And.. its fight night tomorrow night! Again!
If it seems someone’s typing that every day lately… it should. Gone are the days we were lucky to get, say, three UFC shows in eight months. Tonight’s Ultimate Fight Night 28 from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to be televised on Fox Sports 1 at 5/8 pm PST/EST, will cap off an unprecedented three UFC events in eight days.
Last weekend’s UFC 164 was a lot of fun and last Tuesday’s Ultimate Fight Night 27 was solid. This card? It’s not bad. Each fighter featured in both the co-main event and the main event is probably among the top ten in the world at their weight.
Still, I may be more excited about this fight than it merits on paper. The thing is, fights don’t happen on paper – they happen in cages and rings — and this event promises to have a typically raucous Brazilian crowd to help the action along. I’m also hopeful for the under card, which is heavy on talent which most of us North Americans haven’t had much exposure to.
That Brazilian crowd has two of their own in the card’s headliners, as Glover Teixeira of Sobralia, Brazil fights American Ryan Bader in the main, and Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza of Manaus, Brazil (whose nickname is “Alligator” in Portuguese) fights Japan’s Yushin Okami in the co-main. Both enter the Octagon big betting favorites.
Teixeira, who now fights out of John Hackleman’s The Pit in California, has won 19 straight MMA bouts, going back eight years. He’s a strong striker, if not the most graceful, with excellent grappling skills besides. His opponent, former All-American wrestler Ryan Bader, is a good but not great fighter – the kind that Teixeira needs to beat to earn a Light Heavyweight title shot against Jon Jones.
I’m concerned at how much Teixeira gets hit, especially from jabs – but I don’t think that’s going to cost him much here. I’m expecting Teixeira to prove the odds makers right, beating Bader up standing and dominating enough of the groundwork to earn a clear decision victory.
The co-main is more interesting. Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza (pictured above, doing his alligator crawl into the cage) is possibly the best jiu-jitsu player in MMA, with Roger Gracie struggling to impose a jiu-jitsu game in his MMA career. He’s also shown good striking, wrestling, and an overall athleticism which we don’t always see from the great jiu-jitsu artists trying to make that transition. A champion in now-defunct Strikeforce MMA, Jacaré is 1-0 in the UFC and in the hunt for a title shot.
His opponent, Yushin Okami, is a longtime contender in the UFC middleweight division which was just blown open by Chris Weidman’s victory over Anderson Silva. He’s also an anomaly. Most Japanese MMA fighters seem less concerned with the weight cutting and strength and conditioning practices of their North American counterparts, and they’ve often struggled on North American soil. Okami, and his UFC success, may be the exception that proves the rule. Okami has used his imposing frame to good use, battering opponents with occasional shots while scoring the occasional takedown and earning his string of decision wins.
My pick here is Jacaré, but I expect some difficult moments for him. It’s a good measure of the contender, to fight a guy so difficult to move, with his dynamic game. Okami has never lost by submission in 36 MMA bouts, so look for this one to go the distance as well.
As always, enjoy the fights. We will have coverage here tomorrow.