A pair of brick-fisted light-heavyweights will square off at Tuesday evening's show in the 3Fabio Maldonado vs. Igor Pokrajac
Fabio Maldonado (18-4, 12 KOs) is a former pro-boxer with an undefeated record in the sweet science (22-0, 21 KOs) who trains with the Nogueira brothers and Anderson Silva. The 32-year-old Brazilian went a mediocre 2-2 to start off his career in 2000, then went on a murderous rampage through the Brazilian circuit. He won 16 of his next 17 -- finishing 13 -- before signing with the UFC; a blistering streak that included a pair of brutal TKOs over former UFCer and current Bellator middleweight Maiquel Falcao.
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Maldonado made his Octagon debut at UFC 120 against kickboxer James McSweeney and gave him a merciless, big-brother beating. Maldonado clobbered McSweeney with ruthless body shots and walked through McSweeney's punches -- literally -- with a huge smile on his face. He finished McSweeney by TKO in the 3rd, which effectively precluded an inexplicably scored 2nd round in which Maldonado flat-out dominated, but every judge notched it for McSweeney. Controversy accompanied his decision loss to Kyle Kingsbury at the TUF 13 Finale as well, which snapped Maldonado's 11-fight streak.
Igor Pokrajac (24-8) is a Croatian striker who trains with Pride legend Mirko Filipovic and credits "CroCop" for getting him into MMA. Pokrajac is also a boxing specialist and boasts 13 wins by TKO with 8 submissions. His Octagon stint started on the wrong foot, as Pokrajac lost 3 of his first 4 (defeated James Irvin, lost to Vladimir Matyushenko, James Te Huna, Stephan Bonnar) but has now pieced together consecutive wins, both by TKO (Todd Brown, Krzysztof Soszynski).
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Match-up wise, the standout factor between these similarly styled strikers is Maldonado's impenetrable chin and impressive consistency. Excluding his 2-2 career start over a decade ago, his only losses are to fiery submission machine Alexandre "Cacareco" Ferreira and the contentious decision against Kingsbury. Maldonado has been an unflinching and stone-faced killer with phenomenal boxing technique, rib-roasting body punches, a robust clinch and sound takedown defense. He's also a brown belt in BJJ and trains with some of the world's best.
Pokrajac looks to have improved recently, but his lukewarm entrance to the UFC and propensity to eat punches does not bode well against a powerful and precise marksman like Maldonado. Pokrajac definitely has heavy hands and game striking, but I would give Maldonado the edge in just about every aspect here -- particularly in footwork, defense and overall striking technique.
My Prediction: Fabio Maldonado by TKO.