When we last left our heroes...Use whatever slang you'd like...balls, guts, fortitude, cojones, a brain layered by chainmail...and they'd likely apply to Fabio Maldonado. Just look at that pic up there. He's clinically dead, and still standing. Well inasmuch as a vegetable is capable of standing.
For better or worse, Maldonado will always be associated with the beating he took at the hands of Glover Teixeira. It's not flattering, but it's how fans perceive him.
Yet he's quietly racked up a 2 fight winning streak since then, putting his pro record at a stout 20-6. He's a lot more talented than the silly puddy Glover turned him into would indicate.
He's up against a stern test in Gian Villante. Villante is a mountainous LHW out of Long Island MMA. He's 11-4 overall. While he didn't make much noise in Strikeforce, he's 1-1 in the UFC, with not too much to be ashamed of in losing to Ovince St. Preux. Granted, the fight itself wasn't that impressive, but it's a tough fight for both men in its own weird way.
What both men can do: I feel like I'm grasping for straws when it gets pointed out, but Maldonado did manage some striking success for a brief moment against Glover. Maldonado is a solid boxer. He's got some very crisp hands to work with, and likes to work in the pocket where his short range hooks do most of the work.
Maldonado is actually kind of a joy to watch from a boxing perspective. And yes, there are hundreds of caveats to that statement. All I mean is that pure boxing technique is comparatively rare in MMA, and Fabio has some of that.
As for Villante, he's just a good example of how pronounced size can be. He's impossible to move. Chad Griggs managed it, but I don't expect it to happen too often. Just look at the trouble OSP had. Gian excels in using his strength to his advantage with strong takedowns, and creating a taxing atmosphere for his opponent. As I've mentioned before, his right hand is a little weird. When he throws it, it's as if he's always punching at a whack-a-mole arcade, but it's effective and has serious raw power.
What both men can't do: There's a lot to talk about here. It's important to remember that despite Maldonado's seemingly reasonable fundamentals, he still got jabbed and honed by Kyle Kinsgbury. And it's not like he blew Joey Beltran away Doc Holiday style. He leaves his head wide open for all kinds of strikes at range, and never moves his head unless his head is getting battered.
He'll be able to land on Villante. But Villante will have zero trouble getting this fight to the ground. Can Fabio counter Villante's top heavy ground game? Well he has two actual submissions wins, and they were both by guillotine choke. So I doubt it. While there's nothing guaranteed here, a Villante win seems all but guaranteed. It's not gonna be a pretty fight, and fans will be left wondering why the solid number of undercard fights isn't in its place, but here we are...somehow above Fight Pass.
The Joe Rogan Factor: I actually like Rogan. He's kind of aloof, and clearly stoned during broadcasts, but he's basically a one-man booth. Actually, he's probably handicapped since Goldberg only ever speaks when he's hocking an action film directed by Sylvestor Stallone, starring Sylvestor Stallone or Jason Statham, and/or incorrectly recalling results. This is no way meant as an insult, but he has a tendency to run away with preformed narratives. Thankfully, he has a sense of humor and self-awareness about it all. With that in mind, I have a feeling we'll be in for the following this weekend:
'Villante was named to the Heisman (!) All-Star (!) Team (!) in high school. He's no joke! When you have this huge, hulking, just beast of a man wearing you down like a boulder coming at you, and you've got no place to go, you're gonna feel it. I think certain sports in MMA get taken for granted as just merely peripheral...look at soccer and how they've helped Jose Aldo and his brutal leg kicking...Villante's football background at linebacker has really prepared him to just roll dudes in MMA. I'm excited for this kid. Remember, he only lost to Ovince St. Preux by eye poke."
Point taken Joe.
Prediction: Gian Villante by Decision.