Two former champions are out to stake new mixed martial arts (MMA) territory this weekend (Sat., Feb. 15, 2014) at Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
After a hellacious one-kick knockout of Mark Munoz in his Middleweight debut, former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight kingpin, Lyoto Machida, will look to earn himself a 185-pound title shot at the expense of one-time Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi in the main event of UFC Fight Night 36.
The international event, which is set to air live this weekend on FOX Sports 1, will also feature a second pair of elite middleweights as "Jacare" Souza faces surging Canadian Francis Carmont.
That's not all.
Seven "Prelims" under card matches are scheduled to set the table, all of which can be found on the promotion's online Fight Pass digital network service.
Let's look at the first four:
135 lbs.: Iuri Alcantara vs. Wilson Reis
Aside from a laughable referee call, the Bantamweight division foray for Iuri Alcantara (28-5) seemed a rousing success, dominating Pedro Nobre and knocked out Iliarde Santos in his first two appearances at 135 pounds. An early takedown counter right into mount had him poised for an upset over Urijah Faber in August, but the Alpha Male standout turned the tables, taking home a unanimous decision over the former Jungle Fight champ.
Alcantara has 24 finishes to his credit, split evenly between knockout and submission, and wiped out Ricardo Lamas with one punch in his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) debut.
Though a sizeable underdog in his late-notice debut against Ivan Menjivar, Wilson Reis (17-4) showcased the grappling chops that brought him tournament success in Bellator, dominating "The Pride of El Salvador" at UFC 165. The win marked Reis’ fifth straight since falling to Eduardo Dantas in 2011.
At 5’4," he stands two inches shorter than "Marajo."
I know better than to count out Reis after his performance against Menjivar; however, I struggle to see how Iuri doesn’t blow him away. Alcantara packs one of the biggest punches in the division and should ostensibly be both bigger and faster than Reis.
Basically, he shares several attributes with Dantas and Patricio "Pitbull," both of whom brutalized Reis.
Though I am often hesitant to tout fighters as "dangerous everywhere," Alcantara fits that criteria well, bringing both devastating power and a terrific ground game to bear. While the latter likely doesn’t measure up to Reis,’ Iuri’s takedown defense will ensure that it doesn’t matter.
"Marajo" levels him with a big left in the opening round.
Prediction: Alcantara via first-round knockout
145 lbs.: Felipe Arantes vs. Maximo Blanco
Giving up four inches of height, Felipe Arantes (15-6-1) struggled in his most recent outing, dropping a split decision to Jungle Fight champion "Kevin" Souza. He had previously gone 2-1-1 in UFC, the sole blemishes a loss to Iuri Alcantara in his debut and an inexplicable draw against Milton Vieira that he seemed to clearly win.
"Sertanejo" is five years younger than Blanco, though both debuted in the same year.
Somewhat underwhelming performances against Marcus Brimage and Sam Sicilia had Maximo Blanco (9-5-1) looking to make a statement, but he might have been a little too eager to do so, illegally kneeing Akura Corassani just 25 seconds into their bout for his second career disqualification loss. Once the lightweight King of Pancrase, Blanco falls to 1-3 under the Zuffa banner, having lost to Pat Healy in his sole Strikeforce appearances.
His first seven victories all came via knockout.
Next to Masakazu Imanari, it’s hard to think of a more frustrating fighter to root for than Maximo. He has all the tools necessary to be a dominant force in the division; good wrestling, huge power, and freakish athleticism.
Just zero fight IQ. Whether it’s ignorance or instinct, he cheats pretty much every fight. He blatantly kicked Healy in the face when getting out of a leglock and blatantly held the fence against Sicilia.
So take my pick of him with the appropriate grain of salt.
Arantes struggled too much with the powerful-but-sloppy Souza for my taste and has a history of struggling in the opening round. Unfortunately, this puts him right in the path of Blanco’s berserker charge which, if his last fight is any indication, he won’t hesitate to bring to bear. If Arantes makes it to the second, he wins a decision with superior striking and cardio; unfortunately, Blanco puts him down or gets himself disqualified in the first.
Prediction: Blanco via first-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Ildemar Alcantara vs. Albert Tumenov
Elder brother of the aforementioned Iuri, Ildemar Alcantara (19-6) picked up momentum quickly in UFC, upsetting Team Nogueira’s Wagner Prado by second-round kneebar in his Octagon debut. After dropping to Welterweight and cruising past Leandro Silva, however, Alcantara found Igor Araujo a sterner test, dropping a decision to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran in Oct. 2013.
Prior to the aforementioned loss, Alcantara had won 13 of his previous 14 matches.
The 22-year-old Albert Tumenov (12-1) has been on something of a rampage lately, picking up seven knockouts in his current eight-fight win streak. Most recently, he took out former M-1 champion Yasubey Enomoto via first-round stoppage, his fifth consecutive finish of the sort.
He will give up two inches in height to the Brazilian veteran.
Of all the "ovs" signed since Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rustam khabilov, Tumenov might have the greatest upside. He is an absolute monster on the feet, packing tremendous power and a terrific counter game. Next to "Spartan" Koreshkov, there aren’t many European strikers I can recall being more impressed by.
Of course, "Spartan" got done in because of poor wrestling. Thankfully, Tumenov seems to have an excellent sprawl and Alcantara -- while huge -- isn’t exactly Cael Sanderson.
I do worry about the size difference, but the speed gap between them is just as significant. Though the possibility of Ildemar grinding him into paste exists, it’s more likely that Tumenov takes his head off with a counter left sometime in the early going.
Prediction: Tumenov via first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Douglas Silva vs. Zubair Tuhugov
Originally scheduled to fight for the Jungle Fight Bantamweight title, Douglas Silva (22-0) elected to step up when countryman Thiago Tavares was forced out of this bout due to injury. The 28-year-old brings with him an impressive history of violence, stopping eighteen foes (including his last six) by form of knockout.
He will give up three inches of height to his Chechen foe.
One of the organization’s younger fighters, having turned 23 just a month ago, Zubair Tuhugov (15-3) comes into this fight having won six straight, most recently by an impressive spinning back kick. All but one of Tuhugov’s losses came during his debut year of 2010, where he fought an impressive nine times, including three one-night tournaments.
Five of his victories have come by way of knockout.
Silva’s record isn’t entirely fluff -- it’s evident from footage of him that he hits tremendously hard. Though Tuhugov’s finishing rate pales in comparison, however, I feel the Chechen has the advantage on the feet. Silva, while a competent counterpuncher, is generally rather sloppy and tends to fully extend his arm and reach when throwing hooks.
Tuhugov is much tighter with his punches and seems to have faster hands. Plus, he is the naturally bigger man and has the advantage of a Combat Sambo lineage should the striking get too hairy.
Anyone who hits as hard as Silva is a tough out for anyone. Unfortunately, Tuhugov’s size, speed, and tighter striking will carry him to victory. Expect him to catch Silva overextending late in the second and pouring on the hurt.
Prediction: Tuhugov via second-round technical knockout
Three Lightweight showdowns featuring Jungle Fight champs and TUF veterans are on the menu for tomorrow.
See you there, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 36 fight card on fight night (Feb. 15, 2014) right here, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised main card bouts at 10:30 p.m. ET.