Fight fans are already pretty excited for UFC 163: Aldo vs. Korean Zombie (yes, that’s the official name), coming up this Saturday at HSBC Arena in Rio De Jainero, Brazil. It’s easy to see why — it’s a pretty strong main card, punctuated by a title bout featuring “Pound-for-Pound” entrant José Aldo, and a light heavyweight co-feature bout featuring two of the top ten in the world. You may not really even need a breakdown for the main card, but hey, tomorrow I will anyway.
Anyway, it’s the preliminary bouts which you may not have considered so I’m going to highlight them today. There’s not as much glamour, but there’s certainly some good action to be found: one of the top five flyweights in MMA, an Abu Dhabi champion, a jiu-jitsu world champion or two (what did you expect? It’s in BRAZIL!), and some exciting prospects, besides.
Bout #1 features two little-known Brazilian light heavyweights, Ednaldo Oliveira and Francimar Barroso. The 6’7″ former heavyweight Oliveira was originally to face Robert Drysdale (whose presence here is admittedly missed). Looking to rebound from a loss to Gabriel Gonzaga, Oliveira is moving down to 205 where he will have a substantial reach advantage over most the division. Late replacement Barroso is undersized here but he’s got some positives, too: he’s listed as from possibly the best camp in the world, Nova União, and has shown explosiveness, posting quick wins recently by choke and head kick in Brazil.
Bout #2 features TUF 16 quarter-finalist Bristol Marunde, a classy veteran with a sharp all-around game. His opponent, TUF Brazil 2 semifinalist Viscardi Andrade, is a jiu-jitsu black belt with a strong right hand, fighting out of Gracie Fusion in São Paulo. Both guys have their advantages and both have seen success in ZUFFA. Watch for a chess match as Marunde to try and use his striking and clinch game while avoiding the takedown. I’m picking Marunde to earn a stoppage, late.
Next, elite Brazilian grappler Rani Yahya faces Josh Clopton, an inexperienced fighter from the Bay Area’s Skrap Pack. This is a spotlight bout for the former Abu Dhabi champion Yahya, so expect a quick choke finish and a raucous reception.
These will be broadcast on the UFC Facebook page. The fourth bout through the seventh bout will each be televised on FX in the US.
Bout #4 has one of MMA’s top five flyweights in Ian McCall against Brazil’s Iliarde Santos. Santos has failed to step up from regional MMA competition, and this is a tall order for him. McCall is rebounding from a two straight losses, and prior to that he fought Demetrious Johnson to a draw — so it’s been three years (and a near-death experience due to an overdose) since his last victory. Watch for him to come out swinging and take this home.
Bout #5 has Sergio Moraes, a BJJ World Champion and TUF Brazil 1 finalist, against the wiry striker Neil Magny, a TUF 16 semi-finalist. Moraes is vastly superior on the ground but he’ll have to get it there, and it will be tough. We saw another good grappler, Cameron Diffley, couldn’t. My gut feeling is that Moraes is on another level, and should find a way to take this, but it’s easy to imagine he can’t. Really, it’s do or die for both.
Next, Amanda Nunes takes on Sheila Gaff in a women’s bantamweight bout. The two, ranked seventh and tenth respectively, are both hard-hitting strikers and are coming off losses — but Nunes would seem the quicker and more well rounded.
Finally, Vinny Magalhães vs. Anthony Perosh. Perosh has showed his heart in MMA against the likes of Mirko Cro-Cop, and some slick ground skill too — but TUF 8’s Magalhães is even better on the mat and just a bit better all-around here. Expect the world no-gi champ to dominate position and get a decision win, but it should be a fun ground battle to get there.
Enjoy the fights. We’ll have a look at the main card tomorrow!