UFC São Paulo Preview and Predictions

Last weekend, UFC Fight Night: Gdansk showcased a young welterweight’s coming out party as Darren Till stopped veteran Donald Cerrone in the very first round.  The UFC heads back to Brazil this weekend for the third time in 2017 for UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida.  São Paulo’s Ginásio do Ibirapuera will play host for the evening’s fight card.  Let’s take a closer look at the action.

Headlining the card will be former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida returning to the UFC’s octagon for the first time in two-and-a-half years following a USADA suspension.  He’ll battle #6-ranked middleweight Derek Brunson as both fighters look to solidify a possible spot in the top five of the division.  Meanwhile the co-main event will feature #3-ranked welterweight Damian Maia.  Maia will look to get back in the win column following his failed attempt at the UFC Welterweight Championship this past July as he welcomes rising-star #7 Colby Covington to his home country of Brazil.

Fiiiiight weeeeek!!!! Brunson vs Machida this Saturday LIVE and FREE on @FS1!

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#6 Derek Brunson vs Lyoto Machida – Middleweight Fight

With nearly thirty fights in his 14-year MMA career, Lyoto Machida will look to build traction in the crowded UFC middleweight division. Despite this being just his second main event, Machida’s opponent, Derek Brunson has developed into a legitimate top contender since joining the UFC in 2012.

Brunson (17-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC) has been rock solid during his UFC tenure. A five-fight win streak including four first-round knockouts landed Brunson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 101 opposite Robert Whittaker last November. Brunson’s recklessness proved to be his downfall that night as he was finished by the Kiwi late in the first round.  A controversial decision loss at UFC 208 to Anderson Silva followed.  In danger of losing three-straight, Brunson got back in the win column this past June blasting through Australian Daniel Kelly in just over a minute picking up a Performance of The Night bonus in the process. The 33-year-old has a massive opportunity to add a future Hall-of-Famer to his résumé in the main event.

What to look out for with Brunson – While his base remains strong offensive wrestling, Brunson has developed himself into quite the knockout threat in the UFC.  He utilizes his 77” reach very well often catching his opponents on the end of his stinging punches.  Despite being somewhat “exposed” for a lack of defense following his loss to Whittaker, Brunson has already showed improved patience and defensive-minded movement in his two UFC bouts since.  Brunson athleticism and quickness moves in and out of the pocket very well, looking for opportunities to land the devastating right hand that has put away the likes of Sam Alvey, Uriah Hall and the aforementioned Kelly.

Former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Machida (22-7 MMA, 14-7 UFC) dropped to middleweight in 2013 earning two wins and a shot at the then champion Chris Weidman.  “The Dragon” fell short that evening but rebounded with a quick win over CB Dollaway. However, the two bouts that followed saw Machida violently finished by both Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero respectively.  Machida returns to the cage for the first time since June of 2015 and is in danger of losing three straight fights for the first time in his career. His time off was unplanned however, as Machida was popped for a banned substance by USADA prior to a scheduled rematch with Dan Henderson at UFC on Fox 19 in April of 2016.

What to look out for with Machida – While Machida has undoubtedly made improvements and become a better-rounded martial artist, his gameplan and technical approach more or less remains the same.  Machida is a 3rd Dan in Shotokan Karate and utilizes more traditional karate-style stances and movement.  The southpaw is dangerous with his kicks both up the middle and with the roundhouse.  Previous opponents have run into problems being over-aggressive with Machida and getting brutally counter-struck.  With Machida being 39 and having been knocked out and through many wars inside the octagon, a huge question remains on his ability to absorb punishment and take a punch.

Prediction – The betting line for this bout is relatively close (Brunson -170, Machida +140).  Machida is 39-years-old and has not competed in the UFC since April of 2015.  While Machida is a true veteran of the sport, it’s hard to ignore the real possibility of ring rust, especially against a fast-starter like Brunson.  Meanwhile, Brunson is coming off his best performance to date.  Machida won’t go quietly, but Brunson will catch him sooner or later on the tail-end of those long and rangy punches that’s seen him put away five UFC opponents. Brunson by TKO, round 2.

#3 Damian Maia vs. #7 Colby Covington

UFC 214 was a disappointing night for Brazilian grappling wizard Damian Maia (25-7 MMA, 19-7 UFC).  In his second opportunity to capture UFC gold, Champion Tyron Woodley stuffed all 24 of Maia’s takedown attempts en route a unanimous decision victory for the defending king. Despite being 39, Maia has elected to keep fighting hoping to work his way back to the title.  Maia will face a new up-and-coming challenger in the form of American Top Team’s and #7-ranked Colby Covington (12-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC). Maia will likely be looking to drag the fight to the mat where he has racked up eight submission victories under the UFC banner.  Maia has amassed a 10-3 UFC record since dropping to the welterweight division in 2012.

While Maia is considered by many to have the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pedigree in the entire sport, his competition is certainly no slouch on the ground.  A former collegiate all-american wrestler at Oregon State University, Covington has transitioned well into MMA relying on a heavy dose of takedown and smothering control offense to best his opponents.  Maia will be a familiar foe to Covington, as prior to the Woodley fight, Maia faced Covington’s best friend and primary training partner, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 211 in May.  Covington is riding a four-fight winning streak as he heads into enemy territory, most recently dominating Dong Hyun Kim this past June in Singapore.  Covington has shown to has tremendous cardio and an evolving striking arsenal inside the UFC’s octagon.  He’ll need all his tools to be extremely sharp if he wants to earn the biggest win of his career against Maia.

Prediction – Interesting to see Covington open as the betting line favorite (-150).  While the sharp action has already started to move towards Maia, I expect the Vegas line to end at a pickem come fight night.  Covington has a ton of potential, but Maia’s fight IQ and ability to dominate opponents with jiu-jitsu inside the octagon has proven to be unstoppable.  Covington proves tough, but Maia finds a way to finish. Maia by submission, round 2.

#12 Pedro Munhoz vs. #13 Rob Font

A fight that is truly flying under the radar, ranked rising talents Pedro Munhoz (14-2 (1 NC) MMA, 4-2 (1 NC) UFC) and Rob Font (14-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) will most certainly bring the action on Saturday night.  An elusive striker with a nasty guillotine, American Top Team’s Munhoz will look to make it four straight victories when he welcomes Font to his home country of Brazil.

He’ll face no easy challenge in Team Sityodtong’s Font, who has finished his opponent in all four of his UFC wins.  Font is an extremely powerful and technical striker who has shown an impressive and developing ground game.  In his most recent bout, the 30-year-old submitted Brazilian Douglas Da Silva de Andrade.

Prediction – Both these fighters are very evenly-matched.  Both have clear paths to victory.  After a back-and-forth striking battle on the feet, Munhoz will initiate the clinch and catch Font in a transition and lock in his patented guillotine to force the tap. Munhoz by submission, round 2.

Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jim Miller

Lightweights with a world of experience collide in the night’s second fight on the main card.  Longtime division-staple Jim Miller (28-10 (1 NC) MMA, 17-9 (1 NC) UFC) put the lightweight and welterweight divisions on blast expressing his frustrations with getting an opponent to agree to tangle with the New Jersey native.  He finds himself on the hells of back-to-back losses to Dustin Poirier and Anthony Pettis. 14 of Miller’s 28 victories have come via submission.

Miller draws a foe in Francisco Trinaldo (21-5 MMA, 11-4 UFC) who also appears to age like a fine wine. “Massaranduba” enters the octagon having won seven of his last eight with his lone loss coming to recent UFC title challenger Kevin Lee.  At 39, Trinaldo isn’t getting any younger but still will look to get past Miller and stamp his way back into the rankings at lightweight.

Prediction – Miller has a clear advantage on the mat.  However, Miller’s offensive wrestling was never a strength and Trinaldo has shown the ability to sprawl-and-brawl while making his opponents pay with devastating clinch strikes.  Trinaldo by Unanimous Decision.

#15 Thiago Santos vs. Jack Hermansson

Middleweights Thiago Santos (15-5 MMA, 7-4 UFC) and Jack Hermansson (16-3 MMA, 3-1 UFC) have both found their stride in 2017, each earning two TKO victories.  For their third fight inside the octagon this year, Santos will be playing host in his home country of Brazil.  Santos has since rebounded from one of the biggest statistical upset defeats in UFC history in his loss to Eric Spicely.  TKO victories over Jack Marshman and Gerald Meerschaert has “Marreta” back on track. The American Top Team fighter owns TKO wins in six of his seven UFC victories.

Hermansson has made quick work of his 2017 UFC opponents, dispatching Alex Nicholson and Brad Scott both in the first round.  “The Joker” will look to make good on his second UFC opportunity in Brazil after getting submitted by Cezar Ferreira in São Paulo last November.

Prediction – Hermasson has looked like a world-beater in his last two appearances using his power wrestling to get his opponents down and vicious ground-and-pound to earn the stoppages.  Since his loss to Spicely, Santos has proven harder to takedown.  Expect a stand-up war here.  Santos by TKO, round 3.

#5 John Lineker vs. Marlon Vera

Kicking off the main card showcases one of Brazil’s top bantamweights squaring off with one of the fastest-developing young talents in all of the UFC.  At only 27-years-old, John Lineker (29-8 MMA, 10-3 UFC) has already fought in the UFC 13 times and has won four of five since moving up to 135lbs.  His punching power is second-to-none in the division and he’s always moving forward and pressing the action.

It’s surprising to many that this massive opportunity went to Marlon Vera (12-3-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC).  While “Chito” has won three straight, he remains unranked at Bantamweight.  Since relocating from his native Ecuador to California, Vera has improved dramatically inside the octagon working alongside fellow UFC fighters Joe Soto, Carla Esparza, Humberto Bandenay and Alex Perez at Team Oyama.  Should Vera find a way to get past “Hands of Stone,” it’d certainly shake things up in the division.

Nothing is impossible to a willing heart #teamoyama #10thplanetirvine

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Prediction – Hats off to Vera for the significant improvements he’s made in a short-time under the direction of Colin Oyama.  That being said, he is far from ready to compete against an elite-level bantamweight like Lineker.  Lineker by knockout, round 1.


UFC São Paulo Prelims Highlights

The prelim portion of the UFC: São Paulo will feature two prelim fights exclusively on UFC Fight Pass and four fights will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 in the United States prior to the main card.  The televised portion features fighters quietly on win streaks looking to continue their respective surges.  Welterweights Niko Price (10-0 (1 NC) MMA, 2-0 (1 NC) UFC) and Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos (17-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC) are both on three-fight winning streaks inside the UFC and will battle Vicente Luque and Max Griffin respectively.  Meanwhile the middleweight known as “Shoeface”, Antonio Carlos Jr (8-2 (1 NC) MMA, 5-2 (1 NC) UFC) will also look to make it four straight victories when he battles Wales’ Jack Marshman.  Someone’s “0” has gotta go as undefeated flyweights Deiveson Figueiredo (12-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Jarred Brooks (13-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) collide on UFC Fight Pass. Meanwhile, Dana White’s Looking For A Fight find Jared Gordon (13-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) faces longtime Nova Uniao staple Hacran Dias (23-5-1 MMA, 3-4 UFC).  25-year-old Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Golm (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) debuts against “Godzilla” Christian Colombo (8-2-1 MMA, 0-1-1 UFC).

UFC: São Paulo Main Card

  • #7 Derek Brunson vs. Lyoto Machida
  • #3 Damian Maia vs. #7 Colby Covington
  • #12 Pedro Munhoz vs. #13 Rob Font
  • Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jim Miller
  • #15 Thiago Santos vs. Jack Hermansson
  • #5 John Lineker vs. Marlon Vera

UFC: São Paulo Prelims

  • Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price
  • Antonio Carlos Jr. vs. Jack Marshman
  • Hacran Dias vs. Jared Gordon
  • Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos vs. Max Griffin
  • Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Jarred Brooks
  • Christian Colombo vs. Marcelo Golm
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