Tonight marks the UFC's 7th and last Brazil show for 2013, and the main event sees middleweight contender Vitor Belfort rematch Dan Henderson at light heavyweight. Henderson won the first fight back in PRIDE, but in present day he's lost his last two fights while Belfort has wiped out Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold in his last two. If you are to believe Dana White, Belfort beating Henderson this evening (at LHW) means a guaranteed title shot against the Anderson Silva/Chris Weidman winner at middleweight.
Before we get to the main event (which has its own primer), we'll take you through the rest of the six-fight main card from Golania, Brazil. We have two TUF Brazil champions competing in separate fights, as well as a potential FOTN between Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante and Igor Pokrajac. You can catch all of these fights live on Fox Sports 1 starting at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.
This fight was supposed to be the original middleweight final for TUF Brazil. Unfortunately, Sarafian withdrew due to injury and was replaced by Sergio Moraes. Ferreira won a unanimous decision, but didn't escape without getting cracked a couple of times by the clearly inferior striker. "Mutante" has fought just once since that TUF Brazil triumph, quickly submitting Thiago Santos at UFC 163.
Sarafian did not fight professionally for the whole of 2012 as a result of his injury, but was booked for a UFC debut in January of this year against C.B. Dollaway. In a grueling, back-and-forth war of attrition, Dollaway won a tight split decision in Sao Paulo. Sarafian picked up an easy bounce-back win against Eddie Mendez in June, and Mendez was abruptly tossed from the UFC after just one fight. I guess tonight will decide who is the "real" TUF Brazil middleweight champion.
"Feijao" looked objectively terrible after about 2 minutes against Thiago Silva in his UFC debut. He looked out-of-shape, sloppy, and fatigued, and Silva made him pay with a 1st round TKO. The former Strikeforce champion is best known for his fearsome power, and he won the Strikeforce LHW title by knocking out "King Mo" Lawal in 2010. His title reign was short-lived, as Dan Henderson finished him in the 3rd round. Tonight is a must-win for Cavalcante, whose last two fights are a loss to Silva and a failed drug test, which consequently wiped out his win over MIke Kyle.
Pokrajac's UFC career has been a bit of a mixed bag. He started out 1-3, won his ensuing 3 (including 2 by knockout), but is not without a win in his last 3. After Pokrajac's narrow victory against Fabio Maldonado, he took on BJJ wizard Vinny Magalhaes, and found himself tapping to an armbar in the 2nd round. A loss to Joey Beltran was overturned after Beltran tested positive for a banned substance. His only bout this year was an uninspiring decision loss to Ryan Jimmo at UFC 161, a fight in which he was nearly stopped in the 2nd round and mounted little offense of his own.
Thatch lost his 2nd professional fight in 2008, and has since won 9 straight fights all within the 4:12 mark of the first round. His impressive string of performances resulted in a call from the UFC, and he was slotted for an August 2013 debut against Justin Edwards. Thatch's quick, aggressive, and high-octane striking game overwhelmed Edwards, and it took only 83 seconds to get a TKO win. A win over Thiago would be his best one to date.
It was only 4 years ago when Thiago entered the UFC and stunned fans around the world with his first round KO of Josh Koscheck. After his win against Mike Swick, the Brazilian was deemed a potential contender at 170 lbs. That has not come to fruition, and now Thiago sits at 2-4 in his last 6 fights, with his two wins coming against the since-released David Mitchell and current lightweight Michel Prazeres. Thiago is a fan-favorite, but we may be seeing the last of him if he loses tomorrow.
LaFlare is another Ring of Combat prospect looking to make a big splash in the UFC. Other notable RoC fighters include Frankie Edgar, Chris Weidman, and Constantinos Philippou, so this New Jersey based promotion clearly has churned out great talent. LaFlare's UFC debut came earlier this April against Ben Alloway, where he used his wrestling and ground game to pull out a unanimous decision. It was his first decision win in his short career, but it extended his undefeated streak to 8.
Ponzinibbio, much like Daniel Sarafian, should've been in a TUF Brazil final, but he was scratched from the June fight against William Macario with an injury. The Argentina-native actually defeated eventual winner Leonardo Santos in the semifinals, but as mentioned earlier an untimely injury ended his run on the show. Presently, Santiago is on a 7 fight winning streak in his pro career, and is looking for a successful UFC debut after an extended absence.
Jason won the featherweight TUF Brazil final by decision over Godofredo Pepey, marking his only decision victory to date. His proceeding two fights post-TUF have ended in decisive finishes, TKOing Sam Sicilia and submitting Mike Wilkinson. The 29-year-old BJJ black belt has been a treat to watch thus far and a potential darkhorse contender in the 145 lbs division.
Stephens needed a change of scenery after a rough 0-3 stretch at lightweight, which included a shock KO loss to veteran Yves Edwards last December, who handed "Lil' Heathen" his first ever KO/TKO loss. A member of the UFC since 2007, Stephens made the move to featherweight and put up a fantastic showing against Estevan Payan at UFC 160, bloodying his adversary on his way to a comfortable decision victory.