Before UFC 153: Silva vs. Bonnar, the UFC presents six preliminary fights on FX and Facebook. Here, we preview all six, including analysis and predictions.
This Saturday, the UFC returns to Brazil for UFC 153 and the very odd Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar main event. Before the six fight main card hits PPV, fans will be treated to six prelim fights. The prelims kick off at 6:45 p.m. ET / 3:45 p.m. PT with a pair of fights on Facebook, then continue with four fights on FX starting at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT.
As always, Bloody Elbow has you covered with our in-depth previews of all the fights. Here, we cover the six prelims. Be sure to check back later for Dallas Winston's excellent dissection of all the main card fights.
More UFC 153 Dissections
The full card for the prelims is below. One quick note: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Geronimo dos Santos was also scheduled as a prelim, however the fight was cancelled when dos Santos withdrew, reportedly due to testing positive for Hepatitis B.
Rony Jason (12-3) vs. Sam Sicilia (11-1) [Featherweight]
Rony Jason won the Featherweight crown on TUF Brazil and makes his UFC return here. That fight, while a solid performance, didn't show the skills Jason is capable of, or why he was named the #1 prospect at Bantamweight in our last scouting report. In that finale, Jason was a bit tentative, choosing to rely heavily on his counter striking, which is, no doubt about it, very impressive, as Jason can land solid shots while retreating. That ability to use movement is part of what makes his Muay Thai game so strong. Jason is very good at switching stances, employing feints, and using head movement to evade shots. Again, though he didn't show it against Pepey, he's also very skilled on the mat, with slick jiu jitsu.
Sam Sicilia is another TUF veteran, coming in via TUF Live. There, he turned heads on the premiere, winning via spectacular one punch KO. That KO came from a nice step in and hop followed by a hook. Unfortunately, that one punch KO power is sort of all Sicilia has. He's a decided headhunter, who goes for that KO constantly. When he does, he leaves himself wide open. When not going for the KO, he still keeps his hands low. His UFC debut came against Cristiano Marcello, himself not a great striker, and Sicilia was able to eventually find a home for his hands and score the win.
There are a lot of very close, competitive match-ups on these prelims, but this is not one of them. You have a Muay Thai powerhouse with superb counter punching skills vs. a somewhat reckless puncher who tends to expose his head. This is a slaughter.
Prediction: Rony Jason by KO, round 1
Tibau is a fighter who should be familiar to most UFC fans. He's been a staple of the UFC Lightweight division since all the way back at UFC 65 in 2006. In all that time, he's never managed to really break through the pack, either with an impressive run of wins or a single marquee win. He's coming back from a loss here. Tibau is an ATT fighter, who is often touted for his jiu jitsu credentials (he's a BJJ black belt). And while it's true that he has significant ground skills, he's not the kind of submission machine you might think based on those credentials. Tibau's grappling game is more based on wrestling, as he likes to use control to keep his opponents down, then bring down the ground and pound. He'll definitely take the submission if it's there, but he's not always actively looking for it, preferring that control and beat down method.
On the feet, the southpaw Tibau has shown some improvements lately, though still has some issues. He's best when either using his punches to set up a quick takedown (often a right hand followed by a power double), or landing short inside power punches, as he did to stun Rafaelo Oliveira at UFC 130. When he gets more drawn into stand-up exchanges, his game suffers, as he has a tendency to overextend himself on his punches, often losing his defense and getting off balanced along the way.
Trinaldo is a relative UFC rookie, making just his second official Octagon appearance here after competing on TUF Brazil. On TUF, he fought at Middleweight, though here he returns to his normal division of Lightweight. Which is rather astonishing as Trinaldo seems absolutely massive for 155. Don't be surprised if he has issues making weight. Stylistically, Trinaldo is not dissimilar to Tibau. He also likes to bring his opponents to the mat and use control before landing heavy shots in the ground and pound. His punches from the mount are serious, as are his knees to the body, which he used very effectively in his successful UFC debut. One big advantage he has in this area is his strength, as he likes to muscle opponents into position.
Standing, Trinaldo is also a southpaw. He likes to lead with a constant pawing right jab, which he throws from a very low and wide stance which allows him to sprawl easily. Outside of that jab, Trinaldo is all about the huge power punches, which he throws wildly. In a heated exchange, Trinaldo will just drop his defense completely and swing for the fences with right left right left right until someone falls. It's exciting, though not always strategically sound.
This is a tough fight to call due to both men's similarities. Trinaldo is used to having that size and strength advantage on the ground, but given Tibau's size, I don't think it will be as much a factor here. Overall, I give Tibau the edge on the mat, and suspect he'll be able to escape Trinaldo, reverse position, and control him. On the feet, it's a wash, though if Trinaldo lands one of those heavy shots, he could surprise me.
Prediction: Gleison Tibau by decision
Brandao is the TUF season 14 winner at Featherweight. The Greg Jackson trainee looks to bounce back from his loss to Darren Elkins here. Brandao is a very exciting fighter thanks largely to his wild style. He's fast on the feet, with a very quick jab, nice switch kicks, and good movement. He uses angles well, and likes to stay outside the pocket, then quickly explode in with strikes (often a wide shot from the side), catching his opponents off guard. He's had success with this striking game, scoring a number of KO wins. But he also can be pressured standing, and tends to leave an opening up the middle for incoming punches. On the mat, he is again wild, sacrificing control for offense. He'll dive on limbs for the submission or pounce on ground and pound opportunities, though will often let his opponents up in the process.
Gambino is a young prospect at 23 years old, looking for his first UFC win here after a loss to Steven Siler. Gambino's style is something of a wrestle-boxer. Like Brandao, he's a fast, explosive fighter who uses movement well. For Gambino, that movement is often there to set up the takedown, particularly if he can trap his opponent against the cage, then use the clinch to secure the takedown. Once on the mat, he is very good from top position, bringing down incredibly heavy ground and pound punches. Against Siler, he struggled in the Thai clinch, which is a position he'll have to avoid against Brandao.
This is another surprisingly even fight on paper, as both men like to attack fast and somewhat recklessly. Brandao seems like the favorite, but I don't think he'll be able to keep Gambino on the mat, while Gambino will be able to control the TUF winner. I see Gambino playing spoiler here by using the cage to set up his takedowns, then landing heavy shots from the top.
Prediction: Joey Gambino by decision
In what is a bit of a theme to these prelims, Moraes comes from the "Great on ground, sloppy on the feet" school. On the mat, this TUF Brazil finalist is very skilled. He has a quick shot (though has slowed a bit as he has bulked up over his career), and once on the mat, he is very hard to shake off. Moraes likes to maintain position, but also actively pursue submissions. He's comfortable enough on the mat that he's willing to pull guard to get there. On the feet, he uses a very wide stance with his hands far apart and his chin exposed. He throws wild, looping punches, but has a tough chin, and was able to find success on the feet in his UFC debut.
Forte is another ground fighter, though he puts his emphasis more on control and wrestling. A stocky, strong fighter, Forte likes to clinch his opponents against the cage, then secure the takedown. From there, he has excellent top control, and will throw big ground and pound from inside the guard. Standing, he's pretty stiff and uncomfortable, using the barest minimum of striking to initiate the clinch.
If these two go to the ground it will be a very interesting battle, but something tells me Moraes is going to want to swing wildly on the feet again. And that's not a bad move as, despite his defensive flaws, his power and volume of punches should overwhelm Forte.
Prediction: Sergio Moraes by decision
It's a surprise to see UFC veteran Cane fallen all the way down to the Facebook prelims. The one time Light Heavyweight prospect is back at Middleweight here, fighting for the first time since his loss to Stanislav Nedkov last August. Cane is a southpaw fighter with a tight stand-up game. He has a 77" reach that he knows how to use, keeping his stance wide and leading with a pawing jab. He's able to land from far outside, and when he's on, has been able to pick his opponents apart. But against Nedkov, he showed two very bad tendencies. First, he continually left his left hand low, allowing Nedkov to repeatedly connect. Cane never made the adjustment, and was eventually knocked out. Second, he showed a bad response to being hit in that fight, turning and running away.
Camozzi is a TUF veteran who is also a southpaw. He likes to use a lot of kicks, and will open fights with a series of kicks. On the feet, Camozzi also likes to pressure opponents against the cage, though he is not a super effective striker from that position. He also has a tendency to try and parry punches and kicks down with his hand, which is going to get him KO'd one day if he's not careful. Grappling is not his strongest area, as he lacks much takedown defense, and was completely controlled on the mat by Kyle Noke. He also struggled to deal with the Thai plum against Francis Carmont.
Cane is the obvious pick on paper here, as he has better striking, and a more well rounded game. But Camozzi's 75.5" reach and use of kicks will nullify Cane's reach advantage and force him either inside or to the mat. Camozzi can make this an ugly battle along the cage, and when you factor in the time off and Cane's mental game, I'm going with Camozzi, though if he wins, it won't be pretty.
Prediction: Chris Camozzi by decision
Cristiano Marcello (12-4) vs. Reza Madadi (12-2) [Lightweight]
Marcello is the TUF Live contestant best known for his time as the head jiu jitsu coach during the glory years at Chute Boxe. As you would expect from someone with those credentials, Marcello is a master on the ground. The Royler Gracie black belt is very skilled on the mat, perfectly employing the Gracie style of takedown, transition to a dominant position, and secure the submission. He's a threat to anyone on the ground. Sadly, he chooses to stand up and strike, where he is decidedly not a threat. His striking game is rudimentary, and his defense bad. Marcello flagrantly keeps his chin up when striking, and will also lean way back, pushing that chin out even further. This got him KO'd against Justin Lawrence on the show, and as long as he keeps the fight standing, it will happen again.
Madadi is a tough Swedish-Iranian wrestler. He's an intense, super-aggressive fighter who earns his nickname "Mad Dog." He's very good at getting the fight to the mat, either starting with a single leg and finishing with a trip, or starting with a Greco-Roman body clinch, then quickly dropping levels to finish. Once on the mat, he uses his hips to stack his opponent, then bring down tough ground and pound. He also has a superb guillotine.
There's a bit of bad blood here, so I expect Madadi will come out strong, and that should be too much for Marcello. The one thing Marcello has going for him is that Madadi likes to win on the ground, which is obviously Marcello's area of expertise. But I still don't think that will be enough.
Prediction: Reza Madadi by TKO, round 1