When we think of the lighter weight classes, Brazil inevitably enters the conversation. With an extensive history that encompasses the martial arts of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, it's no surprise that the combination of the two has produced some of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. Current UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo are two of the most prominent, but there are plenty of prospects in the making in Brazil hoping to earn their way into the UFC. At #5 on our list, Nova Uniao's Henrique Mello hopes that he can prove he's one of those future Octagon combatants.
Offensive Skills: Mello is your prototypical Brazilian mixed martial artist in that he brings a powerful striking game and solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu skill-set into the cage. While we've seen many Brazilians in the UFC who possess the Muay Thai skills to be devastating in the clinch, Mello isn't that type of fighter, which comes as somewhat of a surprise. He's rather sloppy in his technique, doesn't crush opponents in the clinch with frequency, and isn't a hasty master of the footwork game. But he makes up for that deficiency with knockout power, and it can be effective in limiting his opponent's gameplan.
He succeeds more often that not from a top control position after gaining takedowns, and his power is utilized in his ground and pound rather than the stand-up. He can deliver some very devastating shots from the top, and as an added bonus -- he can be pretty slick in moving to submissions from that dominant position.
Defensive Skills: His grappling acumen serves as his defense to opponents trying to control him from the top, and his power serves more as a deterrent to his opponents trying to counterstrike. This is somewhat problematic as it relies heavily on his offense working out without a back-up plan. But he does manage to find ways to win, and his toughness is probably his best asset when it comes to withstanding damage.
Progression & Learning Ability: Mello hasn't really branched out and added diversity to his skill-set. But that isn't to say he hasn't improved tremendously since his early days as a fighter. But I'm definitely down on the fact that his stand-up game looks rather sloppy, especially for a guy fighting out of Nova Uniao with fourteen fights under his belt.
On the flip side, Mello is a guy who ran through Fury FC while he wasn't training, and he's not a full-time fighter. He still works a tree pruning job in Brazil, and his move to Nova Uniao can only make him exponentially better in the coming years. He also defeated his last opponent, Barros, with a blown knee, which is a testament to the toughness he possesses.
Environment: This is probably one of his biggest upsides as he does have the Nova Uniao team behind him, and it certainly shows in the support he has at many of his fights. The training partners he has at his disposal should give him the tools he needs to improve, but the only question is whether he actually will before making a step to a major promotion.
Potential: As you can probably gather, I'm not extremely high on Henrique Mello as a guy who can ever give upper echelon talent a run for their money. So, why rank him so highly on our list? It's hard to ignore the fact that Mello has defeated some of the best in Brazil. He knocked out Eduardo Pachu in only 1:09 and pulled off a decision victory over recent UFC signee Yuri Alcantara. He also happens to be in the midst of a eight-fight win streak, which is impressive even if the competition hasn't always been at the highest level.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that Mello had enjoyed success without heavy, heavy training in BJJ. Even in his days after the Alcantara fight during his run in Fury FC, he didn't have the Brazilian jiu-jitsu training that he does today with Nova Uniao. In fact, from the sounds of it -- he wasn't even training when he was tabbed for his stint in Fury FC, which makes his victories almost miraculous under the circumstances.
Our rankings will likely catch some heat because we aren't including a lot of guys that many people have followed who have impressive records. Records aren't everything, especially when blasting your way through regional competition in the middle of Iowa. The fact remains that Mello has proven he's tough enough to defeat top level competition in his own region, a region that is well-known to house future stars.
Against the wrestlers in North America, there is certainly a chance of a disappointing performance, but I think he has the chops to be a very difficult task for most mid-echelon talent. The only question is whether he can stay injury-free.
Henrique Mello vs. Aloisio "Dado" Barros
Henrique Mello Highlight
Daniel Santos vs. Henrique Mello