UFC Fight Night 137: Santos vs. Anders - Predictions and Picks

UFC Fight Night: Weidman v Gastelum
Heavy-handed puncher Eryk Anders faces Thiago Santos in the main event

UFC Fight Night 137 takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil this Saturday and while it’s not a bad card by any means, various injuries have taken their toll – including forcing the promotion to completely change the main event from Jimi Manuwa vs. Glover Teixeira to Thiago Santos vs. Eryk Anders.

The show features a former UFC champion in Renan Barao and multiple former title challengers, but overall it doesn’t look like one of the best Fight Nights of 2018. Still, with the likes of Alex Oliveira, Charles Oliveira and Evan Dunham on offer, we could at least be in for some exciting fights.

Here are the predicted outcomes for the UFC’s latest Brazilian offering.

#1 Thiago Santos vs. Eryk Anders

UFC 227 Dillashaw v Garbrandt 2
Thiago Santos dominated Kevin Holland in his last fight

Despite both Santos and Anders usually fighting at 185lbs, this fight will apparently be taking place at 205lbs due to Santos originally signing to fight Jimi Manuwa and Anders taking the fight on a week’s notice. The likelihood is that this won’t affect the outcome – both men are big 185lbers who may well benefit from not having to cut weight.

Both men are coming off wins that drew up as many questions as they did answers. Anders defeated Tim Williams with a flashy head kick knockout a month ago, but prior to finishing Williams, he seemed to be struggling with the long reach of his opponent and arguably lost the first two rounds before the knockout.

Santos meanwhile defeated newcomer Kevin Holland and dominated proceedings, but was unable to put him away despite gaining many advantageous positions throughout the fight. The fight before that was more worrying, though, as ‘Marreta’ was knocked out by grappler David Branch, a man hardly known for his punching power.

This is a tough fight to pick as Anders is very raw and is little more than a power puncher with solid defensive grappling at this point, but while Santos is far more technical in all areas, he’s also very much a glass cannon who can be put away as easily as he can put away his opponent.

Despite a lot of the stylistic advantages going to the Brazilian, his defense is still somewhat porous and I can’t get the image of the Branch knockout out of my mind, especially as that wasn’t the first time ‘Marreta’ had folded under pressure in the Octagon. Anders might be crude but he hits super-hard and he’s likely to land at least one bomb on Saturday – which might be enough.

The pick: Anders via first round KO

#2 Alex Oliveira vs. Carlo Pedersoli Jr

UFC Fight Night: Weidman v Gastelum
Alex Oliveira is a ruthless finisher

‘Cowboy’ Oliveira – one of the most exciting and ruthless finishers on the UFC roster – was initially pegged to take on top ten contender Neil Magny here, but when Magny stepped in to fight in the main event of the upcoming UFC Fight Night 140, he was left without an opponent. Now he’s set to fight Carlo Pedersoli Jr, who picked up his first UFC victory back in May over the UK’s Brad Scott.

Pedersoli Jr has a solid enough record – 11-1, with his last pre-UFC victory coming over a solid fighter in Nicolas Dalby – but it is telling that both the Dalby and Scott wins came by split decision. The fact that his style appears to be that of a jack-of-all-trades – but master of none – is worrying, because Oliveira is equally ruthless on the feet and on the ground too.

Essentially, this looks like a one-sided fight in favour of the Brazilian Cowboy. Judging on his one UFC outing I wouldn’t give Pedersoli the advantage over Oliveira in any area – and in fact, since moving to Welterweight the only weakness that Oliveira really seems to possess is a potentially questionable gas tank at times. But he’s coming off his biggest win to date – over Carlos Condit – and it’s hard to see him losing to a relative UFC newcomer like Pedersoli even if he tires.

The pick: Oliveira via second round submission

#3 Sam Alvey vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

UFC Fight Night: Rockhold v Bisping
Sam Alvey is completely reliant on his counter punching

Given he hasn’t fought since his November 2016 loss to Ryan Bader, you could be forgiven for believing that PRIDE legend Antonio Rogerio Nogueira had retired. But at the age of 42, he’s surprisingly still going, and Saturday marks his return from a controversial USADA suspension due to a positive test for PEDs apparently caused by a contaminated supplement.

His opponent Alvey is a tricky fighter to get a read on – he’s almost a pure counterpuncher, who tends to do very little outside of wait for an opportunity to land his brutal counter right hook. If opponents can avoid that punch then he tends to lose in dull outings, but if he lands – see his knockout of Marcin Prachnio in February – then ‘Smilin Sam’ usually gets his hand raised.

Basically, this fight will come down to whether Nogueira can avoid Alvey’s counter right hook in what will be a match of two southpaws. Nogueira’s boxing skills were once some of the best in the division – he beat Rashad Evans essentially using nothing but a jab in 2013 – but he’s so old and rusty now that whether he still has the reflexes to avoid the counterpunch is a major question.

Of course, if the fight were to hit the ground, Alvey would likely be toast due to Nogueira’s extensive submission skills, but the Brazilian was never the best takedown artist in his prime – meaning the fight will probably take place standing. If that’s the case then ‘Lil Nog’ could jab Alvey to death, but it’s more likely that ‘Smilin Sam’ will catch him at some point. And it’ll be sad to see.

The pick: Alvey via second round KO

#4 Renan Barao vs. Andre Ewell

Former champion Renan Barao might be near the end of the road
Former champion Renan Barao might be near the end of the road

It’s hard to believe that just five years ago, Barao was being talked about as a pound-for-pound great and as one of the most feared fighters on the planet. The Brazilian held the UFC Bantamweight title at that point, but a title loss to TJ Dillashaw appeared to take his soul, and since then he’s gone 2-4 with his only wins being unconvincing ones over Mitch Gagnon and Phillipe Nover.

In his last fight against Brian Kelleher, ‘The Baron’ looked particularly awful. He simply couldn’t handle Kelleher’s striking power, nor did he appear to possess the reflexes and speed to land anything significant in response. It may be that he’s simply reached the end of the road after 41 fights and over a decade of action.

Newcomer Ewell is next for the Brazilian and there’s no doubt that despite Barao’s slump in form, ‘Mr Highlight’ is making a big step up in competition. Sporting a 13-4 record, Ewell has won his last four fights, but this will be his first outing in the UFC and how well he’ll adjust to the infamous ‘Octagon shock’ – particularly in Brazil – is a major issue for him.

More worryingly for Ewell, footage on him seems to suggest he’s not possessed with the otherworldly speed that Barao’s recent conquerors have used, and he also has a penchant for trading and getting hit himself. He could stun the Brazilian in a firefight, but away from home and in the UFC for the first time I think Barao can stem the rot for another fight at least – particularly if he can get Ewell to the ground and work his underrated grappling game.

The pick: Barao via decision

#5 Randa Markos vs. Marina Rodriguez

UFC Fight Night: Randa Markos v Juliana Lima
Randa Markos has an experience advantage on Saturday

A popular member of the Ultimate Fighter 20 cast, Canada’s Markos surprised everyone by submitting highly-ranked Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig en route to the semi-finals of the tournament to decide the inaugural UFC Strawweight champion, before succumbing to future champion Rose Namajunas. Since then she’s had an up-and-down UFC career, alternating wins with losses to go 4-5, but it is notable that she’s never really been outclassed despite tough opposition.

This time she’s faced with Brazilian newcomer Rodriguez, who brings in an undefeated record of 10-0 largely from the Brazilian regional scene. Her last fight came on the Brazilian version of Dana White’s Contender Series, as she took out her opponent via TKO in just over three minutes.

Judging on that fight, Rodriguez fights largely as a counterstriker in the Thai style, using knees and elbows from close quarters to great effect. She also appears to have a rudimentary ground game, although she’ll likely be outgunned by Markos – who has very solid grappling - in that area.

This looks like a tough fight to call – Rodriguez is largely a question mark due to the general dearth of footage on her, but what is available seems to show some talent. Markos meanwhile is talented, but also hugely inconsistent. However, the fact that she came close to beating the likes of Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Alexa Grasso – and does have a win over Carla Esparza – makes me lean towards her experience pulling her through.

The pick: Markos via decision

#6 The Prelims: Fox Sports 2 card

UFC 182: Jones v Cormier
Veteran Evan Dunham plans to retire after Saturday's show

In the night’s featured prelim fight, submission artist Charles Oliveira faces off with Christos Giagos, who is making his UFC return after three years away from the promotion. Giagos has apparently improved in that time, but he’s a submission artist who looked outgunned by better grapplers last time around, so Oliveira should be able to pick up the win – probably via submission - despite his glass cannon tendencies.

Longtime veteran Evan Dunham will be making his final appearance in MMA against Francisco Trinaldo, who surprisingly enough is actually 4 years older than Dunham at 40. But he hasn’t taken anywhere near the kind of damage that Dunham has over the years and still appears to be in his prime – his only recent losses are to James Vick and Kevin Lee, both legitimate contenders. Trinaldo via decision – probably coming close to a finish on a few occasions – seems like a reasonable pick.

The 205lbs division will see the debut of another prospect in the form of Contender Series veteran Ryan Spann, who takes on former Heavyweight Luis Henrique. Despite two UFC wins to his name via submission, Henrique is almost a pure takedown artist in the vein of Michel Prazeres or Gleison Tibau. This should be enough to see him past Spann, particularly as he should have a size advantage, but Spann winning would likely make for the more exciting outcome.

Finally, heavy-handed Bellator veteran Heavyweight Augusto Sakai makes his official UFC debut following a win on the Contender Series. He’ll face Chase Sherman, a brawler with an iron chin and a tendency to trade – but also to get very sloppy at times. Sakai’s best bet would be to go all-out for an early stoppage, as a war of attrition probably favours Sherman, but given ‘The Vanilla Gorilla’ has been stopped by strikes before, Sakai via KO is my pick.

#7 The Prelims: Fight Pass card

UFC Fight Night
Popular veteran Ben Saunders headlines the Fight Pass prelims

Sergio Moraes takes on Ben Saunders in what sounds like a classic grappler vs. striker affair, despite Moraes having knockouts on his ledger and Saunders also possessing a strong submission game. The x-factor here will likely be Saunders’ questionable chin, as Moraes should outclass him on the ground and has enough to survive a trade on the feet and probably hurt ‘Killa B’ too. Moraes by TKO is the pick.

Another Contender Series veteran makes her debut on the prelims in the form of Flyweight Mayra Bueno Silva. She’ll face Canadian Gillian Robertson, who spoiled the debut of Molly McCann in McCann’s hometown earlier in 2018. Silva is unbeaten but has far less experience than Robertson, so the Canadian via decision seems like a smart pick.

In a battle of aging veterans, Thales Leites faces Hector Lombard in what will apparently be Leites’ final MMA bout. Despite losing his last two, Leites actually appears to have more left in the tank than his Cuban foe, though, as Lombard hasn’t looked right since a positive drug test back in 2015, and has lost his last five fights. With a loss, it would probably be the end of the road for him, and I think that’s likely. Leites via decision is my pick.

Exciting striker Elizeu Zaleski was supposed to face Belal Muhammad in what sounded like an exciting fight, but an injury to Muhammad has left him faced with newcomer Luigi Vendramini. Despite a cool-sounding name and an 8-0 record, Vendramini simply hasn’t faced anyone close to Zaleski’s level – the Brazilian is on a 5-fight win streak and I expect to see him make it 6 this weekend.

Finally, the long-awaited debut of former Invicta Strawweight queen Livia Renata Souza opens the card, as she takes on Aussie TUF veteran Alex Chambers. I don’t like to write off any fighter but Chambers hasn’t fought in almost a year and has already been used as cannon fodder against Paige VanZant, who firmly outgrappled her. I see no reason why Souza – a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt – won’t do the same on Saturday.

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