The UFC finally makes it’s long awaited return to Brazil for UFC 134: Rio on Saturday night and we’ve got our full preview and predictions for you below.
Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami
Silva is a strong favorite here and rightly so given the way he’s ruled his weight class since joining the UFC. Okami’s skill-set could trouble him though in that he’s a strong and capable grappler much as Chael Sonnen is and he’s likely to employ a similar strategy.
Okami isn’t as good a striker as Sonnen though (as was proven when the outspoken Oregonian dismantled him in ’09) and is unlikely to trouble Silva on the feet the way he did in order to set up those all-important takedowns that he needs.
Even if he does succeed in getting him down silva has shown time and time again against skilled fighters on the mat like Dan Henderson, Travis Lutter and Sonnen that his BJJ skills are razor-sharp and taht he’ll be a constant threat from his back.
I see Silva picking him apart on the feet though, and though Okami has proven to be very durable over the course of his career, I believe Silva will deliver an all-round dynamic striking game that can earn him a TKO victory at some stage in this five round encounter.
Anderson Silva to win by TKO in Rd3
Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Griffin is the type of solid, durable, jack-of-all trades fighter that makes him a tricky proposition for anyone he faces (with the exception of Anderson Silva of course!). While on paper he doesn’t appear to excel in any one area over Rua, he’s good enough to give him problems anywhere the fight goes, and his superior cardio means he’s going to become more of a threat as the fight goes on (as was proven the last time they fought).
Shogun meanwhile is a much more deadly striker – possessing the kind of KO power that Griffin can only dream about, and his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills are a strong back-up option.
The problem with the Brazilian is that while his opponent is a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of a fighter, with Shogun your never quite sure what you’re going to get. A lot of his inconsistency seems to be down to his frequent knee troubles which have plagued his career and are perhaps taking a way some of his sharpness, and certainly weakening his cardio.
So this is a tough one to call. Do you go with the dependable fighter, or the arguably more skilled but unreliable one with the home crowd cheering him on? I’m hitting the gamble button and going for Shogun, but it’s a risky pick if he doesn’t make a big impact in the first couple of rounds.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua to win by TKO in Rd2
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub
A classic youth vs experience match-up is set to unfold here in the heavyweight division. Nogueira is a true legend of MMA so it’s great to see him on this historic card in Rio, but the timing is far from perfect. The former PRIDE star has looked past his best in his recent Octagon encounters, and an 18 month layoff for several surgeries is the last thing he needed after the first KO of his career against Cain Velasquez.
To confound matters, on Saturday night Nogueira will be facing a young, hungry up and comer in Brendan Schaub who’s fast, agile and has made a habit of getting the better of fading stars like Mirko Cro Cop and Gabriel Gonzaga.
Schaub’s strength is in his striking and he’s developed a solid boxing game with good footwork and decent power. While not a powerhouse on the ground he’s shown himself to be nimble and good at working his way back to his feet.
Meanwhile Nogueira also has good boxing, but he’s far slower than his opponent and his once granite chin has now weakened. On the ground he’s still a beast however and his submission prowess is surely his key to victory here. I’m convinced his cardio will be an issue here though and I think Schaub will present an ever-moving target that will be difficult to take down. In the end I see Schaub emerging with his hand raised here.
Brendan Schaub to win by decision
Edson Barboza vs. Ross Pearson
Not yet a big name compared to some of his Brazilian compatriots on this card, Edson Barboza is however an emerging force in the lightweight division and his striking in particular is exciting to watch. He displays excellent all-round muay thai ability, but it’s his devastating kicks in particular that make him a fearsome prospect.
TUF winner Ross Pearson also likes to stand and trade, though his style is less flashy and relies more on solid boxing fundamentals. He moves in and out well and can put together some decent combinations, though he lacks genuine KO power.
Like most UK fighters Pearson isn’t a strong wrestler, but he’s better than some of his fellow Brits and he’s also shown himself to be effective clinching up against the cage utilizing dirty boxing. Barboza’s muay thai clinch will be a concern though, as will his jiu-jitsu if the fight hits the mat.
I see this being a stand-up encounter though, and really it’s just a bad match-up for Pearson with Barboza simply having too many deadly weapons at his disposal.
Edson Barboza to win by TKO in Rd2
Luiz Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov
Cane was at one stage considered one of the rising stars of the 205lb division, but back-to-back TKO losses in 2009-2010 stunted his progress. A TKO win earlier this year against Eliot Marshall got him back on track however and he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Cane’s strength is in his stand-up and he displays sound muay thai technique, good power in his punches and has the killer instinct. Nedkov, who will be making his debut on Saturday night, on the other hand has far less technical presence, preferring to simply wade in wildly throwing bombs while looking to set-up takedowns.
Grappling is Nedkov’s strong suit and he has powerful takedowns at his disposal and good wrestling and jiu-jitsu to back it up. The onus will then be on Cane to keep the fight standing, though he too does have BJJ credentials if he has to work from the mat.
Nedkov’s cardio is questionable, and that, combined with Cane having the home advantage swing the fight slightly in his favor. If he can steer clear of Nedkov’s takedowns then I also believe he can use his superior striking ability to pick him apart on the feet and claim a late technical knockout victory.
Luiz Cane to win by TKO in Rd3.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Spencer Fisher vs. Thiago Tavares
Rousimar Palhares vs. Dan Miller
Paulo Thiago vs. David Mitchell
Raphael Assuncao vs. Johnny Eduardo
Felipe Arantes vs. Yuri Alcantara
Yves Jabouin vs. Ian Loveland
Erick Silva vs. Luis Ramos