Middleweights Daniel Sarafian and Eddie Mendez have secured a spot on the main card of this Saturday's UFC on FUEL TV 10 event from Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. The 6-piece Fuel TV lineup begins at 8:00 p.m. ET with veteran heavyweights Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum in the headlining role, and Facebook will stream a 7-fight preliminary card beforehand at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET.
Broad-shouldered Brazilian Daniel Sarafian (7-3) will seek redemption for a razor-thin loss in his Octagon debut to C.B. Dolloway, which was a back-and-forth and closely contested split decision. The 30-year-old managed to generate a decent buzz despite an abridged stint on TUF: Brazil, as Sarafian earned a decision in the elimination round and then trampled his next pair of opponents in the 1st-round (rear-naked choke, flying knee KO) before an injury knocked him out of the running.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt started his MMA career with a 3-2 pace, though his first loss transpired against the battle-hardened Mike Whitehead, who'd already accrued 20-5 record at the time, in Sarafian's second outing as a pro. Sarafian ventured stateside to compete in the inaugural Bellator event and suffered his second loss to Gary Padilla by 2nd-round TKO. Sarafian would then tear through 4-straight opponents, but it's worth mentioning that it was the first and only night of MMA for half of those foes (0-1 records).
UFC debutante Eddie Mendez racked up 5 wins and a draw to lead off his career (opponents had a cumulative record of 12-17) before he was handed his first loss by 9-1 Joe Williams. Mendez was invited to Strikeforce, where he scored a hard-earned split decision over Fernando Gonzalez (20-10), and he tacked on another with an impressive win over Fabio Nascimento (11-6 with a win over Roan Carneiro and legit losses such as Demian Maia and Rousimar Palhares). Overall, Mendez has 3 TKO and decision wins apiece with 1 submission.
Fight footage on Mr. Mendez was inevitably sparse. From what I can tell, he's a little like Sarafian in that he's a beefy middleweight who throws heavy leather with a few occasional kicks mixed in. Sarafian seems to uncork his punches a full level faster and harder, and also maintains tighter form and better balance. Mendez' UFC.com bio indicates that he's a blue belt in BJJ, which hints at a potentially vast gap in grappling skill compared to black belt Sarafian.
While Dolloway doesn't get a lot of love for a UFC middleweight, he's cleaned up his game over the years by improving his punching form, timing and footwork, and he undoubtedly hits hard and presents a serious wrestling threat. Despite the outcome of his UFC premiere, I think it's safe to assume that Sarafian is indeed a UFC level fighter with volatile and aggressive offense, and has decent chance to stand out among the division's nucleus of talent.
I'm intrigued to see Mendez on the big stage, and will keep a close eye on his wrestling abilities and how he conducts himself standing (head movement, defense, footwork, range, timing) while throwing big power. I wouldn't go so far as to say Sarafian is getting thrown a softball here, but I do feel that Mendez is a favorable match up who'll afford the chance to shine on the main card in front of his hometown crowd -- as the betting lines also suggest. Sarafian is a burly and wide-bodied middleweight, but will enjoy a 3" advantage over Mendez, which is one of many factors that make him the sensible pick.
My Prediction: Daniel Sarafian by submission.