Rafael Cavalcante (11-4-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. Igor Pokrajac (25-10-1, 4-5-1 UFC), at UFC Fight Night 32
Midway through the main card Saturday night we will have 2 protégés of MMA royalty set to duke it out. Cavalcante a.k.a. “Feijao” is a longtime friend and training partner of the Nogueira brothers and Anderson Silva while Igor has been kicking it with CroCop for years.
Take a look up and down the resume of Feijao and you should notice a trend immediately, knockouts. Win or lose Feijao fights almost always end dramatically with a knockout. When you consider the man’s skill set it becomes clear why this is so. For starters he is a huge light heavyweight (formerly a HW) fighter and has plenty of physical strength to accompany all that size. Add to that the fact that he has been training his submission and takedown defense for years with perhaps the best MMA grappler in history in Big Nogueira and we have another piece of the puzzle. And finally there is the issue of Feijao’s striking, which is just nasty. To sum him up, we have a very big, very strong, muay thai practitioner with plenty of ability to keep the fight upright. Now it should be clear why he has never been submitted and why he has never submitted anyone else, and why he his fights always end in a KO (aside from one of his 2 fights that ended in a DQ). Now for the details; when Feijao is faced with an opponent he feels may try to wrestle him he starts with whipping powerful kicks at the other guy’s lead leg. After about a half dozen of these have landed the once formidable takedown threat is now as good as neutralized. What follows are straight right hands to the chin or the infamous thai plum and follow up knees to the head and body. When Cavalcante is at his best he executes all this in a manner which is both lethal and a joy to watch. In the fights that Feijao has lost he has been given a taste of his own medicine and knocked out. This is due more to the fact that he was hit cleanly by some of the hardest hitters in the game than it is an indication that he has a week chin. When Mike Kyle, Dan Henderson, and Thiago Silva connect it’s almost always a wrap for the other guy so Feijao should not get too bummed out about these losses. If there is one other area Feijao should tighten up it is his cardio as he has been known to slow down late in fights at times. Much of this is owed to the simple fact that he is a big muscular guy and these types of athletes by nature are rarely cardio machines. Factor in the weight cut and his conditioning issues start to make more sense. However it is never a bad idea to devote more time to cardio training and if Feijao does this it could pay dividends as he faces tougher competition in the UFC.
Igor “The Duke” Pokrajac is a decently well rounded mid level UFC light heavyweight. He has been this way since he debuted with the UFC back in late 2009 and has struggled to take things up to the next level. He did hit a nice stride for a while there with a 3 fight winning streak by the time May of 2012 rolled around. And then when Igor had just broken through to a winning UFC record he goes on a 3 fight losing streak until his loss to Joey Beltran was reverted to a no contest. So you could say Pokrajac is at somewhat of a crossroads in his career. Another loss and I would not be at all surprised if he was sent packing. Igor at his best is a tough sprawl-n-brawler with the power in his hands to make his foes pay for those failed clinch and takedown attempts and enough submission skills to submit guys that are not quite at his level of MMA. Unfortunately it seems that if Igor is not totally on his A game he gets beat handily. He comes in good shape and does not mentally break often. When he is not at his best he lacks the sense of urgency and killer instinct necessary to win consistently. This is a problem when there are no easy fights in the UFC, especially at 205 lbs. For Igor to remain or regain relevancy he better come in Saturday with his best look to date.
When these 2 men meet in the cage on Saturday night it should become apparent rather quickly what kind of fight is about to play out. And that depends largely on how Feijao looks, if he is sharp and in good shape it does not bode well for Igor. Even if Cavalcante comes out not looking his best I still see him winning it just may take a little longer. Either is a possibility seeing as how Igor has never been finished in round 1, but when you consider Igor’s age (34) and recent decline and Feijao’s disappointing UFC debut, it’s looking like a win for Feijao either way. Igor has heart and is a skilled fighter but each time he’s faced a fighter of Cavalcante’s caliber he has lost decisively. Look for Feijao to open up with his Muay Thai and get a 2nd round stoppage or decision win.