The UFC is back for the second time in four days as the Octagon will be back in Brazil for the fourth straight month. The main event will be an epic rematch as Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson meet in a light heavyweight battle in Goiania, Brazil on FOX Sports 1 for UFC Fight Night 32. We will also get to see the original battle for The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil Season One middleweight crown as Cezar Ferreira meets Daniel Sarafian.
Like most events taking place in Brazil, there are a lot of Brazilian fighters competing on the card. It’s starting to become the norm, but with so many events in Brazil, fighters from the country are on the chopping block quicker as there are many more to replace them. Speaking of the chopping block, it is time to take a look at five fighters fighting for their UFC lives on Saturday. It is The Cut List for UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 2.
Igor Pokrajac (25-10 (1), 4-5 (1) UFC)
His opponent: Rafael Cavalcante
Background: Pokrajac has been on this list before and he finds himself on it again as he looks to snap a bad winless skid. Pokrajac has not won in his last three fights, and while technically all three of those were losses, his loss to Joey Beltran in December was reversed to a no contest after Beltran failed a drug test for the bout. That was sandwiched between losses to Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 152 in September 2012 and to Ryan Jimmo at UFC 161 in June. Prior to this recent skid, Pokrajac had won three straight fights and four of five that came after he had lost his first two fights inside the Octagon. Pokrajac has won 25 fights in his career, and three of his four wins in the UFC have come by stoppage. His one decision win was a war against Fabio Maldonado which saw Maldonado give Pokrajac his all. Pokrajac is tough to finish as he has only been knocked out once in the last eight years, and he faces a hard hitter in Rafael Cavalcante on Saturday night.
Outlook: Must-win. Pokrajac finds himself in a must-win situation when he steps inside the Octagon against Cavalcante on Saturday night. Pokrajac is a solid fighter to have in the light heavyweight division as he is willing to fight anyone and will attempt to put on an exciting fight. However, his inability to win, should he lose to Cavalcante, will find himself released from the roster. Cavalcante could also find himself in a must-win fight, so both men will be coming out swinging and looking to get back into the win column.
Paulo Thiago (15-5, 5-5 UFC)
His opponent: Brandon Thatch
Background: Thiago has been a solid member of the UFC’s welterweight division for quite some time and he will be fighting for the 11th time inside the Octagon on Saturday night. Thiago made a big impression in his UFC debut by knocking out Josh Koscheck to run his career record to 11-0. He lost his first fight in his next bout, a decision loss to Jon Fitch at UFC 100, but then bounced back with back-to-back wins over Jacob Volkmann and Mike Swick. Since those wins, Thiago hasn’t had it easy, and while he was once on his way to title contention, he has since fallen all the way down to where he finds himself fighting to remain on the UFC roster. He is just 2-4 over his last six fights, but was 1-4 at one point before scoring a decision win over Michel Prazeres at UFC On FX 8 in May. Thiago did find himself in trouble late in the fight but was able to hold on to the win. His four losses have come to Martin Kampmann, Diego Sanchez, Siyar Bahadurzada and Dong Hyun Kim, all fighters who have had success in the UFC. He has been finished just once, but now he gets a tough challenge in Brandon Thatch, who is coming off a very impressive UFC debut.
Outlook: Really could use a win. I have a suspicion that Thiago will remain on the roster with a loss due to the sheer amount of events the promotion will be running in Brazil, and he is a solid addition to any card in the country. However, there is that chance that he could be cut with a loss due to the size of the roster. A loss would knock him to 2-5 over seven fights, and that is enough to warrant a release. He really could use a win over Thatch on Saturday night.
Sam Sicilia (11-3, 1-2 UFC)
His opponent: Godofredo Pepey
Background: Sicilia will be fighting for the fourth time in the UFC as he looks to end a two-fight losing skid and get back into the win column. Sicilia competed on season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter” as a member of Team Cruz but was eliminated in the first round. He still got a chance to compete inside the Octagon as he fought Cristian Marcello at The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale in June 2012. Sicilia won the fight by knockout to improve his record to 11-1. He then moved back down to featherweight but has since gone 0-2. He suffered a knockout loss to Rony Jason at UFC 153 in October 2012, and that was followed by a decision loss to Maximo Blanco at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in April. It was reported by media outlets that Sicilia was cut following the loss to Blanco, but it was quickly learned to not be the case. He was matched up against Godofredo Pepey for UFC Fight Night 28 in September, but both men were eventually forced out due to injury. They are matched up once again in the night’s featured preliminary bout on Saturday.
Outlook: Must-win situation. After the close call of being cut that Sicilia saw following his loss to Blanco, he finds himself in a must-win situation against Pepey. A loss would be three straight losses and he would be 1-3 in the UFC. Pepey finds himself in the same boat as he is also 1-2 in his three UFC bouts, so both men will be fighting to win on Saturday night. They also have the potential to be “Fight Of The Night”, and if they win that, it would certainly help not only the victor, but the loser as well.
Thiago Tavares (17-5-1, 7-5-1 UFC)
His opponent: Justin Salas
Background: Tavares is a long-time veteran of the UFC as he debuted six-and-a-half years ago in April 2007. He has won just seven of his 13 UFC bouts over that time, and his opportunities to put himself into the title hunt have all fallen as he has gotten momentum. He has never won more than two straight fights in the UFC, having done that twice. He is looking to avoid his second two-fight losing streak when he steps into the Octagon across from Justin Salas on Saturday. Tavares is coming off of a nine-month suspension following a positive drug test for drostanalone following his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC On FX 7 in January. That loss ended Tavares’ two-fight win streak. Tavares scored wins over Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout during that brief win streak. Injuries and the suspension have limited Tavares’ activity over the last several years as he has fought just four times over the last three years. 13 of Tavares’ 17 wins have come by stoppage.
Outlook: Likely needs a win to remain on the roster. Tavares is on shaky ground with a 2-2 record over his last four fights and coming off a drug suspension. I think he will remain on the roster should he lose to Salas, and a solid win will get him back into higher-profile fights in the future. He should be favored to defeat Salas and score his eighth win in the UFC.
Jose Maria Tome (33-4 (2), 0-1 UFC)
His opponent: Dustin Ortiz
Background: Tome makes his second appearance in the Octagon, and unlike the first time, he will have put a full training camp in as he fights Dustin Ortiz in the night’s opening bout. Tome made his UFC debut at UFC 163 in the main card as an injury replacement, and he took on John Lineker. It was a competitive fight for the first round but Lineker took over in the second round and finished Tome with punches at the 1:03 mark of round two. It ended Tome’s 16-fight unbeaten streak, and he will be looking to start a new one on Saturday. Tome has finished the majority of his wins, as 30 of his 33 wins have come by stoppage, and during his unbeaten streak, only one fight went the distance. He is an explosive fighter but will need to avoid losing his first two UFC bouts if he wants to remain with the promotion.
Outlook: Probably cut with a loss. The flyweight roster may be thin, and Tome is a solid flyweight fighter who would be a welcomed addition to fight cards in Brazil. Losing his first two UFC bouts, though, would put him in danger of being released from the roster. With a full training camp, he probably will be much more comfortable as he fights this time, but he really could use a win if he wants to guarantee himself of another fight in the Octagon.
Tags: Igor Pokrajac, Mixed Martial Arts, Paulo Thiago, Sam Sicilia, Thiago Tavares, UFC, UFC Fight Night 32, UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 2