The UFC finds itself back in Brazil on Saturday. This time, all the remaining big names in Strikeforce are getting their shots in the UFC. The matchups are interesting, the crowd will be loud, and a few divisions will be shaken up a little.
As usual, James Lynch and I go head to head with our picks. It's up to you to pick a side #TeamLynch or #TeamJC. Tweet at us your picks, we want to know.
Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold
James Lynch, TSN.ca (@LynchOnSports): The former Strikeforce middleweight champ Rockhold looks to put the 185-pound division on notice in his UFC debut, as he squares off with the 36-year-old Brazilian.
A successful product of the Strikeforce Challengers series, Rockhold won his first five fights under the promotion before earning a title shot with then middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in 2011. In what was a considerable upset, Rockhold used his wrestling over three rounds to dominate the highly ranked Brazilian and take home the title.
It was that victory that has served as a catalyst for many pundits predicting this as a close fight for both combatants. However, looking closer at the stats, the Blackzillian member should be the favourite. For starters, Belfort has fought tougher opposition and boasts 21 more fights than his foe. He arguably has the best standup and the most devastating knockout power in the division next to Anderson Silva. He's also one of two fighters (Dan Henderson being the other) to finish top contender Michael Bisping.
Rockhold meanwhile will have a slight height and reach advantage and is on a nine-fight win streak. In the end, experience and knockout power will be on the side of the former UFC light heavyweight champion and I believe we will see his hand raised at the end of the night.
Belfort via Unanimous Decision
Jordan Cieciwa, TSN Radio 1290 (@Fitcityjordan): Rockhold has had two good tests in his career – Souza and Tim Kennedy. Both fights went to close decisions. Rockhold has an impressive list of rear-naked choke wins. However, I don't see him sinking one of those in on Belfort.
When making this call you have to take into account the way Belfort handled Matt Lindland, Rich Franklin, and Yoshihiro Akiyama (Belfort's hands are spectacular, he is the phenom for a reason),
Rockhold has yet to see anyone of this caliber and this should be a wake-up call. It seems however, that Rockhold can answer the call as needed. He's been rocked, swarmed, and still come out on top. Given the Strikeforce competitors performance as of late, I see this going Rockhold's way.
Belfort has in the past, taken fighters lightly. If he makes that mistake with Rockhold this could end with the former Strikeforce champs hand raised. It will be an upset, but I really do feel that Rockhold has what it takes to do this.
Rockhold via action-packed Unanimous Decision
Chris Camozzi vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Lynch: TUF alum Camozzi steps up on short notice for the injured Costa Philippou to take on Anderson Silva's teammate Souza, who makes his UFC debut. Since his controversial loss to Francis Carmont at UFC 137, Camozzi has gone on a four-fight win streak including his last outing where he edged out Canadian Nick Ring at UFC 158.
His opponent the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu blackbelt “Jacare” at one time was considered the top middleweight fighter outside of the UFC. However, losing his Strikeforce 185-pound title to Rockhold halted the hype train of the 33-year-old. Since the loss, the DREAM veteran is on a three-fight win streak (all finishes) and hopes a win over the 26-year-old will inch him closer to a title shot in the UFC.
Souza is comfortable anywhere the fight goes and is better than Camozzi in every area. Despite being a purple belt in Brazillian jiu-jitsu I see Jacare sinking in a submission and earning his 18th professional victory.
Souza via Submission (Second Round)
JC: I have been a huge fan of Souza for a long time, being in Strikeforce hasn't got him the credit his skill level deserves. This is a big night for Souza making the crossover to the UFC. He's one of the top BJJ practitioners in MMA.
Camozzi is on a four-fight win streak, but no one has brought the all-around game at the level Souza will. Camozzi is an excellent fighter, has a ton of heart and looked solid in his last four fights.
Stepping up to take this fight short notice may have been a bad career move. It raises the potential for a loss, and that could set him back a little in his climb through the ranks.
Souza via Submission (Second Round)
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Evan Dunham
Lynch: Two Brazilian Jiu-jitsu blackbelts go toe-to-toe in a very competitive lightweight showdown Saturday night. At one point the Las Vegas native Dunham was considered one of the top fighters in the division, having gone undefeated through 11-fights. However, a controversial loss to former lightweight champ Sean Sherk at UFC 119 and a devastating knockout to the hands of Melvin Guillard shattered any title implications for the 31-year old.
Since his back to back losses, the Xtreme Couture member has gone 3-1 and hopes a win over the Brazilian will get him closer to a title shot. Dos Anjos has endured a similar path, but is currently riding a three fight win streak, including a victory over Canadian Mark Bocek at UFC 154 in his last fight.
While I think the 28-year old Brazilian has the advantage on the feet and on the ground, I see Dunham being able to control his foe with his wrestling over three rounds to garner his ninth decision victory.
Dunham via Unanimous Decision
JC: You heard it here first, this will be the fight of the night. At 155-pounds, these two fighters have seen all of the top talent, outside the top ten. This fight sets up either dos Anjos or Dunham to break into the top ten and begin a run to the title.
Dos Anjos is the better fighter in my opinion here. I feel he has flown under the radar a little in the lightweight class. Dunham had a lot of hype around him until Guillard stopped him in his tracks with a first round TKO. He needs this fight to get back on the rails. The problem is, I don't think he will get the win.
Dos Anjos via Unanimous Decision
Rafael Natal vs. Joao Zeferino
Lynch: Not to be confused with tennis superstar Rafael Nadal, the Brazilian Natal looks to make it two in a row against fellow countryman Zeferino, who makes his promotional debut. No doubt the 30-year-old Natal will be looking to impress as not only is he fighting in his native Brazil, but this is also his first time fighting on the main card for the UFC.
Despite being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt, Natal will likely want to keep this fight on the feet and make quick work of his opponent by knocking him out in spectacular fashion.
Natal via Knockout (First Round)
JC: What's better than a little knockout power and some main card jitters? Nothing. Zeferino has one loss in his last thirteen fights. When the bright lights of his home country hit, I hope he's prepared for the adrenaline dump.
Natal isn't going to have that same problem. He's got six fights in the UFC. He's showing up for another day at the office. My hope is that makes for a quick knock out, or punches that set up a submission.
Either way, I think the mismatch in experience will make this one interesting.
Natal via Submission (Second Round)
Lynch undercard picks: Lentz, Trinaldo, Maldonado, Thiago, Alcantara, Tibau, Lineker, Martins
JC's undercard picks: Dias, Trinaldo, Hollet, Thiago, Alcantara, Tibau, Lineker, Martins
Let us know what you think, tweet us at @lynchonsports and @FitCityJordan. Which side are you on? #TeamLynch or #TeamJC ?