Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight newcomers Jorge Masvidal and Cezar Ferreira will clash this Sunday (July 12, 2015) at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 Finale inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"Gamebred" is frustrated. The highly talented and very technical scrapper has been quite vocal about the difficulties of securing marquee Lightweight match ups, and after an extremely debatable decision loss to Al Iaquinta destroyed the momentum he had built up, Masvidal decided to abandon ship and head toward the 170-pound weight class.
Ferreira started his UFC career off quite well, but his technical deficiencies caught up to him as he faced a higher level of competition. Rather than improve on those issues, "Mutante" has simply decided to cut another 15 pounds and hope that everything works out.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters:
Key Wins: James Krause (UFC 178), Tim Means (UFC on FOX 7), Michael Chiesa (UFC on FOX 8)
Key Losses: Rustam Khabilov (UFC Fight Night 31), Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal)
Keys to Victory: Masvidal is an extremely well-rounded fighter, who proved himself capable of beating just about any Lightweight on any given night. However, Masvidal also has a penchant for coasting in fights and failing to really take advantage of openings, which has cost him more than a few decisions that he deserved to win.
This match up really shouldn't provide many issues for Masvidal. Ferreira is powerful striker, but he's not a harder hitter than any other men Masvidal has faced off with such as Paul Daley. Overall, he just doesn't bring anything to the table that Masvidal hasn't successfully dealt with in his past.
Masvidal should look to employ two main strategies. First and foremost, "Gamebred" is a truly nasty counter striker, and Ferreira has plenty of holes for the Florida-based fighter to take advantage of. Additionally, Masvidal could look to make this into a grinding wrestling match, which would surely tire out the massive Brazilian within just a few minutes.
However, Masvidal should really focus on his activity. Much like Lyoto Machida in his light heavyweight days, there are decisions that Masvidal wrongly lost simply because he didn't throw enough strikes. If "Gamebred" consistently landed -- or even threw for that matter -- five more strikes per round, his fight record might look a lot different.
Key Wins: Daniel Sarafian (UFC Fight Night 32), Andrew Craig (UFC Fight Night 44)
Key Losses: C.B. Dollaway (UFC Fight Night 38), Sam Alvey (UFC Fight Night 61)
Keys to Victory: Ferreira is a powerful kickboxer with a strong jiu-jitsu background. When he leans on it, Ferreira has actually been quite effective with his grappling attack, but "Mutante" mostly hunts for the knockout.
To put it frankly, Ferreira was a big middleweight and relied heavily on his strength in that division. If he can dehydrate himself down to welterweight, he'll almost certainly be the larger, stronger man.
At least for a few minutes until he's sucking wind.
Therefore, it's imperative that Ferreira takes a realistic look at his physical ability and makes an appropriate game plan. Ferreira almost certainly cannot take a decision or fight at even a measured pace for very long unless he's lost a ton of muscle mass, in which case his entire game would need to change.
In short, Ferreira should waste little time in forcing exchanges. Masvidal has a strong jawline, but that's caused him not to respect his opponent's punches, occasionally defensively lazy.
The former middleweight and his 79" reach probably won't need more than a couple clean connections to dramatically change up the fight.
Bottom Line: In all likelihood, the winner of this fight is likely to stay at 170 pounds for at least the near future, while the loser will return to his former home.
Masvidal may be annoyed with his current situation, but that doesn't really matter now. If he's serious about this weight class change -- and many lightweights will be following in his lead if re-hydrating via IV bags is really made illegal -- then this is his chance to put on a strong performance and announce himself as a contender.
On the other hand, a loss should definitely tell Masvidal it's time to suck it up and drop back down to 155 pounds. Despite his complaints, he had finally earned a Top 15 ranking in that division, so that wouldn't be the worst thing for him.
This seems like a bit of a desperation move for Ferreira: Size was not the issue at 185 pounds. Regardless, if he manages to defeat a true veteran like Masvidal, it would be the biggest win of his career. In that case, maybe Welterweight is the right move.
The more realistic scenario is that the weight cut doesn't go all that well and he comes up short opposite Masvidal. In that case -- assuming UFC keeps him around thanks to his TUF following -- a transition back to Middleweight would be wise.
At The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 Finale, Jorge Masvidal and Cezar Ferreira will go to war. Which fighter will have his hand raised?