Okay, with the appetizers out of the way (don’t sleep on those prelims!), let’s look forward to the main course this Saturday in Rio De Jainero, Brazil.
UFC 163: Aldo vs. Korean Zombie features a solid main card by anyone’s standard. Headlining is a world title fight at featherweight, featuring pound-for-pound entrant José Aldo and a respected and always-exciting attraction, if not the division’s top contender, in Chan-Sung Jun, otherwise known as “The Korean Zombie.” The co-main sees former light heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida taking on Phil Davis in a bout which will likely decide the next shot at current champion Jon Jones. I’m of the opinion every UFC PPV should ideally boast a title bout; if not, two bouts with major title implications. Here, we have both, and a little more.
But first, three bouts which each feature at least one popular Brazilian, so expect them to warm up the crowd nicely.
First, the UFC run of John Lineker continues, the former bantamweight champion Brazil’s top MMA organization Jungle Fight. Lineker is now ranked among the top ten flyweights in the world, his “Fight of the Night” loss to Louis Gaudinot the only blemish in his last 14 bouts. His opponent and countryman Jose Maria is making his Octagon debut. Lineker is a strong, relentless striker while Jose Maria is known for a solid wrestling/luta livre background. Both are young and hungry, but Lineker is the proven quantity.
Second, Rio’s own Thales Leites returns to the Octagon after a four-year absence to fight Tom Watson of the UK. A solid all-around fighter, Leites seemed to be cut as much for a lack of activity in his two 2009 UFC losses, so expect him to come out swinging to the delight of his hometown fans. Knockout artist Watson is a colorful character with some solid wins in Britain and beyond, but I think he’s a bit overmatched here.
Next, TUF Brazil 1 champion Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira will face newcomer Thiago Santos. “Mutante” had a spirited run on TUF, scoring two gullotine choke finishes, a memorable head kick knockout, and then shutting down Sergio Moraes in the final — but he still looks raw. That said, late replacement, TUF Brazil 2 veteran Thiago “Marreta” Santos doesn’t seem capable to expose the young Ferreira’s weaknesses.
In the co-main, Phil Davis takes on Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, in a light heavyweight contender bout of “unstoppable force vs. immovable object.” Both are world class guys and worthy contenders, so don’t be surprised to see this go the distance, with Machida staying elusive and Davis staying on the attack. I like Lyoto to get a little lift from the Brazil fans, already excited by a Brazil-dominated undercard, to score just enough to sway the judges. I predict frustration from American fans about the decision, as well.
What can be said about the main? Watch for many’s pound-for-pound champion José Aldo to keep his crazy pace of flying knees, kicks, and punches — and watch for Chan-Sung Jun, “The Korean Zombie,” to just keep coming and look to surprise. I think Nova União will have Aldo prepared for anything, but it will be fun along the way.
As always, enjoy the fights! We’ll have full coverage on Saturday.