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UFC Fight Night 77 predictions

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC returns to Brazil with one of the more decorated and accomplished Brazilian MMA fighters, albeit a controversial one in Vitor Belfort. He'll take on another pioneer in Dan Henderson, this meeting being their third. The card also has an important light heavyweight contest as well as an array of rising contenders.

What: UFC Fight Night 77 (UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3)

Where: Ginásio do Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo, Brazil

When: Saturday, the three-fight preliminary card kicks off on Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight preliminary card starts on Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. and the six-fight main card begins at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson

Who knows with this one? Henderson's ability to take a shot is badly diminished, but of late, he's looked better. That said, it's been against relatively accommodating opposition. Belfort's looked physically like a different person, but still showed characteristic hand speed against Chris Weidman. Henderson, for all of his Olympic credentials, also isn't the leg-attacking MMA wrestler Weidman is. What does that mean for how they match up? Part of me thinks Belfort has just enough speed left to catch a less mobile Henderson. In the end, though, I can't get over how low energy and disinterested Belfort looks. That's not normally anything I'd take too seriously, but it gives me a bad feeling just the same.

Pick: Henderson

Glover Teixeira vs. Patrick Cummins

This is a very tough call. A pick here essentially rides on what you think of either fighter. In other words, has Cummins finally advanced to the next stage where he can do more than shoot a basic double from the outside? Is he now a guy who still relies on his wrestling, but has made his set-ups much deadlier? Maybe. Or is it the case that the Teixeira we saw against Phil Davis was an aberrant performance? The truth is we don't know, at least not right now. There's a strong argument to be made in either direction, but I've seen too much excellent takedown defense from the Brazilian to overlook it.

Pick: Teixeira

Thomas Almeida vs. Anthony Birchak

Birchak has guts and has better counters on the ground. Almeida also has a troubling degree of absorbing damage. Unless he makes some changes, that's going to cost him down the road. As for now, though, I believe he'll pass this test. I expect Almeida to take some damage early, but adjust off of his jab en route to figuring out Bichak's movements and striking patterns. From there, one way or the other, he's going to close the show.

Pick: Almeida

Alex Oliveira vs. Piotr Hallmann

Hallmann will surprise you in spots. His takedown defense is actually pretty good. He is gritty and has the ability to rally late in a fight. He's moderately well rounded, but plays to his strengths. Oliveira, for all his strengths, is a bit green and will launch strong if unrefined offense maneuvers. Still, I like Oliveira's pressure and his ability to be first even as the fight changes phases. His body type is good for jiu-jitsu, his length is excellent for striking at range and his gameness is fairly noteworthy. That should be enough.

Pick: Oliveira

Gilbert Burns vs. Rashid Magomedov

This is a really tough one. The conventional wisdom is that Magomedov is going to stuff Burns' takedowns and pop him at range to either take a decision or score a TKO finish. There's admittedly plenty of reason to think that's true. Burns has shown a propensity to feast on the over matched, but struggle against those who refuse to die easily. Still, there's a part of me that thinks Burns athleticism and ability to turn strikes into takedowns has improved rapidly. There's no doubt it'll be close, but I'm betting the Brazilian has turned the corner.

Pick: Burns

Fabio Maldonado vs. Corey Anderson

My guess is Maldonado is going to do the bit where he doesn't care so much about defense and allows the fight to slip away - despite scoring reasonably well - where the opponent stays just a step ahead of him. I'm not that high on Beastin' 25/8, but I'm even less high on Maldonado's decisions.

Pick: Anderson

From the preliminary card:

Gleison Tibau def. Abel Trujillo
Johnny Case def. Yan Cabral
Clay Guida def. Thiago Tavares
Chas Skelly def. Kevin Souza
Viscardi Andrade vs. Gasan Umalatov
Pedro Munhoz def. Jimmie Rivera
Matheus Nicolau Pereira def. Bruno Rodrigues

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