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UFC Sao Paulo preview, predictions for ‘Santos vs Anders’ on FOX Sports 1

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Santos vs Spicely Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

This is what we refer to as, “limping across the finish line.”

After a string of injuries and main card shake ups, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will send late-addition Eryk Anders into enemy territory to battle hometown favorite and fellow headlining substitute Thiago Santos at the upcoming UFC Fight Night 137 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FOX Sports 1, which takes place this Sat. night (Sept. 22, 2018) inside Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The UFC Sao Paulo event will also feature the light heavyweight showdown between “Smilin’” Sam Alvey and the aging Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, while streaking sophomore Carlo Pedersoli and Brazilian “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira collide for welterweight bragging rights in the night’s co-headliner. There isn’t a whole lot to get excited for here, so don’t expect anything to write home about when the ratings are released early next week.

Before we trudge though the five-fight main card, let’s take a look at what Patrick Stumberg had to say about the UFC Fight Night 137 preliminary bouts, spread across FOX Sports 2 and the UFC Fight Pass digital network, by clicking here and here. For all the latest odds and betting lines for this weekend’s action in Sao Paulo, click here.

Let’s get this over with.

205 lbs.: Thiago “Marreta” Santos (18-6) vs. Eryk “Ya Boy” Anders (11-1)

I’ve seen a lot of UFC fans dismissing this card based on the late change in headliners, which I find mildly amusing. Let’s face it, the original match up featuring Glover Teixeira and fellow also-ran Jimi Manuwa was about as meaningful as the one we’re left with, pitting Thiago Santos against Eryk Anders.

There’s nothing really at stake here and all we can hope for is beautiful violence.

Granted, Teixeira and Manuwa were more likely to produce a one-hitter quitter, but we may get more unbridled aggression from their replacements. Probably because Santos has something to prove after getting creamed by David Branch last April. While he’s back in the win column, I’m not breaking out the party hats for a unanimous decision win over the unheralded Kevin Holland, who made his Octagon debut against “Marreta” at UFC 227.

And if you’re wondering, “Marreta” is Portuguese for “Sledgehammer”

Santos is Brazilian so of course we’ll stereotype him as a jiu-jitsu wizard, but he’s actually a knockout artist, having planished 12 of his 18 victims by way of KO/TKO. That includes the suddenly resurgent Anthony Smith, along with the since-retired Nate Marquardt. That said, he also has a live/die by the sword mentality, getting finished in five of his six losses.

That doesn’t leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling against Anders, who like his Brazilian counterpart, has a propensity for fight-ending knockouts. The difference is, “Ya Boy” has yet to be stopped in his MMA career, with his lone loss coming against the run-and-gun attack of Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 125. You can argue that Anders hasn’t faced the quality of opposition that Santos has, but you can also argue that Anders hasn’t been knocked out by David Branch or Vincente Luque.

There’s no question that Santos is a dangerous fighter with the chops to win, but Anders has looked more durable in his time under the UFC banner. With height and reach about the same — and just a couple of years separating them — I don’t see a clear advantage for either fighter. What I do see, is Anders being able to absorb damage when they start slinging leather inside the phone booth. Sooner or later someone is going to drop, and based on what I’ve seen to date, that’s likely to be “Marreta.”

Final prediction: Anders def. Santos by knockout

170 lbs.: Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (18-5-1, 2 NC) vs. Carlo “Semento” Pedersoli (11-1)

Alex Oliveira cruises around town like he’s the greatest thing since sliced Pão de queijo, which I suppose is one of the spoils afforded to the Brazilian “Cowboy” in the wake of his UFC on FOX 29 win over Carlos Condit. But I guess now is as good a time as any to mention that Condit has lost four straight fights and Oliveira was melted by Yancy Medeiros less than one year back, so let’s maintain some perspective. His UFC record of 8-3 is impressive and yet he’s only managed to land at No. 14 in the official rankings, which should give you an idea of what’s happening at 170 pounds.

For tomorrow night’s match up he draws the unheralded but dangerous Italian fighter Carlo Pedersoli, who crossed over from the regional scene earlier this year and squeaked by Bradley Scott by way of split decision at UFC Liverpool. It was the second straight time “Semento” — which translates to “cement” from Japanese — needed the judges to secure the win, which doesn’t leave me feeling overly-confident about his chances in this match up. No doubt the promotion found him attractive based on his age (25), as well as his finishes (seven) and he brings with him a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, complemented by brown belts in kudo and karate.

Both fighters are well rounded, providing formidable challenges on the feet as well as on the ground. As promising as Pedersoli has looked in his still-budding MMA career, there is just no substitute for big-game experience. Oliveira has consistently fought ranked UFC opponents and Pedersoli has consistently ... not. Height and reach are about the same, though “Cowboy” does have a three-inch advantage in legs. I’m not sure it matters, as he does his best work in the phone booth. He’s not perfect, of course, but he’s certainly one of the stronger, more imposing fighters at 170 pounds and I believe an aggressive gameplan — along with the confidence from his Condit win — will have this wrapped up fairly quickly.

Final prediction: Oliveira def. Pedersoli by submission

205 lbs.: “Smile ‘N” Sam Alvey (33-10, 1 NC) vs. Antonio “Minotouro” Rogerio Nogueira (22-8)

When I heard about this match up, I had to double check and make sure it wasn’t posted via Wayback Machine. I didn’t even realize Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was still fighting because he hasn't been seen in nearly two years. In fact, his last fight was a technical knockout loss to the since-departed Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night 100 back in late 2016. That leaves the 42 year-old Brazilian at 5-5 under the UFC banner and outside the division Top 15.

“Minotouro” is and always was an effective boxer with terrific jiu-jitsu, but at his age, his speed and timing have suffered, along with his agility. If he was facing an opponent who was equally deteriorated, this lowly-anticipated return might present a different outcome. Instead, he gets the younger and fresher Sam Alvey, a power-punching journeyman who fought six times while “Little Nog” was out of action. The “Smile ‘N” slugger has 19 knockouts in his cage fighting career and will have no problem trading with Nogueira.

This is not a difficult fight to break down. Nogueira is the better jiu-jitsu fighter, but it’s not like his takedowns are remarkable and Alvey is a pretty good wrestler in his own right. That means this contest will play out on the feet and once again, I have to hearken back to early criticisms about speed and what are sure to be slower reaction times. When your head is as big as Nogueira’s, it becomes a Brazilian piñata. In addition, Alvey has only been stopped by strikes once in 44 professional fights, so you know he can take a punch. Outside of some desperate wall-and-stall, I would be shocked if this bout saw a second round.

Final prediction: Alvey def. Nogueira by knockout

135 lbs.: Renan “Barao” Pegado (34-6, 1 NC) vs. Andre “Mr. Highlight” Ewell (13-4)

Renan Pegado did that Miguel Torres thing where he won like 30-something fights in a row and everyone was like, “oh my god he can’t be stopped” until he was, in fact, stopped. Since “Barao” — which is Portuguese for “Baron” and not his last name, despite what the promotion will tell you — was killed off by TJ Dillashaw at UFC 173, his record has been a putrid 2-4, including a failed jump up to the featherweight division.

It’s hard to know what really happened to the Brazilian. Maybe he was another victim of United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), or perhaps Dillashaw took his soul back in 2014. He certainly earned his spot among the bantamweight elite, emphatically finishing the likes of Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald, and Brad Pickett, among others, which was a big deal five-to-six years ago. Still only 31, Pegado can try to recapture some of that former glory by putting together his striking with his jiu-jitsu, both of which are formidable at 135 pounds.

On paper you would expect that to be enough against a regional fighter making his Octagon debut, but we don’t yet know what to expect from Andre Ewell because he’s been plying his trade for the likes of King of the Cage (KOTC) and Gladiator Challenge, among others. No doubt the nickname “Mr. Highlight” comes from his 11 finishes in 13 wins, nicely split between submissions (4) and knockouts (7). One of his biggest strengths is his motivation, as Ewell fights to feed his son and wants that paycheck more than he wants the UFC superstar lifestyle. Hard to bet against a man with hungry kids.

In the old days this would be a squash match, but it’s pretty obvious that Pegado is not the fighter he once was. Or maybe he is, and that fighter just wasn't very good. It’s hard to tell with the way this industry moves and evolves, but I haven’t seen anything in the last few years that would make this a lock for the Brazilian. Unless Ewell gets cage jitters or lays an uncharacteristic egg, I would expect him to come out and make a statement at 135 pounds, especially now that his opponent (once again) failed to make weight.

Final prediction: Ewell def. Pegado by unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Randa “Quiet Storm” Markos (8-6) vs. Marina Rodriguez (10-0)

Randa Markos may have entered TUF 20 as the “Quiet Storm” but in recent years she's been partly cloudy with a chance of showers. In nine trips to the Octagon the 33 year-old strawweight has yet to record back-to-back wins and is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Nina Ansaroff at UFC on FOX 30. More troubling is that eight of her nine UFC fights have all gone to the cards, with a submission loss to Cortney Casey-Sanchez serving as her only finish.

Markos is a tough, gritty fighter with above-average wrestling and below-average striking. When asked about her favorite technique, the Iraqi-born Canadian replied, “Passing to side control and laying heavy.” Probably not going to win her a bevy of post-fight bonuses and her resume in UFC is unspectacular in just about every way.

Opposing her is an exciting Brazilian prospect in the form of Marina Rodriguez, who not only racked up a perfect 10-0 record in the pros, but also has 10 victories on the amateur circuit to complement her regional titles in both Muay Thai and no-gi grappling competitions. I say that because “UFC rookie” denotes a fighter wet behind the ears and the strawweight savage is anything but. That doesn’t exclude her from the usual criticisms about fighting local talent, which can oscillate between mediocre and downright awful, but her last four opponents are all sporting winning records and let’s face it, the gap between female fighters in UFC as opposed to the international circuit is not exactly a wide, gaping chasm.

That’s not a knock on female fighters, it’s just the reality of the sport, Opportunities for women are still not as prevalent as they are for men, so UFC has no choice but to recruit and import what’s currently available (and not all of it is world class). I have a feeling that Rodriguez skews toward the higher end of the spectrum and will demonstrate that on Saturday night. Barring a three-round mugging by way aforementioned “laying heavy,” I would expect the Brazilian to outclass her middling foe en route to a clean sweep on the judges’ scorecards.

Final prediction: Rodriguez def. Markos by unanimous decision

That’s a wrap.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 137 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 2 “Prelims” undercard fights at 8:30 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

For much more on UFC Fight Night 137 click here.