Even the worst night of fights on paper can turn out to be spectacular. UFC Fight Night 125 isn’t tantalizing enough to make me pee my pants, but there are several exciting fights scheduled to go down this weekend (Sat., Feb. 3, 2018) at Arena Guilherme Paraense in Belem, Brazil.
This is the point where you can either click the video above to learn which fights on this card I’m looking forward to the most or read on if you prefer to silently consume the content.
Ordinarily, the main event is everyone’s most looked forward to fight at any given event, but for me that simply isn’t the case this weekend. There was a moment in time when if Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida was scheduled to fight I would clear my calendar to ensure I wouldn’t miss the intriguing karate style of the now aging Brazilian. However, Machida has suffered three consecutive brutal finish losses and, in my opinion, he is coming back too soon after being knocked out cold by Derek Brunson. In addition, Eryk Anders is a young surging prospect with a lot of athleticism and power who is likely to send Machida into the shadow realm for the fourth time in a row. Watching some of my old favorites who are past their primes lose to fairly unknown fighters is one of my least favorite things about mixed martial arts (MMA) and is the primary factor that the main event is not in my top three fights to watch.
#3. Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Marlon Vera
My No. 3 most looked forward to fight on this card is Douglas Silva de Andrade versus Marlon ‘Chito‘ Vera. Silva de Andrade is a guy who has chalked up 19 out of his 24 victories via (technical) knockout. His latest was a third round spinning backfist knockout of the ultra durable Henry Briones. He mixes up his strikes well and everything he throws has a lot of zest behind it. Vera is only 25 years old and seems to get better every time he steps into the Octagon. He has been awarded “Performance of the Night” bonuses in exactly half of his UFC wins and three out four successful UFC appearances have been finishes. I don’t think either one of these guys have been in a boring fight ... and I don’t see that changing on Saturday.
#2. John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz
John “The Magician” Dodson has been near the top of the lower weight class rankings for quite some time. He challenged Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight championship on two separate occasions. While he was unsuccessful both times, he did score one knockdown on the Flyweight king. That is an example of why Dodson has long been considered one of the hardest hitting competitors south of 145 pounds. In his return to Bantamweight from Flyweight he fought Manvel Gamburyan and showed that his speed and power was still incredibly dangerous up one weight class. Although I don’t believe he will ever challenge for the 135-pound title, he will surely be a solid litmus test for his opponent.
Pedro Munhoz is a guy who is always a threat to finish the fight. He is on a four-fight win streak with three of those coming by way of guillotine choke. In his last loss he showed that he is more than just a submission threat when he unofficially knocked down Jimmie Rivera with a right hook midway through the contest. When there is a fight between two Top 10-ranked fighters who have a penchant for finishes it is a must watch.
#1. Thiago Santos vs. Anthony Smith
Thiago Santos against Anthony Smith might not be the most important divisional fight on the card, but I think it has the most potential to be pleasing to the average viewer. Combined they have six (technical) knockout finishes in a row over names like Hector Lombard and Jack Hermansson. In 40 professional MMA appearances, Smith has only had three fights decided by the judges scorecards (holy shit!). Two of Santos’ most recent defeats were a result of his opponent using his weakness against him, which is defensive grappling. I don’t see a high likelihood of Smith attempting to take the fight to the mat. Therefore, what we’ve got here is a mostly striking-focused contest between two guys who almost always go for the knockout and seldom go the distance.
The “Just Bleed” fight fan in me is salivating.
Did I mention that Anthony Smith is from Nebraska? To be specific, he is from the hometown of Arbor Day. I’ll let you Google where that is exactly.
Last time all three fights that I put in my list churned out excitement. I’m putting my good reputation on the line here (this is a joke, throw me an LOL) by saying it’s highly unlikely that I’m wrong with this week’s list.