The last time a visiting team took to the court in Brazil against that nation’s home team, the visitors got their asses handed to them. At UFC 134 in August, before a Rio de Janeiro venue packed with about 14,000 screaming Brazilian fans, Rousimar Palhares went nuts on Dan Miller, Edson Barboza cruised past Ross Pearson, “Big Nog” crushed Brendan Schaub, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua chewed up and spit out Forrest Griffin, and Anderson Silva made Yushin Okami look like a rank amateur. The only hometown player to fall was Luiz Cane, and heck, you can blame that one on it just being Luiz Cane. This Saturday night, the UFC returns to Rio with another installment of “Shooting Fish in a Barrel: Brazilian Edition” (also known as UFC 142), and you can pretty much bet on the fact that most – if not all – of the local boys are walking away with wins. Featherweight champ Jose Aldo will be defending his belt against someone very much not worthy, Vitor Belfort will be taking on the morbidly obese Anthony Johnson, and Palhares returns for what’s sure to be another showcase of psychosis. So… preview time!
-Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes – Undefeated snuggle-master Mendes earned his shot at Aldo’s belt after decisioning Rani Yahya, which, in the rational minds of anyone with even a passing knowledge of the sport and its players, should evoke thoughts of “Huh?” and “WTF?” The sad truth is that Aldo has beaten everyone worthy, so now he gets to beat on the unworthy. And though the American is a Team Alpha Male product, broseph to Urijah Faber and relentless wrestler, Mendes has nothing for Aldo that the Brazilian hasn’t already seen – and dismantled – before. Expect this one to end suddenly and violently, like a barbecue in the favelas when the acai-flavored beer runs out.
-Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Johnson – In Johnson’s much-ballyhooed venture up to middleweight territory, the dude failed to make the 185-pound cutoff by twelve whole pounds (!). Consequently, the veteran Belfort only agreed to the bout if “Rumble” stayed within the 205-pound light-heavyweight limit at fight time. Unless Johnson is pregnant, that uncontrollable weight is inexcusable. Weight divisions aren’t mere suggestions under the Unified Rules you know, and a dozen pounds could mean the most unfair of advantages for the offending bucket of chub. But fear not for the scales of justice here, because that excessive poundage is indicative of either a fighter out of shape or ill – which means the lightning-quick Brazilian is going to light Johnson up like a Marine in Fallujah with a Squad Automatic Weapon and an itchy trigger finger.
-Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Massenzio – If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed Palhares slowly coming unraveled in the cage. Sure, he’s been racking up wins, but invariably, all of his bouts are tainted with some odd as hell behavior (like his premature victory celebration in the Miller fight, or his inexplicable pause in the Nate Marquardt bout). Someday the referee is going to say “go” and the Brazilian is going to climb atop the cage and start rolling flaming barrels down at everyone. What does that mean for Massenzio, a wrestler with ever-improving boxing? I’m not sure. Massenzio could outpoint him on the feet while avoiding going to the ground (where he’d surely fall prey to a leglock), or Palhares could be winning and just mentally snap. If that happens, it’s on like Donkey Kong.
-Carlo Prater vs. Erick Silva – Silva was a Jungle Fight champ when he made his Octagon debut at UFC 134, and his 40-second KO victory endeared him to viewers everywhere (after all, a quick knockout means a run to the refrigerator for a refill on Mr. Pib). Prater, on the other hand, is making his UFC debut after a long career fighting in everything from that Shine tournament to the WEC to Strikeforce. While this bout pits two jiu-jijtsu black belts against each other, and Silva is clearly a capable face-puncher and Prater is a submissions guy, the funny thing about this pairing is that both men are Brazilians (although Prater does live in the US). Therefore, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Brazilian will win.
-Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim – Despite a quick 17-second win via guillotine in his last UFC outing, I’m still not sold on the feisty Brit Etim. His wins are mostly against scrubs, and when he’s faced top-level competition, he’s crapped the bed. Well guess what, Barboza is a top-level talent, and the Brazilian sports the kind of jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai that can send Etim back to Liverpool in a full-body cast. The best case scenario for Etim in this one is if he loses a punishing decision; worst case, Etim is beaten so bad that he never leaves the UK again. I’m going to go with the latter.