UFC 134: Silva vs. Okami (AKA “Rio”) Preview

The UFC is back in Brazil for the first time since October 1998, when UFC Ultimate Brazil hit the Ginasio da Portuguesa in São Paulo. Quite a bit has changed over the past dozen or so years, including a huge increase in the caliber of fighters. The two title contenders – Mikey Burnett at 170 lbs. and John Lober at 185 lbs. – had records of 4-1 and 3-5-2, respectively. 4-1 will only get you a title shot if you’re this guy, and 3-5-2 won’t even get you in the gate anymore. In fact, out of everyone on that card, the only two guys who are currently in the UFC are legends in their own right: Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva. (SPOILER: This is how it ended.)

But no matter. You’re not here to live in the past, right? You’re here because you want to read about the best of the fighting world, getting it in for up to 25 minutes, all for your enjoyment. Or you were looking for a real sports blog and got lost. Either way, welcome.

We will eschew the Facebook prelims, but we’ll say Yves Jabouin, Yuri Alcantara, Erick Silva (so many damn Silvas in Brazil), UFC newcomer Johnny Eduardo and WTF is Paulo Thiago doing on a prelim? I mean he’s dropped his last two, but at least give a Brazilian brotha some Spike love, man.

SPIKE PRELIMS:
Middleweight bout: Rousimar Palhares vs. Dan Miller
Palhares and Miller are both ridiculously-evenly matched. Both are very strong BJJ practitioners, both with tons of submission victories, and neither has been submitted themselves. So who gets the nod? Palhares does, for 3 reasons: 1) home field advantage; 2) Palhares is fucking GARGANTUAN at 185 (evokes memories of Nate Marquardt in that respect); and 3) while Dan Miller has great all-around BJJ, Palhares has perfected leg submissions, netting 6 of his 12 wins by either heel hook, Angle Lock… uh, I mean ankle lock… or heel hook. You know he’s going for it, but it’s so uncommon that it’s not nearly as easy to defend against as, say, a rear-naked choke or an armbar. Rousimar Palhares will find his opening, and Dan Miller will be lucky to walk away from the cage after. Should be a great tactical fight and a lot of fun to watch, but we put money down that it’ll illict “boring” chants at whatever bar you may take the fight in at. Stupid marks…

Lightweight bout: Thiago Tavares vs. Spencer Fisher
I remember several years ago, watching UFC Fight Night 10: Stout vs. Fisher, not really knowing much about MMA, but knowing that what I saw in the main event was extremely entertaining. On top of that though, I was blown away with Thiago Tavares’ performance against Jason Black, controlling the fight with excellent ground work, executing a great slam, and finishing strong with a triangle in the second round. Ah, memories. Anyway, back to reality: Tavares is still a BJJ stud, with enough skill and strength to get Fisher to the ground. With the exception of the KO loss to Shane Roller in March, Tavares has looked great even in losses – especally the loss to Kurt Pellegrino. On the other side of the cage, sitting at a lowly 1-3 over his last 4 fights, this may be a pink slip match for The King.

MAIN CARD:
Light Heavyweight bout: Luiz Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov
We was up on LA Cane before y’all were out the playpen, you dig? Yes, first-round TKOs delivered by Lil’ Nog and Cyrille Diabate are a few blemishes, but his striking is pure and strong, and he causes a threat to anyone he faces. Stanislav Nedkov, frankly, sounds like a dish made with cabbage and some sort of dressing. Regardless, he has never fought a striker the caliber of Cane before, and he doesn’t have nearly enough experience to defend against the relentless assault. This ain’t weightlifting so the Bulgarian ain’t walking away a winner. (Obscure sports reference or what…)

Lightweight bout: Edson Barboza vs. Ross Pearson
Edson Barboza will do what he does best: take Ross Pearson’s legs out of the equation with stiff leg kicks, nullify Pearson’s striking, and grind out a decision. Boring fight from both men? Yes. But a W is a W.

Heavyweight bout: Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub
Oh Brendan. Beating 3 washed-up fighters in a row doesn’t make you a title contender, especially when you don’t even beat the 3rd. Mirko Filipović and Gabriel Gonzaga aren’t bad, but they’re way past their prime. Big Nog is too, but has just the tools to beat someone like Schaub: tons of experience, great submissions from all over the map, and likely as big an ovation as anyone else on the card will get. But most importantly, this is a chance for Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira to go out on-top. He’ll submit Brendan Schaub, then announce his retirement in his home country, with a win over a top contender to be remembered by. To play Devil’s Advocate though, getting finished in 2 of his last 3 fights and having been out of action for 17 months may be too much for him to overcome with a young freight train coming at him in Schaub. If Schaub is able to nab this win, we’re gonna nickname him Randy, cuz he’s becoming a legend killer.

Light Heavyweight bout: Maurício Rua vs. Forrest Griffin
Forrest looked TREMENDOUS in his return fight against Rich Franklin, showing a nasty side that I had never seen in him. He had this fire, this tenacity, this mean streak about him; very much a “do NOT fuck with me” aura. As far as Shogun goes, he won’t take Griffin lightly this time around, but I’m not convinced that the knee will ever be 100% for him again. Shogun doesn’t have the speed that he once had, or the reaction time, and both will cost him dearly against a bigger, stronger Forrest Griffin. Regardless, there’s no way this fight is going to the third round. (Quick aside: a loss and Shogun drops to 1-3 in his last 4. He wouldn’t get cut, for sure, but with the knee as it is, maybe an early retirement is in the cards?)

Middleweight Championship bout: Anderson Silva (c) vs. Yushin Okami
I won’t bore you with Anderson Silva man-love. We all already know who he his and what he’s capable of. But what about Okami? How does he match-up against Silva? Well let’s see how Silva has fared against two of the best wrestlers in MMA history:

Dan Henderson: Rear Naked Choke @ 4:50 R2 (Henderson won the first round in my opinion)
Chael Sonnen: Triangle Choke @ 3:10 R5 (Sonnen was winning every round, and I don’t think the testoterone made a difference)

So if Silva has any Achilles’ heel, it’s wrestlers. (And this crazy shit, which I doubt Okami will be trying.) Problem is, Silva still finds a way to win, even against his worst style matchup. Okami’s striking is nowhere near Dan Henderson’s, and he’s not quite as strong as Chael Sonnen. I can’t find a single way that Okami can win this fight. Also recently breaking is the story of how Chael Sonnen was planning on being in Okami’s corner, but was told by one of Okami’s sponsors not to come for his own safety. After what he’s said about Anderson Silva, they’ve got a point. Someone may cut a trash-talker. They are MAD gully in Rio, son.

Our picks are somewhat varied, but we all agree on Palhares, Barboza and Silva. For you sportsbettin’ types, there’s your parlay lock right there.

Fight Armondo Casey TJ
Palhares vs. Miller Palhares Palhares Palhares
Tavares vs. Fisher Tavares Tavares Fisher
Cane vs. Nedkov Cane Cane Nedkov
Barboza vs. Pearson Barboza Barboza Barboza
Nogueira vs. Schaub Nogueira Schaub Schaub
Rua vs. Griffin Griffin Griffin Rua
Silva vs. Okami Silva Silva Silva

Last I checked, here are our most updated standings:

Armondo TJ Casey
Overall 62-35-2 59-38-2 58-39-2
GB 3 4

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