The UFC is quickly putting together the lineups of its fall cards with four fights being announced for UFC 163 over the past 24 hours. Robert Drysdale will be taking on Ednaldo Oliveira, Rani Yahya will take on Josh Clopton at Featherweight, Bristol Marunde and Viscardi Andrade will face off at Welterweight, and Sheila Gaff will meet Amanda Nunes in a women's Bantamweight bout.
UFC newcomer Robert Drysdale is an interesting prospect, at 32 it's hard to say that he's got a lot of time to improve and at 6-0 it's clear he doesn't have a wealth of in-fight experience. However, as a long time MMA coach, and 2005 Mundials champion (and 2007 ADCC champion) he does have a wealth of combat experience to draw on. His quick victory over former Bellator fighter DJ Linderman suggests that he should at least be competitive in the UFC, but given his short history in the sport it's very difficult to tell.
His opponent, Ednaldo Oliveira, is something of a generalist. Known as "The Squid" (or Squidward at times) he's a lanky former heavyweight who suffered the first defeat of his career in a submission loss to Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 142. At 6' 7" he'll be a giant at LHW, but I'm not sure that that will translate into true physical dominance given his lean frame. He does have some decent power and a TKO win over current UFC heavyweight bystander Geronimo dos Santos, so I expect that he'll try to keep this fight standing as much as possible.
It's a good first test for Drysdale, and a good entry into the division for Oliveira. I expect one of them to make the most out of it.
Next up longtime UFC and WEC vet Rani Yahya will be welcoming Josh Clopton from nearly 2 years of inactivity. Yahya has looked incredibly dominant as of late. He dismantled Josh Grispi (which means less and less over time) and looked good outworking Mizuto Hirota for a unanimous decision. It looks like a spark has been lit under his Jiu Jitsu game, which has always been fantastic, but notoriously hot and cold as to his application.
For Clopton, this is a terribly difficult fight. He wasn't a bad fighter coming in to TUF 14, but he wasn't an outstanding one either. His most recent fight was a loss to Steven Siler on the TUF 14 Finale, and if anything Yahya is a similar, but more talented version of the same fighter. Unless Clopton has progressed a lot over the past year and a half I expect this to be a very bad night for him.
A surprise holdover from the Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, Bristol Marunde (who actually competed on TUF 16) will be taking on TUF Brazil 2 contestant Viscardi Andrade in a welterweight bout. Marunde will be moving down a division to his natural weight after a pasting from Clint Hester in his last outing. This is a must win situation for him. He's been given a second shot since he filled in on short notice for Zac Cummings, but a loss here would almost certainly get him cut.
For Andrade, it would appear that the UFC is in fact bringing the semi-finalists of their most recent Brazilian TUF to the promotion. Whether it's for the standard one-and-done with a loss contract, or as longer term prospects is hard to tell. Andrade isn't a bad prospect at 15-3 however he does have a loss to current UFC Bantamweight Yuri Alcantara on his record. Considering that Andrade is fighting at welterweight that's a bit of a hard pill to swallow.
In the final UFC bout announcement of the day Sheila Gaff will take on Amanda Nunes in a Women's Bantamweight contest. For Gaff this will be her second appearance in the octagon, after a disappointing first round loss to Sara McMann at UFC 159. It's hard to get a bead on Gaff as a talent, she can obviously strike with power, but the fight IQ she displayed against McMann was atrocious. Fortunately she's still young, and Nunes is the type of fighter who will want to stand and trade against her. I'm not sure Gaff will have the advantage striking, but it should make for an exciting fight.
For Nunes, this will be her octagon debut. Like Gaff she's something of a striking specialist, and with wins over Julia Budd, Ediane Gomes, and Vanessa Porto she's proven that she's among the top fighters in the division. She'll be entering the fight off a loss to Sarah D'Alelio in Invicta, so she will probably need to keep this fight exciting if she wants to carve out a safe place in the UFC. In reality this is an excellent fight for both women and should give them a chance to show off the best of their skills.
UFC 163 takes place August 3 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The card is filling up fast, but there are still a couple of spots open. Look out for more fight announcements in the coming week.
Here's are the announced fights so far:
Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis (featherweight title fight)
Phil Davis vs. Lyoto Machida
Josh Koscheck vs. Demian Maia
Thales Leites vs. Tom Watson
Cezar Ferreira vs. Clint Hester
Neil Magny vs. Sergio Moraes
Vinny Magalhaes vs. Anthony Perosh
Sheila Gaff vs. Amanda Nunes
Robert Drysdale vs. Ednaldo Oliveira
Josh Clopton vs. Rani Yahya
Viscardi Andrade vs. Bristol Marunde