Well, it's not Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo, but it's not a terrible substitute. The UFC heads back to Brazil and to Rio de Janeiro and they're bringing the featherweight champion with them. While a fight against Pettis would've been preferable, the Korean Zombie is hardly a choice to sneeze at.
Will Chan Sung Jung overcome a long layoff to give the best fighter in his division a run? Is it time for Phil Davis to get over the hump and earn a signature win at light heavyweight? Will Lyoto Machida become the next number one contender at 205 pounds? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC 163: Aldo vs. Korean Zombie
Where: The HSBC Arena, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Saturday, the two-fight Facebook card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FX card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight main card starts on pay-per-view at 10 p.m.
The only way this gets interesting - and by that I mean competitive - is if it goes to the later rounds where Aldo sometimes coasts. Early on, I see Jung getting lit on fire by the striking of Aldo. He's going to get jabbed and leg kicked to death. The question is how much of that will lead to an early demise for Jung. If he withstands it, he can mount an attack late. If he doesn't, well, that's the end of that. Either way, the only likely method of victory for Jung here is a decision win. I have a hard time believing he's going to stop Aldo at any point.
I see Davis getting frustrated and picked apart on the outside here. His level change to shot is really quick, but unlike Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Machida isn't going to exchange often enough to get the set up Davis needs. Machida's going to bide his time on the outside, landing occasional strike after occasional strike, frustrating Davis the entire time. If you like fights that are non-stop action, I'm afraid this one might be disappointing to you.
There isn't much tape on Santos. From what I can gather, he has relatively good, quick striking, decent power and questionable stamina. Ferreira did well on the first season of TUF: Brazil and looked ok in his UFC debut. I'll side by default with the guy who we know more about.
This is a tough call. One wonders what Leites really has at this stage in his game. He avenged the only loss on his record that he earned on the regional scene. Watson, meanwhile, has had some relatively strong showings going 1-1 inside the Octagon. The question obviously is takedown defense for Watson. To the extent he can execute, it's his fight to lose. Perhaps Leites is rejuvenated, too, having polished up portions of his game while he was away. Either way, both Brad Tavares and Stanislav Nedkov were able to take Watson down five times each in their bouts. That's just a little too much control for my comfort.
John Lineker vs. Jose Maria
'Sem Chance' has a nice record as far as streaks go and obvious submission prowess. One also wonders about the recklessness of Lineker creating openings. Ditto on the defensive wrestling, something Louis Gaudinot was able to exploit. That seems tailor made on paper to give Maria a good chance here, but I'm willing to bet Lineker has tied up a few loose ends. Maria will make it interesting until Lineker takes over.
From the preliminary card:
Vinny Magalhaes > Anthony Perosh
Amanda Nunes < Sheila Gaff
Sergio Moraes > Neil Magny
Ian McCall > Iliarde Santos
Rani Yahya > Josh Clopton
Ednaldo Oliveira > Francimar Barroso
Viscardi Andrade < Bristol Marunde