Renato Moicano (9-0-1) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (18-3)
Renato Moicano: Undefeated Brazilian prospect Renato Moicano made his successful debut way back in December of 2014. Moicano replaced Rony Jason on 10 days notice in a bout against Finish fighter Tom Niinimaki. Moicano was very impressive, out striking the Fin on the feet before submitting him in the second with a rear naked choke.
Moicano was expected to face fellow prospect Mirsad Bektic in May of 2015 but was forced to pull out due to a knee injury.
If Moicano can stay healthy he may be on the verge of putting together a run at featherweight. The 26 year old appeared to be the real deal in his debut. His has a long frame that he utilizes well in the standup and trains with BJJ wizard Rani Yahya, who will ensure he is well prepared for a grappling battle.
Zubaira Tukhugov: Chechnyian new comer Zubaira Tukhugov does the majority of his training with UFC vets Roger Huerta and Brian Ebersole at Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand. Tukhugov’s has a backgorund in Combat Sambo, which he has combined with high level Muay Thai training to create a successful fighting style in the octagon.
He is currently 3-0 in the UFC, with his biggest win coming in his last fight against season 8 TUF runner up and full time Registered nurse Phillipe Nover. Tukhugov started very strong but faded in the latter part of the fight, narrowly hanging on to a split decision victory.
Tukhugov needs to work on pacing himself in fights, he throws his punches with full power early and often, and tends to fade heading into the third. He is only 25 and should improve his energy out put as he matures as a striker.
The Fight: Tukhugov showed a granite chin in his bout with Nover, eating multiple heavy head and body kicks in order to land a take down. This will be the difference maker in the bout.
Moicano may land more volume on the feet early, but will become more conservitive wtih his strikes after he eats a few of Tukhugov’s vicious counter shots. Tukhugov will score a few take downs later on and cause enough damage on the feet to win this one on the cards. Tukhugov Unanimous Decision
Sergio Moraes (10-3) vs. Luan Chagas (14-1)
Sergio Moraes: Sergio Moraes came up one fight short in his bid to become the first TUF Brazil champion. Moraes lost a close decision in the finals to Vitor Belfort protege Cezar Mutatante.
Since the finale, it is Moraes that has had the greater success, going 4-0 in the octagon, including a beautiful top side triangle submission over top 10 welterweight Neil Magny.
Moraes entered the world of MMA as a four time BJJ world champion, his BJJ credentials were enough to earn him victories early in his career but he quickly realized he was going to need to learn to strike to compete at the next level. With this in mind Moares began training with Chute Boxe, a camp who has a reputation for producing world class strikers like Wanderlei Silva and Shogun Rua.
The training has appeared to pay dividends, in his last bout Moraes earned the first knockout victory of his career over tough Dagestani Omari Ahkmedov.
Luan Chagas: UFC new comer Luan Chagas will make his debut on short notice, filling in for Kamar Usman. Chagas’s resume is impressive, 14-1 overall and currently riding a 9 fight win streak on his regional Brazilian circuit.
Chagas striking is flashy and unorthodox, which will leave him vulnerable to the take down once he reaches higher levels of competition.
He has had some succucess on the feet but seems to be the most well versed on the ground. eight of his fourteen wins have come by way of submission, including a mata leone victory over fellow prospect Eduardo Garvon in his last outing.
The Fight: Chagas may have a future with the company, but a short notice debut against a four time BJJ world champ, is not ideal for a first fight.
Chagas does possess punching power, with six knockouts to his credit. So the possibility of a freak knockout is there, just not very likely.
Expect Moraes to secure a submission after a few exchanges on the feet. Moraes Rear Naked Choke Round 1
#10 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-7) vs Patrick Cummings (8-3)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Little Nog came razor close to avenging his 2005 loss to Shogun Rua in his last fight. Nogueira landed a right hook behind Shogun’s ear that had him wobbled and reaching for a clinch. Nogueira landed a few more heavy shots before Shogun was ultimately saved by the bell. Shogun rallied back to win the second and third to defeat Nogueira for the second time in ten years.
Both Nogueira brothers possess unearthly durability and some of the best boxing in MMA’s history. This combination has given us numerous legendary wars, but those wars have taken their toll. With Nogueira one month away from his fortieth birthday, the obvious question looms heavy, how much longer can he continue?
If Little Nog can score a victory over Cummings he may be able to silence the calls for retirement. However, I cant imagine many longtime MMA fans look forward to seeing one of their aging heroes become a stepping stone for the next generation to make their name on.
Patrick Cummings: Since Daniel Cormier pulled him from behind the barista counter to co- headline UFC 170, Patrick Cummings has earned a reputation as one of the strongest wrestlers to ever set foot in the octagon.
Cummings has a double leg that appears to be indefensible at times, he drives through his opponents, plants them on their back and is able to control top position with smothering control and vicious ground and pound.
He has run into trouble with powerful strikers like Glover Teixeira and OSP. To remedy the flaws in his stand up game he began training at Kings MMA with the man behind the legendary Chute Boxe team Rafael Cordeiro.
If he can improve his striking defense, a title run for the 35 year old former two time NCAA division I All American is a very feasible possibility.
The Fight: There is nothing more the MMA community would love, than for Little Nog to score a knockout win in front of his home crowd and ride off into the sunset.
But this is a horrible match up for that outcome to become a reality. Nog has a history of getting smothered by dominant wrestlers like Ryan Bader, Phill Davis and Vladimir Matyushenko.
Cummings does not attempt to hide what his game plan is, he shoots then shoots and then shoots again. On the mat Nog has never been a huge threat off his back and will need to work to get back to his feet.
Power is the last thing to go and Nog will still have the ability to end this fight with one punch, but Cummings will limit the amount of striking exchanges he engages in decreasing the likelihood of a Noguieira knockout.
Cummings will be able to score take downs at will and use his smothering top game to ride out a decision victory of the PRIDE legend. Cummings Unanimous Decision
#12 John Lineker (26-7) vs. Rob Font (12-1)
John Lineker: John Lineker has tremendous knockout power for a flyweight fighter, the only problem is Lineker does not weigh 125 pounds. Lineker missed weight FOUR times in his attempts to make the 125 pound flyweight limit and with USADA implementing stricter weight cutting guide lines that prevent fighters from re-hydrating intravenously, Lineker was forced to make the move up to the bantamweight division.
Questions of whether Lineker wold maintain his power with the move up to the higher weight class were answered in his September bout with Francisco Rivera. The answer was a emphatic yes. Linekar and Rivera engaged in a rock em sock em robots battle that ended with Lineker dropping Rivera and jumping on his neck with a fight ending guillotine choke. Not only did Lineker show he maintained his power at bantamweight, he shrugged off the much larger Rivera’s strikes as if nothing landed.
Now firmly situated in the bantamweight division, Lineker will look to unleash his “hands of stone” on his larger foes and move up the ladder to a title shot at 135 pounds.
Rob Font: Long time Sityodtong fighter Rob Font, has done the majority of his training under the tutelage of legendary Thai Boxing coach Mark Dellagrotte.
Font has impressed in his two octagon appearances, he debuted against the heavily favored, Gumbiesque striker George Roop. Font timed his blitzes perfectly, rushed in on Roop and landed an over hand right on the button that sent Roop toppling over in defeat.
In his next bout he was matched up with fellow New Englander and former training partner New Hampshire’s Joey Gomez. He out classed Gomez displaying better technique, speed and power, ultimately scoring a TKO at the start of the second round.
Font owns some of the slickest striking in the bantamweight division, his grappling has yet to be tested in the cage but he has a long frame which is ideal for BJJ and working for get ups.
He is currently outside of the top 15 but a win over 12th ranked Lineker would put him into contention for some high profile fights.
The Fight: This is going to be a match up of speed vs power, the hard throwing flat footed Lineker will be looking to slow Font down and decapitate him.While Font will be on the move needing to get in and out on the heavy handed Lineker.
The difference maker in this bout will be height and reach discrepancy that Font will enjoy. Font will have a five inch height and four inch reach advanantage over the former flyweight Lineker. This combined with the speed advantage will prove too much for Lineker who will get out pointed by the slicker Font. Font Unanimous Decision
Francisco Trinaldo (19-4) vs. Yancy Mederios (12-3-1)
Francisco Trinaldo: “Massaranduba” has easily had the most succucess of any of the competitors of the first season of TUF Brazil. Trinaldo was eliminated in the first round of TUF Brazil and started his UFC career off at a very pedestrian 3-3. But something clicked for him in his seventh UFC bout, he defeated new comer Leandro Silva and followed that up with four more victories including three TUF champions in Norman Parke, Chad Laprise and Ross Pearson respectively.
Trinaldo has been beating strikers in their own game, resembling a kick boxing specialist as of late, but he trains on the mat under fellow TUF: Brazil cast mate and BJJ World Champion Sergio Moraes and has five submission victories under his belt.
The Lightweight division is so deep that Trinaldo’s five fight win streak has not been enough to earn him a spot in the top 15. If Trinaldo can make it six in a row, it would be very difficult to compile a top 15 list of lightweight with out his name on it.
At 37 years old, Trinaldo has zero room for error, a step backwards now would make a title shot in the future a highly unlikely opportunity.
Yancy Medeiros: 28 year old Hawaiian scrapper Yancy Medeiros was formerly a 205 pound light heavy weight. Medeiros credits the Diaz brothers with his drop in weight. The Diaz brothers are notorious clean eaters and cardio freaks, habits they passed on to Medeiros.
Medeiros is 3-3-1 in his UFC career, his losses have come to ranked fighters Rustam Khabilov (dislocated thumb), Jim Miller and Dustin Poirier. His biggest win was a split decision victory over French Canadian Tae kwon do fighter John Makdessi.
If Medeiros is going to transition to the next level of competition he has to do more than win the fights he’s supposed to win, he will need to pull off some upset’s starting with Trinaldo and show he is prepared for a top 15 fight.
The Fight: Medeiro’s striking is similar to the Diaz brothers, he presses forward with disregard for his opponents power. Unlike the Diaz brothers he kicks a lot and hard,in 2014 he stopped TUF: Live vet Joe Proctor with a spinning heel kick to the body. But his heavy pressure style will play into the counter heavy Trinaldo’s game plan.
This fight will be played out on the feet and it’s hard to pick against a guy who is on a role like Trinaldo is. Trinaldo will narrowly win this stand up battle on the cards. Trinaldo Split Decision
Thiago Santos (12-3) vs. Nate Marquardt (37-15-2)
Thiago Santos: TUF: Brazil 2 alum Thiago “Marretta” has been rapidly improving with each performance in the octagon. Marretta scored what many believe was the knockout of the year in June of 2015. Santos landed a head kick on Steve Bosse that sounded and looked as though someone went upside Bosses’s head with a Louisville Slugger (see photo).
The former Brazilian Army paratrooper is riding a three fight win streak and is fighting like a completely different fighter than the man who debuted against Cezar Mutante in 2013.
Marreta utilizes a dangerous combination of power and agility stemming from his training in Capoeria and kick boxing. Santos is not lacking when it comes to the physical aspect of the sport, but he hesitates to throw when facing his more difficult challanges. He was largely inactive in his loss to Uriah Hall, a fight where Hall suffered a gruesome toe break in the first round but managed to out work Santos enough to pick up the decision.
If Santos’s confidence level can reach his skill level he will be a knockout threat in their against any man at 185 pounds.
Nate Marquardt: The former King of Pancrase and Strikeforce welterweight champion, Nate Marquardt is looking to build off of a second round knock out of C.B Dollaway in December.
Since moving back up to middleweight Nate has gone 2-2 with two stoppages. 185 is the better fit for the heavily muscled Marquardt, especially considering the tougher weight cutting guidelines recently implemented.
This will be Nate’s 55th professional fight dating back to 1999, the 37 year old Marquardt will need to make hay while the sun still shines and take advantage of this opportunity to show that he is still relevant in the middleweight division.
The Fight: Marretta’s recent upturn in performance may be attributed to a change in training routines, partners or just maturity, whatever it is he has turned himself into a new fighter.
With that being said I like Nate in the upset.
Nate has almost four times more experience than Santos and with that experience comes a fight IQ that will surpass most of the fighters on the UFC’s active roster.
Nate will fall behind in a striking match early, then he will land a few take downs getting Santos’s mind off of the striking. Once Nate has established the take down as a threat he will land something hard turning Santos’s lights out late in the fight. Marquardt Knockout 3rd
# 6 Demian Maia (22-6) vs. #8 Matt Brown (22-13)
Demian Maia: I do not feel like I would be going out on a limb by saying Demian Maia has utilized Jujitsu better than any other man that has set foot in the octagon. He’s not just better on the the ground than his opponents, he looks like he’s in a different league. Nothing demonstrates this better than Maia’s last bout against 2x Pan-Am Gold Medalist Gunnar Nelson. Maia controlled every minute of their match up and made the Renzo Gracie Black Belt look like a novice grappler.
In a three round fight Maia can beat everyone in the welterweight division, he has run into trouble with cardio late in fights, like his loss to Rory MacDonald. If Maia does not improve his cardio or learn to pace himself he may never make it through a five round championship fight, if that opportunity should present itself.
Matt Brown: Matt “The Immortal” Brown will probably go down as the grittiest fighter of all time. Brown by all accounts should not be preparing for his 21st bout in the octagon, not to say he’s a bad fighter, he just does not have the physical god given attributes that many professional athletes have. Brown gets by on grit, hard work and good old fashion fortitude.
Brown will have a spot on the UFC roster until the day he decides to hang em up, a spot that is well deserved.But what he lacks in god given ability, has and will continue to hold him back from victories against elite fighters.
The Fight: This is a nightmare fight for Matt Brown, the grizzled, fearsome face puncher has had all kinds of troubles with high level submission fighters. Brown has been submitted nine times in his career. Maia will be able to lock something up early, my guess would be a rear naked choke. Maia Rear Naked Choke 1st