UFC Fight Night 106, where the rising prospect, Kelvin Gastelum, meets the fading legend, Vitor Belfort.
With three knockout losses in his last four fights, VBelfort is in desperate need of a big win. He’ll get his shot at one this Saturday evening (March 11, 2017) when he takes on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 winner in the main event of UFC Fight Night 106, which takes inside Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza in Fortaleza, Brazil, airing live and free on FOX Sports 1. UFC Fight Night 106 will also feature a Light Heavyweight scrap between Gian Villante and "Shogun" Rua, as well as an excellent Lightweight contender match against Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush.
Four FOX Sports 1 fights remain to be vivisected, while the Fight Pass portion (read preview here) was whittled down to two bouts with the last minute cancelation of the Middleweight bout between Garreth McLellan vs. Paulo Henrique Costa (revised fight card here). Step into my lab and let’s get to work:
155 lbs.: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Kevin Lee
Francisco Trinaldo (21-4) -- who competed on the inaugural TUF: "Brazil" as a Middleweight, seems to be finally living up to his potential, winning his last seven in a row. His most recent bout saw him batter striking standout Paul Felder, ultimately opening a gruesome cut to hand "Irish Dragon" his first-ever stoppage loss.
"Massaranduba" is a full 14 years older than his opponent.
Diving right into the deep end of the division, Kevin Lee (14-2) took on Al Iaquinta in his Octagon debut and nearly submitted TUF veteran before losing a unanimous decision. Despite the rough start, he’s won seven of his last eight, including stoppage wins over highly-touted prospects Jake Matthews and Magomed Mustafaev in his last two.
Six of his seven stoppage wins have come by submission.
As someone who’s been rooting for Trinaldo since his TUF: "Brazil" days, it’s been awesome to see him finally put it all together. He’s put together a mauling style that uses his physicality to its absolute best. Lee’s pretty damn good himself, though, and Trinaldo’s last loss came against another submission-savvy wrestler in Michael Chiesa. That said, Trinaldo’s looked vastly improved and that left hand of his has enough muster to crack Lee’s vulnerable jaw.
A stoppage either way wouldn’t surprise me, but Trinaldo’s sheer strength has me leaning his way. He dings up Lee on the inside before landing something dramatic late in the first.
Prediction: Trinaldo via first-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Sergio Moraes vs. Davi Ramos
Sergio Moraes (11-2-1) earned a second chance on TUF: "Brazil," but ultimately fell to Cezar "Mutante" at UFC 147. He’s gone undefeated (5-0-1) since then, although injuries to himself and opponents have limited him to less than two fights a year on average.
A two-time gold medalist at Mundials, he has won seven pro fights by submission
Davi Ramos (6-1), whose jumping armbar of Lucas Lepri for ADCC gold stunned observers and cemented his place in Brazilian jiu-jitsu highlight reels for years to come, returned to mixed martial arts (MMA) in Aug. 2016 after nearly two years away from the sport. He quickly put the memory of his decision loss to Dave Rickels behind him with two consecutive wins, one of them under the RFA banner.
He steps in for the injured Max Griffin on short notice.
This fight, despite being buried in the middle of the undercard, features what’s very close to the greatest combined grappling pedigree in Octagon history. These are two of the most accomplished jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA, period.
Which, of course, means we’re probably going to get a boring striking match.
It may come down to size and power here. Ramos won ADCC at 165 pounds and has spent the majority of his MMA career at Lightweight. In addition, Moraes has shown deceptive stopping power in his hands and is aggressive enough to overwhelm less-willing strikers. Add that to the short notice and you’ve got a decision win for TUF veteran.
Prediction: Moraes via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Joe Soto vs. Rani Yahya
Joe Soto (17-5) -- a former Bellator Featherweight champion -- stepped up on short notice to take on then-champion T.J. Dillashaw in his Octagon debut. Though he lost the bout and his next two, he's kept himself afloat with consecutive impressive submissions of Chris Beal and Marco Beltran.
"One Bad Mofo's" last seven wins have all come by stoppage.
Rani Yahya (23-8) -- who made the transition from World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) to UFC -- ended his run with the former 0-2 and split his first two bouts in the latter. Undaunted, he has gone 7-1 (1 NC) since 2012, including an unbeaten run at Bantamweight.
He has submitted 17 opponents as a professional, all but one via choke.
What's interesting about this fight is that Yahya has faced and beaten two consecutive Soto-esque fighters in Matthew Lopez and Michinori Tanaka. He's done an excellent job of developing the Demian Maia style where he needs only the slightest physical contact to transition from the feet to a dominant spot on the mat.
Soto's crafty, but not crafty enough.
Even if he hasn't always looked good doing it, Yahya's beaten bigger and stronger scramblers than Soto. Expect a standard Yahya fight wherein he dominates position in the early rounds and survives a late surge to take the decision.
Prediction: Yahya via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Josh Burkman vs. Michel Prazeres
A 6-1 run that saw him knockout Aaron Simpson and choke out Jon Fitch brought Josh Burkman (28-14) back to UFC after six years away. He’s struggled to keep that momentum up in the Octagon, going 1-4 (1 NC) in his latest run.
He has submitted 10 professional opponents and knocked out another six.
Michel Prazeres (21-2) stepped up on short notice to take on Paulo Thiago in his 2013 UFC debut, ultimately losing a decision to the welterweight veteran. He’s since gone 5-1 at Lightweight with wins over top prospects Mairbek Taisumov and Gilbert Burns among his accomplishments.
"Trator" will give up three inches of height to the 5’10" Burkman.
The only thing that comes to mind when looking at this match up is the word "why." Prazares is on a tear and Burkman hasn’t looked great in a fight since starching Tyler Stinson in 2014. Even with Burkman’s size at Lightweight, there’s very little to suggest that "Trator" won’t just bulldoze him the way Dong Hyun Kim did.
Prazeres has massively improved his striking and appears to have finally fixed his lingering cardio issues. Add that to his already-excellent wrestling and I can confidently say he’s going to take Burkman down early and often for a dominant decision win.
Prediction: Prazeres via unanimous decision
There are some really good match ups scattered here and there throughout the entire UFC Fight Night 106 fight card. I’m definitely excited to tune in. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 106 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.