Another month, another show in Brazil, this time to cap off the second season of 'The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil'. In the finals, a jiu-jitsu ace fills in for an injured competitor against a hard-hitting upstart. In the main event, it's a rematch between two MMA heavyweight greats who first competed against one another way back in 2006.
Can Fabricio Werdum even the score against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC on FUEL TV 10
Where: Paulo Sarasate Arena, Fortaleza, Brazil
When: Saturday, the seven-fight Facebook card starts at 4:30 p.m. ET and the six-fight FUEL card starts at 8 p.m.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum
If you watch the first encounter between these two and compare them to today, the former version of themselves is almost unrecognizable. That's especially true for Werdum, whose improvement as a top MMA heavyweight has been as steady as it is commendable. It's that improvement that will make the difference in this second encounter.
Neither fighter is particularly young, but Werdum is the younger of the two and has fewer MMA miles on him as well. So what about their skills? On the ground, Nogueira won't have much luck against a jiu-jitsu black belt leagues above him even if he makes up the gap with his suited-for-MMA grappling. The feet is where things could be interesting. Werdum's striking is massively improved and he's turned into something of a serious threat in the clinch. Nogueira will look to move forward, pressure Werdum to fight backwards while 'Minotauro' boxes from the outside.
All in all, I like Werdum here. He can probably keep things relatively level standing and if he wants to take it to the ground, he has a clear advantage there (something hardcore Nogeuira fans will deny, but is true). This one goes the distance, but Werdum gets his revenge.
William Macario vs. Leonardo Santos
Santos is filing in because the rightful finalist was injured. Obviously his jiu-jitsu pedigree is superb, but that won't stop Macario. Expect the slugger to do what he does best: end this early and violently.
Thiago Silva vs. Rafael Cavalcante
Part of me feels like Silva is the more well-rounded fighter and for whatever reason, the more dangerous one, too. But he gets hit a lot. He's developed good recovery instincts and has leveraged his defensive jiu-jitsu to keep him out of trouble in the past. But I like Feijao here. With the appropriate strategy of pressure and takedown defense - while staying off the fence or in close quarters - he should be able to win the majority of striking exchanges. And by pressing the action, he can wear down Silva's somewhat lackluster cardio.
If Yoel Romero can't take Feijao down, Silva most certainly cannot. This one is staying on the feet. I like Feijao's chances.
Erick Silva vs. Jason High
Jason High might be my favorite fighter on Twitter. He genuinely seems like a stellar person and is a hell of a fighter. I worry about his ability to win this fight, however. High has very good MMA wrestling, meaning his transition from strikes to takedowns (and back) is quick and practiced. But Silva has the ability to score damage in virtually every phase of the fight. His takedown defense is good enough and his ferocity allows his offense to breathe in every conceivable space a fight can occupy. Defense against the Silva in all phases of the game is absolutely essential. So is dominant positional control. I'm going to side with High because he's criminally underrated, but he'll have to be at his best to make it happen.
Daniel Sarafian vs. Eddie Mendez
I was less than impressed by Sarafian's bout with C.B. Dollaway, but his pressure early will be the difference maker. This is Mendez' first fight on the big stage and it's not clear what abilities the Southwest regional fighter really can use at this level. I'll go with the guy who is over the Octagon jitters.
Rony Jason vs. Mike Wilkinson
Long story short, Jason is being given a bit of the Roger Huerta treatment. Wilkinson is a good fighter recently pulled up from the regional ranks and used during TUF: Smashes, and Jason has all sorts of issues, but there's no overarching reason one can point to that indicates Jason should lose this.
From the preliminary card:
Rafael Assuncao > Vaughan Lee
Ronny Markes > Derek Brunson
Godofredo Pepey < Felipe Ariantes
Ildemar Alcantara > Leandro Silva
Rodrigo Damm > Mizuto Hirota
Caio Magalhaes < Karlos Vemola
Antonio Brago Neto < Anthony Smith