7 matches are slated for the Facebook preliminary card, which will start at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET before the festivities begin on Fuel TV at 8:00 p.m. ET. The entire Facebook card is listed below and followed by Part One of the match-up analysis, with Part Two to arrive shortly after.
UFC on FUEL TV 10 -- Facebook Stream
Assuncao is a heartily experienced scrapper with wins over UFC lightweights Joe Lauzon (armbar) and Jorge Masvidal (decision). Now undefeated after a trio of bantamweight outings (Johnny Eduardo, Issei Tamura and Mike Easton), all of Assuncao's losses were dealt by top-level featherweights in Jeff Curran (circa 2006), Urijah Faber (rear-naked choke), Diego Nunes (split decision) and Erik Koch (KO).
Before he submitted Norifumi Yamamoto in the UFC, Lee's claim to fame was as the unknown fighter who tapped fighters out all willy-nilly at the TUF 14 tryouts. The English grappler is one of those guys who chalked up an average record overseas (11-6-1) but performed surprisingly well in the Octagon (wins over Yamamoto and Motonobu Tezuka, losses to Chris Cariaso and T.J. Dillashaw).
Lee has average striking and decent wrestling, but thrives in scrambles and transitions and maintains steady pressure on his opponent throughout. Assuncao is a well-rounded martial artist with solid striking, wrestling and submission grappling. The only fighters to finish him are Faber (sub), who's one of the best scramblers in the game, and Koch, who hits hard and enjoyed a significant height/length advantage.
These factors, along with his exemplary track record against far superior competition, are likely behind Assuncao's big edge on the betting lines. His chin has been strong, so I don't believe Lee has the power to catch him, but Vaughan's wily transition game could foster momentum swings with clever submission attempts.
My Prediction: Rafael Assuncao by decision.
Brunson is a guy who folks might be sleeping on. Sure, we can write off his successful UFC debut -- a commanding upset over Chris Leben at UFC 155 -- as a favorable stylistic match up for the Jackson/Winklejohn rep, but there's more to Brunson than that. Having hooked up with Renzo Gracie immediately after thrice achieving All American honors in wrestling at UNC Pembroke (D2), Brunson began his MMA career in 2010 and slaughtered his first 6 opponents in the opening stanza to earn a shot in Strikeforce. There, Brunson's momentum continued with 3-straight wins before he was edged by Kendall Grove in a tight split-decision and knocked silly by prestigious middleweight Ronaldo Souza.
Brunson's steely composure and highly functional wrestling acumen could be the ideal set up to unhinge surging Brazilian Ronny Markes. The once-beaten marauder hails from the Kimura branch of the vaunted Nova Uniao team and brings an aggressive 3-dimensional game to the table: violent Muay Thai, adept submission grappling and formidable wrestling skills. As Joe Rogan often relates, fighters groomed on the Brazilian circuit rarely excel with takedowns; at least, not as effectively as those, like Brunson, who've enjoyed a veritable lifetime of experience with legit wrestling programs and tutelage.
While the ease with which Markes handled Karlos Vemola in his Octagon debut might have lost some luster due to the questionable authenticity of the Czech's oft-alluded "6-time national wrestling champion" accolades, Markes' respectable performance against Aaron Simpson, a 2-time Division 1 All American at ASU, proved that his wrestling is no joke.
In fact, Brunson is quite similar to Simpson from a style standpoint: he has the same type of hard-nosed mentality, steady aggression, grinding clinch-work and, while he might not hit as hard, his southpaw boxing is a little more technical and polished than Simpson's. Additionally, Brunson will be a step quicker than Simpson, who's in his late 30's, and transitions between striking and takedowns with more finesse. I understand why Markes comes in as the favorite, as he's my choice as well, but I see this pairing as nearly even and would carefully encourage the hardcore bettors to give this underdog a good look.
My Prediction: Ronny Markes by hard-fought decision (a transitional submission is possible).
Pepey, a submission specialist, suffered his first and only career loss to Rony Jason in the finals of the inaugural TUF: Brazil show, then edged out a split decision over Milton Vieira at UFC on FX 7 (that I scored definitively for "Miltinho"). Pepey's wrestling and striking is nothing to write home about -- it's realistically pretty forgettable for UFC standards -- but his tenacity and grappling venom are A-level.
Arantes is a Chute Boxe product though he's not limited to the striking voracity associated with his roots, as he's exhibited a strong grasp with wrestling and submissions in his short UFC stint. Arantes was out-hustled by Yuri Alcantara in his Octagon debut, scored a decision over Antonio Carvalho and, due to one judge awarding his opponent a 10-8 in the 1st round, fought to a split draw with Vieira in his last outing. It's worth mentioning that every media source on MMA Decisions gave Arantes the nod. "Sertanejo" has accrued an impressive amount of experience for just 25-years-old and aforementioned TUF winner Rony Jason is the only fighter to finish him (triangle choke).
Physically, both Brazilians are long and lanky for 145-pounds. Arantes will have an inch of height at 5'8" but Pepey's ultra-gangly 78.5" reach measurement will be key, as I expect Arantes will enjoy a noticeable striking advantage on the feet and that factor will make it a tad harder to close distance and work his stand up. Overall, I think Pepey lacks the takedown prowess to impose his scathing grappling and transition game, and that Arantes is stout enough with defensive wrestling to force Pepey to trade on the feet and capable enough to survive short encounters on the mat with him.
My Prediction: Felipe Arantes by TKO.