In non-Grand Prix action on July 20th's DREAM 10 card, heavy-handed Dutch K-1 kickboxer Melvin Manhoef (23-5) will battle it out in the MMA ring against Brazilian jiu-jitsu powerhouse Paulo Filho (16-1). Both middleweights are coming off stunning losses. Filho fell to Chael Sonnen at WEC 36 after failing to make weight and having mental health issues. Manhoef was upset by Keijiro Maeda at the K-1 World GP 2009 leg in Yokohama, Japan. Manhoef managed to fight a month-and-a-half later on the "It's SHOWTIME" card in Amsterdam, but he was being outstruck by Stefan Leko until Leko hurt his leg in the third round. Manhoef escaped with the victory.
Paulo Filho (16-1) was considered the #2 ranked middleweight in the world when he landed in the WEC back in August of 2007. With wins over Kazuo Misaki, Ryo Chonan, Murilo "Ninja" Rua, Yuki Kondo, and Amar Suloev, Filho moved up in the ranks quickly behind his teammate at Black House, the UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Filho wasn't able to win the PRIDE 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix due to a knee injury sustained in his battle with Kazuo Misaki at PRIDE: Bushido 13, and PRIDE was subsequently bought before Filho was able to return to the ring.
Filho returned to MMA in the caged environment of the WEC after a nine-month layoff. He won the vacant WEC middleweight title with some sloppy yet powerful striking that ended Joe Doerksen's night quickly, and he defended the title at WEC 31 despite being dropped in the first round by Chael Sonnen. Following the fight, Filho's life took a turn for the worse.
According to many reports, Filho bailed on the first scheduled match-up with Chael Sonnen in a rematch for the WEC title due to substance abuse. He had entered rehab, and he was working out the addiction so that he could continue fighting. When the fight actually took place on Nov. 5th, 2008, Filho was unable to make weight, and the stories regarding the actual bout were perplexing. Following the fight, reports surfaced that Filho was still going through opiate withdrawal and his depression had likely taken a toll on him.
Filho will now return to MMA once again after a lengthy layoff to fight at DREAM 10. Surprisingly, he has accepted the fight at 185 lbs., a weight class that many fans feel is a tough cut for Filho. Hopefully, Filho's demons have been exorcised, and he can get back to business.
It won't be an easy task. Melvin Manhoef will also be looking to return to form after a shocking loss to Keijiro Maeda and a subpar performance against Stefan Leko in K-1 action. His last MMA bout, however, was an upset win over a much heavier Mark Hunt at Dynamite!! 2008. It's obvious that in the smaller MMA gloves, Manhoef's hands can end a fight at any moment. Filho will have to look out for the onslaught early.
On paper, most fans will pick Paulo Filho to dominate. His submission game is vastly better than most BJJ black belts, let alone Manhoef. Filho's strength is astounding for a grappler, and in one catch of a limb -- he can break an appendage in seconds. The problem for Filho stems from Manhoef's powerful kicks and punches. Filho's stand-up is appalling, and in some of his more recent bouts, he's looked rather lackluster in his takedowns as well. Manhoef isn't exactly a guy you want to wade into a clinch with as he'll put the leather on your chin and celebrate a victory.
To twist this fight into a more interesting light, Manhoef has also been training at Brazilian Top Team on his jiu-jitsu. It should make it a bit tougher for Filho to hold down Manhoef, although most fans are going to be convinced that Filho will simply crush him in any type of ground war. I'd agree.
This is much more of a test for Filho than it is for Manhoef. Manhoef is likely expecting Filho to go for a ground battle, but Filho's stand-up, his mental state, and even his explosiveness following the weight cut will all be meticulously looked at as he comes into this fight. If Filho has those pieces of the puzzle in check, he can win easily once the fight in on the ground. If he's even remotely lackadasical and mentally unstable, Manhoef will probably tee off on Filho and end the hype surrounding the once-dominating Brazilian.