At UFC Fight Night 119 (Oct. 28), Sao Paulo, Brazil will host the return of Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida in a headlining bout versus Derek Brunson.
The Sao Paulo Fight Night boasts a variety of interesting fights and important matchups.
Following an 18 month suspension, Machida looks to launch himself back into the Middleweight fray where he takes on the 7th ranked Brunson in a 5 round main event. In an important Welterweight clash, Colby Covington will look to capitalise upon his current momentum by taking out recent title challenger Demian Maia.
Promising Bantamweight prospect Rob Font takes on submission specialist Pedro Munhoz and two veterans collide with Francisco Trinaldo facing Jim Miller. Also on the card, deadly finishers Thiago Santos and Jack Hermansson face off, with Marlon Vera opening up the main card looking to score the upset against brick-fisted Bantamweight John Lineker.
Main Event: Lyoto Machida vs Derek Brunson (#7)
After serving an 18 month suspension, Lyoto Machida (22-7) is making his long-awaited UFC return. After 2 years out of the sport, the former Light-heavyweight Champion will be looking to rebound after back-to-back losses, courtesy of Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero (each by way of finish). With his last victory coming in the form of a TKO finish over C.B. Dollaway in December of 2014, Machida will be desperate to get back into the winning column on Saturday evening.
In the time that Machida has been out of action, Derek Brunson (17-5) has amassed 6 fights with 4 KO/TKO victories and 2 losses. After losing to Anderson Silva and Robert Whittaker, Brunson returned to form in his last outing, knocking out Dan Kelly in just over 1 minute.
In his prime, this would seem like a great matchup for Machida. An opponent who is prone to rushing in, often leaving his chin exposed, would be an ideal adversary for “The Dragon” to showcase his skills. At one year shy of 40, there are questions to be asked regarding his ability to compete with the current division.
Throughout Machida’s career, he has largely stayed true to his elusive counter-striking style. Circling the outside of the cage, Machida aims to bait his opponents in and catch them with kicks and blitzing strikes. I believe he will adopt a similar strategy in this fight, looking to catch Brunson as he rushes forward.
As wrestler by trade, Brunson has favoured his striking in the latter half of his UFC career. An undeniably impressive streak of first round KOs has seen Brunson stray away from his traditional strengths. Despite yielding him success in many of his recent wins, Brunson’s aggressive, high-risk style was his undoing in his loss to Robert Whittaker. In Whittaker, he met a powerful and very technical striker who was able to withstand his striking onslaught and exploit his defensive porousness.
I believe that if Brunson is to have success against Machida he has to revert back to his wrestling base. In his fight with Anderson Silva, Brunson looked tentative on his feet and struggled to lead the striking exchanges against a passive Silva. If he is to strike with Machida, I do not believe Brunson is technical enough to come out on top. Despite his age, Machida should still be considered a very dangerous striker.
I predict that Brunson will fight smart in the first couple of rounds, staying patient and looking for takedown opportunities. However, as the fight goes on I can see Brunson straying from his initial gameplan and eventually getting caught by Machida in a striking exchange.
Prediction: Lyoto Machida via 3rd round TKO.
Co-main Event: Demian Maia (#3) vs Colby Covington (#8)
After facing every contender that came his way, racking up 7 successive victories, Demian Maia (25-7) ultimately fell short in his quest to acquire UFC gold – losing to Welterweight champ Tyron Woodley at UFC 214. After what might have been his last chance at claiming a UFC title, Maia is not looking at slowing down. His opponent, Colby Covington (12-1), is a rising Welterweight prospect and should be considered a tough stylistic matchup for Maia due to his strong wrestling ability.
Without making many friends along the way, Colby “Chaos” Covington (12-1) has established himself as a legitimate contender amongst the highly competitive UFC Welterweight division. Since his sole professional loss, Covington has racked up 4 wins in less than 1 year, beating Dong Hyun Kim by decision in his last outing. A victory over 3rd ranked Welterweight Maia could see Covington breach the top 5 of the division and put him a fight or two away from title contention.
Through utilising clever trips, single-leg, and double-leg takedowns, Maia is always aiming to get the fight to the ground. For what he lacks in pure athleticism, he makes up for in a persistent determination to get the fight to the floor. Once there, Maia can begin his methodical BJJ dissection. Often one step ahead of his opponents, Demian will look towards locking up a body triangle, chipping away with strikes, and waiting for a submission opening.
Despite the disparity in experience between both fighters, this may be a closer matchup than many think. In the past, Maia has struggled with his BJJ-centric gameplan against the top wrestlers of the division, such as Tyron Woodley, failing to take him down on multiple attempts.
As a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Covington has outstanding pure wrestling ability. Covington’s game is largely based upon striking to get in range and takedowns against the fence. However, you’d have to imagine Covington changes his strategy for this fight, prioritising takedown defence and striking from the outside. You can be sure Maia and his camp will have looked very closely at Covington’s guillotine loss to Warley Alves, in which he was caught with the submission whilst attempting a takedown.
In regards to their stand-up ability, both fighters are similar in that their striking is mostly a sideshow – used primarily as a means to execute their respective grappling and wrestling capabilities.
Covington’s strength and wrestling ability should allow him to keep the fight standing early, but as the fight goes on and both men begin to tire I can see Maia getting the fight to the floor and finding the submission. This fight will be a test of how far Covington’s striking has come along and more importantly, how his takedown defence will hold up over the course of 3 rounds.
Prediction: Demian Maia via 3rd round submission.
Pedro Munhoz (#12) vs Rob Font (#13)
When “The Young Punisher” Pedro Munhoz (14-2-1NC) takes to the octagon on Saturday night it will mark his 7th professional fight in his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Currently on a 3 fight winning streak, Munhoz’ last loss came courtesy of a split decision to Jimmie Rivera. Including his closely fought battle with top Bantamweight Rivera, notable performances in his UFC career include guillotine finishes over Russell Doane and Justin Scoggins.
Munhoz’ opponent, Rob Font (14-2), is currently one of the most promising fighters in the Bantamweight division. Outside of his sole UFC loss, Font has finished all of his UFC opponents in fierce fashion. Since that humbling loss to John Lineker at UFC 198, the Boston native has looked stronger than ever in his last two fights and will be hoping to continue his rise through the division.
One of Font’s major strengths lies in his jab. Along with a solid front kick, the Bostonian uses his jab to maintain distance and apply forward pressure. With a 7 inch reach advantage, this seems like an area in which Font will have little trouble establishing.
Although Munhoz has steadily improved his offensive striking, he often leaves himself vulnerable to attacks through a lack of head movement and a tendency to shell up. I believe this is an area in which Font could find success, using his knees in the clinch and powerful striking to score.
Whilst Font has shown well rounded grappling, Munhoz is not to be trifled with on the ground. An elite submission game and slick guillotine prove the ground to be an area Font should avoid. Through Font’s powerful strikes, jab, and knees in the clinch I believe he will find most of his success on the feet and ultimately seal the victory.
I see Font winning this one but I have wavered slightly in my prediction. There is the potential for a finish but I feel like Munhoz’ resilience will be enough to see him through all 3 rounds.
Prediction: Rob Font via unanimous decision.
Francisco Trinaldo vs Jim Miller
After an impressive run in the Lightweight division, earning 7 straight victories, Francisco Trinaldo’s streak eventually came to an end at the hands of Kevin Lee. As a long-time favourite in Brazil, Trinaldo (21-5) will be keen to put on a good performance and rally the Brazilian fans behind him.
Jim Miller (28-10-1NC) is heading to Sao Paulo off the back of two tough defeats. Putting on admirable performances against top Lightweight competitors Anthony Pettis and Dustin Poirier, Miller fell to a decision loss in each. Having shared the octagon with the likes of Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Benson Henderson, and Joe Lauzon, Miller has a wealth of experience against the elite of the Lightweight division and won’t be opposed to a challenge like Trinaldo.
As a striker by nature and former professional kickboxer, Trinaldo has proven to be troublesome on the feet. The 39 year old southpaw has good movement, accurate striking, and a strong left kick. In his last loss to Kevin Lee, the Brazilian had great success early on in the fight, landing heavy shots and hurting Lee to the head and body. With 7 wins by knockout, Trinaldo will favour his striking and look for openings to land his big left-hand shot.
Lightweight veteran Jim Miller has a well rounded skill-set and superb grappling ability. As a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt and an experienced MMA grappler, I expect Miller to have a distinct advantage on the ground. I can see the striking exchanges being fairly even, with a slight edge to Trinaldo, but I think Miller will be able to control the Brazilian on the mat if he can secure the takedown. Not averse to a stand-up brawl however, I believe Miller will be able to hold his own on the feet and utilise his chopping low kick to slow the Brazilian down.
In what could be a ‘fight-of-the-night’ contender, I expect a back and forth battle in which Miller comes out on top, winning a close decision.
Prediction: Jim Miller via unanimous decision.
Thiago Santos (#15) vs Jack Hermansson
Brazil’s Thiago Santos (15-5) has had an impressive year so far, with 2nd round TKO victories over Jack Marshmann and Gerald Meerschaert. Back-to-back losses in 2016 put a halt to Santos’ progression, but he will be hoping to announce his presence in the Middleweight division once more with a win in Sao Paulo.
Former Cage Warriors Middleweight Champion Jack Hermansson (16-3) has had an equally impressive year, with first round finishes over Alex Nicholson and Brad Scott. As a finisher, Sweden’s Hermansson has 10 KO/TKO victories with 7 coming in the first round.
Hermansson is a powerful striker but his major strength is on the ground where he has a strong top game along with effective ground-and-pound. Expect Hermansson to cover lots of ground in the beginning of the fight and time a takedown off one of Santos’ kicks.
As for Santos, the Brazilian possesses devastating power in his kicks and excellent fight-ending ability. He typically fights in the orthodox stance but routinely swaps to southpaw to set up left body and high kicks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hermansson land a takedown or two but I think Santos is strong enough comparatively on the ground to survive. As for my overall prediction, I can see Santos investing in body kicks early, surviving the takedowns, and ultimately finishing the fight on the feet.
Prediction: Thiago Santos via 2nd round TKO.
John Lineker (#5) vs Marlon Vera
When it comes to fighter nicknames, not many are more accurate than John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (29-8). Touted as the ‘hardest hitting Bantamweight’, Lineker will ensure Marlon Vera has his hands full on Saturday night.
Lineker was on 6 fight winning streak until he met former Bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 207. After being on the receiving end of a dominant Dillashaw performance, Lineker will be looking to rebound with a victory in Sao Paulo.
Marlon “Chito” Vera (10-3-1), currently on a 3-fight winning streak, is heading into this one on the back of an impressive submission victory over Brian Kelleher. A win for “Chito” Vera would come as a massive upset and guarantee him a spot in the Bantamweight top 15.
There are many reasons why former Flyweight Lineker is feared amongst the Bantamweight division. Through continuous forward pressure, heavy hands, and an iron chin, Lineker has the ability to get fighters on the back foot. Throwing a barrage of hooks and ferocious body shots, Lineker has most of his success when his opponents are trapped against the cage.
If Marlon Vera is to have any success in this fight he must avoid the edge of the cage, strike from the outside, and not get caught in a brawl. Against quicker opponents, Lineker has had trouble cutting off the cage and executing his somewhat predictable game plan. At UFC 207, Dillashaw had good success catching Lineker coming in and taking him down. With a solid BJJ game, this may be another avenue in which Vera could explore.
I do believe, however, that Lineker will come out on top in this one. As the more experienced fighter, I expect Lineker to bully Vera on the feet and have the strength to defend against the takedown.
Prediction: John Lineker via unanimous decision.
If you agree or disagree with any of my predictions please leave a comment or get in touch with me on Twitter!