UFC 142 Preview: Back to Rio
The UFC’s quest for global domination continues on Saturday when the organization holds another event in Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil. Every fight booked on the card features a Brazilian fighter, and the night is highlighted by a Featherweight Championship bout between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. The UFC looks to start of 2012 with a great night of fights in front of an always-excitable crowd in Brazil. On to the previews!
Edson Barboza (9-0) vs. Terry Etim (15-3)
This bout is my dark horse pick for Fight of the Night. Barboza an extremely talented young fighter with untapped potential; his devastating strikes and raw athleticism remind me of fellow Brazilian Jose Aldo. In Barboza’s first fight in the UFC, he used lightning quick leg kicks to attack Mike Lullo’s legs and eventually earn a TKO victory. In his two subsequent bouts, Edson has earned decision victories as well as Fight of the Night honors. Facing Edson on Saturday will be veteran Terry Etim. Etim has been in the UFC since 2007 and has put together a 6-3 record in the organization. He is trained in Luta Livre, which is a form of submission grappling. His training has certainly paid off, as he has earned 12 of his 15 victories by submission, including 3 Submission of the Night honors.
Prediction: This is another one of Joe Rogan’s favorite style vs. style match-ups. Barboza will be looking to strike, as Etim will attempt to take the fight to the ground. I believe Barboza’s exceptional striking skills will work in his favor in this bout. Edson is no slouch on the ground either; he has been awarded a purple belt in BJJ to go along with his Muay Thai black belt. I believe Edson will be able to do enough damage while the two are standing to get the win. Barboza by Decision.
Erick Silva (13-1, 1 NC) vs. Carlo Prater (29-10-1)
Erick Silva has the training partners that many martial artists can only dream of. While training in Brazil he splits time between training with the likes of Anderson Silva, Jacare Souza, and the Nogueira brothers… Not too shabby. Silva won his UFC debut in August over Luis Ramos with a convincing KO. On Saturday, he faces off against MMA journeyman Carlo Prater. Prater has traveled across the globe mostly fighting in smaller promotions, but has had stints in the WEC and Strikeforce. Prater is a late substitute into this bout and that worries me as he enters the cage against the impeccably trained young Brazilian.
Prediction: I think the Brazilian will wax Prater in this bout… Silva by KO.
Rousimar “Twist” Palhares (13-3) vs. Mike Massenzio (13-5)
If you are looking for a technical ground war between two submission aces, here is your fight. Palhares is widely considered one of the best grapplers on the face of the planet. Though odd behavior such as cranking submissions after fighters have tapped and possible infractions during ADCC competition has MMA fans weary of Toquinho’s a.k.a. Twist’s superior strength and skill. With the muscle Palhares possesses, along with his world-class submission skills, especially his knee bars, Palhares certainly has the ability to cause a serious injury in the cage. He faces off against Mike Massenzio who boasts quite the ground game himself. Massenzio was a National Champion wrestler and went on to win the N.A.G.A Championship in the Expert Division in 2006. Massenzio is coming off a decision victory of Steve Cantwell in October, but in his last four fights before that he has only compiled a 1-3 record.
Prediction: Palhares is truly one of the greatest grapplers in the world. His odd actions inside the cage and out leave a sour taste in the mouth’s of many MMA fans, but his skills are undeniable. I think he takes out Massenzio by a patented leg lock. Palhares by submission.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (13-3) vs. Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (20-9)
This marks Rumble’s first venture into the Middleweight division of the UFC; where he truly belongs. If anyone saw his small role in the 2011 film Warrior (which I HIGHLY recommend) Johnson looked like a completely different person than we see in the cage. He was HUGE! Johnson was well over 200 lbs. during filming, making those of us who are not as physically gifted wonder how the heck he cuts all that weight to make the 170 lb. division. It is well documented that Rumble would cut nearly 60 lbs. to make weight. This massive weight cut had to take a serious toll on his performance in the cage, but Johnson still used his size and skill to put together an impressive resume in the UFC. Fighting at 185 will allow Johnson to be in a much healthier state when he enters the ring. Few fighters in the division will be able to answer Johnson’s combination of size, skill, and athleticism.
Note that I said few… Vitor Belfort is one of the few fighters in the division that holds the skills and speed to compete with a fighter like Johnson. Belfort is coming of a seriously impressive KO of “Sexyama” back in August, and is looking to retain his status at the top of the division against the newcomer Johnson. Belfort may not see another title shot any time soon after the shellacking he took from “The Spider” back in February, but he can certainly keep his main event status on lock with a win against Rumble.
Prediction: This is my front-runner pick for Fight of the Night. If these two decide to stand and trade blows, this bout could turn into something epic. Both athletes are top-notch strikers that can send opponents to the mat with strikes from any number of extremities. Belfort seems to be the favorite in this booking, but I think by moving up a division, Anthony Johnson has unleashed a new beast into the world of MMA. This should be Rumble’s best performance in the UFC yet, even with the massive Brazilian crowd behind The Phenom. Johnson by KO.
Update! As of January 4th, Rumble said he was weighing in at 215! Beware… If are reading this and are fighter in the UFC Middleweight Division (highly unlikely…), do not look at the upcoming picture! It will make you reconsider your career choice!
Featherweight Championship Fight
Champion Jose Aldo (20-1) vs. Chad Mendes (12-0)
Another member of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male is getting his shot at the Featherweight strap on Saturday. Chad Mendes is a former Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and NCAA All-American. His wrestler skills have earned him an undefeated MMA record and a chance to derail Aldo in his native Brazil. Even though Mendes has never lost, I just don’t see him having a shot on Saturday. To me, he simply doesn’t possess the skill set to earn a victory over Aldo. If he takes Aldo to the ground, I think Aldo will be able to counter with his black belt in Jiu Jitsu. Many fans think if Aldo as a 145 lb. steamroller who simply flattens his opponents. Though truth be told, Aldo has only finished one of his last four fights. His war with Mark Hominick in April was one of the best fights of the year, and then in October he dismantled an aging Kenny Florian through five rounds. When Aldo is 100% healthy, he is a joy to watch for MMA fans. His overwhelming pace, unpredictable strikes, and seemingly unrelenting cardio make him a serious fan favorite. Aldo has not fought in his native country of Brazil since 2007, when he was just 21 years old. I think he brings his A-Game on Saturday and wows the Brazilian crowd.
Prediction: I predict Aldo finishes this fight in the early rounds. I think fighting in his home country will allow him to keep his name away from being mentioned with the other champs that keep allowing bouts to go to the judge’s scorecards (Cruz & GSP…). Aldo by KO.
Feel free to drop a line in the comment section to let us know who you think will win the night’s main event. Also, add your two cents in to how you think a bulked up Anthony Johnson will fare in the cage! Enjoy the fights!