Rony Jason vs. Jeremy Stephens
Starting off the main card of UFC Fight Night 32 is an explosive bout between heavy-handed Jeremy Stephens and TUF: Brazil winner, Rony Jason. When breaking this fight down, it really looks to be a striker vs. grappler match-up, but there is more than meets the eye. Jeremy Stephens, ontop of having dynamite hands, has a very underrated wrestling game. While he’s been struggling lately, this is the perfect type of fight for him to really settle into his groove and find himself as a fighter; the right mix of striking and wrestling is his key to victory.
Rony Jason on the other hand is an absolute animal. Ever since he’s joined the UFC, he’s been phenomenal and finds himself 3-0 in the promotion. His submissions scary and he’s developing as a fighter. The big question will be whether or not he can get the takedowns against a strong and wrestling-savvy guy in Jeremy Stephens. On the feet, Stephens has the power but he doesn’t always have the technique. Jason has shown some much improve striking, and could potentially use his kicks to work Stephens down. All in all, Jason is just a much more dynamic fighter; he has the sharp stand-up, the takedowns, and the killer submissions. It’ll be a tough first round, but expect a submission in the second for Jason.
Rony Jason via 2nd Rd Submission
Ryan LaFlare vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
The anticipated debut of “El Rasta” will finally meet the viewers eye as he takes on 1-0 UFC vet Ryan LaFlare who upset Ben Alloway in his UFC debut. LaFlare is a talented wrestler and grappler who showcased smothering top control and positioning in out-pointing Alloway. It wasn’t the prettiest fight, but LaFlare imposed his will and will look to do the same against Ponzinibbio. Ponz is an extremely dynamic fighter and, unlike LaFlare, possesses lots of finishing power. He has dynamite hands, kicks, and also has a dangerous submission game that makes him a scary opponent everywhere the fight goes. Look for LaFlare to come out with a simple gameplan of basic striking into takedowns, but he’ll meet a very stiff test in doing so without getting clocked on the feet. It’ll be Santiago lighting LaFlare up, stuffing takedowns, or perhaps threatening off his back with submissions. I’m predicting a first round stoppage by Ponzinibbio as he counters a takedown with a guillotine choke.
Santiago Ponzinibbio via 1st Rd Submission
Paulo Thiago vs. Brandon Thatch
After an explosive showing in his UFC debut, fans were eager to see Brandon Thatch back in the UFC, this time against a stronger opponent. He’ll get just that as he faces Brazil’s own, Paulo Thiago, in a match that should really test Thatch’s well-rounded MMA skills. Thatch is a powerful striker who pushes the pace non-stop and dishes out strike after strike until his opponent drops. He’s willing to take a few shots to land some, as he showed in his UFC debut. However, Thiago is a much different opponent than that of Justin Edwards, whom he faced in his premiere bout. Thiago isn’t going to look to stand and bang with him, he’ll be looking for the takedown right from the git-go. We saw Paulo Thiago get knocked out by Siyar Bahadurzada, but don’t let that image fool you. Thiago has some awkward, but effective, stand-up skills that he can use to fire back against Thatch, who leaves himself fairly wide open for counter.
But it shouldn’t be the counter-striking of Thiago that Thatch should worry about, it’s the takedowns. One takedown and Thiago can dominate the entire round, or perhaps score a submission; that’s how good Thiago is on the ground, especially against a fairly inexperienced grappler like Brandon Thatch. The Colorado-native received lots of hype after his debut, but here he’ll meet a stiff test that should only humble him as a fighter. Thiago takes the decision as he grounds Thatch and gives him a taste of a good ol’ Brazilian beat down.
Paulo Thiago via Unanimous Decision
Rafael Cavalcante vs. Igor Pokrajac
Both of these light-heavyweights are looking to back on their ways of victory after losing their last bouts. Cavalcante was knocked out in his UFC debut by Thiago Silva, but was looking really sharp before taking a brutal body shot which winded him en-route to the stoppage. Pokrajac on the other hand was out-pointed and out-classed by Ryan Jimmo last June. In this bout, Cavalcante gets another shot at showing what he’s capable of, and Pokrajac is a great opponent to do so. Igor has a tendency to get a little crazy on the feet, and leave himself susceptible to shots. The big key to victory here for Pokrajac is to grind Cavalcante up against the fence, and suck the wind out of him and hopefully get him winded enough so he can explode for a finish, or pick up a decision. I’m not feeling that Rafael will let that happen however. I’m predictin Cavalcante to be fully expecting Pokrajac’s wrestling, use some smart movement, precise striking, and pin-point accuracy in delivering a first round knockout to Brazil.
Rafael Cavalcante via 1st Rd KO
Cezar Ferreira vs. Daniel Sarafian
Our co-main event of the evening is a bout between two guys who both competed on the same season of TUF: Brazil; Cezar Ferreira, the middleweight winner, and Daniel Sarafian, the expected finalist before he had to pull out due to injury. Now, they meet after they both had the chance of settling into the UFC seat. Ferreira has scored a 2-0 record in the UFC, defeating Sergio Moraes in the finale of TUF: Brazil, and choking out Thiago Santos last August. Sarafian on the other hand had a memorable performance against CB Dolloway, but ended up dropping a close decision, but rebounded with a first round submission over Eddie Mendez.
As far as I see it, both Ferreira and Sarafian are extremely evenly matched. They both prefer the ground fighting, and both have developing stand-up games. Ferreira does have a length advantage coming into this bout however; nearly 7” in reach, and 3” in height. This will play as a big factor on the feet, and also in the clinch as Ferreira should be the bigger, stronger man. Ultimately, I see Ferreira’s reach giving him enough of an edge on the feet to out-strike Sarafian. Daniel will try to score with takedowns and clinch work, but Ferreira’s length will stop that from happening. Ferreira should be able to notch a tight decision.
Cezar Ferreira via Unanimous Decision
Dan Henderson vs. Vitor Belfort
And now onto the main event of the evening; Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort. These guys need no introduction, but it is an interesting fact that Belfort is 2-0 this year in MMA while Henderson is 0-2, both losses by split decision. I’ll be honest, this fight is simply going to come down to cardio and energy. We’ve seen Henderson fade in fights before, but so has Belfort. With TRT flowing through both men, it’ll be interesting to see the type of shape they both in with. If Vitor Belfort shows up muscled out like a tank, expect him to get very fatigued when Henderson ties him up and possibly takes him down. However, if Henderson is stuck winging right hands and hitting nothing but air, it’ll be Henderson sucking in breaths of air early in the fight.
In every Belfort fight, typically he comes out slow, calculated, and patient. Henderson isn’t the one to really push the pace, but seeing as how he can take an ungodly amount of punishment on his chin, don’t be surprised if Henderson storms out of the gate and takes the fight to Belfort right away. The big thing that will be stopping Henderson from imposing his will at this point will be Belfort’s counter-striking. Vitor has laser hands, and has also been showing off his new and improved kicking game. Leg kicks and teeps could be a viable weapon for Belfort as he could take advantage of Henderson’s dependency on his legs.
In conclusion, Vitor Belfort just has too many weapons. We know of Henderson’s right hand, but as does everyone else. Don’t expect Belfort to get caught with such a telegraphed punch, especially if he’s fresh in the first round. Instead, expect Belfort to deal damage with kicks and sharp striking as he tries his best to fend of Henderson’s forward pressure. When they lock up, Henderson is no doubt the better wrestler, but Belfort is a very talented grappler as well. We could see some smart defensive grappling, or perhaps some offensive grappling coming from Vitor. I’m predicting a third round stoppage for Vitor Belfort as he becomes the first person to finish Henderson with strikes. His sharp hands and feet will be too much, and without the gas to get out of tough situations, Belfort could position himself in top control and pound away for a gigantic win for Brazil.
Vitor Belfort via 3rd Rd TKO