Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will take a trip south of the border to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. for the first time this year as the Maracanazinho Gymnasium gets set to host UFC Fight Night 62 tonight (Sat. March 21, 2015).
Former title challenger Demian Maia returns from an eight-month layoff to face undefeated contender Ryan LaFlare in the show's welterweight headliner, while the co-main event features another intriguing 170-pound match up between Erick Silva and Josh Koscheck.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Maia last fought in May 2014, grinding out a unanimous decision over bruising Russian Alexander Yakolev. Maia was then supposed to fight veteran Mike Pyle last August, but he fell ill and succumbed to a serious case of staph infection. His opponent, LaFlare, is also a world-class grappler and has bested names like John Howard and Court McGee during his UFC tenure.
Silva is still looking for momentum in his budding mixed martial arts (MMA) career and he may have found the perfect opponent in the declining Koscheck. The well-rounded Brazilian has taken on some of the welterweight divisions' most dangerous fighters, but has fallen short on every single opportunity. A former title contender, "Kos" has had a bit of a rough go as of late. The 37-year-old is on a four-fight losing skid, and was finished in three of those bouts.
Fighters showcasing great jiu-jitsu, and hands, line this fight night card from top to bottom. Some are aiming to make their case that they're legitimate contenders in their respective divisions, while others attempt to hold on to their UFC careers. Which fighters will get the job done and leave Brazil with a more hefty payday? Find out who the likely bonus winners are below.
Demian Maia vs. Ryan LaFlare
What happens when you put two jiu-jitsu wizards in an Octagon and make them fight? A steady dose of clinch work. Well, maybe.
Maia has never been known for his power double, or his striking ability. The one-time middleweight is crafty, and uses a slow and methodical approach to getting inside to secure a trip or throw. If Maia ends up in top control, then the fight is close to being over.
Maia is a jiu-jitsu ace, though, not a wrestler. He's not adept at manhandling foes on the ground.
LaFlare is a former high school and collegiate wrestler, who has a great sense of timing. The Blackzilians stud does a great job of changing levels quickly to secure takedowns. He's also a handful in the clinch and will hold a distinct advantage in the striking department.
LaFlare has stated that he's not intimidated by his opponent's prowess on the mat. Will Maia make him eat his own words?
Erick Silva vs. Josh Koscheck
This one could get ugly in a hurry. While Kos put on an admirable showing in his last outing against Jake Ellenberger, he did show a glaring deficiency.
When hit by a stiff punch from "The Juggernaut," Koscheck wilted and went into defense mode. Silva may not have the raw power that Ellenberger possesses, but he's equally as dangerous.
The Team Nogueira fighter is well-versed in a suite of MMA disciplines. With a background in jiu-jitsu, Judo and Muay Thai, Silva can make Koscheck's night a living hell.
Now it's likely that Koscheck won't be put away as easily as Silva's last opponent Mike Rhodes was, but he needs to be just as assertive as he was when he fought Ellenberger. If he wants to go out a winner -- this is the last fight on his current UFC deal -- the aging Koscheck has to turn back the clock.
Leonardo Santos vs. Tony Martin
In case you had begun to think you were reading a preview for a Metamoris event, I'm here to remind you that you're wrong.
Lightweight ground game gurus Leonardo Santos and Tony Martin go head-to-head in the confines of the Octagon. The American Top Team product Martin last picked up a huge submission win over jiu-jitsu black belt Fabricio Camoes in Oct. 2014.
The win came during a time of desperation for the 25-year-old after he dropped his first two UFC fights. He is continuing to improve in all aspects of his game, with his striking looking particularly impressive in his loss to Beneil Dariush.
Nova Uniao's Santos is in the midst of a notable run in the 155-pound division. Since winning The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil Season 2, the 35-year-old has won two of 3 fights, with one being a majority draw. Santos has gritted out wins, despite being outstruck in all three of his UFC appearances.
He also responded well after being knocked down against Efrain Escudero. With both fighters carrying momentum into this meeting, it will be interesting to see which one begins the offensive.
Amanda Nunes vs. Shayna Baszler
In the women's bantamweight division, the heavy-handed Nunes takes on the ground specialist Baszler.
Nunes is one of the most explosive females in the division and has laid out countless fighters throughout her seven-year MMA career. However, she met her equal in September, falling victim to the elbows and knees of Cat Zingano.
The 26-year-old Nunes is a fast starter and usually finds the finish fast. Only two of her professional wins have come after the initial round.
Baszler will have to deal with an early flurry, but if she can withstand it -- and that's a big "if" -- she may have Nunes right where she wants her. "The Queen of Spades" is a well-regarded wrestler and a crafty submission specialist. Baszler has won a fight using seven different submissions.
It's a classic striker versus grappler matchup. Baszler is tough as nails, but Nunes is something like a female version of fellow Brazilian Vitor Belfort. Baszler's chin can take a lot of punishment, but has a track record of faltering against stiff competition.
Gilbert Burns vs. Alex Oliveira
The undefeated Burns has overwhelmed the opposition to start his UFC career. He is 2-0 with one first-round submission victory.
"Durinho" might rely a little too much on his jiu-jitsu game at times and has yet to show any improvements in his striking.
Burns will be welcoming Oliveira to the Octagon. The Brazilian has 12 fights under his belt and also knocked out seven fighters in the first round.
What it comes to down to is which fighter can impose their will faster. Will Oliveira beat Burns to the punch, or will Burns ground him immediately?
Personally, I give a slight edge to Burns based off of how well he looked in his lightweight return against Christos Giagos in October.
Godofredo Castro vs. Andre Fili
After a rough start to his UFC career, Castro seems to have righted the ship. "Pepey" has looked unstoppable in his last two outings against Noad Lahat and Dashon Johnson.
The 27-year-old featherweight is comfortable wherever the fight takes him. Fili sports a black belt in jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai.
"Touchy" Fili rebounded from a submission loss against Max Holloway to defeat Felipe Arantes at UFC 179 in Oct. 2014. The Team Alpha Male fighter is an accomplished striker and grappler -- Fili has recorded seven victories by knockout and three by submission.
This one could be an early entry candidate for Fight of the Night.
With all six fights on the UFC Fight Night 62 main card detailed, you can now predict Saturday night's winners with confidence.
Sure, this card has taken a few bumps and bruises but there are several noteworthy bouts that deserve your attention. You won't want to miss the action, and if you have to go out, keep it locked to MMAmania for all your fight night coverage.
Enjoy the fights everyone!