Brazil has always been a historical country for mixed martial arts, and once again the UFC will plant its feet in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for UFC 163. At the top of the card is an exciting title defense bout featuring Brazil’s own, Jose Aldo, against the fan favorite “Korean Zombie”, Chan Sung Jung. This card features several well known Brazilian fighters, and some important fights in the UFC’s competitive world. With the prelims done and out of the way, let’s take a look at the top the of card – the main card.
Jose Marie Tome vs. John Lineker
Everyone once in a while we get treated to a UFC debutee making their appearance on the main card, and for Jose Tome, it’s a gigantic opportunity. This Brazilian can-smasher has racked up an impressive 33-3 record while fighting in the heart of Brazil. Tome is an aggressive striker who has finished the majority of his lackluster opponents via strikes, but also possesses a solid top-game as well. His opponent, the up and coming fellow Brazilian, John Lineker. Lineker was originally scheduled to face Phil Harris, but had his opponent swapped out for Tome. With lots of footage available on both fighters, expect a very competitive fight.
While Tome may have more quantity in experience, it’s Lineker who has the better quality. Ontop of that, I see Lineker being able to do everything Tome does equally if not better. Tome has a heated stand-up game that often evolves into a wild firefight of punches and kicks. While Lineker has his fair share of brawls, he often mixes his attack up very well and works to be the more fluid striker. This should pay off dividends as Lineker’s composure and accuracy gives him the advantage the later in the fight. Expect Tome to have some good moments early in the fight, and even possibly score a few takedowns, but Lineker’s vicious body assault should put an end to an exciting bout in the second round.
John Lineker via 2nd Round TKO
Thales Leites vs. Tom Watson
This middleweight bout will feature a deadly-fisted power puncher against a world-class grappling athlete. Thales Leites, who hasn’t stepped foot in the Octagon in 3 years, is looking to make a successful return so he can hopefully return to title contention – which is where he left off after his departure. Leites has always been known for his amazing ground skills, despite being tainted slightly in his horrendous performance against Anderson Silva, and will no doubt look to get this fight to the ground. However, his opponent, Tom Watson, is quite the opposite fighter who has quite the opposite skill set.
Tom Watson is a dangerous man on the feet as he uses punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to decimate his opponent brutally. While age may be sneaking up on Watson, his chin remains solid and his explosion still seems to be there. The big niche in Watson’s armor is of course his grappling defense. Watson was taken down several times in his last two UFC appearances, and while Leites is no takedown phenom, it could still be a big disadvantage coming up against such a skilled grappler who will be determined to take the fight to the ground.
Ultimately, I see this being one of those fights that goes several minutes with no action, then almost ends suddenly, then back to lackluster action, then something big happens. Watson’s power and offensive clinch game should make things real interesting early on in the feet, as Leites will be dipping his feet in dangerous waters trying to take the fight down. However, after he wears Watson down and gets him fatigued, look for Leites’s takedowns to start shining through. Eventually, in the third round, it’ll be an epic come back victory for Leites as he scores a takedown and chokes and Tom Watson late in the fight after surviving several scary moments earlier on in the first and second rounds.
Thales Leites via 3rd Round Submission
Cezar Ferreira vs. Thiago Santos
Originally scheduled against TUF stand-out Clint Hester, Cezar Ferrier finds himself against UFC newcomer Thiago Santos. Both Ferreira and Santos hail out of Brazil, so this fight should really get the crowd going as both are also very exciting fighters. Ferreira has dynamite in his hands and is known for being very aggressive on the feet. Coupled with that aggression is also a very solid killer-instinct, Ferreira has shown a very mature understanding of when to go for the finish and when to back off. His opponent, Thiago Santos, is a very dynamic striker who likes to mix his attack up a lot. The big difference between Ferreira and Santos is that Ferreira primarily throws powerful hooks, while Santos favors picking his opponent apart with precise striking – whether that means punches, kicks, or knees.
If things start going bad for Cezar, he can always rely on his takedowns and ground game. Ferreira has powerful takedowns and especially has a very good guillotine that he used to finish two fighters on TUF: Brazil, so Thiago Santos will have to play very defensively when put on his back.
Ultimately, I’m going to side with Ferreira on this one. He’s the more experienced fighter when it comes to higher level competition, and I think his aggressive nature will give Thiago Santos a little more than he can handle on the feet. If Ferreira chooses to pursue the stand up and head hunt for a knockout, expect it to be mid-way or later in the fight as Thiago Santos’s persistent arsenal of variety may give Cezar some early issues. However, Ferreira can always use his takedowns to grind out rounds score a smart victory which is what I believe he’ll do.
Cezar Ferreira via Unanimous Decision
Phil Davis vs. Lyoto Machida
Set as the co-main event of the evening is a spectacle of a match-up in the light heavyweight division as Brazil’s own Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida faces athletic wrestling stud Phil Davis. Why is this a “spectacle”? Because stylistically we’ve seen this match up over and over again when we have Lyoto Machida facing a very solid wrestler – we saw it with Ryan Bader, we saw it with Dan Henderson, and we even saw it a while back against Rashad Evans. However, Phil Davis does offer something a little different than those two.
First of all, Davis is a very patient fighter. It was evident that both Ryan Bader and Dan Henderson were clearly frustrated and began to chase takedowns, which resulted in getting countered and either knocked out or out-pointed. Davis has a more patient approach, so don’t expect Davis to chase Machida around the cage like others have. Also, Davis is much more athletic and much more explosive than anyother fighter Machida has faced besides maybe Jon Jones. Davis’s takedowns come at a moments notice, and seeing as how Machida is fairly small for a 205’er, Davis could most likely score takedowns at will. I don’t see Machida’s defensive wrestling strategies doing much against Davis’ wrestling.
On the feet, it’s a complete different story. Davis doesn’t really offer much when he’s standing with opponents besides for long rangy kicks that could result in him being tripped and put on his back, which would not be good for Phil at all. If Davis can’t get the fight to the ground, expect Machida to massively out-point Davis in the striking category and potentially score a highlight-reel knockout if Davis gets too aggressive. On the other hand, I think it’s highly unlikely that Phil Davis will mount any sort of finish, even if he can dominate with takedowns. A submission might be possibility if he can manage to control an arm and use his advantage in strength to muscle an armlock on Machida, but even then Machida is well-versed enough to know how to play safe on his back.
Ultimately, it’s hard not to side with Machida when history has shown that any time Machida faces a fairy one-dimensional grappler, Lyoto will win. I see Machida using his footwork and precise striking to rack up enough points to keep him ahead on the scorecard. We may see Davis score one or two takedowns through-out the fight, but I believe in Machida’s defensive abilities to keep him out of danger, and in control of the fight. This may not be as lackluster as the Henderson/Machida fight, but I wouldn’t expect a lot of action as both Davis and Machida are fairly patient and passive.
Lyoto Machida via Unanimous Decision
Jose Aldo vs. Chan Sung Jung
And now finally, the main event of the night, a featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo and Chan Sung Jung. After 8 years of being undefeated, Jose Aldo puts his title and streak on the line in what could easily be the toughest, most brutal fight of his life. Many people aren’t giving Korean Zombie the respect deserved in this fight despite one of the most impressive UFC careers to date. In just 3 appearances, Chan Sung Jung made history three separate times; the first twister in UFC history, tied for the fasted stoppage in UFC history, and the 2012 Fight of the Year performance.
When breaking this fight down, it’s very hard to determine what Korean Zombie is going to bring as he is very unpredictable, and very unorthodox. His striking, while it may not be technical, sharp, or precise, is very effective. Zombie has underrated knockout power, as shown in his 7-second KO of Mark Hominick, and really utilizes his long and lanky frame to land punches on the outside. The biggest downside of Jung’s striking however is his defense. Zombie has a tendency to eat punches in order to land his own, which could turn very bad against some a powerful striker like Jose Aldo. Aldo’s biggest strength in this fight will be to stick and move, and not let Jung push the pace early with constant pressure courtesy of his long-range punching arsenal. How is he going to do this? By attacking the leg. Aldo has wickedly strong leg kicks and could immobilize Jung early if given the chance to do so. The only thing that would be stopping Aldo from doing this is Jung’s pursuit of takedowns.
On the ground, it’s hard not to think Jung can pull off the submission. His craftiness and grappling skills has been fairly unmatched in recent bouts, and could be a huge tool to use against Jose Aldo. While Aldo does have grappling credentials of his own, we haven’t seen much of his grappling skills as he usually avoids takedowns and avoids grappling all to together. The hardest part is going to be taking Jose Aldo down, which could be very hard to do if he is standing one leg, so expect Jung to pursue the takedown early.
An interesting element to this fight will be cardio as both Jung and Aldo have shown signs of fatiguing late in fights. I think it’s safe to say that nobody will have the cardio edge in this bout, as they’re fairly matched, but you never know the kind of shape each fighter is going to come in with. Jung is coming off of a huge year-long lay off, but after seeing some pictures of Jung training, it seems like he’s packed on a lot more muscle. Aldo is known for being a very large featherweight and being able to muscle around his opponents, but we may not see that with Jung’s new muscly figure – especially considering Jung has a black belt in Judo and very deceptively strong in the clinch.
While Jose Aldo’s striking is very hard to turn down, I think Zombie will give Aldo a very tough fight. We saw Aldo get hit a lot in his fight with Frankie Edgar, because of the speed advantage, so we know Aldo isn’t un-hittable. The big thing will be whether or not Jung will be able to handle the leg kicks. Expect Jung to push the clinch a lot, and seeing as how he’s the longer fighter he can wrap up the head and arms of Aldo a lot easier than most. I’d give a slight edge to Jung in the grappling as his unpredictability and craftiness could give Aldo some troubles, but I don’t see Jung being able to mount anything significant. Eventually, Aldo’s leg kicks are going to add up and Jung is going to fade, turning him into a one-legged target in the latter rounds. However, expect both fighters to be tired and not have as much pop on their shots, which makes a dramatic finish very unlikely. With Jung having the advantage early in the fight with his grappling, and Aldo’s stand up taking over late, I’m going to take the champion to defend his belt in a very close decision. Both people are picking Aldo by knock out, or a dominant decision, but I think Korean Zombie will put up more of a fight than people may think.
Jose Aldo via Split Decision