Nedkov, a two-time Bulgarian Freestyle Wrestling Champion and BJJ black belt, has a perfect MMA record eleven fights in, finishing five by TKO and four by sub. Crushing all but one of his initial eight foes in the first round while rising up on the Bulgarian circuit, Nedkov authenticated his potential on the Sengoku stage with a third-round throttling of Travis Wiuff and eking out a split-decision over Kevin Randleman.
Cane, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, also has eleven wins to his name, though he one-ups Nedkov in stoppages with ten, nine of which come via TKO. The disclaimer with his three losses is that the first was a DQ in his UFC debut after clipping James Irvin with an illegal knee. The remaining two defeats were dealt by the highly reputable Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and gangly French kickboxing expert Cyrille Diabate.
Before the consecutive losses, "Banha" was drawing attention as a rising prospect with rousing beatings of Jason Lambert and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and a commanding decision over Steve Cantwell; after, he rejoined The Armory and rebounded by quickly dispatching Eliot Marshall at UFC 128.
A review of how this Brazilian vs. Bulgarian brawl pans out is posted in the full entry.
As his highlight reel reflects, Nedkov throws boulders on the feet and presents a dual pronged threat with his wrestling and submission acumen.
He's similar to Karlos Vemola in that his stand up is primitive, but still highly precarious due to his massive power, and he's also a burly and explosive takedown artist from outside and in the clinch.
The significant difference from Vemola is that his knowledge of positions and ability to threaten with subs makes him scary from the top when you factor in his thunderous ground-and-pound.
Despite Cane being a black belt himself, he'll want to avoid finding himself underneath Nedkov's massive frame and hammerfists at all costs.
Cane's Muay Thai is impeccable and he has one of the best straight-lefts in the game.
He's a methodical stalker with great footwork who keeps his left cocked and looks to pin his opponent against the fence to blaze off a salvo of crisp punches.
He bores his straight left to the chin and deep into the midsection, using his right hook to both set up and follow the strike. At close range, he likes to throw tight hooks and a wicked short left elbow.
Downstairs, Cane has a stiff Thai kick to the ribs from outside and a jumping knee and uppercut for opponents (like Nedkov) who might drop levels for defensive takedowns.
To the left, note how he switches up his usual straight left from the shoulder by loading it from the waist to keep Marshall wary about ducking for a takedown.
Even when Cane doesn't cast the uppercut, he modifies his hook so that it sweeps through the pocket with an upward trajectory to discourage dropping levels.
Cane has two tendencies that Nedkov may or may not capitalize on: his drastically closed stance when striking leaves his lead leg susceptible to low kicks, but since that's not a prevalent weapon in Nedkov's arsenal, the habit to watch out for is the way he absorbs blows rather than slipping or dodging them.
He has excellent defense standing: Nog caught him trading in the pocket while torquing an elbow, Diabate when he charged in for the kill after stunning the Frenchman, but this was a Brazilian boxing champion and a four-time world champion kickboxer. While there's no shame for a less experienced fighter to fall to that caliber of opposition, it's risky to stay in the pocket and deflect punches with shelling against a heavy hitter like Nedkov. Not only could Nedkov simply bash a strike through, but his stationary approach is more conducive to becoming entangled when contrasted with staying elusive and out of reach.
The onus here is on Nedkov to prove he can hang. He's a stranger who's unfamiliar with the elite echelon and facing a cunning and resilient striker like Cane. Cane's takedown defense, ability to scramble and get back on his feet, and comparable grappling acumen should make his enormous advantage on the feet the nail in the coffin.
There will be palpable tension early as Nedkov tries to overwhelm Cane and impose his will, but I think Cane's circling and tight counters will find holes in Nedkov's berserk onslaught, allowing the Thai technician to go on the offensive when the Bulgarian slows down. It's worth noting that Cane has never faced a hefty wrestler and his takedown defense will be tested like never before, and Nedkov could snare an upset with his gargantuan top game if he can effect and hold the position.
My Prediction: Luiz Cane by TKO
Cane vs. Marshall gif from Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
Nedkov vs. Wiuff gif from Caposa