The UFC makes its first trip back to Brazil in 2014 and they're bringing with them a hugely important middleweight scrap as the headliner. Former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi returns to the cage after a long layoff to face rising middleweight contender Lyoto Machida in what could be a bout for a shot at the title. In addition, Jacare Souza and Francis Carmont face off in a bout with similar stakes.
Will Mousasi earn the most significant win of his UFC career or will Machida find a way to get another UFC title shot? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC Fight Night 36: Machida vs. Mousasi
Where: Arena Jaragua, Jaragua do Sul, Brazil
When: Saturday, the seven-fight Fight Pass card starts at 7:30 p.m. ET and the five-fight main card starts on Fox Sports 1 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Anything's possible, but I just don't see Mousasi as the guy who can crowd Machida, take away his space and force him to exchange in close quarters or fight off the takedown. I see Mousasi matching Machida's patience and paying for it by being countered. Mousasi seems ultra confident and chomping at the bit to get back to action. I also don't hold Machida to be untouchable in this bout, literally or figuratively. But more often than not, Mousasi excels when opposition take the fight to him and he makes them pay for it. Unless he's got a trick up his sleeve, I suspect Mousasi's going to be frustrated in the end.
Is Carmont really the guy to dictate striking at distance? Maybe. Is he the guy to control the takedown and top control for extended enough periods of the round to secure the judges favor? I have a hard time seeing that. If the fight stays on the feet, perhaps Carmont has a fighting chance. Jacare is a rapidly improving striker, but even if we grant somehow Carmont can land at kicking range to keep the Brazilian at bay, can he do it long enough in the 15-minute time frame to take the entire bout?
Sato is a hugely experienced veteran for a fighter in his twenties and has a decent submission game, but this fight screams 'rebound' for Silva. The Brazilian should be able to fight off the takedown and wear Sato out on the feet or even in top control if he so chooses. Sato won't go away easy and has a wealth of experience, but there's nothing about his resume or documented ability that tells us he's going to give Silva a lot of problems.
Andrade is a horse and could tag Musoke clean as Musoke was rocked by Alessio Sakara when they fought in the Swede's UFC debut. Andrade is certainly capable of putting his lights out if Musoke simply trades in the pocket. But if he can stay off the fence and mix up his offense, he has more offensive tools to work with with a more athletically dynamic skill set. I'll take the upset here.
If there's any bout on this main card that appears as if it could be a squash match, it's this one. It'd be wrong to deny Ogle has improved, but so what? Oliveira has as well and was already better to begin with. Oliveira has been flaky at times, but against someone with a more limited and predictable offense, the Brazilian should positively shine here.
From the preliminary card:
Cristiano Marcello < Joe Proctor
Rodrigo Damm > Ivan Jorge
Francisco Trinaldo > Jesse Ronson
Iuri Alcantara > Wilson Reis
Felipe Arantes > Maximo Blanco
Ildemar Alcantara > Albert Tumenov
Douglas Silva de Andrade > Zubair Tuhgov