Warlley Alves (11-0) vs. Bryan Barberena (11-3)
Warlley Alves: Alves was a member of Team Sonnen on TUF: Brazil 3 and may have taken the “bad guy” persona a bit too literally. Alves was criticized by cast mates for being too serious and arrogant, they recommended that he “not act so mean” and “be more more humble”. Alves did not take this advice to heart, he was very mean to his cast mates in the ring on his way to winning the TUF: Brazil 3 crown.
Alves has taken this mean streak into the octagon, where he has begun his welterweight career 3-0. His wins have come against Alan Jouban, Nordine Taleb and Colby Covington.
Alves kickboxing is elite caliber and he has perfected a guillotine choke that he has utilized in finishing four of his past opponents.
His only weakness may be his cardio, he came out on fire against Jouban, but faded in the second and third very nearly losing the decision. At only 25 years old he should be maturing and learning how to pace himself to go hard for all three rounds.
Bryan Barberena: Barberena received a golden opportunity in January when Andrew Holbrook had to pull out of his fight with 19 year old phenom Sage Northcutt, one week before the card. Barberena stepped up and made the most of his good fortune submitting the budding superstar Northcutt in the second round.
Barberena trains at “The Lab” in Glendale Arizona alongside former lightweight champ Benson Henderson. He is a scrappy wrestler who likes to make fights ugly, He is 2-1 under the UFC banner with his only loss coming in a hard fought decision to Chad Laprise.
If he can pull this one off Barberena will be smack dab in the middle of the top prospects in the lightweight division and be knocking on the door of the top 15.
The Fight: If Barberena has a chance in this fight he has to drag Warlley into deep waters. Warlley has shown a questionable gas tank and if Barberena can endure his initial onslaught he will have a clear cut advantage in the later rounds.
What is going to actually happen is the opposite of the previous scenario, Warlley will hurt Barberena in the first couple of exchanges forcing the take down attempt from Barberena, leading to Warlley’s signature guillotine choke. Alves Guillotine Choke 1rd
#8 Mauricio Rua (23-10) vs. #12 Corey Anderson (9-1)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Mauricio Rua: This UFC incarnation of Shogun does not strike fear in the hearts of his opponents like the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Champion might have. Not to say this Shogun is not a threat, he has six knockouts and a UFC light heavyweight belt on his resume. He was just that good in Japan, where he was widely considered the number one pound for pound fighter for a period of time.
Shogun is 7-8 in the octagon, a record that seems hardly fitting of the Chute Boxe assassin, but if you take a look back at his losses you will see that most of his losses have come to guys who are currently in the top 10.
Shogun is 34 and at a pivotal stage in his career, if he losses this fight he will be relegated to a gate keeper role for up and coming prospects. However he is young enough that he has time to put together another run at a title shot if he can rattle a few wins off in a row.
If he is able to earn another title shot, for his sake I hope it is at middleweight. Shogun was clearly undersized for 205 when he lost his belt to Jon Jones. Win, lose or draw a drop to middleweight would be a smart move for the Curitba native.
Corey Anderson: TUF: season 19 winner Corey Anderson has gone from being strictly a wrestler to a all around threat. While most of his wins come from his high level wrestling, his striking and BJJ have been the tools that pushed fights in his favor lately.
Anderson is coming off of a big win over “Filthy” Tom Lawlor in March of this year. He will be spending a good part of his training fine tuning his craft with Renzo Gracie and Frankie Edgar in preparation for the biggest fight of his young career.
If he can get by Shogun it will be Anderson’s ticket into the elite. But he has to be careful to not overlook Shogun or he will be back at square one.
The Fight: This fight will go one of two ways early TKO for Shogun or decision for Anderson.
The fact that Anderson has been stopped with strikes before and was rocked by Lawler in his last fight leads me to believe his chin will not be able to take the Brazilians blows. Shogun TKO 1st rd
Cristiane Justino (15-1) vs. Leslie Smith (8-6)
Cristiane Justino: The baddest women alive will make her long awaited debut Saturday night. Cris Cyborg is far and away the deadliest striker in women’s MMA, her only issue is she may be too large to compete in the UFC. Cyborg has stated many times that she is not able to make the 135 pound weight limit. But never say never, Cyborg weighed in a pound under the 140 pound agreed upon weight for this fight.
If she is able to make the cut to 135 there are a number of mega fights to be made and potential record number PPV buys if matched with the right opponent (Ronda Rousey).
Leslie Smith: Don’t be fooled by Leslie Smith’s mediocre record, her skills are that of a top 15 fighter. She has been on the wrong side of some tough losses including a decision to Sarah Kaufman in a fight she took on five days notice and a very Sakuraba like doctor stoppage where she almost lost her ear in a battle with Jessica Eye.
The Cesar Gracie, Skrap Pack member does have some impressive wins to her credit including “Rocky” Pennington, Jennifer Maia and most recently Rin Naki.
The Fight: Smith deserves more credit than the Vegas lines are giving her, she will take a licking and keep on ticking. Her only stoppage loss was in the Jessica Eye fight where her ear was nearly ripped off of her head and she still vehemently protested to continue sans an ear.
However Cyborg is unlike anyone Smith has ever fought, her power, clinch and speed will be far too much for Smith, but I do think Smith will last longer than most believe she will. Cyborg TKO 3rd
#2 Ronaldo Souza vs. #3 Vitor Belfort
Ronaldo Souza: Jacare has made the move from World Champion BJJ fighter to elite MMA fighter better than any who have previously attempted the transition. Jacrare’s boxing is not good for one of the best Jiujitsu fighters in the world, it is top 5 in the sport good. He owns knockouts on the feet over elite competitors like Yushin Okami and Derek Brunson.
Jacare will be more than willing to engage in the stand up, but if given the opportunity he will jump on a limb or a neck without hesitation. Jacare is a 5x Absolute BJJ World Champion, which is why it is unfair that he is such a good boxer.
Despite losing a razor thin split decision in his last fight to Yoel Romero, Jacare is one fight away from his first fight for UFC gold and a shot at redeeming his 2011 loss to Luke Rockhold.
Vitor Belfort: “Vitor is back!” are the three most exciting words in MMA, just when your ready to count Vitor out, he comes roaring back fueled by Jesus (and possibly something else a little more scientific, allegedly).
For a guy who many wrote off 10 years ago,Vitor has defiantly proved the masses wrong. Since his 2006 loss to Dan Henderson in Pride (a fight he recently avenged in a huge way) Vitor’s only losses have been to Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Chris Weidman all in title fights.
So how then could a guy who has had the decade that Vitor has had still considered an underdog in this match up? No one knows what to expect, thats the problem with PEDs it tarnishes your accomplishments, which in Vitor’s case are incredible.
With USADA monitoring every substance going in and out of fighter’s bodies everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop on Vitor. Saturday night will be a telling fight, was the Vitor of the past decade due to hard work and Jesus or something a little more nefarious.
The Fight: Reigning middleweight champ Luke Rockhold will be the biggest Vitor Belfort fan in the world Saturday night. Rockhold is chomping at the bit to avenge his 2013 spinning heel kick knockout loss to Vitor.
Unless Rockhold losses to Weidman he will not be rematching Vitor anytime soon.
Jacare will be polished enough to avoid the early Vitor onslaught, once through the first couple of minutes Jacare will take over, winning rounds two and three with conservative yet effective boxing and well timed take downs. Jacare Unanimous Decision
C. Fabricio Werdum(20-5) vs. # 3 Stipe Miocic (14-2)
Heavyweight Championship Fight (265)
Fabricio Werdum: Werdum will make his first long awaited title defense Saturday night. Since wining the belt nearly a year ago a litany of injuries to Werdum and his opponents have kept him from from defending the strap.
Werdum really turned a corner in his career following a TKO loss to Junior Dos Santos. Prior to the “Cigano” fight Werdum fought like a excellent BJJ Black Belt who was forced to start the fight standing, after the loss Werdum’s striking improved 10 fold out striking knockout artist like Travis Browne and Mark Hunt.
Every time Werdum steps in the cage his Muay Thai looks better and better, especially in his win over Cain. By the third round Cain was losing so bad on the feet he opted to try to deal with Werdum’s ground game, a decision that did not go well.
It is going to be difficult for anyone to get that belt out of Werdum’s hands, at 38 he has put it all together and become the champion in a weight class full of the best heavyweights in the world.
Stipe Miocic: The 33 year old Ohioan, born Croat, has put himself in position to contend for the title by winning 8 of his last 10 fights, including a TKO stoppage of the “cement headed” Mark Hunt and a first round knockout of Andrei Arlovski.
Stipe will get a full camp for this titlte fight a luxury nearly not afforded to him when he was given this match up on only a weeks notice in Feberuary, due to Cain having to pull out of his rematch with Werdum.
Fortunately Werdum pulled out of the fight citing injury, setting the table for Saturday night’s fight. This is the better outcome for all parties, we know we will be seeing these two at their best.
The Fight: Stipe will have the proverbial punchers chance in this match up, but Werdum has many more ways of winning this fight.
Werdum is a deceivingly big heavyweight, which will help him over power Miocic in the clinch wearing him down until he gets the stoppage early Fourth round with strikes on the mat. Werdum TKO 4th rd