It was just under three years ago that Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson engaged in an unforgettable, back-and-forth 25 minute war in the main event of UFC 139. The judges awarded the decision to Henderson despite a dominant 5th round by Shogun, who all but sewed up a 10-8 round to everyone else except the men at cage-side. Tonight these two legends will meet again, this time in Natal, Brazil as part of a special Sunday edition of UFC Fight Night.
Before we get to the main event, let's take a look at the rest of the six-fight main card. There aren't any big names scattered across the show, and the majority of the fighters here are from some version of TUF. The biggest fight on tap is probably middleweights C.B. Dollaway and Cezar Ferreira, with a close eye kept on Rony Jason and Steven Siler at 145 lbs. The UFC Fight Night main card airs live on Fox Sports 1 at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT, with 4 prelims broadcast at 5 PM ET/2 PM PT on the same channel.
C.B. Dollaway (13-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC) vs. Cezar Ferreira (7-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC) - Middleweights
Dollaway was the season 7 runner-up on TUF 7, losing by armbar to Amir Sadollah. The former Arizona State All-American wrestler had a relatively uneven first few years in the UFC, but he's seemingly reached the best stage of his career. Dollaway scored wins over Jason Miller and Daniel Sarafian before a controversial loss to Tim Boetsch at UFC 166, which would've been his first win over a top 10 ranked opponent. Dollaway has already won once in Brazil, can he make it 2 for 2?
Ferreira won the TUF Brazil middleweight final with a decision win over Sergio Moraes, who, with the exception of a few scary moments in round 2, was outmatched on the feet. After over a year on the shelf, "Mutante" quickly choked out Thiago Santos at UFC 163 for his first post-TUF win. Daniel Sarafian, who was supposed to face Ferreira in the TUF Finale before he got injured, then fought Cezar in November, with Ferreira edging him by a rather unspectacular split decision.
Norman Parke (19-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC) vs. Leo Santos (12-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) - Lightweights
Parke is a winner of his last 9 fights, including all 3 in the UFC and a TUF: Smashes lightweight tournament champion. The 27-year-old out of Northern Ireland has dispatched Colin Fletcher, Kazuki Tokudome, and Jon Tuck during his UFC tenure, and looks like a quality talent in one of the UFC's deepest divisions. He's a judoka with good jiu-jitsu and an effective enough boxing game that it would be very difficult to see any alternative path to victory for Santos outside of his own dangerous BJJ and submission skills.
Santos' first pro fight was 12 years ago against Takanori Gomi, but the 34-year-old out of Nova Uniao spent several years exclusively in BJJ circuits, and even holds an armbar win over Georges St-Pierre. His run on TUF Brazil 2 seemingly ended when he lost in the semifinals to Santiago Ponzinibbio, but an injury to the Argentine meant he would face William Macario in the final. Santos lost the 1st round but held strong and choked out Macario in the 2nd to capture the TUF title. Having won the TUF final at welterweight, Santos drops back to lightweight for his first bout since the finale card in June.
Maldonado has carved out a niche for himself in the UFC as a brawler with a chin made of granite. The Brazilian boxer is coming off a tough split decision win over Joey Beltran in October, which gave him his first winning streak of his UFC career. Perhaps the 3 fight losing streak is harsh on him, as his decision losses to Kyle Kingsbury and Igor Pokrajac were certainly contestable, and his other loss was a short-notice TKO (doctor's stoppage) against top contender Glover Teixeira.
Villante made his way into the UFC via the Strikeforce merger. The former football player finished 3-2 in the organization but won his last 3 prior to making the jump to the big leagues. He fought fellow Strikeforce vet Ovince St. Preux to a technical decision loss, which was caused by an accidental eye-poke in the final round. While Villante was upset with the stoppage, citing miscommunication between him and the referee, he moved on and knocked out Cody Donovan at UFC 167 to get his first win inside the Octagon. This fight is expected to be a slugfest, but Villante has the clear advantage in the wrestling department if he wants to take it to the ground.
Mairbek Taisumov (21-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Michel Prazeres (17-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) - Lightweights
Taisumov is a violent finisher whose win over Tae Hyun Bang at UFC Fight Night in Singapore marked his first win by decision. He's won 9 of his last 10 and is an intriguing prospect to watch at 155 lbs. While Prazeres poses a problem for him with his takedown-heavy, grappling-based approach, Taisumov is no slouch on the ground and has a clear advantage on the feet. His power striking and use of kicks and knees should make this an interesting stylistic matchup.
Prazeres was signed by the UFC to face welterweight veteran Paulo Thiago last May. The 30-year-old showed off strength and good wrestling, but faded late and lost a unanimous decision. Undersized, Prazeres dropped to lightweight and took on Jesse Ronson, capturing the 1st two rounds before hanging on in the 3rd to get a decision to go his way. Prazeres is filling in for the injured Gleison Tibau, another hulking lightweight in the division.
Rony Jason (13-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) vs. Steven Siler (23-11 MMA, 5-2 UFC) - Featherweights
Jason is the TUF Brazil 1 featherweight tournament winner who thus far has been a joy to watch in the UFC. His first fight after winning the show was a KOTN-winning performance against Sam Sicilia, who he stopped with punches in the 2nd round. After easily submitting Mike Wilkinson, Jason was given Jeremy Stephens last November, but suffered a shock head kick KO loss in front of the Brazilian crowd. Jason was distraught, in tears post-fight and suspended for punching a hole through a wall inside the arena. Once again competing in his home country, the 30-year-old can improve his mark to 4-1 tomorrow with a win over Siler.
Siler advanced to the quarterfinals of TUF 14 before Diego Brandao put him to sleep with a flying knee. His UFC career has otherwise been fairly successful, with the biggest win of his career coming last August over former WEC champion Mike Brown. After KOing Brown, Siler faced Dennis Bermudez in November but came up short in the end, losing a unanimous decision.