UFC on FX 8 “Rockhold vs. Belfort” Preview & Predictions

May 17, 2013

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UFC on FX 8 “Rockhold vs. Belfort” Preview & Predictions



Alexander Lee – The UFC continues its return to the home of mixed martial arts when it visits the Arena Jaraguá in Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil.  Headlining is one of the country’s greatest exports, MMA pioneer Vitor Belfort, while the co-main features another prominent Brazilian star, Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza.  As with every Brazil card, expect a raucous crowd that is sure to express its disapproval of the non-native fighters in a polite and diplomatic fashion.

UFC on FX 8 will be broadcast in Canada on Sportsnet ONE, with the preliminaries starting at 6:00 EST and the main card at 9:00 EST.

A note and a disclaimer:

 

  • fighters listed with UFC record first followed by overall record
  • I will be offering picks, but it’s my responsibility to mention that there is no one who watches more MMA than me who is WORSE at picking fights.  These picks are not intended for gambling purposes, strictly for recreation and for everyone to see how dumb I am

 

Preliminary Card Notes:

 

  • A glance at the Facebook portion of the preliminaries reminds us how far the flyweight division has to go in terms of notoriety.  Jussier Formiga, Chris Cariaso and John Lineker are three of the top ten flyweights in the world and apparently none of them warrant a spot on Fuel TV.  I’m not a Facebook user myself, but if you have an account make sure to take some time to check out the little guys.
  • I hate to go against my countryman, but I’m a big fan of Fábio Maldonado and I’m rooting for him to triumph over Nova Scotia native Roger Hollett.  Then again, maybe if Hollett wins it will convince Maldonado to stop the madness and drop down to 185.
  • Remember when Paulo Thiago was considered a top ten welterweight?  He looked like a world beater after knocking out Josh Koscheck, going three hard rounds with Jon Fitch, and choking out Mike Swick, but he’s lost 4 of his last 5 since squaring off with the American Kickboxing Academy trio.  The losses to Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez were understandable, but an embarrassing 42 second knockout at the hands of Siyar Bahadurzada and a lopsided decision loss to Dong Hyun Kim have him closer to the unemployment line than contendership.  He faces newcomer Michel Prazeres, who owns a spotless 16-0 record.
  • Speaking of outstanding records, the preliminary main event sees Hacran Dias facing Nik Lentz.  Neither Dias or Lentz have ever suffered a loss at featherweight.  Dias has a gaudy 21-1-1 record, but Lentz presents the stiffest challenge of his career.
  • Lastly, Francisco Trinaldo has one of the most fun nicknames to say: Massaranduba!  Just try shouting it in the middle of nowhere.  It’s cool, trust me.

 

Middleweight Bout: Rafael Natal (3-2-1 UFC, 15-4-1) v. João Zeferino (0-0 UFC, 13-4)

 

What you need to know: Natal enters this bout having gone 3-1 in his last 4 bouts and he’s being rewarded with his first taste of main card action.  This is somewhat of a gamble on the UFC’s part as he’s developed an unfortunate reputation as a boring fighter.  Natal can always fall back on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu expertise, but his lack of dynamism makes him hard to root for.

You have to wonder if he’s being used as a stepping stone for the debuting Zeferino.  “The Brazilian Samurai” is on a 7 fight win streak, though the competition leaves something to be desired.  The biggest name in that run is UFC vet Sean Salmon, who Zeferino submitted in 25 seconds.  Don’t expect him to be intimidated by Natal’s BJJ acumen as Zeferino himself is a black belt under Alexandre de Souza.  Zeferino is replacing Chris Camozzi, who moved up to replace Costa Philippou.

 

How it’s going down: Two decorated grapplers usually results in a stalemate and a mediocre kickboxing match-up.  Don’t expect this to be any different.  Natal has a 1st round knockout of Travis Lutter on his resume, but he hasn’t shown that kind of finishing power since coming to the UFC so don’t look for him to replicate that outcome.  If Zeferino stays aggressive, that should be enough to earn him a decision.

 

The pick: Zeferino

 

Lightweight Bout: Rafael dos Anjos (7-4 UFC, 18-6) v. Evan Dunham (7-3 UFC, 14-3)

 

What you need to know: Both dos Anjos and Dunham have been on the verge of cracking the top 10 for some time, though they’ve taken different paths to get there.

Dos Anjos has been with the company since 2008, delivering mixed results until he scored a shocking first round knockout of George Sotiropoulos inside of a minute.  Sotiropoulos had a 7-1 record at the time and was a considerable favourite.  Dos Anjos kicked in the door and cemented his own spot in the top 20.  He’s gone 3-1 since then with his only setback being a close split decision loss to fellow fringe contender, Gleison Tibau.

Dunham also made his name for himself with two key wins as an underdog, submitting Ultimate Fighter 8 winner Efrain Escudero and taking a decision from Tyson Griffin.  Ironically, his luck would come to a stop as a favourite against Sean Sherk, though many felt he was robbed in a fight where he dominated Sherk in the striking department.  A first round TKO loss to Melvin Guillard sent him spiraling out of contention and he’s been battling back ever since.

Give credit to Joe Silva for booking a logical fight that should be both entertaining and have a legitimate impact on the lightweight standings.

 

How it’s going down: Anytime you have two fighters with as much octagon experience as dos Anjos and Dunham (21 combined UFC appearances), making a definitive prediction is a fool’s errand.  Both men are more than happy to scrap, especially Dunham who authored a fight of the year candidate with TJ Grant last year.

Dunham has excellent top control, but dos Anjos is more than capable off of his back (though he sometimes suffers from “Jorge Gurgel Syndrome”: a momentary loss of grappling skills in favour of standing and banging).  Dunham should have the edge here, strictly based on superior striking, but this is a coin toss.

 

The pick: Dunham

 

Middleweight Bout: Ronaldo Souza (0-0 UFC, 17-3 [1 NC]) v. Chris Camozzi (6-2 UFC, 19-5)

 

What you need to know: Most of the Strikeforce transplants have been making waves in the lightweight division, but the now defunct promotion also housed two of the world’s best middleweights in Jacaré and main event competitor Luke Rockhold.  Jacaré is a decorated martial artist, claiming world titles at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, World Jiu-Jitsu Championship and in Strikeforce.  Those credentials have put him on the short list of possible contenders for Anderson Silva (though Silva and Souza are training partners and Jacaré has refused to comment on a potential match-up).

Camozzi is stepping in as a replacement for Costa Philippou.  Even with a 7-2 record in his last 9 fights (including a win for the Shark Fights promotion), Camozzi has yet to find that signature moment to truly establish himself.  He’s only twice fought on the main card and one of those bouts ended up with him being submitted in the first round.  Taking a fight against a dangerous opponent like Jacaré on short notice might seem unwise, but when you’re making your 9th UFC appearance and people still don’t know who you are, you have to do something to change that.  A win here propels Camozzi to unprecedented heights.

 

How it’s going down: Camozzi is a solid kickboxer with good cardio, but he isn’t exceptional in any one area and against a grappling specialist like Jacaré that’s going to hurt his chances.  Some are billing this as a striker vs. grappler match-up with Camozzi having an advantage if he can keep things on the feet, but Jacaré’s stand-up has shown vast improvement with every fight.  That tends to happen when you train with the famed Black House team.  Jacaré knocked out Derek Brunson in 40 seconds and used his striking to set up a takedown of Ed Herman that led to an eventual submission.  Camozzi isn’t enough of a threat to keep Jacaré honest, which means the BJJ expert will have more than enough time to get in close for a takedown or even outpoint the California native.

If the fight goes to the ground, it will be a short night for Camozzi.  Jacaré owns 13 career submissions and even if he can’t get one in his UFC debut, just the threat of a takedown should open up a plethora of options for him.  Camozzi is a game opponent, but this is a bad match-up given the circumstances.

 

The pick: Souza

 

Middleweight Bout: Vitor Belfort (11-6 UFC, 22-10) v. Luke Rockhold (0-0 UFC, 10-1)

 

What you need to know: It’s a shame that this stage of Belfort’s career is being coloured by controversy over his exploitation of testosterone replacement therapy and that Rockhold is not as well known to the casual fan, because this is a top flight middleweight match-up.

On one side, you have Belfort, a legend of the sport who has held multiple world titles in the past and beaten some of the best names in the business.  Just looking at the fighters he’s lost to (Couture, Sakuraba, Liddell, Ortiz, Overeem, Henderson, Silva, Jones) gives you some indication of the level he’s been competing at since day one.  Even at his advanced age, he remains one of the game’s deadliest finishers.

On the other side, you have Rockhold, the Strikeforce middleweight champion who hasn’t lost a fight in over five years.  At 28 years old, Rockhold is in his prime.  Blessed with the genes of a professional athlete (his father was a basketball player) Rockhold represents the new generation of mixed martial artists, raised from an early age to train in multiple disciplines.  He stormed his way to the top of the Strikeforce middleweight division and hasn’t looked back since.

 

How it’s going down: Even though I’d argue that Jacaré is still Rockhold’s toughest opponent, Belfort is potentially a more dangerous challenge.  Jacaré wasn’t going to put Rockhold out with one punch and that’s something Belfort has made a career out of.  None of Rockhold’s title fights (Jacaré, Keith Jardine, Tim Kennedy) were against fighters with explosive stopping power.

Rockhold is a smart fighter though and it’s unlikely that he’ll engage Belfort on his terms.  Belfort himself has made a living on waiting for the slightest crack in his opponents’ defences before blitzing them, so the first round or two will be a feeling out process for both men.  Look for Rockhold to shoot for takedowns and do just enough to influence the scorecards.

Belfort showed good endurance hanging in there with Jon Jones, but that fight wasn’t as fast paced as this one will likely be and he didn’t have to cut any weight before that match.  As the action goes into the championship rounds, Rockhold should be able to pull ahead and even possibly finish if Belfort makes a mistake.  Either way, the stage is set for Rockhold to make an impressive debut and prove himself worthy of the main event.

 

The pick: Rockhold

Alexander Lee is an MMA enthusiast and contributing writer to MMACanada.net.  You can follow him on twitter @AlexanderKLee

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