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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Sao Paulo: Machida vs. Brunson - Main card preview

Get the inside scoop on the opening portion of the main card of UFC Sao Paulo, featuring an exciting contest between rising bantamweights Rob Font and Pedro Munhoz.

MMA: UFC 213-Font vs Silva de Andrade Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll admit, I’m not the best person to recommend whether a card is worth watching. I tend to recommend almost every fight. I usually do a good job of deciphering which contest would be better/best when given a choice of fights to choose from, but generally can find a reason to watch any of them. In the case of UFC Sao Paulo’s main card, I think I can unabashedly state every contest is worthwhile. Seriously. Every fight has at least one name in the official UFC rankings – not that they mean all that much – in addition to being good stylistic contests for fans. Given watching fights is my job, this isn’t a card I have to watch. It’s a card I get to watch.

The main card of UFC Sao Paulo kicks off on FS1 at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Pedro Munhoz (14-2, 1 NC) vs. Rob Font (14-2), Bantamweight

In today’s MMA world, you rarely see the classic striker vs. grappler contest anymore. This bout isn’t quite on par with the formerly common contests, but there is some on that dynamic as one fighter would clearly prefer to stand and trade while the other would rather see the fight hit the mat.

With finishes in each of his four UFC wins, Font has developed a reputation as a striker to be feared at 135. He possesses power that belies his lanky 5'8" frame, winging powerful hooks with surprising accuracy given the power in which he throws them. Should opponents try to get inside of his 71" reach, Font is happy to tie them up in the clinch, burying knees into the body with devastating results. He’s also added a step-in knee that has produced good results thus far. Perhaps the only thing holding Font back from being a complete striker is that he has yet to fully utilize his long reach with a consistent jab, but if he ever does, look for Font to rocket up the rankings in a hurry. For the record, that jab has been coming along nicely….

Munhoz is better known for his BJJ accolades, but he’s far from a chump on the feet. He puts together good punching combinations, hard leg kicks, and possesses a bit of pop in his punches too. What limits the Brazilian is something that can’t be fixed: a miniscule 64" reach. Munhoz takes good angles to avoid getting pieced up too badly, but he often can’t help but take a bit of damage in the process of getting in his licks. Actually… he takes a lot of damage. Munhoz has resorted to playing the counter striker a bit more in recent fights, finding good success in sidestepping attacks and putting together his combos or laying in some elbows and knees.

While Munhoz isn’t a powerhouse, he uses good technique and timing in his single and double-leg shots. Font’s takedown defense has been surprisingly shallow, though part of that is his willingness to attack with submissions as he goes down, a guillotine choke being one of his favorite tactics. Given Munhoz’s credentials, it’s hard to see Font catching Munhoz in such a maneuver, though it hardly seems as though he wouldn’t try. Munhoz’s ground attack isn’t anything fancy; just basic grappling fundamentals honed by years of experience. Font’s willingness to take chances represent Munhoz’s best chance to secure a finish.

Both have shown incredible durability and potential to move up the ladder. Only one of them will be doing so and I like what I’ve seen out of Font more in recent contests. Munhoz did recently switch over to ATT and it often takes a performance or two before a fighter begin making noticeable improvements following a camp change. Still, I can’t count on that and Font’s length seems like it’ll be too much for Munhoz to handle. Font via decision

Francisco Trinaldo (21-5) vs. Jim Miller (28-10, 1 NC), Lightweight

A fun fact worth mentioning: Trinaldo and Miller are both on the Fight Matrix list of longest winning streaks in UFC history with seven wins apiece. It could be stated they are the most unlikely names to appear on the list, tied with the likes of Conor McGregor, Cain Velasquez, and Chuck Liddell. Who would have thought?

Most fans know who Miller is given his memorable contests with Joe Lauzon (twice), Anthony Pettis, and Dustin Poirier. A fixture in the division for nearly a decade, Miller experienced a resurgence in his career once it was discovered he was suffering from Lyme disease following his loss to Diego Sanchez in March 2016. Since then, Miller has looked like the scrappy dude we all loved and remembered from his seven-fight win streak that was snapped all the way back in 2011. The southpaw is effective from almost any range. His elbows in the clinch are particularly deadly. His Muay Thai boxing is proficient. Even though outside striking is where he is weakest, he’ll aggressively attack the legs with kicks if his opponent wants to stay out there. A big part of his recent resurgence could be attributed to a greater attention to defense, though you’d never know it from the amount of blood pouring from his head in his last contest.

Trinaldo hasn’t received much respect, finding himself on the prelims when his seven-fight win streak was snapped by Kevin Lee. Nonetheless, those in the lightweight division know he isn’t anyone to take lightly. A massive lightweight, Trinaldo began to find success as he better managed his energy, allowing him to remain effective late in fights when the third round used to merely be a fight for survival. A fellow southpaw, Trinaldo’s left hand is particularly powerful and he complements his arsenal with top notch low kicks that tend to affect mobility. He’s shown improvement in the clinch too, opening up a massive cut on Paul Felder with a short elbow to secure a finish.

The ground game bears watching with these two as both have shown weakness in submission defense from time to time. Miller’s is largely due to his aggression on the ground, constantly looking for his own sub whether he’s on his back or in the top position whereas Trinaldo has struggled with more athletic opponents. Miller isn’t that type of opponent, but his savvy has caused the likes of Charles Oliveira and Fabricio Camoes to tap out, two noted submission grapplers. Neither are particularly renowned for their wrestling either, but Miller times his shots well while Trinaldo does an excellent job catching kicks.

This contest is my favorite for FOTN. Miller has taken home that bonus six times in his UFC tenure and Trinaldo matches up well with him for the possibility of taking home another. Picking who wins this contest is a different story. Now 39-years old, Trinaldo hasn’t shown signs of age yet, but that is something that should at least be considered as a possibility. Miller may have lost his last two, but nobody considers Poirier and Pettis to be anything less than top competition. He gets an ever so slight edge in my book despite the possibility for home cooking for Trinaldo. Miller via decision

Thiago Santos (15-5) vs. Jack Hermansson (16-3), Middleweight

When Hermansson came into the UFC, most expected him to be yet another middling middleweight in the most middling of divisions. Things started out as expected when he opened his UFC career 1-1, but his last two performances have completely defied expectations. Known primarily as a stance switching outside striker who relies heavily on his jab, Hermansson has changed the narrative in his last couple of bouts. Showing much better timing on his takedowns, Hermansson took his last two opponents down minutes into the contest and pounded them out with brutal ground-and-pound.

Given the danger Santos poses on the feet, it would be wise for Hermansson to utilize that strategy once again. Santos is still vulnerable to the takedown, but he does make his opponents work to get him down, often making the fee vicious elbows for the attempt. Plus, he’s also quick to get back to his feet should he hit the mat. Though his outside striking, highlighted by his lightning fast round kicks to all levels, are still the foundation of his attack, he has shored up his pocket boxing to the point that his mid-range game is no longer a glaring weakness.

There aren’t any mysteries to this contest. Santos wants to keep things standing while Hermansson will look to get it to the ground as soon as possible… kind of like the Font-Munhoz contest. Hermansson hasn’t exactly been facing wrestling gurus in his last two appearances, making it questionable just how much he has truly improved in that department. Then again, Santos was taken down by Gerald Meerschaert several times. Meerschaert may be crafty, but he’s also one of the least physically imposing members of the division. What swings me in favor of Santos has been Hermansson timing his takedowns off his opponent’s attack. The speed in which Santos throws his kicks makes that a very dangerous proposition. Otherwise, Hermansson will be looking to outpoint Santos on the feet. Should he try to do that, he’s likely to go to sleep early. Santos via KO of RD2

John Lineker (29-8) vs. Marlon Vera (10-3-1), Bantamweight

Everyone’s favorite overblown flyweight returns to the cage as Lineker hasn’t been seen since last December. He had been on the verge of receiving a title shot before falling to former champion TJ Dillashaw. Regardless of whether he ever receives a title shot, Lineker’s hard-hitting style makes him a fan favorite of sorts as the type of power he possesses is exceptionally rare for a man his size. Lineker is fearless, willing to plant his feet and swing wildly, but there is so much more to the Brazilian than being a brawler. At only 5'3", Lineker’s angles and footwork usually make up for his lack of size. When he does get in range, few are more dedicated to working over the body despite the uneducated believing he only head hunts.

None of that is good news for Vera. A product of the first season of TUF Latin America, Vera has improved by leaps and bounds since making his home in the states and getting proper training. His long limbs are perfect for his preferred kicking offense, throwing a wide variety of attacks to all levels of the body. His hands are still developing, but he’s picked up a pretty good feel for his jab at this point. Where Vera has proven to be most dangerous is on the ground with his aggressive submission offense. He has shown comfort off his back too, submitting Brian Kelleher with an armbar from the guard. However, his comfort can be bad too as he is quick to give up on defending the takedown. Lineker may not be known for his wrestling, but he is known to hit the occasional change-of-pace takedown.

This is a massive step up in competition for Vera, likely too much for the 24-year old to handle. Vera has yet to show a consistent attack on his feet, falling into long bouts of inactivity. He can’t expect to get away with that against Lineker. Outpointing him is unlikely and Lineker has one hell of a beard, making a Vera KO just as unlikely. That leaves a submission about the only realistic way for Vera to win and Lineker does a good job of negating risk on the ground. Lineker should find a way to end things quickly. Lineker via KO of RD1