Cavalcante was initially slated to face Lyle Beerbohm, but "Fancy Pants" pulled out on July 20 and Green gladly stepped up as a replacement. The late swap should increase Cavalcante's confidence, but will likely do nothing to alleviate the pressure weighing down on him to get back in the win column.
After dropping a decision to then-elite Joachim Hansen in a 2004 Shooto event, Cavalcante went on an epic tear through Japan's lightweight ranks. With one draw mixed in along the way, the American Top Team bulldog stacked his record with twelve wins, which included reputable names like Michihiro Omigawa, Hiroyuki Takaya, Rani Yahya, Caol Uno, Nam Phan, and Vitor Ribeiro.
This tidal wave of impressive showings, most being finished in devastating fashion, paved the way for a clash with equally surging lightweight Shinya Aoki on the Dream stage. In their first encounter, Cavalcante slashed down a vicious series of elbows to Aoki's upper-back while he was doggedly pursued a double leg in the clinch, and the blows were ruled illegal and the bout a No Contest when Aoki couldn't continue.
Since that night in 2008, JZ has posted only one victory with three losses and another No Contest. His last outing was cut short when his finger unintentionally strayed into the eye of Justin Wilcox in the second round of their preliminary match on the Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum card. The general consensus is that, up until the accidental foul, Wilcox was in the driver's seat.
However, let's not undersell the man: his first two losses of the recent downturn were delivered by the perennial top-two Japanese lightweights, and the baffling scores in the Josh Thomson fight are commonly inserted as an example of the chaotic crapshoot that modern day judging has become.
While Green is inevitably a step down from Beerbohm, he's a wildly talented athlete who has embraced the challenge of higher weight classes and taken to MMA like a fish to water. With less than three years of experience, Green has wrapped two different KOTC championship belts around his waist, and, out of his four losses, one was in his third entry and two came from fighters in a higher weight class.
Green will bring a healthy dose of fearless aggression and unpredictability, so gaining some traction will be far from a cakewalk for Cavalcante. Find the match up analysis in the full entry.
While Green has shown a frightening adaptation to MMA, he won't be able to match the overall technical skill that JZ possesses in all aspects of combat.
Cavalcante has high level BJJ and a dangerous guard, but since fighting from your back has become an all or nothing scenario, he'd be wise to avoid the position and wreak havoc from the top. Green compensates up for his lack of experience with raw athleticism, he's fairly diverse and he makes you work hard for everything.
Standing, JZ is the crisper technician, but the chance of him eating a wayward punch or Green timing an explosive takedown make the scales more evenly balanced. The animation above shows how Cavalcante could get in trouble being reckless on the feet. Green might not have the pure strength or powerful wrestling of Justin Wilcox, but he certainly has the agility and acuity to replicate this scenario.
Green is a pedal-to-the-metal predator who will fight like a lunatic with nothing to lose. JZ will have no need to initiate exchanges nor press the action, so I'm speculating his best strategy will be to let Green come to him. A down and dirty dogfight is where Green thrives, and Cavalcante's sharpest weapon should be a cerebral application of his diverse technicality.
The sequence to the right depicts a safer and more effective method for JZ to follow. Staying wary of Green's homerun punches and any takedown attempts, the footwork, movement, crisp counter striking and fanatic defense of Cavalcante should carry him to victory. Kicks might offer more risk than reward, so just sticking to tight, basic boxing combinations should pay dividends, especially if he stays on balance to repel takedown attempts and clinch attacks.
JZ has employed a similar strategy in many of his past pairings with both formidable strikers (Nam Phan, Andre Amado, Katsunori Kikuno) and crafty grapplers endeavoring to ground the fight (Rani Yahya, Caol Uno, Vitor Ribeiro).
Green's eruption of violence should offer a few holes for JZ to plug with carefully harnessed jolts of his own offense. Composed circling while lancing simple, straight punches on the feet, a dedication to balance and defense in the clinch before looking to escape or impose with the Thai plum, and making sure he holds the top position if the fight hits the ground should all be situations where JZ will surpass Green.
Conversely, the opposite is true for "King". If he can force Cavalcante into a corner and unload a barrage of strikes while both are stationary, or grind him in the clinch and work knees while seeking the chance to drop levels, and if the takedown is successful, scorch strikes from top while playing the scramble game, his chances significantly improve. Green's complete confidence and courage plus his gameness against larger foes make him a wild card to watch out for. He's a rhythm fighter that Cavalcante should be able to force off-track with a fervent implementation of a "boxing the brawler" game plan.
I feel JZ can pop neat and simple combinations through Green's defense and then gradually heighten his aggression after holding his ground early. Cutting a variety of angles with his chin tucked should produce opportunities for counter strikes and eventually allow him to open up. Once Green is stabilized, Cavalcante can squeeze the trigger more freely and possibly end the fight on the feet or with unyielding pressure from the top.
My Prediction: Cavalcante by submission
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com