This Saturday night UFC 134 will go down in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The fight card will mark the UFC’s first return to the home nation of one its founding fathers, Rorion Gracie, since 1998’s UFC Ultimate Brazil. The card features UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva squaring off with the last fighter to defeat him, Yushin Okami. MMAFrenzy breaks down the PPV portion of the card with fight by fight analysis and things to look for this Saturday night.
Anderson Silva (c) vs. Yushin Okami
Anderson Silva- (CL) Despite the hyperbole coming from the pre-fight conferences and displays in Brazil, Anderson Silva still has a hard fight on his hands when he faces Yushin Okami Saturday. While the two have fought once before, resulting in Silva’s last official loss, a lot has changed since then. For one, the first fight marked the first time Silva ever fought under the rules used by North American MMA. Okami himself has greatly improved his overall game as a fighter as well. So, what does Silva need to do to win?
Silva has to keep Okami at range (one of the few holdovers of the first fight) in this fight. By keeping distance early, Silva can score at range and frustrate Okami. Once Okami is frustrated and begins to charge, Silva will likely unleash the knees and elbows he is famous for using. Most forget Silva has trained in Judo for years, so that can cause the clinch game to be a stalemate but Okami is likely to look for the straight takedown early and often. Silva will have to defend the takedown better than in his fight with Sonnen. While Silva is very good on the ground, Okami has better submission defense than Sonnen so that could prove problematic for Silva.
Despite a highlight reel knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126, most people refer most of their Silva comments back to UFC 117. A large part of this is because his then opponent, Chael Sonnen, has been grabbing headlines both intentionally and unintentionally for nearly a full year since the event. Sonnen has also helped Okami train for the fight in the hopes that he can replicate almost that entire fight. While that makes sense, it could be a fatal error if Okami is not perfect. Okami has received a ton of advice on his rematch from many fighters (including sage advice from Forrest Griffin saying “don’t do that” while pointing to his appearance on Silva’s reel), so “paralysis by analysis” is always a possibility.
Still, the only the greatest (and undefeated) opponent of all-time in the fight game is age and Silva is aging. Silva is quickly approaching that point where most fighters experience a large drop in performance whether they like to admit it or not. While Silva can and should win this fight, it is important to note that we are likely watching the last few fights of his famous (and infamous) UFC career.
Yushin Okami- (Bryan Robison) Yushin Okami has one distinct advantage in this fight: Upkicks are again illegal in this event. Okami is going to want to take this fight to the ground. That much is apparent. How quickly he wants to take it there is the question. In his last fight against Nate Marquardt at UFC 122, Okami was willing to stand and trade with him, but only in limited instances. Silva is certainly much quicker than Marquardt, so he will be able to take advantage of Okami’s continually developing striking. Okami’s best chance to win the championship fight is to grind out a decision much like the way Chael Sonnen was on his way to doing. Okami will be the champion only if Bruce Buffer starts off with “We go to the scorecards for a decision.”
Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Forrest Griffin- (CL) While Forrest has a love-hate relationship with the media he is still a very good fighter. His rematch with Shogun should highlight that as Rua is in many ways fighting for his legacy. Both fighters bring cringe-inducing leg kicks to the fight to go with strong BJJ. While Forrest was out of his element with Silva (largely because Silva appeared to be living in the matrix), Shogun’s style matches up better, as both tend to turn into sluggers once an exchange begins.
This can lead to a coin-flip scenario for the winner, but I think the most important part of this fight is Rua’s health. Rua has now had multiple knee surgeries that have come as result of some extensive knee injuries. These injuries take forever to heal and even then, many never fully heal. If Griffin attacks the legs with kicks and subs on the ground, we could see the end of the remaining and prominent Rua brother.
“Shogun” Rua- (BR) Another rematch from over 3 years ago, with this one occurring in the UFC at UFC 76 in September 2007. Shogun went into this match as the almighty import from the UFC’s acquisition of Pride. He admittedly took the fight while he was out of shape and recovering from knee surgery.
Now here we are in 2011, with Shogun coming off of a loss in which he was not fully recovered from knee surgery and looked out of shape. Will Forrest Griffin oblige just as Mark Coleman did in his comeback en route to a chance at the light heavyweight title? It is also of interest that Shogun has never won a fight in the UFC that was held in the United States (0-3) but is undefeated outside of the US (3-0) in the promotion.
Shogun holds the striking advantage, much like he did in the first matchup. As long as he avoids Griffin’s low kicks on his rehabbed legs, along with Forrest’s aggressive clinch game, Shogun can stay in the pocket and attack him with a versatile striking game.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira- (CL) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (I still hear Lenne Hardt’s legendary intro every time I hear/read that name) is a lot like a good watch, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking. While that is fine for something without a central nervous system, it does not typically lend itself well to a long fight career. “Big Nog” spent the majority of his career in the shadow of the man he could not defeat, Fedor Emelianenko. So by the time Minotauro reached the UFC, his body had already seen more wars than southeastern Europe. So with an already established legacy, Nogueira is fighting for himself these days.
If Minotauro is to win this fight, it is likely to look like his fight with former UFC champion Tim Sylvia. Sylvia battered Nogueria, to the point where he likely resembled how he looked after the truck hit him in Brazil, before pulling a crazy comeback to win the fight. Schaub is bigger, faster, more athletic, and younger but Nogueria is the more experienced fighter who is always at his most dangerous when he appears out of the fight. With that in mind, do not expect a pretty fight no matter what, where whoever the referee is may determine how much damage he takes and how many shots he gets.
Brendan Schaub- (BR) Brendan Schaub continues his ‘Hey, remember these guys from the UFC montages of 3 years ago?’ tour. After defeating Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop, Schaub has his eyes set on the former UFC Heavyweight champion. Nogueira is fighting for the first time in 16 months, and only the second time in the last 2 years.
Schaub’s striking has improved, as evidenced in the Cro Cop KO victory at UFC 128. Nogueira was knocked out by Can Velasquez at UFC 110 in February 2010, which was his last fight. While Schaub is a solid grappler and is willing to take it to the ground, I do not foresee him willingly challenging arguably the top grappler in the division.
Much like Shogun, Schaub will take advantage of his striking advantage and try and win this one on his feet.
Edson Barbosa vs. Ross Pearson
Edson Barbosa- (BR) Edson Barbosa loves to strike. Ross Pearson loves to strike. Barbosa is a better striker. This seems like an easy formula, since Barbosa will even hold the advantage on the ground if it does goes there. But a formidable kickboxing record and 6 KO wins in 8 fights really prove that Barbosa is a name that is on its way to being on the level of the top lightweight guys in the division. Barbosa will skip bringing all that and speed to the potato chips on his way to a knockout victory in his first career fight in his home country.
Ross Pearson- (CL) Pearson is a solid fighter with great boxing and in this fight his defense will be crucial against a striker of Barbosa’s caliber. Expect this war to look like his fight with Siver for the most part. With both fighters being strong strikers, it may come down to who decides to go for a takedown. If it comes to that, Pearson will likely be the one gunning for the takedown late in rounds if the striking battles are close or not in his favor.
Luiz Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov
Luis Cane- (CL) Luis Cane is a kill or be killed fighter, plain and simple. He will be fighting Bulgarian Stanislav Nedkov and having trained with Bulgarians in my wrestling days, I can tell you the ones in combat sports are certified nuthouse material. While his advantage will be in the striking exchanges, Cane must be careful not lose a limb on the ground to Nedkov.
Stanislav Nedkov- (BR) Nedkov is making his UFC debut after making his way up the rankings of the Bulgarian MMA world. Now it’s the big time for him, as he takes on the Brazilian veteran.
Cane has struggled with strikers, and Nedkov is a pretty solid boxer. He does have a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as well. Cane’s last two losses were via knockout, with both occurring in the first round. Look for Nedkov to bring the pressure early, attempting to take Cane out of his element, as all of Cane’s losses have been within the first three minutes of the fight.