sport in February.
Rodolfo Rubio (12-6) regained control for Team Cain Velasquez after their sole loss, tapping Colombia’s Alex Torres via armbar. He had less success against teammate Yair Rodriguez in his second bout, submitting to strikes in the first round.
He has never gone the distance in victory ... submitting nine.
I’m trying to figure out a polite way to describe their skills and struggling. In short, both are primarily grapplers, but neither is a very good grappler. Rivas was unable to end up on top after scoring takedowns and Rubio’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu is just ugly. Neither of them has any striking worth speaking of, although Rivas has slightly better balance and is less inclined to throw useless kicks.
This is a 50/50 fight. Not because it’s two well-rounded athletes lacking weaknesses, but because I can’t quite figure out how their incompetence matches up. Rivas is a bit bigger, has faster hands and didn’t submit to strikes, so let’s go with him.
Prediction: Rivas via first-round submission
185 lbs.: Caio Magalhaes vs. Trevor Smith
The ZUFFA career of Caio Magalhaes (8-1) started off slow with a decision loss to Buddy Roberts. Since then, he has quietly rattled off a three-fight win streak, including a comeback submission of Karlos Vemola and an upset of TUF 11’s Nick Ring.
Five of his professional wins are by stoppage, including five by submission.
Trevor Smith (12-5) snapped a three-fight losing streak under the ZUFFA banner in January, edging striker Brian Houston via split decision. After suffering a knockout loss to Thales Leites three months later, Smith re-entered the win column in Ireland, defeating TUF 17 veteran Tor Troeng.
"Hot Sauce" has submitted nine opponents, never going the distance prior to his UFC run.
Through Smith’s UFC run, it has become clear that he does one thing and one thing only: lumber forward and pursue the takedown while swinging for the fences. He’s pretty darn good from top position and, save for the Leites fight, is usually durable enough to get away with it.
I think that strategy will work well here.
Magalhaes has never shown great wrestling; Vemola trucked him before gassing and he didn’t have success getting Ring down until the latter injured his knee in the second. Smith should be able to slug it out with Caio long enough to wrap him up and implement his top game.
Smith grinds out his second straight win.
Prediction: Smith via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Dhiego Lima vs. Jorge Oliveira
Dhiego Lima (9-2) -- younger brother of Bellator champion Douglas Lima -- showed the reason he is such a touted prospect on TUF 19, scoring submissions in the quarter- and semi-finals of the Middleweight brackets. His run came to an end at the hands of Eddie Gordon, who knocked the young American Top Team-trained product out at July’s Finale.
He has stopped seven opponents ... four via submission.
Jorge Oliveira (7-0) -- who usually fights at 155 pounds -- has yet to go the distance as a professional, ending all fights inside the first round. He returned to the sport after two years away in Dec. 2013, picking up his fifth knockout victory.
He replaces Poland’s Pawel Pawlak on six days’ notice, which I learned about literally as I was preparing to post my finished preview for the Lima-Pawlak fight.
Yes, I’m bitter.
Anyway, there’s very little footage of "Blade" out there, an issue compounded by the fact that there is a more well-known light heavyweight who shares the same name. It looks like he has some kickboxing experience under the long-pants-no-leg-kick ruleset that Stephen Thompson competed under, but the only mixed martial arts (MMA) footage I can find is a camcorder recording filled with screaming.
I think I’m gonna have to extrapolate a bit.
Despite the aforementioned kickboxing, his striking looks rudimentary, featuring a lot of full-extension swings. I already had doubts about his chances just based on him moving up in weight and Lima’s grappling ability and watching him strike didn’t help. Though he fights out of a good camp and looks to have some power, Oliveira isn’t ready for someone of Lima’s caliber, especially not 15 pounds north of his usual weight.
Lima by early submission.
Prediction: Lima via first-round submission
155 lbs.: Leandro Silva vs. Charlie Brenneman
Leandro Silva (16-2-1) unbeaten record came to a halt in his Octagon debut, where he lost a unanimous decision to the much larger Ildemar Alcantara. After picking up five wins on the regional circuit, "Buscape" returned to UFC two months ago, replacing Efrain Escudero against Francisco Trinaldo and losing a very close split decision.
Nine of his professional victories have come via submission, eight by form of choke.
Charlie Brenneman's (19-7) promising UFC run ended on a brutal 1-3 skid, all three losses coming by first round stoppage. Winning four straight fights and dropping to Lightweight, Brenneman returned to the world’s largest fight promotion in January, only to lose consecutive bouts to Beneil Dariush and Danny Castillo.
He has stopped 10 professional opponents, split evenly between knockout and submission.
After dropping to 155 pounds, Brenneman said in an interview that he felt more comfortable fighting lightweights because, to paraphrase, he "knew their punches couldn’t hurt him." That mindset has worked swimmingly so far in UFC.
That’s the thing that bugs me so much when trying to pick a Brenneman fight: his wrestling is elite, but all it takes is one wayward punch for him to completely collapse in on himself. Watching him yo-yo up and down against Johnny Hendricks and Kyle Noke was fascinating and, in the Danny Castillo fight, he upgraded to getting knocked completely cold.
Since Silva only has one professional knockout, I’m going to risk looking like an idiot (again) and say Brenneman manages to finally grind out another UFC win.
Prediction: Brenneman via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Thomas de Almeida vs. Tim Gorman
Chute Boxe’s Thomas de Almeida (17-0) has carved a path of destruction through the regional circuit, knocking out his last 11 opponents. Most recently, he crumpled Caio Machado with a first-round body shot to earn the Legacy Fighting Championship Bantamweight title.
The 23-year-old has ended all of his professional bouts inside the distance, all but two in the first round.
A torn hamstring forced Tim Gorman (8-3) out of TUF 18, but nonetheless earned a crack at UFC, debuting against Mitch Gagnon in April. Despite riding a three-fight knockout streak, Gorman had no answer for the Canadian powerhouse, who battered him to a unanimous decision victory.
At 5’4," he is three inches shorter than "Thominhas."
The story of this fight is quite simple: If Gorman doesn’t take it to the mat with speed and regularity, Almeida is going to destroy him. The Chute Boxe product is not only far and away the best striker Gorman has ever faced, he’s one of the best in all of MMA. He strikes beautifully in the pocket and has fight-ending power in his hands and elbows.
Any attempt by Gorman to engage him on the feet for any period of time will end with him drooling on the canvas.
Admittedly, Almeida has yet to be tested by a top-tier wrestler, but his takedown defense has thus far held up well. Considering what I spoke of in the last paragraph, this bodes very ill for Gorman. Almeida knocks him out in the early going.
Prediction: Almeida via first-round knockout
Wagner Silva Gomes (3-1) entered TUF: "Brazil 3" as a Middleweight, becoming Wanderlei Silva’s third pick and making his way to the semifinals before being submitted by eventual winner Warlley Alves. On the Finale, he faced teammate Ricardo Abreu, falling to the jiu-jitsu ace via second-round submission.
This will mark the welterweight debut for "Wagnao."
Colby Covington (6-0), fighting out of ATT, came into UFC with some hype courtesy of Genghis Con’s "Tales from the Grind" YouTube series. He appeared to be the real deal in his debut, savaging Anying Wang to the point where he submitted to strikes late in the first.
Counting that bout, he has won four of his six professional fights via submission.
While Wang -- who has likely never encountered a wrestler anywhere near Covington’s caliber -- may not be the best measuring stick, Covington looks like the real deal. He’s got excellent credentials and looked devastating from top position.
Barring a dramatic increase in Gomes’ skills to coincide with his drop in weight, he is in for a very rough night.
Gomes, simply put, does not have the skill set to beat Covington. The ATT product grounds him quickly and either works his way into a choke or blasts him. Either way, first-round stoppage.
Prediction: Covington via first-round submission
Several intriguing and important fights this weekend. I'll certainly be tuning in ... will you?
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 56 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" match, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 2 under card at 8 and the FOX Sports 1 main card at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 159-66 (1 NC)