UFC 134: Rio - Facebook Preliminary Card Dissection

Starting this Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, four matches from UFC 134: Rio will be streamed live and free on the UFC's Facebook page. This will serve as the lead in to the Spike TV prelims at 8 p.m ET, which will in turn be followed by the main card an hour later.

Coming off two losses, Brazilian slugger Paulo Thiago will look to re-establish himself against David Mitchell. Featherweight Raphael Assuncao, who's lost three of his last four, faces UFC newcomer Johnny Eduardo, a lethal veteran coasting on a sterling eleven-fight sequence. Knockout artist Yves Jabouin will test the bantamweight waters against scrapper Ian Loveland, and fellow Brazilian countrymen and UFC first-timers Yuri Alcantara and Felipe Arantes square off in a featherweight bout.

Thiago_x_mitchell_medium Paulo Thiago (13-3) vs. David Mitchell (11-1)

In his UFC debut, Paulo Thiago scored a dramatic "Knockout of the Night" upset over Josh Koscheck at UFC 95, which is a hell of a way to make an entrance.

It is still unclear if lining him up next with perennial number-two welterweight Jon Fitch means that he UFC loves Thiago or hates him. Regardless, Fitch avenged his teammate, dealing Thiago the first loss of his career by decision.

The hard-nosed operative of Brazil's special police force proved that his debut was no fluke with back-to-back wins over Jacob Volkmann and Mike Swick, the latter of which was a crafty Brabo choke that earned him "Submission of the Night" honors.

These two notches on the plus-side were then equalized by two consecutive decision losses to the division's upper echelon in Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez, though Thiago's lively showing against Sanchez was once again recognized with a "Fight of the Night" bonus.

Read on for the haps on all four Facebook match ups.

More UFC 134 coverage from SBN

David Mitchell's flawless eleven-fight stretch elevated him to the UFC stage, where T.J. Waldburger staved off submission attempts and out-grappled him to a unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 22. Mitchell trains out of the Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance under Cesar Gracie product Dave Terrell and has won nine of eleven via submission.

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Thiago holds a black belt in Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but his scariest attribute is the way he throws bricks on the feet with a brawler's mentality.

He looks mean and fights meaner. Just like B.J. Penn or the Diaz brothers, Paulo is the type of unique martial artist who has fine-tuned, technical skill, but applies it with the ferocity of an aggressive street fighter.

As you can see in his drubbing of Koscheck to the left, Thiago commits to his combinations, torquing hard at the waist and hurling all of his power into each punch.

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Even though Sanchez recovers with the running caveman takedown, Thiago starts off the sequence to the right with a sign of how intricate his guard is.

Capitalizing on Sanchez's front-heavy posture from the top, Thiago uses his momentum against him and hits the rarely executed "Balloon Sweep".

Normally, Thiago would end up in full mount, which would have been a thing of beauty -- but Sanchez deserves credit for staying slippery and scrambling back to his feet to regain control.

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I think the way Thiago finished Mike Swick perfectly exemplifies his formidable mesh of barbarity and fluent technique.

In the initial right hand that lands, Thiago has his arm nearly straightened, hearkening back to the Chuck Liddell "whip punch" that generates a lot of power from the shoulder and centrifugal force.

The angle and timing of the blow is unusual when compared to the standard straight punch, making it cryptic to defend.

The impressive part is that, with such a powerful haymaker, usually the thrower loses balance, but Thiago is adept enough to follow with an equally vicious left hook that drops Swick.

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After crumpling him, Thiago pounces and  immediately underhooks Swick's right arm before hammering ground-and-pound.

Swick leaves his neck exposed when he posts his left arm to escape, facilitating the D'arce or Brabo choke.

Paulo loves to relentlessly attack the neck with chokes from the front headlock position or even inside his opponent's guard, just like we saw Jacob Volkmann doing to Danny Castillo on the UFC on Versus 5 Facebook prelims.

Some notes on countering Thiago's style based on these two animations against Swick:

  • Standing, the risk is that Swick's counter-cross would have landed clean if unleashed just a few milliseconds earlier.
  • Despite the rather wild appearance, Thiago's head -- albeit unprotected -- is constantly moving, causing Swick's punches to graze rather than connect.
  • Crisp and straight punches are the antidote for Thiago's looping style, so Mitchell will have to navigate through the storm of leather and trigger precise punches.
  • Of Thiago's eight submission wins, only one came from guard (triangle). The other seven were made up of a guillotine, anaconda, rear-naked and Brabo chokes (one apiece) and three arm-triangles, indicating that his submission poise stems from dominant positions with arm chokes.

Mitchell's strategy should be straight-forward: use tight punches to get inside on Thiago's wild hooks, don't let him get on top and, if he does, protect your neck during scrambles.

In Mitchell's sole Octagon showing versus T.J. Waldburger, his submission grappling game was pretty incredible. He seamlessly transitioned from one submission to another, and the joint effort with Waldburger set a new UFC record for submissions attempts in a fight. His nine catches are more guard-oriented; meaning his preferred location is off his back, which is a position where the Brazilian is at his strongest. While I think Mitchell has the grappling chops to trade subs with Thiago, it's a do or die situation favoring the top player.

Mitchell's BJJ acumen should keep him from getting caught, but, unless he unveils some serious wrestling prowess, I think Thiago will be a little better everywhere.

My Prediction: Paulo Thiago by decision

Yves Jabouin (15-7) vs. Ian Loveland (14-8)Jabouin_x_loveland_medium

Devastating striker Yves Jabouin will drop to bantamweight for the first time against Ian Loveland, who also recently transitioned to 135-pounds in an unsuccessful effort against Joseph Benavidez.

Jabouin's record is much better than it seems at first glance: his career began in 2001 with only one win in his first three, then he violently finished six in a row -- one sub, the rest knockouts -- before losing to lightweight Sam Stout. The only fighter to best him in the eight-fight hitch that followed was Jonathan Brookins, and five of Jabouin's seven wins amidst that sequence were by KO.

Entering the WEC, he dropped two of three to reputable names in Raphael Assuncao and Mark Hominick, then found himself on the wrong end of a Pablo Garza flying triangle at UFC 129.

Dubbed "The Barn Owl", Loveland has a comparable record but against lesser competition, his notable losses including Akitoshi Tamura in his fourth fight, Wagnney Fabiano in the IFL, and Benavidez at UFC 128. Benavidez snapped his seven-fight streak, the last of which was a decision win over Tyler Toner at the TUF 12 Finale.

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Jabouin is a dynamic and powerful striker.

His leg kicks are the kind that seem to sever bone, as the lanky Garza experiences to the left.

While wrestling and submissions are not his strong suit, Jabouin is just a feisty opponent with good strength, experience, and scrambling abilities.

His footwork and explosive striking are his best attributes to defend takedowns, but he's crafty in the clinch and has many tricks up his sleeve to get back to his feet if he's brought down.

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Loveland is an adroit wrestler and submission grappler with an even six wins apiece by TKO and submission, making this an effective striker versus grappler pairing.

Apologies to any Loveland fans out there, but I was unable to find any clips that did him justice. To the right he gets clipped by Benavidez when trying to close distance with his hands down, which is a tendency that Jabouin will make him pay dearly for.

He is, indeed, a savvy grappler who will look to envelope Jabouin with takedowns and top control while seeking subs and smashing strikes.

Though the betting lines favor Loveland by a significant margin, likely due to having a style that Jabouin has struggled with in the past, my gut is leaning toward Jabouin catching him on the feet for the upset. While Loveland should be able to nullify or even finish Jabouin on the ground, he's got a lot of unfriendly territory to cross to get there and it will be tough to enforce his strategy for all three rounds.

I wouldn't rule out Loveland grinding out a decision or catching him in a scramble, but I'll take the underdog in this one.

My Prediction: Yves Jabouin by TKO

Raphael Assuncao (16-4) vs. Johnny Eduardo Assuncao_x_eduardo_medium (25-8)

Another member of the vaunted Nova Uniao squad gets a UFC shot as Johnny Eduardo replaces Darren Uyenoyama against Raphael Assuncao.

As with Jabouin, Assuncao makes his bantamweight debut after winning only one in his last four: he was finished by Urijah Faber (rear-naked choke) and Erik Koch (KO in his UFC debut), Diego Nunes crept by in a split-decision, and his lone victory was over L.C. Davis.

Before hitting the skids, Assuncao, a BJJ black belt, boasted fourteen wins in his fifteen fight career.

Besides his single stint in the Bellator promotion, Johnny Eduardo's career has taken place overseas, and traces back to old school Vale Tudo shows in the mid to late 90s. He's got a wealth of experience at thirty-three years of age with the same number of fights under his belt, and will join Assuncao in making his 135-pound debut.

Eduardo, who's also listed on Team Black House's fighter roster, wields a wicked blend of Muay Thai and BJJ. Thirteen of his wins come via submission and six by TKO.

With comparable ground skills, the fighters differ in striking abilities -- where Eduardo's electric Muay Thai will give him the edge -- and wrestling, an area Assuncao's strength should give him the advantage. Obviously, Assuncao has faced the more stout opposition, even though Eduardo enters the fray on an eleven-fight high and has more outings overall.

I'm taking a risk and defying the betting lines again, guessing that Eduardo's sharp striking will be multiplied in effectiveness by his height and reach advantage, and that he should be able to neutralize Assuncao's subs on the ground and plaster him standing.

My Prediction: Johnny Eduardo by TKO

Alcantara_x_arantes_medium Yuri Alcantara (25-3) vs. Felipe Arantes (13-3)

Replacing Antonio Carvalho, Chute Boxe rep Felipe Arantes steps in to face Yuri Alcantara.

Arantes trains under Diego Lima and Rafael Cordeiro's student Jorge Patino on the Macaco Gold Team.

In his last outing in the UCC promotion against former TUF contestant Andy Main, Arantes had a lapse in conduct and crushed the downed Main with an illegal knee, resulting in a No Contest. Excluding that bout, Arantes has won seven in a row.

The small amount I've seen of Yuri Alcantara was his first round knockout of Ricardo Lamas at WEC 53. His current win streak is eleven, and out of his twenty-five total wins, his finishing ratio is voracious with eleven by TKO and twelve by submission.

I'm not intimately familiar with either fighter, but based on Alcantara's past numbers and Arantes accepting this fight on short notice, I'll take Alcantara in what should be a visceral display of fireworks from both parties.

My Prediction: Yuri Alcantara by TKO

 

Thiago vs. Swick gifs from MMA-Core.com

All others from Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com

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