The UFC returns to Brazil this Saturday. Notably, in a smaller town, one it has never been to before. It's part of its efforts to both reach new areas of Brazil without tiring out traditional, large markets.
Despite the new physical location, the UFC is going back to a tried and true method: it is using a card with a healthy mix of UFC veterans and up-and-comers from within the Brazilian regional scene. Oh, and Vitor Belfort is headlining.
There's another commonality with its last Brazil show: middleweight title shot stakes are huge here. Despite being drubbed by Anderson Silva, Belfort is close to a title shot. The same can be said for his opponent Luke Rockhold. While no title shot is promised, there are no obvious contenders above either with the exception of Chris Weidman.
Can Strikeforce's last middleweight champion earn the UFC title shot he's been desperately craving or will Belfort get one more chance to wear UFC gold?
What: UFC on FX : Belfort vs. Rockhold
Where: Arena Jaragura, Jaragua, Brazil
When: Saturday, the one-fight Facebook card starts at 5:30 p.m. ET, the six-fight FUEL TV card kicks off at 6 p.m. ET and the four-fight FX fights start at 9 p.m. ET.
Predictions for the four main card fights airing Friday on FX are below.
I suspect Belfort is going to light Rockhold up early. I don't mean to suggest it'll look like the first round of Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin, but Belfort is going to land and land often. The problem, ultimately, is Rockhold is too tough and has the stamina to stay in Belfort's face every single round. By the time the third comes around, his pressure is going to wilt the TRT-infused Brazilian.
One has to admire Camozzi's courage in not only taking a bout on short notice, but doing so against a competitor as respected and capable as Jacare. And hey, if Camozzi can pull off the upset, he'll achieve the signature win of his career with all the trimmings that came along with such an achievement. The problem, insofar as I can tell, is the probability of that happening is exceedingly low. Souza isn't just better everywhere. He's a vastly different grade of grappler and athlete. This is easily Jacare's fight to lose.
This is one hell of a scrap where both guys have a ton of skills in virtually every department with the gameness to match. They're both experienced, talented athletes. It's hard to go wrong picking either guy. For me, I'll side with the Brazilian. His improvement is nothing short of sensational. Dos Anjos' offensive wrestling is the real deal Holyfield at this point. His submissions and scrambling have almost always been there and now he can strike in combination. Dunham is no slouch himself, but over time I see the American ultimately reacting to what dos Anjos throws at him. That should be enough to earn the win.
Pick: dos Anjos
I'm not particularly overblown by Natal. He's moderately well-rounded without having any egregious holes in his game. Zeferino is a suffocating, aggressive grappler, which could be problematic for Sapo. But all things being equal, he's got enough submission and takedown defense to take Zeferino out of his game.
From the preliminary card:
Hacran Dias < Nik Lentz
Francisco Trinaldo > Mike Rio
Gleison Tibau > John Cholish
Paulo Thiago > Michel Prazeres
Yuri Alcantara > Iliarde Santos
Fabio Maldonado > Roger Hollett
John Lineker < Azamat Gashimov
Jussier Formiga < Chris Cariaso
Lucas Martins > Jeremy Larsen