Before Demian Maia and Ryan LaFlare take center stage, lots of competitors in the lighter weight divisions will look to steal the Fight Pass/Fox Sports 2 show in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the Ginasio do Maracanazinho on March 21, 2015.
The Line Up
Fox Sports 2
Lightweight Francisco Trinaldo 15-4 vs. Akbarh Arreola 23-8-1
Featherweight Kevin Souza 15-3 vs. Katsunori Kikuno 22-6-2
Lightweight Leandro Silva 17-2-1 vs. Drew Dober 15-6
Lightweight Leonardo Mafra 11-2 vs. Cain Carrizosa 6-1
UFC Fight Pass
Lightweight Jorge de Oliveira 7-1 vs. Christos Giagos 10-3
Flyweight Bentley Syler 5-0 vs. Fredy Serrano 1-0
Akbarh Arreola +165 Francisco Trinaldo -205
Katsunori Kikuno +170 Kevin Souza -215
Drew Dober +135 Leandro Silva -165
Cain Carrizosa +125 Leonardo Mafra -155
Christos Giagos -215 Jorge De Oliveira +170
Bentley Syler -195 Fredy Serrano +160
3 Things You Should Know
1. The Fight Pass card is better than a Hector Echavarria film. Which doesn't say much, but at least it gives casual fans a chance to see some of the TUF: Latin America products.
Fredy Serrano is a complete MMA neophyte, despite being 35 years of age. And yet he has a solid pedigree, winning bronze at the 2007 Pan Ams in Rio in men's wrestling, and even made an appearance in the 2008 Olympics in freestyle. He lost a decision to the eventual show winner, Alejandro Perez. While he doesn't have a ton of experience, he fights like a fairly experienced product. He's willing to throw heavy leather, and is savage when it comes to ground and pound. However, he's 1-0. The defensive aspect of his game is where the infancy really shows through. Normally he'd be an easy bet, but against Syler, that inability to deal with striking should play a role; Syler is very committed on the feet, and puts together combinations with aplomb.
Christos Giagos is the favorite in this one, and for no reason other than that he can exploit Oliveira on the ground, which is not all that encouraging in this day and age. Giagos is one of those sub-Lauzon types; all pop, no poetry. While entertaining, he leaves himself open a lot despite a solid variety of skills. For proof, just check out his bout with Chris Tickle. For proof that there are pro fighters who are worse at backflipping than GSP, skip to the 10:28 mark.
Basically, he should not have had that much trouble with Tickle. While most of the exchanges were on the ground, he's porous on the feet as well, which is what Jorge Antonio 'Blade' Cezario de Oliveira wants to do. It should be noted that 'Blade' is coming down in weight; something that should help him against Giagos, especially if they both switch from fighting in the octagon to fighting in a blood soaked rave. Oliveiro did alright against Lima all things considered. I don't expect Jorge to get bullied against a fighter like Giagos, who is still finding his own identity, so expect a competitive one between these two.
2. A lot of fairly evenly matched bouts on the Fox Sports 2 card, but at least two promise blood being shed in Kitsunori Kikuno vs. Kevin Souza and Cain Carrizosa vs. Leonardo Mafra.
Kikuno is fresh off a win over Sam Sicilia, giving him a 2-1 overall UFC record. He's been hard to gauge thus far. Early on his career, Kikuno's hands down karate style looked fresh and innovative. Now he just looks like the infamous Koji Oishi. Then again, Tony Ferguson is a very good fighter, but still. While his power is spectacular for the division (its hard to believe he once bullied Eddie Alvarez around before getting submitted), he's up against a fighter who is a dreadful stylistic matchup for him. Souza is a large FW with fast, hook-happy combinations. With his speed, there's no way Kikuno doesn't get tagged; a more likely consequence than Kikuno landing his patented crescent kick to the liver for the body shot knockout. It will be tons of fun for three minutes unless Kikuno can keep fight successfully at range where Souza has trouble.
Mafra is yet another fighter dropping down in weight. His previous bout at WW saw him dragged down, and eventually submitted by Rick Story. Had Story decided to brawl with Mafra, the bout might have ended differently. 'Macarrao' is a bullish fighter with very heavy hands, and who prefers to punctuate his combinations with quick, chopping outside leg kicks. He's also fairly young at 25 years of age, so the potential for new tricks is always a possibility. He's facing Cain, also coming off a loss (to Chris Wade). Carrizosa boasts a well rounded skillset, and also a fairly high degree of athleticism. Defensively, he's fairly sound; with his high guard, he chambers heavy body kicks, and throws his right hand with conviction. On the ground, he's active as well, but I don't see him getting Mafra down, nor do I see him engaging Mafra on the feet with much success. This feels like just another case of the bigger stronger fighter being the better one. Think Tibau vs. Uno.
3. The best of the rest include worthwhile matchups that shouldn't be missed just because the names look arbitrarily ethnic to casual viewers.
Trinaldo is just that rare UFC breed who looks to have a lengthy UFC career despite his age and skillset. He's the token well rounded fighter, but unlike most token well rounded fighters, he's athletic enough to either wiggle his way out of trouble, or find a home for his versatile arsenal. He owns a 5-3 UFC record, with the losses coming against strong opposition with fighters like Michael Chiesa, and Gleison Tibau. His opponent, Akbarh Arreola, is coming off a win over Yves Edwards; a win that is as much an accomplishment as it is a signal of Edwards' steep decline. Arreola is an interesting fighter because he gets most of his work done on the ground, where he's active and constantly moving yet he's savvy enough on the feet that he often finds opponents initiating the scrambles and grappling exchanges. From his southpaw stance, he possesses he sneaky chopping right hook (the one that caught Yves, for example). Arreola's an interesting value bet here, but not for me; Trinaldo is too by the numbers to get caught by Arreola's striking, or submissions for that matter.
Dober had the biggest win of his career last December when he took out Jamie Varner thanks to typical Jamie Varner voodoo. Credit to Dober; Varner had enough time to recover, and Dober secured a nice technical, rear naked choke, but it's hard to believe the fight would have ended the same way without the Gray Maynard moment. If Dober had lost, he would have been 0-3 in the UFC, which illustrates Dober's rung on the UFC ladder; a status that hangs by a thread. He's a good, young fighter. But he's a good, young fighter who isn't great at any one thing in the UFC's deepest division. Leandro Silva shouldn't have too difficult a time getting Dober to the ground eventually, and winning via top control. Dober has never been submitted so I doubt Silva manages the finish, but I don't expect him to have too much trouble either.
Trinaldo by Decision.
Souza by TKO, round 1.
Silva by Decision.
Mafra by TKO, round 3.
Oliveira by TKO, round 2.
Serrano by Decision.