Two of the featherweight division’s most fearsome strikers will finally do battle this Saturday evening when the legendary Jose Aldo faces Hawaiian bruiser Max Holloway in the main event of UFC 212, live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena.
The co-main event pits former title challengers Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz against one another, while middleweight veterans Vitor Belfort and Nate Marquardt lock horns one fight prior.
We’ve been saddled with seven preliminary bouts to set the stage; here are the three that make your $9.99/month Fight Pass subscription worth it.
115 lbs.: Viviane Pereira (12-0) vs. Jamie Moyle (4-1)
“Sucuri” stepped into her UFC debut with six finishes and a pair of Brazilian titles under her belt, but a seven-inch height disadvantage and a hostile crowd to deal with against Valerie Letourneau. Neither was enough to stop Pereira, who took home a split decision for her second win since 2015. She has knocked out four opponents and submitted another two.
After four fights in Invicta, Moyle joined The Ultimate Fighter 23 and submitted Alyssa Krahn before falling to eventual runner-up Amanda Cooper. She eventually joined the promotion itself on the TUF 24 Finale, where she defeated Kailin Curran by unanimous decision. She stands an inch taller than Pereira at 5’1”.
This fight boils down to how often Moyle can put Pereira on her back. Pereira’s aggressive and powerful on the feet when not dealing with an absurd length disadvantage and, even if she can’t get the finish, ought to outwork Moyle at the very least.
Moyle could very well grind her way to a decision, but the home-field advantage and Pereira’s power edge have me leaning her way. “Sucuri” stuffs enough takedowns and lands enough teling blows to earn the decision.
Prediction: Pereira by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Luan Chagas (14-2-1) vs. Jim Wallhead (29-10)
Chagas, who had yet to see the judges in his pro career, took on grappling ace Sergio Moraes in his UFC debut and took the TUF: Brazil veteran to a split draw. This convinced oddsmakers to list him as a favorite against Erick Silva, who defied late notice to submit Chagas in Fight Night 95’s Fight of the Night. “Tarzan” has submitted eight and knocked out six, all but one in the first round.
Save for a brief stint in Bellator, “Judo Jim” cut his teeth on the British circuit for a full eleven years before joining the world’s largest fight promotion last year. His four-fight winning streak came to an end at the hands of Jessin Ayari, whom Wallhead dropped but could not stop in Hamburg. At 37, he is fourteen years older than his opponent.
This honestly might just come down to physicality. Wallhead is pushing forty and has struggled with stronger, more athletic fighters, while Chagas is dynamic and still working his way towards his prime. Wallhead is unlikely to hit consistent takedowns and Chagas’ wider, more powerful arsenal gives him the edge on the feet.
Wallhead has had a very solid career, but he’s been through a lot in his career and may not have enough left to exploit his experience edge. Chagas delights the hometown crowd with a knockout finish.
Prediction: Chagas by second-round knockout
125 lbs.: Marco Beltrán (8-4) vs. Deiveson Figueiredo (11-0)
Despite a loss on the first season of TUF: Latin America, Beltrán proved his mettle with three consecutive upset victories in the UFC, including a submission of TUF: Brazil 4 winner Reginaldo Vieira at UFC Fight Night 90. The streak ended against late replacement Joe Soto, who put Beltran away with a heel hook in 97 seconds. This will be his flyweight debut.
Brazil’s Figueiredo has made a habit of keeping things brief during his five-year career, stopping eight opponents in the first round. He has not gone the distance since his fourth pro fight in 2014. His ten stoppage wins are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
I took a look at some recent Figueiredo fights and came out unimpressed. He’s got power and a solid submission game, but he’s extremely hittable and doesn’t have the chin to make up for it. Against a bigger, longer opponent with solid power and a knack for getting up off of his back in short order, that’s a hole he needs to fill in a hurry.
The X-factor, of course, is Beltrán’s weight cut; Figueiredo’s sheer grit will make Beltrán work for any advantage he gains. Still, can’t pick against that technical edge. Beltrán exploits Figueiredo’s leaky defense for a mid-round finish.
Prediction: Beltrán by second-round TKO
We still have several UFC 212 “Prelims” fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including a bantamweight showdown between top division prospects Marlon Moraes and Raphael Assuncao on FOX Sports 1.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 212 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
See you then, Maniacs.