The UFC travels to Brazil for the first time this year and the promotion has put together an exciting fight card worthy of your viewing pleasure.
The main event matches two dangerous fighters while the rest of the main card is filled with close match-ups that should produce fireworks. Also, make sure to keep your eyes on the undercard headliner in Francisco Trinaldo vs Kevin Lee which will undoubtedly get the crowd into a frenzy.
Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs Kelvin Gastelum (13-2)
With Vitor just shy of his 40th birthday and his TRT exemption’s now well and truly behind him, Belfort’s path for victory is as narrow and predictable as it has ever been.
For the Brazilian to pull out the W he has to land early and he has to land hard as the longer the fight goes on, Gastelum can crank through the gears and leave Belfort in his dust.
Gastelum is simply a better fighter at this moment in time and he has such a well-rounded style that he could probably win this fight in any area. His boxing has helped him defeat both Johny Hendricks and Tim Kennedy in his most recent bouts but his wrestling base was the skill that brought him to prominence.
I can see this fight playing out somewhat similarly to Ryan Bader vs Lil Nog 2 with Gastelum taking on the role of Ryan Bader and dominating from the get-go. By taking the fight to the mat and holding top position, Gastelum can remove the explosive striking of Belfort and rain down punches until Belfort or the referee can take no more.
Pick: Kelvin Gastelum
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (24-10) vs Gian Villante (15-7)
You know the UFC’s light heavyweight division is struggling when Shogun is ranked #6. The PRIDE legend is 3-4 in his last seven and yet with a win against Villante, Shogun will probably be able to get a title shot if he asked kindly enough.
Onto the fight itself however and it’s such a hard one to figure out based solely on their deficiencies.
Shogun is a shell of the fighter who captured every MMA fans’ heart due to injuries and wear and tear but he’s eeked out decisions over the likes of Corey Anderson so there is something still left in the tank.
Villante meanwhile doesn’t have the best cardio and his defence is questionable but with the power in his hands, he makes for a dangerous opponent.
This can either be a quick fight that ends in a devastating knockout or a gruelling three-round slog. I’ll lean towards the later and Shogun being the fighter in the ascendency.
Pick: Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua
Edson Barboza (18-4) vs Beneil Dariush (14-2)
If this isn’t fight of the night, I’ll be massively surprised.
Both men are in good form and stylistically it should be a fascinating contest. Boxing wise, both fighters’ skills have come on leaps and bounds since their debut’s and both possess a wicked left hook with the power to hurt their opponent.
With Barboza, he is notorious for his kicking game but with Dariush’s Jui-Jitsu being as wearing and dangerous as it is, it’ll be interesting to see whether he’ll be as keen to kick with the threat of having a leg caught and being taken down.
For Dariush to come out with the victory, he may well look to work his pressuring footwork and work in close but the biggest factor here is Barboza’s electric speed and the longer he can keep Dariush on the end of his strikes, the more Barboza can rack up the rounds.
Pick: Edson Barboza
Jussier Formiga (19-4) vs Ray Borg (10-2)
This fight should be decided in the scramble as both men are brilliant grapplers.
Formiga has only ever lost to elite fighters (McCall, Dodson, Benavidez, Cejudo) at flyweight and I have reservations about whether Borg has the skillset needed to best Formiga in his native Brazil. Formiga hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and he’s an active fighter when the cage door closes.
With that being said, Borg looked excellent in his last bout but it must be pointed out that there are real question marks over that victory as he missed weight by nearly five lbs.
Formiga’s experience and quality should be enough to see him edge out a decision here.
Pick: Jussier Formiga
Bethe Correia (10-2) vs Marion Reneau (7-3)
Athletically, this shouldn’t be a contest as Reneau is miles above Correia but this is a fight and that’s where Correia shines.
The Brazilian is busy, tough and has fought better opposition than Reneau. While the American is a better grappler, her urgency to engage is far too low to worry Correia and as long as the Brazilian doesn’t fall into the clinch frequently, she should come out the victor.
Pick: Bethe Correia
Alex Oliveira (15-4-1, 2 NC) vs Tim Means (26-7-1, 1 NC)
This a repeat of a fight which was ruled a NC at the end of last year and fortunately, it was a fight which gives us a sneak preview of this rematch.
Oliveira will look to grapple and rely on flashes of physical brilliance such as a spinning back kick which he landed in the first fight.
‘The Dirty Bird’ meanwhile will look to provide volume, hurtful Muay Thai and rely on his durability to get him through the worst that Oliveira has to offer.
Technically, Means is simply the better fighter here and with the confidence he has from the first fight he should have enough.
Pick: Tim Means
(Last Predictions: 2/5, Total: 16/30, 53% Success Rate)
(2016: 61% Success Rate)