Rafael Cavalcante (11-4 (1), 0-1 UFC) vs. Igor Pokrajac (25-10 (1), 4-5 (1) UFC)
A light heavyweight slugfest is on tap for the main card of UFC Fight Night 32 as former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael Cavalcante takes on Igor Pokrajac. Cavalcante is looking to end his two-fight winless streak and score his first win in the UFC. He is coming off a knockout loss to Thiago Silva at UFC On FUEL TV 10 in June. Cavalcante is 2-2 with one no contest over his last five fights. Pokrajac is looking for his first win since May 2012 as he looks to snap a three-fight winless streak. He last fought in June when he dropped a decision to Ryan Jimmo at UFC 161. He is 3-2 with one no contest over his last six fights.
Fight Breakdown- Cavalcante looked like a different fighter than we had seen in the past when he made his UFC debut in June against Thiago Silva. His conditioning was not at the level that it had been in the past, and he faded quickly after tagging Silva and was on the receiving end of a knockout. Whether it was ring rust or he was injured heading into the bout, he will need to show he is able to rebound from that loss as he could find himself released from the UFC should he have another performance like that one. It was Cavalcante’s first fight since returning from a suspension after he failed a drug test following a submission win over Mike Kyle in May 2012. Cavalcante has just one official win over the last four years, which was a knockout win over Yoel Romero in September 2011. He has big knockout power, but will need to show the cardio issues are behind him against Pokrajac.
Pokrajac has been in quite the slump, and it could be a whole lot worse if it weren’t for the questionable decision he got in his fight against Fabio Maldonado in May 2012. Pokrajac had trouble battling in the clinch against Ryan Jimmo and Joey Beltran, and the only reason he doesn’t have another official loss on his record is because of Beltran failing a post-fight drug test after they fought. Pokrajac will be fighting like he has lost three straight fights, and he is looking to show the impressive knockout power he showed against Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 140 in December. He likes to get into slugfests, and that is the kind of fight that he will have with Cavalcante on Saturday night. He has gone the distance in just nine of his 36 professional fights, and 21 of his 25 wins have come by knockout or submission.
This will be a battle on the feet with both men throwing a lot of hard punches, and it will test the conditioning of each man. Cavalcante probably has more power of the two men, but his conditioning will be a big question mark. He faded fast against Silva, but that was his first fight in over a year. With returning just five months after his last fight, hopefully he will have the cardio he needs for a war, or this could be a quick night for him. Pokrajac has good boxing skills and he constantly moves forward. Cavalcante likes to press the action and is dangerous in close quarters, and he should use a blueprint that was laid out by Maldonado when he and Pokrajac fought. Cavalcante will have the speed advantage and fights solidly in the clinch, and Pokrajac struggles in the clinch. Pokrajac would be best served in trying to take this fight down to the ground.
Repeated takedown attempts from Pokrajac will drain the gas tank of Cavalcante and will give Pokrajac a much-needed different look in the fight. Pokrajac has no problem going the full 15 minutes, and he may be looking to do whatever he needs to do to score the win. Cavalcante is solid on the ground, and he has never been submitted, and he will be looking for submissions so Pokrajac should keep him planted with solid top control. Whatever Pokrajac needs to do to limit Cavalcante from landing power punches is what Pokrajac should be looking to implement in his gameplan. Ultimately, as the fight hits the feet, it will be Cavalcante’s fight to lose. He needs to have better conditioning, and if he does, it will be a showcase for him. Pokrajac’s best hope to win is for Cavalcante to gas out quickly. Pokrajac fights with a lot of heart, but Cavalcante is much better technically, and his power will lead him to a knockout win.
Why It Matters- The loser of this fight could very well find themselves released from the UFC roster, so there is a lot riding on the line in this fight. Pokrajac has been in a bad slump and hasn’t shown that he has what it takes to be a contender. It was a little surprising he wasn’t released following his bad and boring performance against Jimmo, but maybe he was kept around as a solid matchup for Cavalcante to see if Cavalcante could get back on track. Cavalcante should win this fight but that is easier said than done. Cavalcante has the skill to become a contender in the light heavyweight division as long as he can get over the issues that have plagued him recently. It starts against Pokrajac.
Tags: Igor Pokrajac, Mixed Martial Arts, Rafael Cavalcante, UFC, UFC Fight Night 32, UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 2