Brandao is in an interesting spot in his career, despite a highlight reel that would lead you to believe he's better at knocking down doors than human beings. He spots a decent 19-8 record, and is currently 4-2 in the UFC. But his wins have come against middling competition. His biggest win, which was over Dennis Bermudez, came in a fight that was supernaturally back and forth. In a parallel universe, Bermudez could easily be the winner with the wrong referee. His bouts involving step ups in competition have been emphatic defeats.
With that in mind, UFC matchmaking has decided Brandao needs a soft touch. He needs to look good in front of his native land, and to that end they've succeeded. At 19-6, Chope is a decent enough fighter. Associated with Team Buffet (there's an interesting one), he's the only FW you're gonna find who stands as tall as Jon Jones. But his style is tailor made for Brandao.
Having said that, Chope is 23, and we've seen what prospects can do with just the right seasoning. Does Chope have a good foundation to work with? Yes, and no. Being as tall as he is will always be a factor in certain ways. He found early success against Holloway by moving forward with lunging punches (which isn't necessary when you're 6'4 but ok) and solid knees with his Muay Thai background. I'd argue that Holloway is a better striker, so it's not the gimmie I believe some fans portray this bout as.
But it is Diego's fight to lose. When Holloway decided to swarm Chope, he absolutely folded and was all but finished in round 1. Brandao will bring that exact same heat x10. However, like I said, Brandao is not as technically sound as Holloway so there's always a possibility that Chope is more problematic (especially if he fixes his defense). Will fights a lot like Struve minus the polished ground game (despite 12 submission wins to his name). He's prone to being hit with wild looping punches (which Diego favors) because he leaves his hands wide open.
Diego will land, and there will be blood.
Prediction: Diego Brandao by TKO, round 1.
At 14-2, Markes is a fighter who probably deserves much bigger fights than he's been getting. He's 3-1 in the UFC with victories over Aaron Simpson, Andrew Craig, and the Czech national wrestling record holder in all time wins.
However, his last bout was a loss to Yoel Romero who continues to intimidate opponents with his freakish power. In association with Nova Uniao Kimura, he'll be looking to keep his polished record against the Tata Fight Team product from TUF.
I should say right out that I think this undercard is not that bad. A lot of people have taken time out of their busy schedules to mock it, and while I appeared to do so myself, I think it's generally decent. However, this fight is a good example of the problem with its matchmaking; this is a squash match, pure and simple.
Markes is a 'humangous big' middleweight.
He has very good top control, good grappling in general, and this was even apparent against Yoel Romero. Santos doesn't have very good takedown defense. MMAth works like a charm here. So much so that I feel like the analysis should end there.
Unless they keep the fight standing, in which case, it's actually kind of interesting. Santos loves the teep kick with his left leg from his traditional stance. He's a tricky striker who is quietly dynamic with the manner in which he keeps his toes active. However, even on the feet I favor Markes' potential body attack. Both guys are proficient as boxers but are much more effective when trading kicks. Markes even has a bit of flash to his game, which he revealed against Romero when he successfully attempted a flying knee.
Markes will have trouble in the division with striking specialists who can keep it on the feet. And even then you'll have to fight like hell to keep it there. This does not describe Thiago Santos in any way so...
Prediction: Ronny Markes by TKO, round 3.
Formiga is still a credible Flyweight, but his reputation has taken a bit of a hit over the years. He's an unspectacular 1-2 in the UFC, but beneath the superficial number crunching is the spectacular quality of competition; both of his UFC losses have come at the hands of Flyweight contender John Dodson, and the two time Flyweight contender, Joseph Benevidez.
Across from him is Scott Jorgensen, who is 1-4 in his last five. It's hard to believe that a fighter of Scott's caliber is in a position to be cut from Zuffa. But a loss will assuredly give him the boot.
As a matchup of styles, this will prove to be rather interesting. I think it's a fantastic bout personally, and one that favors Formiga. There's a reason Jussier once occupied such a high ranking before the division came to Zuffa. He is the type of technician that we rarely see those days: nothing flashy...just dyed in the wool efficiency in every facet of the game.
He's an MMA snob's dream. His movement on the feet is fluid, and keeps his hands and feet active. He's not a high impact striker (no official TKO wins to his name), but he's incredibly effective at 'threading the needle'. He counters well with his right hand, and on the ground, he's one of the more entertaining grapplers in the cage.
This fight favors Formiga in a big way, and is exactly the kind of fight that should have made the main card (fighters coming off losses be damned).
Jorgensen is too flat footed to win this one. He's such a good fighter and he's lost to only the elite, but his losses have one thing in common: fighters who could stick and move. Formiga has that in spades and Jorgensen doesn't hit hard enough to stop Formiga from landing trip takedowns, kicks, and winning scrambles.
Prediction: Jussier Formiga by Decision.
Kenny Robertson is a pretty unassuming product fighting out of Central Illinois Combat Club. At 12-3, he made his UFC debut in pretty unassuming fashion: a TKO loss to Mike Pierce, which is nothing to be ashamed of. However, his two wins have had fans buzzing.
Conversely, Perpetuo, at 9-2-1, has been a little less interesting in victory while being spectacular in defeat. If you're one of the few who hasn't actually seen his back and forth scrap with Omari Akhmedov, please watch it. It's fun for the whole family.
The matchup itself doesn't require much dissection. Robertson wants the fight on the ground where 67% of his wins come from. Here he is against 1-8 Rory Timmons in a tragic mismatch, throwing him around like a week old empty can of red bull. The 2:34 mark in particular is not for the faint of heart.
He's got plenty of tricks in his arsenal as he revealed at UFC 157 showing off the 'Suloev Stretch'. However, this is a classic matchup of styles as Perpetuo will be looking to land bombs. Lots of bombs.
I favor Perpetuo because he's a big violent manbeast. Ok so there's more right? Sort of. He wings a wild right hand, and left hook combination that I suspect he'll land. I feel like Roberts will be able to get inside for takedowns, but I just don't think he's strong or big enough for the division to win consistently, and I don't know that he's strong enough to get Perpetuo to the ground consistently as well. Tough fight to predict, but I suspect Perpetuo's raw power will be the difference.
Prediction: Thiago Perpetuo via TKO, round 2.
Godofredo Castro vs. Noad Lahat Featherweight
Castro is in a must-win situation here as he's 1-3 in the UFC, and 0-2 in his last two. losing to Sam Sicilia and Felipe Arantes. Both were losses via TKO in the first round. It's a miracle he still has a job, but there is nothing miraculous about the position he's in to win this one.
Lahat is the simmering prospect out of American Kickboxing Academy. At 7-0 he's only gone to a decision once. However, I use the word 'simmering' because that record requires an essay's length caveat. His lone decision win was to MMA's most high profile 'tomato can'; the inexplicably still active (at the time) Shad Smith. Then you look at the rest of his record, and you see 7-12, 3-15, and so forth. It's uninspired competition to say the least. However, is he doing exactly what he needs to do against inferior competition?
Yes and no. When you watch him against Smith, you see why there's some moderate hype surrounding him. He is as persistent a grappler as you'll find: he's tireless in the way he fights for takedowns, trips, back control, you name it. But not being able to finish a guy like Smith inspires an 'all that jelly and no toast' assessment of his ability.
Moreover, this is a terrible matchup for him. Castro, despite his harsh record in the UFC, is a highly adept grappler who moves well the ground, particularly inside an opponent's guard. He makes an honest attempt to pass and slides into mount as quick as anyone in the sport. He's not a great boxer on the feet, but he'll throw hard enough to keep an untested fighter like Lahat honest.
Lahat's the slower fighter, so I expect him to be back pedaling a lot.
Prediction: Godofredo Castro by Decision.
Francimar Barroso vs. Hans Stringer Light Heavyweight
This fight is certainly the last and least of the undercard bouts, but it's not all that bad. Barrosa, despite his age (34), is a fighter who probably deserved to be on the big show sooner. At 16-3, and fighting out of the famed Nova Uniao camp, you have to wonder what took so long. He's only lost once since 2008 and is famous for this quick KO kick.
Hans is 21-5-3 in his pro career (although 4-0-2 in his last six which is odd a streak as you'll find in MMA). The 26 year old from the Netherlands is getting prime training in with the Blackzilians.
This feels like a competitive matchup on paper. Stringer is a fighter who who is and isn't deceptively strong. He's a big guy so it comes natural, but he really optimizes his strength on the ground. Despite a decent number of KO/TKO's on his record, he's more comfortable battling in the clinch, or successfully getting singles and doubles. He's very fluid on the ground, and positionally sound (especially with back control), but aside form that, doesn't stand out much. He's your quintessential jack of all trades type.
Neither does Barrosa for that matter. The difference is athleticism. Barrosa is the quicker fighter, and is especially good at utilizing leg kicks into his bag of tricks. As you can see in that youtube clip, he doesn't mind switching high either. He's also a pretty heavy top control grappler, and in general, does an efficient job of using positional dominance to land strikes.
For Barrosa, the thing that worries me is just like in his last fight, that cardio. While he's technically better than Stringer (Bell*), a guy as big as Hans who manages to stick around for the 3rd round could be a real problem. Barrosa is not a particularly large LHW, so having him deal with Stringer's size in the clinch might just be the clincher. Nonetheless, I feel like his trip takedowns and leg kicks will comfortably net him the first two rounds.
Prediction: Francimar Barrosa by Decision.
*Well get on with it mother...*kaboom!!!*" (such a sad moment)