August 24, 2011 – This Saturday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Brazil for the first time in 13 years with UFC 134, otherwise known as UFC: Rio. Set to take place at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, the show features 14 Brazilians, including arguably the best one of them all in the main event as consensus #1 fighter in the world Anderson Silva puts his middleweight title on the line against Japanese sensation Yushin Okami. Co-headlining the card is a battle of former UFC champions in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and the ever-popular Forrest Griffin. The main card also features PRIDE legend Antonio “Minotauro” Rodrigo Nogueira as he takes on promising young heavyweight Brendan Schaub and one more bout in Brazilian Luiz Cane taking on promotional newcomer Stanislav Nedkov.
Let’s take a look at the card top to bottom and share our preview and predictions of every fight set to take place in Rio this Saturday.
UFC 134 – Main Card (Pay-Per-View)
Main Event Preview
Dana White calls Yushin Okami the “greatest Japanese fighter that’s ever lived.” That’s great praise from the boss and with all due respect but unless he changes his name to Kazushi Sakuraba and beats five Gracies, it’s simply not true.
Now that’s out of the way, we can talk about this fight.
This main event matchup is actually a rematch from a 2008 matchup at Rumble on the Rock 8 in Hawaii – Anderson’s last loss before his current 13-fight win streak. That fight ended in a disqualification due to an illegal upkick landed by Anderson after Okami got the takedown. Rather than continue, Okami took the DQ win – a victory that Anderson has classified as “cheap and hollow.” With UFC: Rio, both men have a chance at recovering a legitimate victory. And they both seem ready as ever.
“I train for the best guys in the world. I’m ready for this fight,” said the Spyder. “Okami is a good fighter but a fight is a fight. I He’s an opportunity for me to show my fight in Brazil. I don’t have pressure for this. I’m training for a long time. I’ve been fighting the best guys in the world. I don’t have pressure.”
For his part, Yushin Okami is going into this fight with a “nothing to lose” mindset. Feeling like he lost their first fight, he’s not going into this one with anything to prove other than he can legitimately beat Silva. In order to do so, he’s has enlisted the services of a man who knows a man who knows Silva well in Chael Sonnen – who beat Anderson for over twenty minutes before getting caught with a triangle. We’ll see if the mouthy one can pass along some knowledge to aid him in his quest.
Prediction – To me, Okami is like a poor man’s Chael Sonnen. He’s strong as an ox at middleweight, an above-average wrestler, and just decent everywhere else. Meanwhile, Anderson Silva at this point is undoubtedly the best in the world. Aside from his DQ against Okami, he’s only lost a few other times – by slick submissions way earlier in his career. Nowadays he’s the one pulling those types of moves off on his opponents. Anderson may not put out Okami via a snap front kick to the face like he did Vitor but somehow he will find a way.
Pick – Anderson Silva by unanimous decision.
Light Heavyweight bout – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (19-5) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-6)
Co-Main Event Preview
The co-main of evening features another rematch between two former UFC light heavyweight champions in Forrest Griffin and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The two first fought at UFC 76, where Forrest shocked the world by defeating the man then known as the top 205 fighter in the world at the time after reeling off some impressive wins (over Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Arona, Rampage Jackson, etc.) in Japan’s PRIDE organization. Fighting off the lingering effects of two knee surgeries, Shogun went into that fight rusty and out of shape – and it showed in the cage with him gassing out en route to the third round submission loss that is has been one of the biggest wins in Griffin’s career.
Heading into this fight, Forrest is expecting a much different Mauricio Rua this time around.
“People at their core are the same but that was his first fight in the UFC, his first fight without kicks on the ground. He looks different. It’s a different fight now,” said Forrest.
Indeed Shogun won’t have the infamous “octagon jitters” this time around. And he’ll be fighting in front of friends and family in his home country. He’ll also be looking to rebound from his last loss to Jon Jones and climb back up the mountain to the title. In order to get there, he’ll have to get past Forrest Griffin.
Prediction – I’m going to go on record here and say there is absolutely no way this one will go down like their first fight. Not entirely anyways. Forrest will still come in and charge Rua hard in his trademark gritty style. He’ll try to use his size to wear on the Brazilian until he can get him to fold like he did in 2007. As for Shogun, I look for him to show up to this fight in shape. If he does, he’ll do well to play a smart fight against Griffin and pick him apart from the outside until he gets his own opportunity to come in. When he gets that opportunity, he’ll be going for the finish.
Pick – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by first round knockout.
Heavyweight bout – Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6-1-1) vs. Brendan Schaub (8-1)
Prediction – Old-school meets new-school in a way with this one. No matter what happens in Brazil, “Minotauro” will always be known as one of the greatest fighters ever to have graced the mats in the sport of MMA. But the sport is passing him by. At 35-years old, it’s looking more and more like he’ll join his contemporaries Mirko Crocop and Fedor Emelianenko as legends on the verge of retirement. He’s lost two out of his last three heading into this one and faces a top heavyweight in well-rounded Brendan Schaub – a former TUF finalist heading into this bout looking for his fifth win in a row. As sad as it will be, look for Schaub to exploit the fast-aging Minotauro’s chin en route to the victory.
Pick – Brendan Schaub by third-round knockout.
Lightweight bout – Edson Barboza (8-0) vs. Ross Pearson (24-7)
Prediction – Get ready for a barn-burner in this one as two of the UFC’s up-and-coming young strikers take the stage in a fight that could give us the coveted ‘knockout of the night’ when all is said and done. Pearson was the winner of season 9 of the Ultimate Fighter but I can’t really recall any of his memorable fights. Meanwhile, Barboza has gone 2-0 in his short stint in the UFC and is coming off an amazing win over another impressive standup artist in Anthony Njokuani. The Brazilian is faster and most explosive than the Brit by a long shot. Look for that to be the difference late as this one should end with an exciting finish.
Pick – Edson Barbosa by third-round TKO.
Light Heavyweight bout – Luiz Cane (15-3) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (11-0)
Prediction – Luis Cane is a Ryan Gracie black belt that’s also known as a Muay Thai striker. He’s 4-3 total in the UFC and is coming off an impressive victory over Eliot Marshall. Meanwhile, Nedkov is also a BJJ black belt and impressive striker who’s been undefeated (with wins over Kevin Randleman and Travis Wiuff) prior to making his UFC debut in this bout. These two are seemingly evenly-matched but first-timers have the disadvantage under the bright lights of the UFC. I’ll have to go with Luiz Cane for the win in this one.
Pick – Luiz Cane by second round TKO.
UFC 134 – Preliminary Card (televised on Spike TV)
Lightweight bout – Thiago Tavares (15-4-1) vs. Spencer Fisher (24-7)
Quick Pick – Spencer Fisher by third round knockout.
Middleweight bout – Rousimar Palhares (13-3) vs. Dan Miller (13-5-0-1)
Quick Pick –Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares by third round submission.
UFC 134 – Preliminary Card (televised on Facebook)
Welterweight bout – Paulo Thiago (13-3) vs. David Mitchell (11-1)
Quick Pick – Paulo Thiago by second round submission.
Bantamweight bout – Raphael Assunção (16-4) vs. Johnny Eduardo (25-8)
Quick Pick – Raphael Assunção by second round submission.
Featherweight bout – Yuri Alcantara (25-3) vs. Felipe Arantes (13-3)
Quick Pick – Yuri Alcantra by unanimous decision.
Bantamweight bout – Yves Jabouin (15-7) vs. Ian Loveland (14-8)
Quick Pick – Yves Jabouin by unanimous decision.
Welterweight bout – Erick Silva (12-1-0-1) vs. Luis Ramos (19-6)
Quick Pick –Erick Silva by second round submission.
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