UFC 163 goes live this Saturday night from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where hometown hero and downright murderous featherweight champion Jose Aldo makes his seventh-consecutive title defense against fan favorite Chan Sung Jung, the infectiously charismatic risk-taker best known as "The Korean Zombie."
The Jose Aldo vs. Chan Sung Jung title bout is one of five slated for the pay-per-view card (10:00 p.m. ET) while the preliminary roster, which will lead off the festivities on Facebook (est. 6:30 p.m. ET) and stretch onward to the FX Channel (8:00 p.m. ET), is lined with seven contests in all.
Due to pressing time constraints and a slight miscommunication with my prelim-card minions, I'll be knifing through the FX and Facebook lineups with less attention to detail than usual. But fear not! I shan't deprive you of pivotal Dissection cornerstones such as wild embellishment, an unnecessary aggregation of flowery adjectives and purely biased predictions that will inevitably turn out dead-wrong. Yo Dre ... gimme a funky-ass bass line.
This submission-centric pairing atop the preliminary card pits the 29-year-old Magalhaes, an ADCC and Mundials gold-medalist grappler, versus 41-year-old Perosh, who has the heart of a lion, but has kind of always fought like an old man.
Let me qualify that last statement: even in his prime, Perosh was a below-average striker with somewhat clumsy footwork and takedown skills, and his clear core competencies were -- and still are -- finding a way to connect, dragging his foe down and suffocating them with highly effective submission grappling. Despite his shortcomings, Perosh was still able to cleave through three-straight opponents, finishing each one convincingly, before he was steam-rolled by Ryan Jimmo (7-second KO) in his last outing. Perosh's ground game stands in stark contrast to the awkwardness of his free-movement tendencies: he's technical, intelligent, usually a step or two ahead and almost graceful in his movement.
The problem is that "The Hippo" has enjoyed a considerable advantage in the grappling department in all of his wins, and he simply won't have that here. Not only is Magalhaes amongst the most prestigious submission artists in MMA, he'll complement that edge with superior striking, quickness, athleticism and strength. A more unfavorable match up might not exist for the likable Aussie, though his clinch game and wrestling are still extremely feisty and he'll fight tooth and nail to the very end.
My Prediction: Vinny Magalhaes by TKO.
Those unfamiliar with these ferocious females and expecting a flat-paced, ho-hum snoozer will be pleasantly "disappointed." Gaff, "The German Tank," and "Lioness" Nunes are cold-blooded knockout artists with heavy-handed reputations, both of whom have finished every win in their careers. Nunes will make her UFC premiere while Gaff first got her feet wet with a loss to Olympian Sara McMann at UFC 159.
To put things in perspective: it took Gaff (6 career TKO's, 4 submissions) just a minute-and-a-half to violently dispatch the three opponents she clobbered heading into her UFC debut, two of which were highly reputable (Jennifer Maia and Aisling Daly). Nunes (6 TKO's, 1 submission) displayed her rugged punching power by blasting through Julia Budd, Ediane Gomes and Vanessa Porto in the three-fight stretch that put her on the map.
Having established their similarities, it's their differences that distinguish them: Nunes will be two inches taller, a bit heftier and has experience against solid 135- and 145-pounders, while some of Gaff's marquee wins came against 125-pounders. To balance that potential factor, Gaff's ground game is much more complete, as evinced in the pair of armbars and heel hook victories on her record. Nunes has been somewhat of a one-dimensional striker, albeit a successful one, so Gaff could exploit that weakness if her wrestling is up to par.
Gaff's takedown prowess is not poor but not particularly formidable either, and the size deficit will surely play into that equation as well. While it's anyone's fight when they're hurling fireballs, Nunes' punches are a bit straighter and more accurate, and she tempers her aggression for a more methodical onslaught.
My Prediction: Amanda Nunes by TKO.
TUF alums square off in a battle with a striker vs. grappler undercurrent. Magny was an enjoyable surprise on TUF 16, causing fits with his evasive movement and crisp striking en route to the semifinals, where he caught an elbow from Mike Ricci. The promising 25-year-old intensifies his crafty sprawl-and-brawl routine with a spaghetti-noodle reach of 81" along with sound takedown defense and scrambling skills.
"Serginho" is a phenomenal submission grappler (four-time Mundials medalist) who was bested in the TUF: Brazil finals by UFC 163 main-carder Cezar Ferreira (Moraes was defeated by Daniel Sarafian in the semifinals but replaced him due to injury). Moraes' elite submission savvy is handily offset by his striking and wrestling deficiencies. His stand up is altogether forgettable, but his wrestling is functional to some extent, mostly on account of his fighting spirit and willpower.
Despite his singular style, Moraes is no slouch and far from an easy fight, and he's not just a good grappler -- he's a flat-out terror on the mat. Still, I think Magny protects his Achilles Heel better than Moraes, and that astounding reach will pay huge dividends in keeping Moraes at bay while presenting an attractive line for underdog bettors.
My Prediction: Neil Magny by hard-earned decision.
"Uncle Creepy" was the unanimous #1 Flyweight when he debuted in the UFC, yet a tough schedule that hinged on dual confrontations with now-reigning champ Demetrious Johnson and former bantamweight frontrunner Joseph Benavidez have left him winless in the Octagon. Despite his recent track record, McCall had achieved unparalleled status by scorching through flyweight top dogs in Darrell Montague and Jussier Formiga, and is likely intent on capitalizing on his first favorable match up.
Santos debuted on short notice against Yuri Alcantara at UFC on FX 8 and saw his seven-fight roll shattered with the 1st-round KO loss. The 32-year-old Brazilian is heartily experienced with 34 career outings (12 TKO's, 6 subs); one prior loss was to John Lineker by split decision and another to Bellator's fiery Genair da Silva by TKO. Though his resume is vast, it's a little thin on the elite company he'll be joining in the cage on Saturday night, and McCall's short-range boxing, wrestling and ability to phase-shift between them should see him through. Santos and his punching power are not to be taken lightly, however.
My Prediction: Ian McCall by GnP stoppage.
Skrap Pack'er Josh Clopton has not reappeared since dropping his UFC debut to Steven Siler by decision in December of 2011, which was his first and only career loss. Yahya, after tours at lightweight and bantamweight, is 3-1 since returning home to featherweight with the fearsome Chad Mendes accounting for his only stumble. The grappling specialist has complemented his strength and overwhelming pace with noticeable strides in the wrestling department and has simply faced too many elite opponents for someone as inexperienced as Clopton to be able to hang with.
My Prediction: Rani Yahya by submission.
Oliveira was on the wrong end of a injury shuffle for his UFC debut -- he was initially paired with Rob Boughton but ended up with a much stiffer test in Gabriel Gonzaga, who choked the lanky 6'7" striker out in the first stanza at UFC 142. Nova Uniao's Barroso has pieced together a 12-1 surge after his 2008 loss to massive heavyweight Geronimo dos Santos, leading to an eventual drop in weight.
"Bodao" is a mean finisher (8 TKO's, 6 subs, 1 decision) who recently scored the Shooto Brazil 205-pound strap with a 1st-round guillotine over Falco Neto Lopes. He's a decent striker with some questionable defensive tendencies, but he's also a strong wrestler and Jiu-Jitsu player.
Oliveira, who's track record is scored with 1st-round batterings (8 TKO's, 2 subs, 3 decisions), will have a monumental height and reach advantage and his striking skills are augmented by a BJJ black belt. However, and this is merely a hunch, Oliveira still seems a bit clunky on the feet -- similar to the way Stefan Struve manages his gangly frame -- and I can see Barroso knifing inside and working clinch takedowns to eke ahead with top control. Both are hungry gamers so this should be a worthwhile contest.
My Prediction: Francimar Barroso by decision.
Marunde was the second pick on TUF 17, debuting on the reality show after dropping a short-notice match with Ronaldo Souza in Strikeforce. He was taken out of the running by Neil Magny and fell to Clint Hester via elbow at the TUF 17 finale. Andrade was a cast member on TUF Brazil 2, losing in the semis to eventual finalist William Macario. I will not paint this one as a lurking barn-burner. Both competitors are heavy on grappling and light on fireworks, and I'd give Marunde the slight edge in wrestling and Andrade the same with submissions. Marunde's IFL stint gives him a decent resume but most of Andrade's losses are respectable (Yuri Alcantara, Charles Oliveira, Magno Almeida) too. Gah! Pick one.
My Prediction: Viscardi Andrade by submission.