A lot of people are very disappointed in this card. They see names like Stipe Miocic and Demian Maia and then they see their opponents and they can't help but say "What the hell?" Have you heard of the injury bug? Tommy Toe Hold does a pretty good job detailing his devilishness. I'm not going to promise fireworks since the last time I did that the fights ended up being stinkers (trying to cover my own ass now rather than sell you on anything). The way I look at it, if you are reading this you intend to watch anyway.
Story Thus Far: Lots of context needed here. Yes, Maldonado fights at light heavyweight. Yes, even if he didn't this fight would be a mismatch. Most of you are aware that Miocic was originally supposed to fight the former champ Junior dos Santos here, but a broken hand less than a month before the bout was set to take place required a quick fill in. And with the bout taking place in Brazil and the difficulties that can come from obtaining a visa, it narrowed the options down to a Brazilian. I'm not the happiest about it either, but Maldonado stepped up on the short notice at a weight class above him and at least we have a fight. Deal with it.
Miocic turned a lot of heads when he beat Roy Nelson last summer as he not only beat the KO artist, he dominated him. A similar victory over Gabriel Gonzaga since then has reinforced the notion that Miocic could be a serious contender in a division badly in need of them. Admittedly this fight won't do much if anything to bolster his position, but exposure and headlining a card never hurts to have on your resume. If he ends up winning of course.
Maldonado forever earned a place in the annals of the UFC for being on the receiving ends of one of the most brutal beatdowns seen in a sanctioned match against Glover Teixeira almost two years ago. He wouldn't give up though and forced the referee to stop the match and even landed some nice shots of his own. He has won three in a row since then, but Joey Beltran would be considered the most noteworthy of the three and he isn't even in the company anymore. Maldonado wants bigger names though and this represents his chance at that.
Fighting Style: Miocic was a collegiate wrestler at Cleveland St. but hasn't utilized his wrestling base a whole lot in the UFC outside of his debut. That would likely be attributed to the fact he has faced some solid ground grapplers (like Gonzaga and Nelson), but it needs to be remembered that Miocic is capable of going there. He has become more reputed for his boxing as he stayed just outside of Nelson's range while picking him apart. An 80' reach will help you do that. It wasn't just jabs he landed either as he threw a lot of combinations with hooks and straight shots that had a lot of oomph behind them.
Maldonado is a former boxer and throws beautiful combinations together. He doesn't have a whole lot of power behind them, but he throws in great volume with great combinations (the least amount of significant strikes he has landed outside of the Teixeira fight is 78) and can wear down his opponent that way. You wouldn't really guess it by looking at him, but he can go all day and he often uses his cardio against his opponents. But his grappling is almost non-existent. Put him on his back and he is as helpless as a turtle. But his resilience is apparent as he hasn't been submitted in the UFC yet despite the game plan on him being highly apparent. He has developed a decent sprawl, but can be overpowered by larger opponents.
What to Expect: That last comment I said about Maldonado being overpowered by larger opponents? Yep, that applies here. I can't say what Maldonado will weigh in at, but I'm sure Miocic will have 20 pounds on him at the very least and won't be drained from a weight cut. Miocic hasn't shown a lot of submission abilities, but his GNP is effective and he'll go at Maldonado all day with this. Lots of ground time in this fight.
When it is spent on the feet, Maldonado will have to overcome Miocic's range. His boxing experience means that he will be able to do so at times and make for highly exciting exchanges. Look for it to be a wash for the most part as Miocic has more power and seems to improve his boxing each time out. Miocic is also more willing to mix in kicks.
Expect Maldonado to get stronger as the match goes... at least through the third round. He really fed off of the crowd against Gian Villante and stormed back the last two rounds to take the match (Villante's stamina had something to do with that, but not everything). But taking a 5 round match with less than a months notice? Tricky proposition.
X-Factors: The late notice for Maldonado really comes into play with it being a five rounder. And anytime heavyweights are expected to go five endurance needs to be brought up. Miocic's only loss came on a foreign card... that he headlined. Deja vu?
Who Will Win: I would ever so slightly consider Maldonado for the upset if he didn't take the five rounder on short notice. I really think that will be too much for him to overcome. When you factor in Miocic's wrestling abilities and it pretty much seems a foregone conclusion. Maldonado is tough though, so he'll keep things interesting by hanging in there. Miocic by Decision
Antonio Carlos Jr. (3-0) vs. Vitor Miranda (9-3), Heavyweight
Story Thus Far: Carlos has been on the radar of fight pundits for quite some time as he was named the #1 BJJ Fighter to Watch by Gracie magazine back in 2011. He didn't make his transition to MMA until this past year and considering that overall he is still new to the sport, its obvious that the 24 year old still has plenty of room to grow and improve. Scary thought as he had little trouble getting through the solid competition on TUF Brazil.
Miranda has been around the sport for over a decade, though he did have an extended period of inactivity after his debut. At 36, he isn't going to develop much more if at all at this stage of his career. But he has experience against some tough opponents, including UFC members Maldonado and Guto Inocente (who account for all three of his loses). Winning the TUF tournament would at least put a firm stamp on his career.
Fighting Style: You already know what I'm going to say about Carlos. He is a fantastic grappler and proves it every time out. Only one of his victories on the show were by submission, but all three of his victories before going on the show were subs. For someone so new to the striking aspect, his boxing technique is quite good. I didn't say great, but I have no doubt that he is going to get better. If you saw his first two victories on the show without any knowledge of his grappling, you'd swear he was a striker first. You can tell he has put in a lot of hard work.
Miranda is probably a bit more-well rounded overall, but what would you expect when comparing two fighters who made their debuts 10 years apart? Miranda showed he has a deep bag of techniques in the semifinal against Rick Monstro using knees from the clinch and powerful punches after using a lot of kicks in the previous two bouts on the show. In other words, his time competing in kickboxing really shows through. What may be more impressive is the beating that this guy can take. Monstro hit him with some hard shots and he kept coming. His BJJ is basic, but that shouldn't be taken as an insult.
What to Expect: This is a classic striker vs. grappler. Miranda will certainly want to keep things standing. Expect him to pepper Carlos with a lot of leg kicks early from a distance so Carlos won't be able to grab his leg and take him to the ground. He'll be hoping to test Carlos' gas tank as he hasn't gone past the first round of a fight yet. If Carlos' legs are hurting and he gets tired, he'll have a hard time closing the distance to shoot for a takedown or initiate a trip. But if Carlos get the fight to the ground, he'll dominate the position if not obtain a submission.
Its no secret that Carlos wants the fight on the ground. He seemed to be most effective getting the fight there from the clinch as he did so against Pezao. But the clinch is also where Miranda does some of his most effective work with his knees. The fight will likely be won and lost from here and deserves to have the most attention paid to it in the lead up to the fight by both participants.
Miranda isn't a classic counter puncher, but he is more apt to do so than Carlos. Carlos could get frustrated by the distance that Miranda puts between them and rush in only to be countered by Miranda. Patience will be needed by the youngster and his openings will come. What might be the bigger question is if he recognizes them when they arrive.
X-Factors: How much has Carlos improved upon his striking in the interim? Remember he is still relatively new to the sport. I don't know how much the bright lights will affect him either. He has experience in competitive BJJ at the highest levels... but you don't get the same crowds there as you do in MMA. Miranda has never fought at this level either, but he does have quite a bit more experience. He is less likely to get jitters.
Who Will Win: I'm fairly torn on this one. I could see Carlos surprising Miranda with his striking and getting a KO, but I could also see Miranda using his deeper bag of striking tricks to overwhelm the youngster. I'm going to say it is youths turn on this one... but I'm taking the safer method. Carlos by Decision
Story Thus Far: Alves had been pegged by a number of people to be someone to keep an eye over the next little while as the 23-year old prospect had been blowing away middling regional veterans the way a hot prospect should. He may have fast-tracked his path to the UFC by taking the TUF route, which isn't a bad thing. Training out of X-Gym, he works alongside the likes of Jacare Souza and Erick Silva, so you know he is being pushed at his camp.
Alexandre (Lyoto) isn't nearly as touted as Alves and hasn't faced even the middling caliber talent that Alves has. That doesn't mean that the talent isn't there. He is only 25 and made his pro debut less than 4 years ago, though all but one of his fights have come since 2012. He trains under Thiago Tavares, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as Tavares is a solid UFC veteran. But he would likely be better served going to a larger camp with more veterans to either push him or teach him.
Fighting Style: Watching Alves, the first impression that you get of him is that he is a striker, which is very true. But its funny to note that he only has one KO/TKO victory. Nonetheless, I'm sure many more will come. But boxing is not his strong suit... so he isn't a traditional striker. He has some devastating body kicks from the outside that I'm sure he can transfer to his opponents head and if you've been watching the show, you saw saw his brutal knees from the clinch. He's had those in his arsenal long before the show. The guillotine choke is his favorite to go after (again, had it before the show). Working with Sonnen helped to shore up his wrestling game which wasn't bad, but certainly not a strength. We'll have to see how that goes.
Lyoto is another one whom you could say isn't the best boxer and relies on kicks. He is actually a lot more kick happy than Alves and prefers to keep the fight on the outside as opposed to getting in close range. What would you expect from a Karateka? He doesn't push the pace at all though as he lets his opponents come at him and dictate the pace, which isn't always a bad thing, but is more difficult to turn into an advantage when you fight at higher levels. He'll take what he can get with submissions as he doesn't create his own and prefers to utilize GNP, but the GNP often opens up the sub and he uses them well in conjunction with one another.
What to Expect: Alves will be dictating the pace the whole way. It didn't require these two to be teammates to figure out that Lyoto requires space to get his offense going and Alves will have no intention of providing that and will look to lock up the clinch for his patented knees. Lyoto is far from helpless in the clinch, but seeing that he won't have a strength advantage he is going to have a very difficult time stopping Alves from busting him up from there.
Alves has a tendency to be reckless in going for submissions, but that did pay off for him on the show. If there is a scramble, keep an eye on Alves locking in a choke or armbar... whatever he can get his hands on. Lyoto should be aware of this and realize that this might be his best chance to gain an advantage over Alves. If Alves fails to get the sub, he will likely find himself at the disadvantage.
I have no expectation of either of these guys wanting to try out the wrestling techniques that Sonnen taught them. They have their base and would be stupid to try and change that. What Sonnen taught them is likely to be used more for defensive purposes. With that said, if Alves is going to be the aggressor I would hope that Lyoto is brushing up on what Sonnen taught him. I wonder how much they worked on wall walking?
X-Factors: Lyoto's previous level of competition worries me a lot. Its likely the three toughest matches he has had were on the show. He may have more fights than Alves too, but Alves has fought for the larger Jungle Fights promotion. Both could end up affected by the bright lights, but I'd feel more comfortable saying Alves avoids the jitters. Alves balls out style could lead to him gassing if the fight lasts a while.
Who Will Win: It feels like it would require a minor miracle for Lyoto to pull this one out. He is too one dimensional in his offense and though he has shown toughness and grit in pulling out the victories he did on the show, Alves is a beast who looks to hang around the organization for quite a long time. Alves by KO 1st Round
Story Thus Far: Again, a little context is needed before explaining why this mismatch of a fight is occurring. Maia was originally supposed to be fighting Mike Pierce, but that fight didn't quite come to fruition. So rather than remove Maia from the card, Yakovlev stepped up from fighting Yan Cabral on an earlier card to take on Maia.
Now that that is out of the way, Maia came flying out of the gates on fire upon his weight drop to welterweight, scoring three straight highly impressive victories, including sending long time welterweight staple Jon Fitch out of the organization. He has now lost two straight to Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald, finding himself in great need of a victory. At 36, his window to receive a title shot could very well be closed, but he is still an elite grappler and a sound test for anyone.
Yakovlev is completely thought to be in over his head, but he accepted the fight and will be given the chance to prove everyone wrong. He isn't a pushover by any means and scored a victory over Paul Daley in his last bout, but this is about as difficult of an MMA debut that you can receive. But remember that Junior dos Santos was unknown facing reputed Fabricio Werdum in his debut. It worked out well for him.
Fighting Style: At one point during his middleweight stint, Maia fell in love with his striking and forgot to play to his strength of grappling. It may be good for him at this point as his striking has developed into more than serviceable, but he'll still be dominated by those who are technically sound. Everyone knows his BJJ credentials are out of this world though and he is often considered to be the best pure submission artist in the UFC by many. Forget about trying to submit Maia and the Gods be with you if he takes your back. Remember that this guy out-Fitched the aforementioned Fitch.
Yakovlev has some adaptive qualities, but nothing that will overwhelm his opponents. He prefers to get the fight to the ground and is smooth at getting in the clinch or his opponents back to get them down. Far from an overpowering wrestler, he does have some good technique and can score with single and double leg takedowns. But if he is unable to do that he shows the ability to stay on the outside and throw kicks to goad his opponent to start being the aggressor and swinging at him so that he can use his ability to counter.
What to Expect: Maia has a tendency to want to try out his striking abilities against those that he believes he holds a definitive advantage over. Look for him to do that here. Yakovlev knows how good of a grappler Maia is. Everyone involved in MMA knows. So Maia is going to get free reign to choose where he takes the fight and I'm sure he'd love to see where is standup is. At least for a little while.
Yakovlev is likely to avoid the clinch here as Maia gets most of his takedowns from there as he gets most of his takedowns off of trips or sweeps, but has a double leg too if that is all that is available. Yakovlev doesn't want any of that. He'll be throwing a lot of kicks to and try to get Maia to play his counter punching game.
Maia's favorite place to be is on his opponents back to sink in a RNC. After he has his fun with the standup, he'll try to end it as he knows the best statement he can make in this fight is a finish. But that doesn't mean he is incapable of other types of subs. The guy is considered one of the best for a reason!
X-Factors: Normally I'd point to Octagon jitters, but Yakovlev is a veteran and was ballsy enough to accept Maia for his UFC debut that I think he'll be just fine. Maia does have a tendency to gas if the fight goes for a while, especially if he works hard to get a finish from the start.
Who Will Win: This is way too much for Yakovlev to handle for his debut. He'll be a solid addition to the roster and capable of walking away with some wins over a fair amount in the division... but not here. The only question is how will Maia win. Maia by Submission 2nd Round
Story Thus Far: Jason may or may not have gotten lucky in his last bout when he floored Steven Siler in March with what may or may not have been an early ref stoppage. Either way, Jason is back on the winning track and the UFC would like to see one of the original TUF Brazil winners find a measurable degree of success. In other words... the UFC is trying to set him up for success. Even if they weren't, Jason has the talent to break into the rankings by the end of the year.
Peralta has had a similar road to Jason in owning a 3-1, 1 NC UFC record while beating guys who are largely near the bottom of the heap within the division. Actually, none of the guys he has beat are still in the UFC except for Estevan Payan... who owns exactly zero victories in the Octagon. Peralta has shown talent to do more and this match will be more telling of his abilities than any of the others have been thus far.
Fighting Style: Though not the smartest approach for someone with his skills, Jason is more of a brawler than he is anything else. Clearly he has power in his punches as he has two KO/TKO victories in the UFC, but it feels like he wastes his 73' reach by failing to utilize a jab or other methods to keep distance. Well... he does throw some solid kicks, but my point is he could be even better than he is as he doesn't show the best defense. His grappling I won't poke holes at as he is very smooth off of his back and has made strides to improve his wrestling. He doesn't go for many takedowns, but he prefers to use trips to get his opponent down if he wants.
Peralta is a lot more technically sound than Jason is and if you've ever seen his match with Jason Young (all 23 seconds of it), you know what I mean. He mixes up shots to the body and head and will use attacking one or the other to open up holes in his opponents defense. He throws in high volume, but also tends to get hit a lot. One bad habit is he will get frustrated by a lack of action and wade in throwing punches without aim to initiate something and he'll get hit as a result. Little is noteworthy about his ground game as he isn't bad, but isn't exactly good either. He has shown a good sprawl though.
What to Expect: Sean Shelby (the UFC matchmaker for the lighter divisions) knew exactly what he was doing when he put these two together. These two love to throw and don't mind taking a hit in return and will do so to the delight of the fans in the audience and at home. Both have power in their hands to so it isn't likely that someone gets submitted or this goes the distance.
If someone decides that they want to fight with some intelligence, Jason is going to be the favorite as he has more well-rounded tools at his disposal. I would do that if I were him... but considering I don't fight I probably shouldn't impose myself in that situation. I'll shut up about that now. But seriously, Peralta has never been KO'd so Jason should look to take the fight to the ground if he feels himself wilting.
I like the clinch work that I've seen from Peralta as of late and I feel he has been improving in this area. Jason hasn't shown any initiative to take the fight there (though I have a hankering he is adept himself) so Peralta will look to take it there whether he is in trouble or not.
X-Factors: Peralta seems to have a short gas tank. Not that it is on the level of Frank Mir post-motorcycle accident... but he has looked tired in the third round. I don't believe his traveling overseas will affect him much as he has done so multiple times before.
Who Will Win: If Jason hadn't beat Sam Sicilia (who has some similarities to Peralta), I'd be inclined to pick Peralta. But Jason was willing enough to slug it out and get dirty when needed to beat the brawler. He'll do the same here with Peralta thanks to his deeper tool bag. Jason by TKO 2nd Round
Record for last Card: 6-6 Record for Year: 107-69-1