UFC Fight Night 36 is a seminal event in many ways. While the card itself isn't that interesting, it's my job to pretend that it is so you can be excited for these preliminary fights. Actually, I kid, but only because I'm a bit masochistic; like movies, there's something endearing and special that can be found in the worst of of them. Ahem...(you're doing yourself a disservice by not clicking that link)
Anyway, this will be the first time in which the entire preliminary card will be found on UFC Fight Pass. Which means if you enjoy MMA, but work an honest job you're gonna miss a good portion of the MMA action on the card. Which is unfortunate because despite my facetious tone above, there is some very good action on the undercard.
Also, post-fight bonuses will be changed to Performance of the Night bonuses in addition to the traditional Fight of the Night. So basically, if you score the only submission win on the card, but failed to exchange punches like you have orangutan arms...you're screwed sort of.
Cristiano Marcello (13-5) vs. Joe Proctor (8-2) Lightweight
Two TUF products will face off in this one because why not? CM System fighter Marcello sort of impressed me going all the way back to his Mitsuhiro Ishida bout, back when Ishida was winning fights and beating guys like Gilbert Melendez. He's a bit of a throwback fighter, relying on robotic jiu jitsu: complete with desperate takedowns, and aimless striking. Or that's how he used to fight...
He's 1-2 in the UFC with losses to Sam Sicilia and Kazuki Tokudome. Ok so maybe not too much has changed. Nonetheless, he's a quality fighter and a threat on the ground. His work with guys like Wanderlei, Evangelista, Murilo Rua, and Pele who were once students of his is notable as said list of fighters had always shown good defense when needed. So Marcello is a minor figure of historical significance, but it's worth nothing.
Proctor, fighting out of Team Aggression, lost to James Vick in the TUF quarter finals of whatever season he was on. Sorry. He's 1-1 in the UFC, losing to Ramsey Nijem, and beating Jeremy Larson who clearly doesn't belong in the UFC.
I like Proctor in this one. Marcello has led a respectable career, but he's never stood out. He's like a poor man's version of Murilo Bustamante; a man who was supremely skilled but who also fought with a blue collar intensity. Marcello is none of that. While his BJJ can carry him, his striking is still one at a time.
Proctor isn't a blue chip prospect, but I like his ability to land punches inside and out. While he's only won one fight by TKO/KO, he's got strong hooks inside, and can land in the clinch efficiently. He likes being on the ground, and will likely test the waters regardless of Marcello's pedigree. That's all the more reason to pick Marcello, but I feel like Marcello's age is factor.
Prediction: Joe Proctor by Decision.
Rodrigo Damm (11-6) vs. Ivan Jorge (25-3) Lightweight
Damm used to be one of the hottest prospects in MMA, which is hard to believe at this point. With his jiu jitsu pedigree, and wins over the sort-of-threatening-at-one-time Kultar Gill, and Jorge Masvidal (both finishes), his future seemed bright. Then his next 8 fights would happen.
Currently 3-5 in those 8, but 2-1 in the UFC. Beating Mizuto Hirota was big because I still feel like Hirota is a solid fighter so hopefully he's turning a corner. However, the Alliance Jiu-Jitsu product has been blasted in matches that require the services of his boxing. Blanco and Melendez pistol whipped him. Thankfully that's not who he's fighting this Saturday.
Once you get over his nickname and modest resemblance to every olive skinned henchman in an action film, you see the Team Tavares product for what he is: a good veteran specialist.
Jorge will be looking to take this fight to the ground. To his credit, he rarely wastes time. He's athletic and agile enough that even someone with good takedown defense can be caught off guard. Once on the ground, he's a slick passer, and terrifying with back control. 5 of his last 6 wins are by RNC.
Still, I like Damm in this one. His jiu jitsu is incredibly slick, and he's been a member of the Brazilian National Wrestling Team. Plus he's a solid boxer when he relaxes, and sits down on his punches. While his TKO win over Masvidal is hilariously misleading, it showed that he does have enough chops, especially with his straight right, to hang with better boxers when he's not getting blitzed and pressured.
Jorge won't have that opportunity. Expect Damm to keep the fight standing, and to win the exchanges.
Prediction: Rodrigo Damm by Decision.
Francisco Trinaldo ( 13-3) vs. Jesse Ronson (13-3) Lightweight
Trinaldo, fighting out of Evolucao Thai, looked like a monster to get inside the TUF house when he destroyed Charles Maicon in the first round. Nothing about his record stands out except to note that he made his UFC debut at Middleweight. Four months later he'd be fighting at 155. He's now 2-2 in the UFC, and 3-2 overall.
Ronson, associated with Adrenaline Training Center, made his UFC debut at 165, losing to Michel Prazeres. Ronson is not a fashy fighter, but he shows excellent poise from his southpaw stance. While is power is not other wordly, he owns 6 KO/TKO wins, highlighting said poise. He's got a solid left hand that he uses to great effect on the feet; he adjusts when he needs to, and never overextends. His compact striking, which he varies using kicks from his lead foot, is what he'll want to use against the larger Trinaldo.
Tough fight to pick to say the least; Trinaldo likes the ground a lot, but he doesn't mind swinging wildly from his southpaw stance. He's got better raw power than Ronson.
How the two battle on the feet could reveal the unfortunate but longstanding truth in MMA that technique doesn't guarantee efficiency. Trinaldo can likely bully Ronson on the feet, despite Ronson's on-paper advantage. However, Francisco is slick on the ground, and with Ronson's questionable takedown defense, I wouldn't be surprised to see Trinaldo grapple his way to a submission win.
Prediction: Franciso Trinaldo by RNC, round 2.
Yuri Alcantara (28-5) vs. Wilson Reis (17-4) Bantamweight
At 3-2-1 NC in the UFC, I feel like Alcantara is your classic underachiever. Watching him fight, he's got all the ostensible tools to be an elite BW, yet he's done little to show for it. For many, his biggest accomplishment was putting Urijah Faber in trouble and basically taking a round at the Shogun vs. Sonnen show in which Iuri briefly had mount (which is indeed impressive).
Reis, likewise, has been a bit of an underachiever. Here's a guy who fights like a pit bull with the strong pedigree in BJJ to match, yet never managed consistency in his career, starting with his loss to Joe Soto (where is that guy?).
Needless to say, this is a brilliant fight on paper. Reis has a swift, though looping, right hook he throws from his southpaw stance. This is essentially the battle within the battle: Reis' wide right hook against Alcantara's straight left hand. Both men are southpaws, so I kind of lean towards Alcantara just by virtue of physics: the left hand being easier to land.
Of course, Reis throws with his left too, and he has good raw power, but like I said...Yuri's left hand just seems like the best weapon in this scrap. Both guys are brilliant on the ground. Reis has a more established background, but Alcantara's speed and agility balances it all out.
Prediction: Yuri Alcantara by TKO, round 3.
Felipe Arantes (15-6-1) vs. Maximo Blanco (9-5-1) Featherweight
Everything that has been said about any fighter who underachieved can be said here about Blanco. A fighter with prodigious talents, yet questionable judgment. Not only is he coming off a DQ loss to Akira Corassani, but that puts him at 1-2 in the UFC, and 1-3 in his last 4. If he can't beat Arantes, then he'll be looking for another home.
Arantes hasn't done anything to stand out, so on paper, this is the perfect fight for Blanco. Felipe is 2-2-1 in the UFC, losing his last bout in September to Kevin Souza.
Arantes' style lends itself favorably to Blanco. Arantes likes to keep it standing before setting up his takedowns. On the feet he has a solid, snapping left leg that he likes to go low and high with from either orthodox or southpaw (though he does what a lot of guys do which is switch more for grappling purposes than striking purposes). It's kind of his go-to move. He jabs, and moves reasonably well. In addition, his outbursts are pretty phenomenal; if he "smells blood", he'll use knees, punches, kicks, etc. He's also solid defensively.
The problem here for him is that Blanco will defend his takedowns and will enjoy the advantage on the feet. Though Blanco earned his hype as a crazy but eccentric fighter, we know he's limited nonetheless. However, those limitations will pay dividends against Arantes, who seems confounded by this sort of style.
We saw this against Kevin Souza who seemed to intimidate Arantes in admittedly a very forgettable fight. He just seems to have a problem dealing with strikes from the outside. I don't expect Blanco to light him up, but I do think it'll be a faster paced version of the Souza fight.
Prediction: Maximo Blanco by Decision.
Ildemar Alcantara (19-6) vs. Albert Tumenov (12-1) Welterweight
Chances are, even people who follow MMA had no idea Iuri Alcantara's brother was 2-1 in the UFC. It helps your anonymity when you fight someone as obscure as you in one division, and then two in a completely different division (in this case, 1 at LHW, and 2 at WW).
Fighting out of the K Dojo Warrior Tribe, the Russian WW is entering this bout with a decent amount of hype, and for good reason. He's won his last 6 fights via TKO/KO (5 in the first round). And he looks the part of the blue chip prospect at 22 years of age.
The first thing that stands out about Tumenov is his striking. He fights with a wide base, and keeps his lands fairly low. But his boxing is as smooth as you'll find in an MMA fighter. He's patient, and looks for counters, but his check left hook is as good a check left hook as I've personally seen in this sport. Even though he fights out of an orthodox stance, he boxes like he's naturally left handed.
Another important component to his standup is that while he keeps his hands low, and chin up, he controls his distance incredibly well by virtue of not lunging forward. His strikes are always thrown with his feet planted on the ground, even when he's the aggressor.
It's difficult to say much about his takedown defense. But like Mizuto Hirota, he has good takedown defense by virtue of the base he keeps while standing. He doesn't need some sort of lights out sprawl, but it's still a concern. Nonetheless, given Ildemar's proclivity, expect him to take too many chances on the feet.
Prediction: Albert Tumenov by Decision.
Douglas Silva de Andrade (22-0) vs. Zubair Tuhugov (15-3) Featherweight
Expect this one to be a bloodbath. Douglas has been keeping himself busy in Jungle Fight Promotions, while Tuhugov has been doing his work for the Fight Nights Promotion in Russia. This is international warfare at its finest. Why? Because both guys enjoy the blitz.
Andrade is a very quick, agile striker from the southpaw stance (good lord how many is that on this card?). Despite being aggressive, he has very quick reflexes, and is able to counter on command with a very swift right hook. In a way this feels like a nightmare matchup for Zubair.
He's more aggressive than Andrade, but also much less polished. He rushes in with strikes, often lunging to land a left hook or right hand with his orthodox stance. In addition, he doesn't have enough power to make this bout more competitive than it is on paper.
Andrade has won his last 7 fights by KO/TKO. Like any stat like that, finishes coming outside of the UFC should be taken with a grain of local salt, but in this case, Zubair's style will accomodate Andrade's violence.
Prediction: Douglas de Andrade by TKO, round 2.