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UFC Adelaide predictions: Expect Junior dos Santos, Shogun Rua to show up ‘Down Under’

Junior dos Santos turns 35 in January. Mauricio Rua hit 37 just last week.

I know that mixed martial arts (MMA) doesn’t necessarily play by the rules, and that you can always find yourself a pay-per-view (PPV) main event so long as you have a name that still interests people, but the future does not look bright for either Brazilian.

That’s unfortunate, because there was a time when they were both very special.

Dos Santos (19-5) was widely-considered the most ruthless heavyweight striker on the planet back in early 2012. After piecing up Shane Carwin at UFC 131, “Cigano” knocked out Cain Velasquez in roughly a minute on FOX, before moving on to embarrass Frank Mir at UFC 146.

In the six years that followed, he’s been unable to win back-to-back fights.

Similarly, Rua did something that at the time, felt impossible. He ended the “Machida Era” and gave the light heavyweight karateka the first loss of his combat sports career, by way of violent first-round knockout at UFC 113.

“Shogun” has since gone 6-7, getting stopped five times in the process.

Where do we place the blame? Is Ovince Saint Preux a better striker than Rua? Like Dos Santos, speed and power will deteriorate through age, though we should also consider the wear-and-tear on the body and brain after so many years of cage fighting.

Rua took 106 significant strikes to the head in his last three fights. Dos Santos ate 114.

This is a very nice way of saying we shouldn’t expect either fighter to be making a championship run in 2019 — or ever — regardless of how they perform at UFC Fight Night 142 this Saturday night on FOX Sports 1 in Adelaide, Australia. So, the question now remains if they are still durable enough to keep the gate, and the answer varies (but is probably “yes”).

Despite his inconsistency, it’s worth noting that Dos Santos has only lost to Stipe Miocic, Alistair Overeem, and Cain Velasquez — in their respective primes — during his time inside the Octagon. Miocic and Velasquez are former UFC champions and Overeem held world titles in both Strikeforce and K-1 kickboxing.

Judging by what we saw in between those defeats, the Brazilian still has crisp, powerful boxing, which led him to victory over lesser opponents in Ben Rothwell and Blagoy Ivanov. Not exactly the cream of the crop, but you would expect someone with “Cigano’s” pedigree to cruise past the middle of the pack.

Rua managed to do likewise, to some extent, with victories over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Corey Anderson, and Gian Villante. The Anthony Smith loss may be too early to judge until we see what “Lionheart” can do in the Top 5. Considering Rua’s knees are held together with Popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, it’s kind of amazing he lasted this long.

In Tyson Pedro, the former PRIDE FC phenom will once again face off against younger, larger, and more athletic opponent. The Aussie looked like the next big thing at 205 pounds, thanks to finishes over Khalil Rountree and Paul Craig, but subsequently faltered against higher-ranked opponents in Ilir Latifi and Ovince Saint Preux.

With just two knockout wins in nine professional fights, I don’t think “Shogun” is in mortal danger and his submission skills are certainly strong enough to thwart the kind of ground attack that felled Saparbek Safarov. If not, then it really is time for the Brazilian to hang them up.

We can probably say the same about Tuivasa, who continued his unbeaten streak in three trips to the Octagon. I think it worries me when a guy can finish all seven of his opponents, but not finish Andrei Arlovski, who’s been knocked out a staggering 10 times in his MMA career. And let’s face it, beating “The Pitbull” was a big deal in 2008. 2018 ... not so much.

In addition, the Belarusian has dropped seven of his last 10.

Tuivasa may be known for his rugby days but he’s also an accomplished boxer and kickboxer. His level of competition ranges from decent to questionable and for this fight we have to believe his MMA boxing will be enough to out-slug Dos Santos for 25 minutes.

The same rock-em, sock-em “Cigano” who made the zombie-offense cool again.

Tuivasa and Pedro are younger, fresher fighters with an entire country standing behind them. But just because the crowd “oohs” and “ahhh” every time they throw heavy leather doesn’t mean they’re winning the fight or scoring effective offense.

Admittedly, Dos Santos and Rua are not the fighters they used to be. That said, their skill sets are more evolved and have more polish than either of their opponents. The question remains, are they sturdy enough to weather the inevitable onslaught from their future successors?

I believe so, and I expect the scorecards to read accordingly.

Longtime heavyweight slugger Mark Hunt is also fighting on this card and no disrespect to Justin Willis, but the last time the aging “Super Samoan” fought a fat power-puncher with no ground game, it ended with Derrick Lewis being super salty. Not because he was bitter about losing, but rather because he legitimately needed smelling salts after getting torched.

Am I supposed to pick “Big Pretty” because he wasted Allan Crowder? C’mon, son.

Picks:

Dos Santos def. Tuivasa by unanimous decision
Rua def. Pedro by unanimous decision
Hunt def. Willis by knockout.

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 142 fight card TONIGHT (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts 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 UFC Adelaide click here.

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