It’s easy to overlook the UFC’s most recent offerings of fights. College football and the NFL is getting into the swing of their playoff races. The NHL and NBA are both well under way. Perhaps most ominous, the holiday season is right around the corner. Should you happen to pass on UFC Sao Paulo, you’ll be forgiven as there are no blockbuster names upon this card. However, there are several well-matched, competitive contests on the card. The prelims are particularly strong given what the prelims on a card of this quality typically offer. It appears doubtful any of the fighters will turn into future stars, but several have already put together solid UFC careers and still have quite a bit left to offer. Though you’ll be forgiven should you miss these contests, it won’t be a big surprise if you end up regretting it.
The prelims begin on ESPN+ at 5:00 PM ET/2:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Sergio Moraes (14-5-1) vs. James Krause (26-7), Welterweight
Krause may not be focusing all his time on his own fighting career at this point, but his focus on coaching may be to the benefit of his career as he has now won five consecutive fights. There was some worry that he might be overpowered moving up to welterweight as well, but he looked better than ever in putting away one of the better athletes at 170 in Warlley Alves. It turns out Krause, not all that quick at lightweight, is no longer at a speed disadvantage at welterweight and is a technical enough striker that he can outwork most of the opposition at his new home. He hasn’t been able to get his wrestling game going, but that wasn’t consistently working at 155 anyway.
He faces a comparable athlete to Alves in Moraes. Moraes isn’t as dangerous on the feet as Alves, but he is explosive in addition to being one of the best pure BJJ practitioners on the roster, possessing several major BJJ world titles. The biggest problem for Moraes has been his inability to get the contest to the ground, whether through his tendency to fall in love with his striking or his lack of wrestling. He’s fortunate to be the athlete that he is as his BJJ is the only aspect of his arsenal that is technically sound. That hardly means he doesn’t pose a threat on the feet though as he possesses a LOT of natural power. It’s just a matter of him being able to connect cleanly.
Moraes has his back up against the wall. He had a stretch where he was undefeated for seven fights in the UFC, an indication of how talented he is. However, he also benefitted from several of his originally scheduled opponents pulling out of contests, giving him lesser opponents stepping in on short notice as opposed to a steady climb in the quality of competition. Now, he’s looking to snap a two-fight losing streak. Perhaps desperation is a good thing for Moraes, but he’s also performed worse in earlier pressure-filled situations. On the flip side, Krause has looked his best now that he’s more focused on his gym. I’m not counting out Moraes, but Krause’s methodical approach should be trouble for the aging Brazilian. Krause via decision
Francisco Trinaldo (23-7) vs. Bobby Green (24-9-1), Lightweight
It doesn’t feel like it was over five years ago when Green was looked at as a rising star in the UFC’s lightweight division, perhaps because Green doesn’t look physically washed. Between Strikeforce and the UFC, he put together eight consecutive victories, the last one being a win over former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson. Then the wheels begin to fall off as Green dealt with a spat of injuries, forcing him to pull out of at least five contests. Even when he did fight, Green hasn’t had the same swagger he previously displayed, resulting in just one win over the last six contests. Green was frustrated enough with how things had been going that he announced his retirement following his last loss, but obviously he’s had second thoughts now that he’s back.
The UFC isn’t giving him a softball as Trinaldo had a similar run of success right as Green’s win streak was coming to an end. While Trinaldo’s win streak wasn’t quite as long – seven wins – most would agree the overall quality of competition was better. Plus, it was more recent. However, Trinaldo is also 41. He hasn’t shown signs of slowing down quite yet, fighting Alexander Hernandez to a competitive decision in his most recent contest. Trinaldo’s striking appears to be wild, but appearances are deceiving in this case as Trinaldo has been accurate, forcing his opponent to throw as he pressures.
Green likes to pressure himself, but tends to be more active with his strikes than Trinaldo. Where the difference comes is the younger fighter is heavily reliant on his natural quickness to remove himself out of danger, often moving his head at the last second… or not moving it in time. Without knowing where Green’s headspace is, it’s hard to know if he’s in the right frame of mind for success. It’s plausible he could wear down the larger Trinaldo underneath his sheer volume, but Trinaldo is strong in the clinch and could wear down Green by grinding him against the cage. It’s a difficult contest to pick, but Trinaldo has been the more consistent fighter despite his age. I’ve got the Brazilian. Trinaldo via decision
Warlley Alves (13-3) vs. Randy Brown (11-3), Welterweight
It’s been difficult to get a feel for the talented Alves. He’ll turn in a flat performance against the aforementioned Krause that leaves most giving up on him reaching his potential, only to turn around and put in the best overall performance of his career in demolishing the aforementioned Moraes. It’s easy to forger the former TUF Brazil winner is still just 28 years old. Typically, Alves has fallen into the trap of throwing a single power shot at a time. Against Moraes, he aggressively attacked his lead leg with kicks to the point Moraes’ base was compromised. From there, Alves unleashed his fury and reminded everyone why they were once so excited about his potential by finishing him off in a flurry of punches. When he’s on, Alves looks like a genuine title contender. The problem is, he’s off more than he is on.
It won’t be so easy to get his explosive striking going against Brown, a far more disciplined striker than Moraes. Brown also has several inches in height and reach against Alves, often leading with a jab, an aspect Alves has struggled with when an opponent consistently uses one. Brown also had what appears to be a breakout performance of sorts, finishing off uber-tough Bryan Barberena after assaulting him both from range and in the clinch. At one point, Brown’s wrestling and grappling was a glaring weakness, but he’s shored up those areas and there’s a strong possibility it won’t be a factor in this contest.
Kudos to Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby as I’ve gone back and forth on this contest and still have no confidence in my pick. Both were raw athletes upon their UFC entry and have clearly improved despite several setbacks within their development. I’m leaning towards Alves for a couple of reasons. First, the contest is in Brazil. Brazil doesn’t have the home field advantage it once did when fighting in the country was still a novelty in the early part of the decade, but you can’t say a long flight doesn’t pose as a potential detriment at the very least. The other part is his suffocating guillotine. Brown has improved his ground game, but still tends to find himself in bad positions. If the fight goes to decision, Brown probably takes it due to his volume, but Alves’ explosiveness can present itself in several ways. Alves via TKO of RD2
- Eduardo Garagorri had a special moment when he secured a win in his adopted home country of Uruguay this summer, maintaining his undefeated record. Now that’s out of the way and the UFC isn’t going to try and bring him along slowly. In other words, they don’t see enough raw skill to develop. No doubt, Ricardo Ramos is licking his chops as he moves up to 145 after competing at bantamweight for his first five UFC contests. Ramos can be reckless, having a lust for spinning attacks. However, when they work, they can be some of the most impressive highlights the UFC produces. Ramos hasn’t made much of an effort to utilize his bread and butter since coming into the organization – his submission game – but it would make sense for him to drag Garagorri to the mat to eliminate the possibility of Garagorri exposing Ramos’ shaky striking defense. Win or lose Ramos is fun. He should overwhelm Garagorri. Ramos via submission of RD1
- It has been a long time since I was excited about a Renan Barao contest. The former bantamweight champion has just two wins since TJ Dillashaw dethroned him back in 2014. Those two wins don’t look good either given those fighters, Mitch Gagnon and Phillipe Nover, haven’t secured a win themselves since those losses. To be fair to Barao, he looked the most like his old self since he lost the belt against Luke Sanders, showing confidence and throwing plenty of volume. Then he had the lights turned out. Confidence has been the biggest problem for Barao, but it’s plausible his durability could be an issue now too. He isn’t the only one moving up to 145 as Douglas Andrade is also moving up after mixed results at 135. Andrade’s athleticism doesn’t appear to have declined and he hits hard as hell. It’s plausible Barao can pull off the upset as Andrade has wilted from disciplined opposition and doesn’t throw a lot of volume, but I don’t trust Barao’s durability. Andrade via TKO of RD2
- The Violence Queen, Ariane Lipski, entered the UFC with a lot of hype earlier this year. Hell, the UFC thought enough of her to pit her against Joanne Calderwood in her debut. Two fights later and she still hasn’t picked up her first UFC victory. Lipski has looked tentative in the UFC, throwing a lot of empty volume and showing miserable defense. It’s looking like she’ll get a more favorable contest in Veronica Macedo, who is stepping in on short notice. Macedo is a karateka with an aggressive ground game. The issue is how she gets the fight to the mat and there are still major questions about how much she can shore up her striking in the pocket. Macedo has shown steady growth and is a plus athlete, but she is still raw. The smart money says Lipski feels comfortable finally opening up against Macedo. Lipski via TKO of RD2
- Irene Aldana may have been able to easily outpoint her and sweep all three rounds, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t enough admirable qualities to take out of Vanessa Melo’s UFC debut. She showed durability, endurance, and heart as she continued to press forward on short notice. She gets an opponent just as willing to press forward in Tracy Cortez, a product of DWCS. Cortez will probably look to wrestle whereas Melo prefers to throw fisticuffs, but Cortez is willing to engage in a dogfight herself. What has me leaning towards Melo is Cortez is moving up from flyweight and it could prove difficult for her to get her wrestling going. Plus, Melo has faced better competition. Nonetheless, it should prove to be a fun curtain jerker. Melo via decision