When most people think about TUF, it's either as a punchline, or a curiosity. The show seemed to run its course after a few seasons with the prospect pool drying up. So the UFC decided to do something different, and go international. Now the question is, will the first seasons of 'TUF:International' be able to duplicate some of the magic of the originals?
We've got a small sample size thus far, but in 'Mutante' (Ferreira) who trains with the Blackzillians and 'Marreta' (Santos) who trains with Tata Fight Team, we'll get to see a symbolic battle between the quality of Season 1 and Season 2. It's un unfair comparison since Ferreira actually won the show from Season 1, whereas Santos lost to William 'Patolino' Macario on the show, but still.
I like the matchup, all things considered, but both men haven't fought since last summer.There's no reason to sugarcoat this one: either someone will lose early, or the bout will get MacDonald/Ellenberger-level ugly, but minus all the raw talent.
What both men can do: Ferreira is the obvious favorite. The Vitor Belfort "protege" has proven to have a very diverse set of skills that could take him farther than the critics might otherwise assume. He's a big rangy MW who favors the left kick to the body from his unorthodox stance, and a very good one at that. He likes to essentially use it as a jab. As a boxer, while he's limited technically, he possesses a very good straight left, and an even better left uppercut. Granted, the latter's an odd punch to throw so much when you have so much wingspan, but it's a heavy strike that tends to catch his opponent's attention.
He's fluid on the ground, but it's not his specialty. In addition, he does a good job of keeping the fight on the feet. And once he gets comfortable, he'll get creative every once in awhile as he did against Sergio Moraes when he knocked him down with a capoeira kick. Thiago, on the other hand, is less of a specialist.
Santos has mostly just kicks in his arsenal, but he throws them intelligently. With his traditional stance, he favors the left teep kick. A lot. Be it to the body, or to the head, his left leg will be very active in this fight. His kicks in general are good, but his punches are used just to punctuate his leg activity. Which leaves me to...
What both men can't do: Teeps are pretty much the extent of Santos' game. While he can manage distance, he keeps his hands low and doesn't throw enough punches to threaten with strategy. His takedown defense was questionable at WW even on an episode of TUF against Macario, and now he's moving up to MW.
For Ferreira, the list of flaws is endless, but I'll focus on the ones that matter for this fight. While he's got two to three especially useful weapons, his jab is like the flying spaghetti monster. It just doesn't exist. Even worse, he does that Rashad Evans pawing nonsense.
This is important because when you can't establish distance, you end up wading in with combinations instead of throwing them naturally during an exchange as an opponent feels like he/she has to initiate. Instead you feel like you have to initiate. Which is what happened to Ferreira against Elvis Mutapcic at Superior Cage Combat. Less than 30 seconds in, Ferreira rushes in and gets clocked, Hendricks/Kampmann style.
The same story repeated itself at 147. Moraes was able to land in close because Ferreira kept rushing him for no reason. I had to watch this fight again because I couldn't remember anything about it outside of Joe Rogan panicking whenever Moraes would land a decent punch.
X-Factor: Rule breakage. Both fighters tend to get the action halted a lot. Ferreira managed to accidentally teep kick Moraes in the scrotum, but not before he scored an eye-poke to halt the action. Against Patalino, Santos repeatedly landed shots after the horn, and managed one or two patella projectiles to the pills in between (I'll calm down on the alliteration eventually*). Apparently Santos has something in common with the oversized version that BE readers have likely been mistaking him for this whole time.
If you're a referee for a billion dollar business, I'd imagine some homework is in order, and whoever the ref is for this fight would be wise to do it. Eye pokes should be serious business, and I'm worried a 2 round fight on paper manages to span the length of a Demetrious Johnson fight in practice because half the bout is spent watching mixed martial artists dig blood out of their eyes while caressing the contusions around their crotch (*I swear).
Ultimately, it should be pretty cut and dry. Ferreira softens Santos up with body kicks, and then lands a big left hand. While neither guy has much in the way of striking defense (both keeps their hands near their shoulders), the bigger man in this one also has the advantage in every facet of the game.
Prediction: Cezar Ferreira by TKO, round 2.
Cesar Mutante - Highlights (via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)