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UFC Fight Night 106 predictions, preview, and analysis

UFC 179: Aldo v Mendes 2 Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back this Saturday night (March 11, 2017) for its UFC Fight Night 106 mixed martial arts (MMA) event inside Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. Headlining the FOX Sports 1 fight card will be the middleweight main event pitting former UFC champion Vitor Belfort against streaking welterweight import Kelvin Gastelum.

UFC Fight Night 106, which offers preliminary bouts on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass (those previews and predictions here and here), will also feature the light heavyweight showdown pitting Mauricio Rua opposite Gian Villante in the co-main event, while 155-pound stalwarts and Edson Barboza and Beneil Dariush hook ‘em up in lightweight action (complete odds and betting lines here).

With those finer details out of the way, let's take a closer look at the six-fight main card.

185 lbs.: Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (25-13) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (13-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Vitor Belfort turns 40 in just a few weeks and boy, does he ever look it. I’m not sure what version of “The Phenom” showed up against Gegard Mousasi last October but to watch the Brazilian fold so easily was disconcerting, to say the least.

Is that all that’s left?

Prior to each fight, Belfort will say and do all the right things. He smashes pads as violently as anyone and continually reminds the combat sports universe that his most recent performance was an off night, unless of course that night resulted in victory.

Speaking of which, his only win since coming off the junk was a knockout victory over the geriatric Dan Henderson, who can still pack a big punch but needs a walker to get to and from the Octagon.

Belfort is still dangerous, as you would expect any athletic fighter to be dangerous, but his speed, heart, and tenacity appear to have been eroded by time, as well as competition.

This sport ain’t easy, y’all.

It’s also not easy making weight, which is why Kelvin Gastelum, who was on his way to welterweight contention, is forced to ply his trade at 185 pounds. His only two losses in that division were to Tyron Woodley, the current champ, and Neil Magny, a notoriously tough out.

Both came by way of split decision.

I expected The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 champ to get crushed at middleweight, even though he proved he can hang against bigger guys like Uriah Hall, but his performance against the muscular Tim Kennedy proved me wrong.

Unless the since-retired Kennedy fell off that hard and that fast, Gastelum could prove to be a real problem in his new (and perhaps temporary) home. He’s not the sort of striker that would give a fighter like Belfort the fits, but he doesn’t have to be.

Neither did Ronaldo Souza and Chris Weidman.

The key to stifling the Brazilian is the same as it has been for many moons. Avoid the initial flurry, wait for an opening, and take the fight south. Gastelum has proved to be an effective wrestler and Belfort has never been a master at staying upright.

Barring a one-hitter quitter, there hasn't been any evidence from Belfort’s recent performances that would suggest he’s “the old Vitor” — though I’m not even sure what that means these days. The one who knocked out Terry Martin and Matt Lindland?

On second thought, we probably will see the “old” Vitor on fight night.

Final prediction: Gastelum def. Belfort by technical knockout

205 lbs.: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (24-10) vs. Gian Villante (15-7)

Nostradumbass predicts: Mauricio Rua, like Vitor Belfort, may have overstayed his welcome after jumping out to a sensational start in combat sports. “Shogun” was the Mike Tyson of PRIDE, smashing everyone in his early twenties until ... well, I’m not really sure what happened.

Injuries, fighting inside a cage, the evolution of MMA ... take your pick.

Whatever the case may be, the Brazilian’s legs are currently held together by popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, so the Muay Thai menace who laid waste to the 205-pound division — while still effective — has been brought down to more manageable levels.

“Shogun” is enjoying back-to-back wins for the first time in almost eight years, though the first came over the mummified remains of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, while the second was afforded by Corey Anderson, a fighter so green he’s sponsored by Crayola.

Fortunately his next opponent offers a similar (non) threat.

Gian Villante came up through the ranks alongside best friend and training partner Chris Weidman. Unfortunately, he has not shared “All American’s” success, failing to gain any momentum and getting shut down by middle-of-the-pack’rs.

I’m not breaking out the party hats for a knockout win over ... Saparbek Safarov.

The cardio-challenged Villante has racked up nine fights in under four years with UFC and hasn’t been able to crack the top 10. Most of his wins come by way of toughness and heart as opposed to talent and skill, which is usually enough when competing against the cream of the crap.

Against a seasoned slugger like Rua? Not so much.

Final prediction: Rua def. Villante by technical knockout

155 lbs.: Edson Barboza (18-4) vs. Beneil Dariush (14-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Edson Barboza keeps working his way up to title contention ... only to keep getting knocked back down by a more talented contender. Such was the case in losses to Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone, among others.

Someone with his striking acumen should be able to go all the way and the ability to turn away former champions like Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez is certainly a good sign, as he faces a complete fighter in Beneil Dariush who is proving to be a tough nut to crack.

Dariush comes billed as a grappler but as he showed against James Vick, you can’t underestimate his power.

There have long been questions about Barboza’s chin, but never his takedown defense, something that Dariush will have trouble neutralizing. I would imagine his scouts see the same thing we all do, and that’s a Brazilian who responds poorly to pressure and clinch work.

But straight-up murders fools at long distance.

Barboza’s key to victory is the same as it’s always been: keep circling to and fro while uncorking violent leg kicks. If Dariush can make peace with the fact that he’s going to get cracked coming in — and not waver — then he’s got the tools to make this a dirty (and winnable) fight.

That’s a big “if.”

Final prediction: Barboza def. Dariush by unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Ray “The Tazmexican Devil” Borg (10-2) vs. Jussier “Formiga” da Silva (19-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: This is one of those flyweight fights that, at least on paper, is poised to deliver 15 minutes of nonstop action. Ray Borg could very well be the future of the division and for a 23-year-old fighter, he’s racked up some pretty impressive wins, including last December’s victory over the always-dangerous Louis Smolka.

Justin Scoggins gave him pause but hey, nobody’s perfect.

What looks he can give Jussier da Silva remain to be seen, but “Formiga” will not just roll over and show his belly. The Brazilian has just four losses and all four of them came against former division title contenders.

He’s only losing to the best.

By comparison, Borg has never competed against the likes of Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo, so we don’t yet know how “The Tazmexican Devil” would hold up. What we do know, is that he has not yet faced that caliber of competition and that kind of experience pays dividends in big fights.

Like this one.

Trying to deconstruct a flyweight contest between two outstanding 125-pounders feels like a waste of time. We know it’s going to be fast and furious and that’s what makes this division so exciting, even if most fans don’t give a rat’s ass that it exists.

Final prediction: Da Silva def. Borg by split decision

135 lbs.: Bethe “Pitbull” Correia (10-2) vs. Marion “The Bruiser” Reneau (7-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Bethe Correia was able to work her way up to a division title shot back in Aug. 2015, where she was promptly disposed of by then-champion Ronda Rousey. “Pitbull” has still been barking in the years to follow, but nobody has been paying much attention to her.

Eight decisions in 10 wins (with zero submissions) can do that to a fighter.

The Brazilian is small for a bantamweight and has a 64” reach. She wins most fights with her busy work; meaning, she can be super aggressive and rack up points on the judges’ scorecards without doing a whole lot of damage.

It’s like the stand-up version of lay ‘n pray.

Opposing her is the venerable Marion Reneau, who is clearly in the twilight of her career at age 39. “Bruiser” hasn’t had it easy at 135 pounds, facing some very tough outs in the form of Jessica Andrade and Holly Holm.

She’s performed admirably thus far, all things considered.

Working in her favor is an impressive finishing rate. Her opponent has only been stopped once, but also had the luxury of competing against non-finishers. Reneau wrecked Milana Dudieva her last time out and aggression will certainly be a factor in tomorrow night’s showdown.

When you compare skill sets using those transparent slides on the imaginary overhead projector, Correia has just one path to victory, and that’s lasting long enough to eek out another close decision.

Not likely.

Final prediction: Reneau def. Correia by technical knockout

170 lbs.: Tim “Dirty Bird” Means (26-7-1, 1 NC) vs. Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (15-4-1, 2 NC)

Nostradumbass predicts: Tim Means and Alex Oliveira are rekindling the feud I didn't really care about the first time around to settle whatever imaginary score that came out of their no contest at UFC 207.

To be fair, they are two of the most active welterweights in all of MMA, registering nearly 20 fights combined in less than three years. Both are equally consistent, compiling long win streaks sandwiched around recent losses.

Barring another round of shenanigans, this should be a fun fight.

While not the polished striker he believes himself to be, Oliveira is a large welterweight with above-average strength and power. Takedowns serve as a conduit to his ground-and-pound and “Cowboy” is competent just about everywhere.

Good, but not great.

Means, by comparison, has most of the same skills, but he’s far and away the more complete striker. The “Dirty Bird” will need to remain upright in order to capitalize on that advantage, forcing the Brazilian to spend most of their three rounds on defense.

Assuming it lasts that long.

Final prediction: Means def. Oliveira by technical knockout

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 106 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

For much more on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 106 event click here.

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