First fight on the docket: A report, from Brazilian MMA site MMAInformativo that two Ultimate Fighter winners will be facing off at UFC Fight Night Natal. It looks like TUF Smashes winner Norman Parke has been tabbed to face TUF Brazil 2 winner Leonardo Santos on March 23. For Santos this will be the first fight since winning the TUF title in June of last year. Since winning he's made the move to his natural weight class, lightweight.
For his part, Parke will be riding a nine fight win streak on his first trip to Brazil. He's 3-0 in the UFC, including taking the TUF crown from Colin Fletcher in December of 2012. He has yet to finish an opponent in the UFC, but is finding a nice niche as a high volume striker with a smothering top control grappling game. It will be interesting to see how he fares against the much more submission savvy Santos. It's a good, competitive fight on paper, but it may devolve into another point kickboxing showcase for Parke.
Next up, Globo's Combate has confirmed with sources close to Gleison Tibau that the ever-present lightweight gatekeeper will have a dance partner for the Natal Fight Night card as well. Tibau, who signed a new four-fight contract after suffering his first KO/TKO loss in seven years at the hands of Michael Johnson, will be looking to rebound in a big way against recent UFC debutee Mairbek Taisumov. It's a bit of an odd fight for Tibau (one that I'm guessing is more based on both fighters' desire to stay busy) as, even coming off a loss he's still pretty firmly ensconced as a top 20 fighter.
It may mean that the UFC has high hopes for Taisumov, who cruised past fellow newcomer Tae Hyun Bang at Fight Night Singapore on January 4th. While each of his last three wins have come over decent competition Tibau will be a huge step up for the 25 year old. He handled Tae Hyun with reasonable ease, but his inability to create more offense late could cost him dearly against a smothering wrestle-grappler like Tibau.
One final addition to the Natal card, also reported by Combate, will be Thiago Perpetuo vs. Kenny Robertson. Perpetuo made his long delayed UFC return after a big debut that saw him starch Leonardo Mafra at UFC 147. The former Ultimate Fighter Brazil contestant then spent over a year on the sidelines battling injuries only to end up on the wrong side of a TKO in November of last year. Now he's dropping down to welterweight to see if he can make better use of his power punching style at a lower weight class.
His opponent, Kenny Robertson, has been a bit enigmatic in his UFC career thus far. A NCAA Division I wrestler, he's shown flashes of grappling brilliance to go along with his smooth takedown game. Unfortunately that hasn't entirely translated to success with his 2-3 UFC record. His tendancy of getting caught out on his feet, and a lack of grappling polish have cost him repeatedly. Perpetuo has all the hallmarks of a beatable opponent for Robertson, but one who could just as easily knock him silly.
Moving on to other cards, recent Ultimate Fighter 18 finalist David Grant is making his way back to the Octagon in March on the Fight Night London card. Grant will be facing off against Roland Delorme in his first booking since losing to Chris Holdsworth in November. Grant was unbeaten in his last 8 fights before succumbing to a submission in the second round of the TUF finale.
Roland Delorme will be looking to officially bounce back for the first time in his UFC career. After a KO loss to Francisco Rivera was overturned (due to the presence of an unknown stimulant) Delorme defeated Edwin Figueroa and dropped a split decision to Alex Caceres at UFC 165. Now the former Ultimate Fighter 14 product will have a chance to show that he can get by a fighter of Rivera's ilk in Grant. This should be a solid contest as Grant's reasonably polished striking and powerful hands could be a nightmare for Delorme if he can't get the fight to the mat in a hurry. If he can I expect him to have a big advantage on the ground.
Last but not least, the UFC has announced the booking of Daniel Pineda vs. Robert Whiteford and Frank Trevino vs. Renee Forte at UFC 171 in Dallas. Pineda is taking a step down in competition after a loss to Diego Brandao at Fight Night 26. He is 1-3 in his last four fights and it's hard not to think that a loss to Whiteford would mean the door for him. Whiteford, as Scotland's first UFC fighter has a lot to prove after a tough UFC debut against Jimmy Hettes. Pineda is certainly a better matchup for him and I expect this to be a hell of a brawl.
A signing that initially looked to be in advance of the UFC's first show in Mexico will instead be making his debut on the Dallas card as well. Frank Trevino is set to face off against Renee Forte on March 15. Forte has failed to impress thus far in his UFC career with stoppage losses to Sergio Moraes and John Makdessi. He has a win over Terry Etim sandwiched in between, but he needs a big win to keep him with the UFC long term. He's poised to get that win against Trevino, who honestly doesn't appear to be ready for UFC competition. It's a slightly surprising matchup as I expected them to bring in a fighter just for him (like they did for Royston Wee), but Forte is a pretty good representative of the minimum level of UFC lightweight competition. So, if Trevino can't succeed here then it may be something of a wakeup call.
That's all the fight announcements from this week (and a few we missed from last week). Be sure to stay tuned for more news and notes as the high intensity 2014 schedule pretty much ensures a constant stream of announcements, updates, and other fight news.
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