This Sunday night (March 23, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Fabio Maldonado and Gian Villante will go to war on the main card of UFC Fight Night 38, airing live on FOX Sports 1 from Ginasio Nelio Dias in Natal, Brazil.
Maldonado was last seen defeating Joey Beltran via split decision at UFC Fight Night 29. The former boxer has won two straight mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts after dropping three straight.
Villante won his last fight as well, defeating Cody Donovan by technical knockout at UFC 167. He lost his previous bout to rising star Ovince St. Preux at UFC 159.
With 19 knockout finishes between them, this bout could turn into a firefight. Let's take a look at the keys to victory:
Record: 20-6 overall, 3-3 UFC
Key Wins: Joey Beltran (UFC Fight Night 29), Roger Hollett (UFC on FX 8), James McSweeney (TUF 13 Finale)
Key Losses: Glover Teixeira (UFC 153), Igor Pokrajac (UFC on FUEL TV 3)
Record: 11-4 overall, 1-1 UFC
Key Wins: Cody Donovan (UFC 167), Derrick Mehmen (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier)
Key Losses: Ovince St. Preux (UFC 159), Lorenz Larkin (Strikeforce Challengers: Fodor vs. Terry)
Iron-chinned slugger Maldonado has a pretty clear-cut gameplan heading into his fights. He plods forward with his boxing, never afraid to take a few shots to land one of his own. That strategy has produced mixed results in UFC thus far, and Maldonado's takedown defense is going to have to be sharp to defeat Villante.
Former wrestler and NCAA football player Villante brings a ton of athleticism to the table. He's proved to be effective on the feet, but there's simply no reason to engage Maldonado where he's strongest. Villante should look to take this fight to the ground and grind out a victory. It's going to be next to impossible to finish Maldonado with strikes, so Villante has to be ready for the long haul in Natal.
Neither of these fighters is very proficient in the submission game, but Villante could potentially find an opening for a choke if he can maintain dominant position on the mat. The outlook for this fight is rather rudimentary. A slugfest greatly favors Maldonado, while an ugly wresting-based affair tips the scales in Villante's favor.
Fabio Maldonado and Gian Villante need a win to gain some much-needed relevancy at 205 pounds. Villante is a talented athlete with great potential, but I think that Maldonado's striking, toughness, and Octagon experience gives him a slight edge here.
Final Prediction: Maldonado def. Villante via technical knockout