Preview and predictions for UFC Fight Night 119: Sao Paulo
Will Brunson spoil the Dragon's return?
The UFC make their return to Brazil for the second time this year on Saturday, October 28, and also returning will be the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion turned Middleweight Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida.
Machida has been out of competition since 2015 when he last fought Yoel Romero in the UFC Fight Night 70 headliner, a fight in which he lost by round three knockout.
After the Romero fight, Machida found himself booked in a rematch against Dan Henderson but unfortunately tested positive for a banned substance, thus resulting in a two-year suspension which brings us to now.
Lyoto Machida's return is clearly the biggest story surrounding the event but that's not the only point of intrigue surrounding the night of action.
Recent Welterweight title challenger, Demian Maia is back and looking to rebound after his title losing effort to Tyron Woodley at UFC 214 in July. Across from him will stand the young and hungry Colby "Chaos" Covington.
Covington has been a key name when it comes to the next wave of future Welterweight stars and Saturday could potentially be his night to show that he's ready for the elite of the division.
Derek Brunson(17-5) vs Lyoto Machida(22-7)
When Derek Brunson meets Lyoto Machida this weekend, it will be his second fight with a Brazilian legend and former champion. The last one being Anderson Silva at UFC 208. For Brunson, he'll be looking to string together another winning streak of knockouts like he had before his encounter with Robert Whittaker late last year.
In regards to the actual matchup, it should favour Brunson in almost all areas. Machida will be coming off of a two-year layoff preceded by two straight brutal losses(which also happened to be against wrestlers like Brunson).
Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero had their ways with the visibly declining Machida at the times so I have trouble seeing an even older and potentially ring-rusty Machida have success in this fight.
Machida's best chance will be to hit one of his patented counter shots on the usually very aggressive Brunson. That right there will be the key: how Brunson decides to use his aggression. Which would be one of two ways... to strike or wrestle.
Either way that he decides, I expect him to wind up fine but his chances are much more likely to get caught if he takes the route of aggressively striking, Especially on someone like Machida.
Derek Brunson should be able to realize this; therefore, he will employ his wrestling and ground and pound to secure the TKO victory.
Prediction: Brunson —RD1 (T)KO
Demian Maia(25-7) vs Colby Covington(12-1)
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard Demian Maia has only lost three times out of his thirteen appearances at 170 lbs. All of which comes to division elites in Tyron Woodley, Rory MacDonald, and Jake Shields.
Despite the obvious experience levels and resumes that they all have in common, another thing those three all share is their high-level wrestling abilities. Colby Covington also possesses these same abilities.
Covington is a young, strong, grinding wrestler. He wins most of his fights by smothering out his opponents and breaking their wills. In a matchup like this though, as the other three opponents of Demian Maia did, it would be in Covington's best interest to use his great wrestling defensively to try and earn the victory.
As soon as you're on the ground with Maia, you're at instant risk of him latching on a submission. Woodley avoided this possibility entirely whereas both Shields and MacDonald were able to survive. Shields was able to because of his own excellent Jiu-Jitsu to counter and MacDonald because Maia gassed out midway through their fight(and because Rory is a good wrestler too, of course).
Just about, if not all of Covington's wins come when he is able to get his opponents down. Due to his lack of experience and Maia's wealth of experience, Covington could be in for a rough night.
Prediction: Maia — RD3 Submission
Pedro Munhoz(14-2) vs Rob Font(14-2)
Both Pedro Munhoz and Rob Font have collected plenty of momentum since their respective last losses which each came to top Bantamweight contenders in Jimmie Rivera and John Lineker. Munhoz, two submissions and a decision since and Font with a submission and a KO.
The better striker of the two would be Font but it's not as big of a stretch as people might say. Munhoz is known for his great ground game which underrates his striking. Font's movement and footwork will make for a key factor in how this fight takes place. At some point, things will hit the mat and when they do, look for Munhoz to find a submission.
Prediction: Munhoz — RD2 Submission
Francisco Trinaldo(21-5) vs Jim Miller(28-10)
The matchmaking here just feels a bit mean. Jim Miller is as tough as they come and is one of the savviest veterans in the Lightweight division but Francisco Trinaldo is unbelievably underrated.
After some minor setbacks early in his UFC career, Trinaldo was able to rattle off a lengthy seven-fight win streak before coming up short against Kevin Lee. He now finds himself on the rebound and I will be surprised if he doesn't do just that.
It's entirely possible that Jim Miller could pull off a submission in this bout or use his durability to absorb punishment and land a big shot... But Trinaldo, despite almost being forty years old, isn't on the backend of his career skill wise and is just so strong and powerful in all aspects of MMA. He punches hard, he kicks hard, he even throws hard. No...like literally, go back and watch his fight with Ross Pearson if you haven't seen it. He tossed that man around like nothing.
Prediction: Trinaldo — RD2 (T)KO
Thiago Santos(15-5) vs Jack Hermansson(16-3)
Simply put, Thiago Santos is violent. It's safe to say he is one of the scariest strikers at 185 lbs and all the evidence you need is in his fights. All of his strikes are lethal and can end the fight if they land.
Santos' biggest problem though has been his ground game and takedown defence. His takedown defence appeared improved in his last outing against the strong grappler, Gerald Meerschaert. But Jack Hermansson is a larger opponent than Meerschaert was and will match if not slightly outsize Santos. This is specifically a huge factor because Hermansson has shown to have strong takedowns and a nightmarish top game.
Once Hermansson gets on top, he begins to relentlessly pound his opponent's skulls in until the referee is forced to intervene. If Santos can avoid being taken down, he should take the W here.
Prediction: Hermansson — RD2 (T)KO
John Lineker(29-8) vs Marlon "Chito" Vera(10-3-1)
The hard-hitting John Lineker will be making his first appearance since UFC 207 back at the end of 2016 when he lost to former champion and next title challenger, TJ Dillashaw.
For Marlon Vera, he'll be looking to advance his win streak to four as well as jump right into the top 10.
Vera is a former Featherweight now competing at Bantamweight, he will have a large height advantage over Lineker as he stands at 5'8" and Lineker at 5'3". This could be somewhat troublesome for the stalky powerhouse that is John Lineker. But he's rather quick when he explodes in to close the distance and unleash his "Hands of Stone".
Vera will be slower so trouble avoiding Lineker's primary onslaught of hooks to the body and head could become a reality. His best approach would be to try and utilize his size to get things down and work for a submission.
Prediction: Lineker — RD1 (T)KO