A Featherweight contest makes up the second fight of the main card of UFC on FUEL TV 9 in Sweden, where Light Heavyweight title hopeful Alexander Gustafsson officially withdrew from his main event bout with Gegard Mousasi due to a cut injury. Diego “Ceara” Brandao will face off against Pablo “The Scarecrow” Garza in a matchup that pits two fighters coming off wins against each other.
Brandao is a relative newcomer to the UFC, having only three fights before his match against Garza. He’s got plenty of experience outside of the UFC, but currently sits at 2-1 in the Octagon. His debut against Dennis Bermudez at the TUF 14 finale was impressive, claiming a submission win after chasing Bermudez around the cage and getting rocked with a counterpunch. Darren Elkins, a fast rising star now set to face Chad Mendes, was his second opponent and proved to be too much for Brandao. But “Ceara” (a state in Brazil) bounced back with a unanimous decision win over Joey Gambino.
Pablo Garza is probably best known for that spectular flying triangle choke he pulled off against Yyes Jabouin two years ago. He was on a bit of a highlight reel streak with a flying knee KO of Fredson Paixao in his fight before that, but since then he’s lost to a step up in competition against guys like Dustin Poirier and (loser to Brandao) Dennis Bermudez. He’s now at 3-2 in the UFC with his most recent win, a scrappy unanimous decision victory over now-retired Mark Hominick.
Fight Breakdown – Brandao is a banger, plain and simple. Sometimes his emotions get the best of him and that could spell trouble against a quality opponent. Training at Jackson’s MMA should help him address that, as there aren’t too many out-of-control fighters coming from that camp. Brandao has the type of style that all MMA fans want to see, he’s aggressive, he goes after guys and swings for the fences. Brandao is like the FW Diego Sanchez. He’s got the power at FW to knock Garza out, and no doubt wants to keep this fight standing, to trade shots with Garza and test his chin. Brandao is a tough guy who is going to look to push the pace on the feet, and really throw with bad intentions until Garza is on the ground and the ref stops the fight. The only question mark might be his gas tank, a fighter with that style tends to wilt in the later rounds and if Garza can make this a grinding clinch and grappling match, he may have the upper hand in terms of cardio as the fight wears on.
The style clash between fighters always makes fights interesting. While Brandao loves to strike and use his takedowns to pummel guys, Garza is a technical jiu-jitsu specialist. It’s hard not to find a victory on his resume that isn’t by submission. He should look to use his significant height and reach advantage to keep Brandao at bay and punish him every time he charges in, which should be frequently. But aggression and heart can overcome height and reach (just ask Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve) and Brandao has plenty of both. Brandao is going to touch up Garza a few times and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Garza pull guard at some point during the fight. Garza has to be masterful in keeping Brandao out of rhythm and off balance, catching him with counter strikes when he overextends himself and pushing after him every so often a la Lyoto Machida. Getting caught against the cage with Brandao chopping away at him is the last place he wants to be. It would be huge for Garza to win by finishing Brandao with strikes – it would also be highly unlikely, but anything is possible. Chances are if Garza wins this fight, it will be a decision or submission victory.
Why It Matters – Both of these guys are trying to take that step to get to the next level. When they get a guy in or near the top 10 range, they get into trouble, but they’re competitive against middle of the pack fighters. Garza already had a shot to crack the top ten in his fight against Poirier, but he lost and followed that loss with another loss. He needs a win here to stay relevant and an impressive victory would earn him a shot at someone higher up the ladder. A loss would leave him at 3-3 in the UFC and a bad loss might put him in danger of getting cut.
Brandao had a lot of hype after his TUF performances and winning the Season 14 title, but that came to a screeching halt against Darren Elkins. Brandao is a crowd pleaser, think Dan Hardy or Diego Sanchez, both guys aren’t exactly top five fighters but they love to stand and bang and that keeps them around for another fight. Brandao has the goods to develop into an elite fighter, if he can address his weaknesses and control his emotions rather than be controlled by them. This fight should give us a good idea of each fighter’s ceiling and it will definitely give each guy a wake-up call as to what skills they should focus on improving. Garza has excellent BJJ, but look for “Ceara” to establish his aggression in this fight and eventually catch Garza in a barrage of strikes.
Prediction – Brandao by KO