Roan Carneiro returned to the welterweight division with a victory, and he plans on scoring his first finish as a 170-pounder in the UFC when he steps inside the Octagon to take on Ryan LaFlare at Brooklyn’s UFC 208 Saturday night.
“Jucao” signed with the UFC in 2015 to replace injured Caio Magalhaes against middleweight Mark Munoz, and pulled the upset victory with a first-round finish. He lost his second UFC bout though, and decided to go back to welterweight.
"When the Mark Munoz fight was offered, I was coming off five wins in a row and the win got me ranked in the middleweight division, so I couldn't come back to welterweight after that,” Carneiro told MMA Fighting. "I accepted the challenges. Derek Brunson beat me, but I believe I made a mistake in that fight, I was too aggressive, and he got the opportunity and TKO'ed me. But I’m back to my division now.”
Carneiro, who started his camp for UFC 208 at 200 pounds, sees advantages and disadvantages of competing at welterweight.
"Honestly, there’s a good and a bad side in this situation,” he said. "The good side of fighting at middleweight is that I didn't cut much weight, but the bad side is that I was fighting bigger guys. At welterweight, I have to cut more weight, but I’m as strong and as powerful as my opponents."
In his return to his original weight class, the Brazilian veteran defeated Kenny Robertson via split decision, and now looks to avoid another decision against LaFlare, who hasn’t fought since Dec. 2015.
"I don’t believe in ring rust,” Carneiro said of his opponent’s long layoff. "Ryan is a wrestler and he’s used to competing all the time, just like me in jiu-jitsu. I don’t think he has a disadvantage because of that, but I do feel I have an advantage because I have more experience."
LaFlare beat Mike Pierce by decision in his last UFC appearance, bouncing back from his first career loss to Demian Maia nine months earlier. And Carneiro, who sees his ground game as one of the secrets to get the win in Brooklyn, took a good look at LaFlare’s performance against Maia in Brazil, when the New York native lost via unanimous decision.
"He’s a good wrestler, and he’s getting more confident in his striking,” "Jucao" said. "He’s a well-rounded fighter, and that made me more motivated for this fight. His only loss was to Demian Maia, who’s finishing everybody know, beating everybody up. And he wasn’t submitted. There’s no better name for me to fight right now."
"I think it’s Ryan’s merit, not Demian’s demerit,” he continued. "He defended well. He’s a tough guy, great cardio. Even though he was dominated on the ground, he defended well.
"But I see holes in his game. Not that Demian did something wrong, (LaFlare) just defended really well. But I see two arms here, I see two legs, I see a neck. I see things maybe Demian didn’t take advantage of, and I will. I’m confident for this fight. I feel in the best shape of my life, and I can’t wait to fight."