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UFC 134 Preview

For the first time in 13 years, the UFC is returning to Brazil for UFC 134, AKA UFC Rio.  Unsurprisingly, this card features 14 of the promotions Brazilian fighters to appease the home crowd.  Most notable among these names are Anderson Silva, who will defend his Middleweight Title against Yushin Okami, and Shogun Rua, who hopes to get back to winning ways in a big light heavyweight contest against Forrest Griffin.

Heavyweight legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will be back in action against one of the top young heavyweights in Brendan Schaub.  We’ll also see Luiz Cane, Thiago Tavares, and Rousimar Palhares in action as they look to proudly represent Brazil at this momentous event.  We definitely have some nice fights ahead of us, but more than that, the atmosphere should be electric.  I’m looking forward to see Royce Gracie and other Brazilian legends involved in some capacity because it’s inevitable that we’ll see some of the early MMA stars make appearances tonight.

UFC 134 will air live on pay per view at 9:00 PM EST/8:00 PM CST with two preliminary fights broadcast on Spike TV at 8:00 PM EST/7:00 PM CST.  The remaining prelims will air on Facebook at 6:00 PM EST/5:00 PM CST.  Here’s a trivia question: of the fighters at Ultimate Brazil in 1998, how many of them are still with the UFC?  I might as well just give you the answer now since you’ll look it up anyway.  Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort are still in the UFC, though Silva could be very close to leaving the promotion if he doesn’t get back to winning.

Middleweight Title: (c) Anderson Silva (30-4, No. 1 MW) vs. Yushin Okami (26-5, No. 3 MW)

Is it possible that Anderson Silva could lose his UFC Middleweight Title to Yushin Okami in Brazil, having never lost a fight in the UFC?  I mean, I guess anything is possible.  And if anybody could pull this off, Okami would be a great choice.  Okami has a number of great wins in the UFC and has been a very impressive middleweight despite not having received a title shot yet.

But come on, this is Anderson Silva.  The best fighter in the UFC and one of the best fighters of all time.  Okami was defeated by the two best opponents he fought (Rich Franklin and Chael Sonnen) and his recent win over Nate Marquardt might be his best.  I don’t count Okami’s win against Silva since it came from Okami being illegally kicked in the head.

I do think this fight will go the distance and I think it will end up in Silva’s favor.  I don’t feel like Anderson has lost a step and I think this is his fight to win.  He’s run through the rest of the middleweight division and I see no real reason why Okami would be any different.

Light Heavyweight: Mauricio Rua (19-5, No. 4 LHW) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-6, No. 6 LHW)

I’m not really sure how this one is going to go.  Rua looked really rusty when he was getting pummeled by Jon Jones not too long ago.  Forrest Griffin just beat Rich Franklin, though it wasn’t in particularly impressive fashion.  I like Rua to win this just because I can’t see Forrest beating him for a second time.  Rua is likely healthier now than he was in their first fight and I don’t take a lot from the Jones fight – Jones is a monster who could probably beat Royce Gracie and Jesus Christ at the same time.

Rua by decision is my pick.  I think he’ll be able to control Forrest and take advantage of a rabid crowd in his home country en route to victory.

Heavyweight: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6-1, 1 NC, No. 10 HW) vs. Brendan Schaub (8-1, No. 13 HW)

I really worry that this fight will turn into a public execution tonight.  Nogueira is 35 with surgically repaired knees and hips, Brendan Schaub is a young, athletic fighter who has vastly improved since his time on the Ultimate Fighter.  I can’t help but Dana White has contracted Schaub to kill off the remaining PRIDE heavyweights given his destruction of Cro Cop.

Schaub is probably going to win this fight, but I’d love to see Nogueira get the win just to see the Brazilian fans go absolutely nuts when it happens.  I’m not going to hold my breath for that, but I really hope Nogueira doesn’t get knocked out tonight.  I really, really hope so.

Light Heavyweight: Luiz Cane (11-3, 1 NC, No. 21 LHW) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (11-0)

Luiz Cane is a powerful striker who has faced some top talents at light heavyweight with mixed success.  Stanislav Nedkov is making his UFC debut and his best win is over a very past his prime Kevin Randleman.  I think we’ll see Nedkov get extremely knocked out here.

Lightweight: Edson Barboza (8-0) vs. Ross Pearson (12-4)

Barboza is a scary kickboxer who knocks dudes out.  Barboza’s performance against Anthony Njokuani at UFC 128 was stellar and he could be a real force at 155 pounds.  Pearson has also done pretty well for himself since winning The Ultimate Fighter season 9, going 4-1 in the UFC during this time.  Pearson is tough and doesn’t get knocked out, but I think Barboza is going to win a war that could easily take Fight of the Night.

Lightweight: Thiago Tavares (15-4-1) vs. Spencer Fisher (24-7)

Tavares: 2-1-1 in his last four fights.  Fisher: 1-3 in his last four fights.  Fisher was the last guy to lose to Joe Stevenson, who has quickly faded into obscurity himself.  Tavares has lost against top competition, but also holds big wins over Manny Gamburyan and Michihiro Omigawa.  I don’t think Fisher has a whole lot left and will be submitted here.

Middleweight: Rousimar Palhares (12-3, No. 15 MW) vs. Dan Miller (13-5, 1 NC)

The big question in this one: is Dan Miller’s BJJ good enough to stop Rousimar Palhares from ripping off an arm or leg?  Palhares’ submissions are dangerous, but Dan Miller is a great grappler in his own right.  He’s never been submitted, even against fighters like Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia.  In the end, I think Miller will do enough to survive and take a decision win.

Welterweight: Paulo Thiago (13-3, No. 21 WW) vs. David Mitchell (11-1)

Paulo Thiago by submission.  David Mitchell has never really beaten anybody, while Thiago has spent the last couple of years fighting some of the top welterweights in the world.  Decision losses to Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez may not help your career, but those are two tough fighters and are fairly excusable losses.  I like Thiago a lot in this fight.

Featherweight: Raphael Assuncao (16-4) vs. Johnny Eduardo (25-8)

Welterweight: Erick Silva (11-1, 1 NC) vs. Luis Ramos (19-6)

Bantamweight: Yves Jabouin (15-7) vs. Ian Loveland (14-8)

Featherweight: Felipe Arantes (13-3, 2 NC) vs. Yuri Alcantara (25-3)

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