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Sergio Moraes out to test Ben Saunders’ chin at UFC Sao Paulo

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Sergio Moraes will compete in his hometown Saturday night.
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

SAO PAULO, Brazil — “The Panther” wants an exciting fight in the Octagon.

Back to action almost eight months after a controversial split decision win over Tim Means at UFC Belem, Sergio Moraes meets Ben Saunders on the preliminary portion of the UFC Sao Paulo card on Sept. 22 — and he’ll be looking to impress.

“I don’t think it goes the distance. I think I’ll finish him,” Moraes told MMA Fighting. “I will open the game up to make sure it’s an exciting fight. I’m coming out of my comfort zone otherwise there’s no fight. It’s boring, my opponent trying to score points, running, avoiding my ground game. I will open up, stand and trade. It bothers me when my opponent gets in the cage and fights for points.”

Moraes will open up to make sure it’s not an unexciting contest, but promises no mistakes in the process.

“I will fight smart, of course,” Moraes said. “I will open up, going for a fight, but with my hands up, waiting for the right moment. I will make the moment come. You don’t wait for the right moment, you make it happen.”

A multiple-time jiu-jitsu champion and one of the best pure grapplers on the UFC roster today, Moraes expects his opponent to welcome an exchange on the ground, but wouldn’t be surprised if “Killa B” chooses to stand and trade in Sao Paulo.

“I don’t even know who’s the best grappler he has fought before me,” Moraes said with a laugh. “Apparently he’s not afraid of grappling, and that makes me really happy, but we know everybody changes their strategy against me. I’m focused on doing my best in there.

”I always expect anything can happen in a fight,” he continued. “I’ve been standing and trading with strikers and winning, so let’s see. Maybe he has a trick up his sleeves and I have to be smart.”

Training at Evolucao Thai in Curitiba, alongside dangerous strikers like PRIDE legend Wanderlei Silva and former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho, the Sao Paulo native feels ready to score the second knockout of his MMA career.

“Since his chin is not helping him that much, maybe my hand does it,” Moraes said, laughing. “We worked hard every day in the gym to be ready for it.”