UFC Fight Night returns this Wednesday with a card set for Brazil. At the top of the action is an important bout in the light-heavyweight division between the rising force Glover Teixeira and top contender Ryan Bader. This bout has serious title implications for Teixeira if he’s able to score a win, and is a pivotal bout in the 205lbs weight class. The main card also features five other promising bouts that are due to entertain. Let get to it!

Marcos Vinicius vs. Ali Bagautinov

Starting things off right for the main card is an exciting flyweight bout that will feature the anticipated debut of Ali Bagautinov. Ali is a Russian MMA competitor with other experience in boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, and Sambo. With some serious credentials, Ali has also proven himself in the MMA world by becoming Russia’s Fight Nights flyweight champion. Bagautinov has shown some serious explosive power in his hands, and some solid wrestling and grappling to go along with it. This debut for Bagautinov could feature a future champion in Ali Bagautinov.

Looking spoil his debut is the two-time UFC veteran Marcos Vinicius Pancini. Marcos is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with solid stand-up skills who is looking to get back to his winning ways since being stopped by Johnny Bedford. This will be Pancini’s flyweight debut, and seeing that he is a former featherweight, it will be safe to say that Vinicius is going to be a very large 125lb’er.

This fight is going to all come down to whether or Vinicius can keep his range or not. We saw Marcos dispatch of Wagner Campos in his UFC debut by using knees, but he’s going to want to keep his range from the ultra-explosive Ali Bagautinov. To make matters worse, I don’t Marcos utilizing much of his grappling skills when he’ll be at the disadvantage in wrestling and most likely will not be able to submit the experienced Bagautinov. While size will be at Marcos’s advantage, power will not. Ali’s thunderous punching power combined with his speed on the feet get my favor in predicting Bagautinov in a second round TKO.

Ali Bagautinov via 2nd Rd TKO 

Rafael Natal vs. Tor Troeng 

At 185lbs, two submission specialists will meet in a main-card duel as the Brazilian Rafael Natal meets the Swede, Tor Troeng. A competitor on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, Tor Troeng showed that he was a dangerous grappler and was to be feared. However, a blitzkrieg from Josh Samman ended that when Tor fell to Josh by knockout. While Troeng was successful in his UFC debut against Adam Cella, I’m still fairly unsure of whether Troeng is quite ready for UFC competitors yet. His opponent, Rafael Natal, will surely be a guy to test that question.

Natal, an experienced UFC veteran, is currently on a two-fight winning streak. While Natal hasn’t produced the most exciting fights or finishes, he’s still a guy who leaves it all in the Octagon and resists to be stopped. Natal is a power-house in the grappling department, but has also shown a brawler-like attitude on the feet. Natal is aggressive, and will most likely be looking to over-power Troeng with flurries of punches and takedowns.

It’s hard to say where Troeng is going to want this fight, but Natal’s forward movement and Tor’s bad habit of backing up into the cage makes me believe Natal will be the one scoring takedowns. Even of Troeng can defend, Natal will still grind him out in the clinch and strike on the breaks. Troeng’s stand-up isn’t all that precise, but neither is Natal’s, so expect some sloppy striking exchanges. Ultimately, I see this fight being a potential snoozer as Natal’s forward movement will grind down Troeng in a competition of who can suck in the most air. On the scorecards, Natal’s name will be read unanimously as his takedowns, clinch control, and forward movement take the cake.

Rafael Natal via Unanimous Decision 

Francisco Trinaldo vs. Piotr Hallman 

In a highly anticipated lightweight bout, the up-and-coming TUF: Brazil competitor, “Massanduraba” Trinaldo, will take on the prospect out of Poland, Piotr Hallman. 155Lbs seems like quite the unlikely weight class for both of these fighters as the have competed at higher weight classes the majority of their careers. Trinaldo first competed as a middleweight on TUF, but now finds himself tanked out at 155lbs. While Hallman is a large lightweight himself, I think it’s safe to say Trinaldo is going to have the strength advantage early on.

On the feet, both fighters possess some serious power. Trinaldo has some solid hands and has landed solid shots before, dropping and stunning Gleison Tibau among others. However, Hallman is probably the sharper of the two. Piotr has a solid kicking game, and likes to tie up to use his dangerous Muay Thai arsenal. Unfortunately, that close-range striking game will prove to work against him as Trinaldo will then be able to score takedowns.

While Hallman is also well-versed on the mat, Trinaldo is another kind of animal. His strength advantage should open up opportunities that Hallman isn’t expecting, and will most likely snag himself a submission in the third or second round. Expect some back-and-forth striking exchanges, but ultimately, Trinaldo’s takedowns and top control will overwhelm Hallman into tapping.

Francisco Trinaldo via 3rd Round Submission 

Joseph Benavidez vs. Jussier da Silva

In an attempt to make his way back to a title shot, the flyweight bulldog Joseph Benavidez will look to pick up his third win in a row since dropping a close decision to Demetrious Johnson. Looking to stop his momentum and perhaps launch himself right up there among the top of the division is the Brazil-native Jussier da Silva. While da Silva only has two fights in the UFC, he improved leaps and bounds in his decision victory over Chris Cariaso from his second round TKO loss to John Dodson. Da Silva has an insanely crafty ground game and could easily turn this fight into a one-sided grappling match if Benavidez allows it.

On the feet, there is a very clear advantage to Benavidez. Not only has Joseph’s stand up improved within the last few years, but its now becoming one of this main assets to his fight game. Benavidez has given himself a whole new arsenal to put his opponents out with, just ask Darren Uyenoyama who succumbed to Joe’s body attack.

It’s going to be very tough for Jussier to get this fight to the ground against a bigger, stronger fighter like Benavidez who is also the better wrestler. Expect desperate attempts from Jussier, but Joe will have none of it as he keeps the fight on the feet and batters da Silva for three rounds or until he scored a finish. Because of what we saw in Benavidez’s last performance, I’m going to predict a second round TKO for Benavidez.

Joseph Benavidez via 2nd Rd TKO 

Yushin Okami vs. Jacare Souza 

In the co-main event of the evening, heavy title implications are abound for both Yushin Okami and Jacare Souza as they fight for a spot among the very top at 185 lbs. In my eyes, this is a very equally matched fight, and will really show who has what it takes to potentially earn themselves a shot at the title.

Both Okami and Souza are bringing fight streaks to the table, for Okami it’s a 3-fight winstreak that saw him shut down both Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard while TKO’ing Buddy Roberts. Souza’s 4-fight win streak has been a bit more impressive in finish as he scored three submission victories and a first round KO.

To start this break down, let’s first look at the fighters’ stand-up games. Okami as we now has always had solid boxing. He stands very long and will look to keep his distance while poking through Souza’s guard. While Souza was victim to Luke Rockhold’s versatile striking game, Okami doesn’t really possess the same craftiness on the feet. Okami has a boxing-oriented style, which should give Souza more of a chance. The thing that Souza brings to the table that Okami doesn’t is a one-punch KO ability. Souza is extremely explosive and will most likely use his explosiveness to close the distance, throw some haymakers, and ultimately try to take this fight down. That’s where things get interesting.

Okami is a very large middleweight, while Souza is fairly average. It’s going to be very difficult for Souza to get the larger Okami down unless he has him hurt. Expect lots of failed takedown attempts for Jacare as Okami’s wrestling and grappling is top-notch as well. However, Souza isn’t as one-dimensional as that. Jacare can attack with trips, laterals, takedowns, and may even pull guard or dive for a leg-lock. This type of unpredictable attack will keep Okami on edge and defensive when the fight transitions from striking to grappling.

All in all, Okami’s wrestling will prove to be a tough obstacle for Souza to get by. It will most likely wear him down, which will prove him useless later in the fight. With that said, I do think Souza’s explosive stand-up and craftiness in the takedown department will put him at an early lead. With Okami’s conditioning carrying him in the last half of the fight, this will come down to the wire. I’m going with Jacare Souza to earn a close decision as he proves that individual significant events are more meaningful than Okami’s volume striking and defensive wrestling.

Jacare Souza via Split Decision 

Glover Teixeira vs. Ryan Bader 

Perhaps just one win away from a title shot, the Brazilian Glover Teixeira will put it all on the line against TUF 8 winner and top contender Ryan Bader. If Teixeira scores a win here, he’ll most likely be the next guy in line to take a shot at either Jon Jones or Alexander Gustafsson. A win for Bader would put him back in the mix, but his recent KO loss to Lyoto Machida still lingers in the air, so don’t expect this bout to be for number-one contention both ways.

Teixeira has proven that he can get the job done both ways, on the feet or on the ground. His boxing-heavy style provokes intense exchanges, but Teixeira’s chin and head movement keep him heavily defended. His punches land with a thud, and his combinations are what ultimately make him very deadly on the feet. Ontop of that, Teixeira’s grappling provides as a nice resort if he wants to take the fight to the ground. While Teixeira doesn’t possess the same type of wrestling credentials as Bader, he’s never been put in any danger on his back, and actually has a better takedown completion percentage than Bader.

The odds are really against Bader in this fight, but that doesn’t mean he can’t win. Bader has vicious one-punch KO power, and all he needs is one punch to connect in the right spot and it’d be Bader with his hand raised. However, the chances are extremely low, especially considering Teixeira’s versatility on the feet and the overall speed advantage he’ll have against Bader. Teixeira’s grappling skills will keep Bader from getting anything significant going, and really come down to how aggressive Glover wants to be. With the ability to win this on the feet or on the ground, I’m predicting Teixeira to put on a well-rounded display of his skills, but end the fight in the second round with a TKO stoppage.

Glover Teixeira via 2nd Rd TKO