The UFC heads to the south of Brazil for the first time, as the heavyweights take center stage in Porto Alegre at the wonderfully named Ginásio Gigantinho (“Little Giant Stadium”). This week will be a challenging one for fantasy players, because with a ton of big favourites and big underdogs on the card, you’ll have to manage your salaries very carefully regardless of whether you’re in a small league or chasing the big prizes. Let’s take a look at how Sunday’s fights break down.
Last week’s record: 6-3
2015 record: 34-12
Frank Mir ($8400) vs Antonio Silva ($11900)
Of course, it’s clear why “Bigfoot” Silva is the favorite here. Mir has lost four straight, has a questionable chin and a ton of mileage. Silva is the same age as the former UFC champion and the same number of fights, but with seemingly fewer miles. He also seems to have some physical advantages as the more natural big man and strikes with ferocious power. What’s less clear is why Bigfoot is such a huge favorite. Mir will have a hard time dragging it to the mat, but he still incredibly tricky on the ground. The Las Vegan will attack any limb at any time, and has the grappler’s equivalent of a one-punch knockout. The most likely outcome is that Mir is embarrassed in what easily might end up being his retirement fight, but I think this one is closer than the salaries might indicate.
Prediction: Silva by KO/TKO
Michael Johnson ($9100) vs Edson Barboza ($10800)
If the main event is closer than it appears, I think the co-main is more disparate. Although both Johnson and Barboza have faced – and beaten – comparable talent in the 155-pound division, the style matchup here really favors the Brazilian (a theme that will become noticeable throughout his card). Johnson’s primary advantages here are his tenacity, and being a quality southpaw boxer and wrestler. But despite his upright stance and the fact that every opponent he faces is fearful of his striking, Barboza has only surrendered 1 takedown in his past 6 fights. Johnson has never been finished by strikes and he won’t have to worry about the ground game here, but he will need to land a perfect punch or have an otherwise perfect night to get his hand raised here.
Prediction: Barboza by decision
Cezar Ferreira ($11800) vs Sam Alvey ($8200)
The original TUF Brazil champion, Cezar “Mutante” has grown up in the UFC and is now a staple of these Brazilian cards. Like many others on this card, this fight is designed to favour the Brazilian. Alvey is 1-1 in the UFC, although his win is a bit dubious as it appeared that Dylan Andrews knocked himself out attempting a takedown. Alvey does have tremendous heart and good power, and Ferreira is certainly susceptible to being clipped and knocked out, so the upset is possible. The trouble is that doesn’t have the best takedown defence, and that is the area where Ferreira wants the fight to go. On the ground, the American is not in the same league as the Vitor Belfort protégé. While Alvey only been submitted once in 30 pro fights, Ferreira does have the gifts and skills to get it done.
Prediction: Ferreira by submission
Rustam Khabilov ($11700) vs Adriano Martins ($8200)
One of just two fights on this card where the foreign fighter is favoured over the Brazilian, I see this fight as closer than the salaries indicate. Martins is a judo-based fighter with a BJJ black belt. That bodes well for him against Khabilov, who generally wants to clinch and throw. Both men have faltered against the elite at 155 pounds (Martins against Donald Cerrone and Khabilov against Benson Henderson) but have been dominant against lesser competition. I expect Khabilov’s slightly cleaner technique on the feet and his wrestling advantage to carry him to a very close decision, but I can see Martins taking it on the judges’ scorecards as well. I’m going with the Dagestani, but I see some upset potential here.
Prediction: Khabilov by decision
Iuri Alcantara ($12100) vs Frankie Saenz ($7800)
A truly questionable piece of matchmaking here, as the #8 ranked bantamweight Alcantara takes on the unheralded Saenz. Saenz is primarily a wrestler – and he is a good, powerful, and tenacious one – but Alcantara’s ground game is elite, making this a terrible matchup for the underdog. This is a man who put Urijah Faber in all kinds of trouble on the mat in their bout. Saenz, who has fought most of his career at 125 pounds, may also give up the size advantage in this fight as well. This looks like another fight where the Brazilian is being set up to take out the foreign invader in a crowd-pleasing manner.
Prediction: Alcantara by submission
Santiago Ponzinibbio ($8600) vs Sean Strickland ($11300)
15-0 Strickland is actually moving down in weight to 170 pounds despite his perfect record. Strickland is a hot prospect, trained in MMA since age 14. Even still, his win over Luke Barnatt surprised many observers – including myself – who thought of the Englishman as the better prospect. Ponzinibbio has finished an impressive 17 of 19 career wins, including an 80-second stalk-and-blast finish of Wendell Oliveira in his last outing. Strickland is perhaps a little more cautious than he needs to be at times, but there are no obvious holes in his game that Ponzinibbio can exploit. Hopefully this will be the fight where Strickland opens up the throttle.
Prediction: Strickland by decision
Marion Reneau ($8400) vs Jessica Andrade ($11500)
Making a UFC run at age 37, Marion Reneau is an inspiring story. After being told she was too old to be relevant on TUF, Reneau not only made the UFC, but battered Alexis Dufresne in her debut in a lopsided fight. But that beating paled in comparison to the one Andrade famously put on Rosi Sexton. Against Sexton, Andrade landed 206 significant strikes in a fight where she would have scored a colossal 131 fantasy points, had DraftKings offered MMA then. Her ground game has looked better and better of late as well. The only knock on her is her size – she is small for 135-pounds – but she is a fighter on the rise for sure.
Prediction: Andrade by decision
Matt Dwyer ($8300) vs William “Patolino” Macario ($11600)
Dwyer is a tall and rangy (6’4”) fighter at 170 lbs who was given a very tough assignment against Albert Tumenov in his UFC debut. Dwyer keeps his hands dangerously low, something he got away with at the regional level, but it got him starched by the head kicks of Tumenov. Making matters worse for the Canadian, Macario’s last fight was against Neil Magny. While the Brazilian was finished on the ground the streaking Magny, he showed that he was very capable of landing power shots on a taller fighter. Hopefully Dwyer keeps his guard tight this time, or another one could go badly for him.
Prediction: Macario by KO/TKO
Tiago “Trator” dos Santos ($11000) vs Mike de la Torre ($8800)
“Trator” is a solid 10-fight win streak. Most of them have come on the regional circuit in the Jungle Fight organization, but he definitely did beat some very legitimate fighters there. De la Torre has been bested on the ground in his last two outings, but both against highly skilled grapplers. I think this one is closer than it looks on the prices, so I’m tempted to take de la Torre in the upset.
Prediction: de la Torre by decision
Wendell Oliveira ($10300) vs TJ Waldburger ($9600)
As I mentioned above, Oliveira had about as bad as UFC debuts get, being knocked out as a late replacement against Ponzinibbio. Oliveira showed in that fight that he prefers to counter, although he is a bit static on the feet. 4-4 in the UFC, TJ Waldburger is a veteran and an excellent grappler. However, he’s been knocked out and two straight and in seven fights overall. That’s a big concern. Waldberger has what it takes to win this fight, but he had better protect that dangerously weak chin of his. Expect this one to end on the ground in favour of the American, or by vicious KO in favour of the Brazilian.
Prediction: Oliveira by KO/TKO