This Saturday night in Santa Catarina, Brazil, the UFC returns after one of the longer layoffs of the last few years, with three weeks off between events in this case. The Brazilian crowd will no doubt be hungry for some UFC action as they always are, and this card is stacked with some fun fights. In the FX main event, the infamous grinder, Nik Lentz (23-5-2 1 NC) looks to continue his impressive run at featherweight against one of Brazil’s best up and coming young stars in Hacran Dias (21-1-1). Dias, if you may remember, was supposed to fight Chad Mendes in Australia last year, and his scheduled fight with Manny Gamburyan for this event had to be saved by Lentz after Manny had to pull out with an injury. The late replacements shouldn’t be a big deal to both vets, but Dias hasn’t faced a wrestler quite like Lentz before. Actually he has, and he lost to him. So the question is if Dias can do anything off his back, because he’s going to be put there early and often by Lentz. TUF Brazil 1 cast-member Francisco Trinaldo (12-2) is 1-1 at lightweight in the UFC after fighting at middleweight (yes, middleweight) during his TUF: Brazil tenure. He’s a finisher that has gone to the judges only three times in his career, with two wins and one loss at the hands of the judges. His opponent is an equally desperate finisher, as TUF 15 vet Mike Rio (9-1) has four knockouts and four submissions with just one decision win to his name. Rio has great grappling skills to match up with Trinaldo, but the size advantage definitely goes to the Brazilian. If Rio can push the pace and bring the fight into deep waters, Trinaldo may gas, but this may end up being a spectacular grappling match between the two vets. Long time UFC veteran Gleison Tibau (26-9) looks to get back on the winning track in the lightweight division after losing a split-decision to Evan Dunham at UFC 156 and dropping 3 out of his last 4 after winning 5 out of 6 fights from 2009-2012. Tibau is a well-rounded veteran who has only finished three of his opponents over the last half-decade, while the man he’s facing, John Cholish (8-2) has only seen the judges once. Granted, he’s only seen a third of the fights Tibau has. Cholish is a Renzo Gracie pupil who uses his wrestling more than BJJ, you can almost consider him a mini Weidman in that regard. Both of these 29-year-olds will have their hands full with each other, as Cholish will be looking for the takedown then submissions, while TIbau will make the fight close as he always does with his takedown defense and good hands. Next up are welterweights where the hard-hitting Brazilian Special Forces operator Paulo Thiago (14-5) desperately needs to get back on the winning track after losing four out of his last five bouts. His opponent, Michel dos Prazeres (16-0), replaces Lance Benoist on extremely short notice. Thiago has genuine knockout power, can work well from the bottom and is good in the clinch. Thiago is a great fighter who now at 32-years-old needs to put something together and finally live up to the lofty expectations he set for himself when he entered the UFC. Prazeres, however, is in a situation where he has nothing to lose. He could succumb to the oft-mentioned Octagon jitters or he could steal a huge fight in Brazil. To do that, he’ll have to fight one of his best fights and stay in control on top where he’s most comfortable. We’ll see if he can do that against the vet. A one time lightweight who moved to featherweight and then bantamweight after the bigger fighters had their way with him, Iuri Alcantara has raised eyebrows since his Zuffa debut at WEC 53 when he knocked out current featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas. The 32-year-old Alcantara is a hell of a finisher, with 11 knockouts and 12 submissions to his name, but he’s hit a rough patch recently, with his first loss in years coming to Hacran Dias at UFC 147, and then getting a dominant win over Pedro Nobre overturned after some, “interesting” reactions to a few grazing shots to the back of Nobre’s head rendered him unable to continue. His opponent is Iliarde Santos (27-6-1), a man who is also coming in on short notice to help save this card, replacing Marcos Vinicius. Iliarde Santos is a hot name on the bantamweight circuit, and he’s pretty much done and seen it all in the Brazilian ring, but he faces a Iuri Alcantara that is just plain scary and wanting a win. The light heavyweights kick off the FX broadcast as heavy-handed Fabio Maldonado (18-6) looks to save his job after losing his last three in a row. Maldonado faces Canadian vet Roger Hollett (13-4) who lost his UFC debut to Matt Hamill at UFC 152 via unanimous decision. Maldonado has knocked out 12 opponents in his career, and has never been stopped by strikes himself, although a doctor did stop his one-sided beating at the hands of Glover Teixeira at the end of the second round. The Black House team member and pupil of Antonio Noguiera will have his hands full with Hollett who has been a kickboxer his entire life, but has looked unimpressive against higher-tier opponents. Hollett has losses against Emmanuel Newton, David Heath and obviously Hamill. Maldonado is a tough fight for anyone, especially in Brazil.
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links and MMA Odds Breaker will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links.