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Five UFC belts in January? UFC commentator sees potential for historic year ahead for Brazil

UFC 282: Blachowicz v Ankalaev
Glover Teixeira and Alex Pereira
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Charles Oliveira and Glover Teixeira losing UFC title bouts in 2022 were huge blows to Brazil in MMA, but UFC Fight Pass Brazil commentator Andre Azevedo sees the glass as half full.

“Crisis? Quite the opposite,” Azevedo said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca. “We’re in a great moment. If you divide belts by country, it’s all very spread. United States only has one, Aljamain Sterling’s. You have Kyrgyzstan, Russia.

“We’re in a good moment and we have promising Brazilians in every weight class.”

Brazil currently holds titles in four weight classes, with Deiveson Figueiredo at flyweight, Alex Pereira at middleweight, and Amanda Nunes reigning in two divisions. If Figueiredo retains against Brandon Moreno and Glover Teixeira regains the light heavyweight belt versus Jamahal Hill on the same night on Jan. 21 at UFC 283, Brazil will have five of the 12 UFC titles by the end of the month.

“Accidents will happen, no one will win all the time,” he said, “but the [expectation] is that we end 2023 with a lot of people well-ranked in every division in the UFC.”

Azevedo can see many Brazilians earning title shots in 2023 and adding more gold to the country in Brazil, including Oliveira, Taila Santos, and Ketlen Vieira.

“There’s a great group at strawweight too,” Azevedo said. “There’s Jessica Andrade, Amanda Lemos, Marina Rodriguez, Amanda Ribas, Mackenzie Dern, Luana Pinheiro, Polyana Viana [and Virna Jandiroba]. You have eight Brazilians in this division.

“But Weili Zhang is tough, man. I even joked she’s Shevchenk-ing. Her last two fights were like, who’s stopping her? This woman is a tank.”

The UFC commentator believes the odds that Gilbert Burns gets another shot at the 170-pound title in 2023 are “more difficult” since he faces Neil Magny at UFC 283, but will likely still stay behind Khamzat Chimaev and Colby Covington even with a win.

On the other hand, Brazilians have already kicked off 2023 well-ranked in other divisions.

“We already have ‘Poatan’ at middleweight, but there are some Brazilians coming up,” Azevedo said. “[Andre Muniz] ‘Sergipano’ is the closest one [to the top] now other than [Paulo Costa] ‘Borrachinha’, who’s on this [contract] imbroglio. At 205, we have Glover, and at heavyweight we have [Jailton Almeida] ‘Malhadinho,’ who I think will be a top-five [fighter] by the end of the year. It’s still too soon for him to fight for the belt, unless the stars really align for him.

“[Almeida] is hungry and he doesn’t get hurt, he doesn’t get hit,” he continued. “He finishes his fights quickly. This kid is unique. He’s a specimen, man. He fights at heavyweight and light heavyweight. Very strong and technical, doing that pragmatic game of taking people down and catching them. Heavy hands, athletic, and charismatic. This kid if the total package.”

Azevedo believes Oliveira can work his way back to the top at lightweight in 2023 if he’s impressive in his first fight back, and says a rematch with Islam Makhachev would be his dream fight to call this year.

Can “do Bronx” bounce back and end Makhachev’s impressive run, though?

“He needs to go back and see what didn’t work and come up with a better strategy to fight Makhachev,” Azevedo said. “The odds of him doing the same thing and getting frustrated again are big, right? That might happen. I’m not in his shoes and I’m not a professional fighter, but that game didn’t work that night. Will you trust the same game? Cool. Can it work? Yes, you’re Charles, but you’ve already lost the first one. Look at the openings Makhachev has given you, if he has given any opening to attack, and come prepared.”

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