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Corey Anderson torn whether to go mano a mano with Fabio Maldonado

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

SAO PAULO -- The Ultimate Fighter 19 light heavyweight winner Corey Anderson wants to impress in his first trip to Brazil.

Replacing injured Tom Lawlor on 18 days’ notice at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 77 in Sao Paulo, Anderson loves the idea of facing an exciting fighter like Fabio Maldonado at the Ibirapuera gymnasium.

"Fabio is a warrior, man," Anderson told MMAFighting.com. "Everybody knows he doesn’t have much wrestling, he can take a beating on the ground but when he stands up he’s ready to go to war. You gotta respect a man like that.

"You can’t ever think you’re going to enter the fight and beat him because he doesn’t have any urgency. He gets punched and it doesn’t look like he’s breaking, doesn’t look like he’s bothered, he doesn’t look affected. He may be bloody and cut, but he’s still coming hard, at 100 miles an hour. You gotta love that. The sport loves it, I love it, and you need to respect it. I’m looking forward to go to war and just gotta do what I do, just adapt and adjust and listen to my coaches."

And even though Anderson knows the smartest strategy against Maldonado would probably be just to go for takedowns and avoid a stand-up war, part of him just wants to enter the Octagon and test himself against the Brazilian boxer.

"I got two thoughts when people ask me that," he said. "One part of me says ‘ok, I believe I’m the alpha male, I’m the man’, and every man wants to go mano a mano, stand toe to toe. That’s what you want to do. But at the same time, is that smart? Is that good for your career? You’re going to take a lot of punches, a lot of cuts, a lot of blows, so, smartwise, as a mixed martial artist that want to make it to the top, I think it would be smart to go out there and mix it up, punches, kicks, takedown, jiu-jitsu, get up, back to the same thing, throw more hands, more kicks, more combos. But, like I said, I got two minds, like a devil and an angel on my shoulder telling me different things to do."

Ranked at No. 14 in the UFC light heavyweight division after a decision victory over Jan Błachowicz in September, Anderson hopes to be among the 10 best fighters of the division by the end of the year.

"A think a win over him puts me in the top 10," said Anderson. "My goal coming into this year was to get in the top 15 and I made that, and now, with this opportunity to beat him, I may get to the top 10 spot, especially with ‘Rampage’ going through his legal troubles. He won’t be able to fight a little bit and it might move him down, so put me at 10 or maybe nine depending on how this fight goes."

Depending on how the fight goes, if he’s able to get the finish he’s hoping for, Anderson is interested in facing former 205-pound champion Quinton Jackson.

"The day I got this fight, I had just posted on Instagram, not calling out ‘Rampage’, but asking for a fight against ‘Rampage’. I’d love this fight," he said. "Every champion on his way to the top had to take out a legend, and the legend I want to take out is ‘Rampage’. I feel it’s my time, I’m on the rise. I might not get a title shot within the next year, but that right there proves I’m capable of doing good in this weight class."

Two and a half years into the sport and winner of six of seven professional fights, Anderson believes his destiny is to become UFC champion one day.

"I believe I can beat anybody in this division with the right training and the right time," Anderson said. "I’m here because I believe I can be the best."