Viewers Guide to the Undercard: UFC Fight Night 32 – Belfort vs Henderson

The UFC returns to Brazil again, and with them they are bringing a main event that will excite many MMA fans as Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson are two fighters that hark back to the golden Pride era and feature in a rematch of their original clash back at Pride 32 in which Henderson took home the decision. Elsewhere on the card is a contest between two Ultimate Fighter: Brazil alums, as Daniel Sarafian and Cezar Fereira lock horns, with the rest of the card being rounded out by light-heavyweights Rafael Cavalcante and Igor Pokrajac, welterweights Paulo Thiago and Brandon Thatch, fellow 170lb’ers Ryan LaFlare and Santiago Ponzinibbio and featherweights Rony Jason and Jeremy Stephens.

Now, onto the prelims…

Godofredo ‘Pepey’ Castro (9-2-0) vs. Sam Sicilia (11-3-0) –
Acting as the lead-in fight for the main card is a featherweight bout featuring Godofrdo Castro and Sam Sicilia.

You’ve got to think that this is do-or-die for Godofredo Castro this Saturday night. UFC Fight Night 32 will be Castro’s fourth appearance in the Octagon and the native Brazilian has struggled in all but one of his outings. The former The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil contestant registered his only UFC victory back at UFC on FX 7 in January, a split decision win over Milton Vieira which was sandwiched between defeats to Rony Mariano Bezerra in his debut and most recently to Felipe Arantes in June.

Sam Sicilia isn’t exactly sitting pretty himself. Having been introduced to the UFC audience as a part of season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, Sam Sicilia performed admirably enough to warrant a shot in the UFC despite not making it out of the first round of the competition. Sicilia would go on to be successful in his Octagon debut at the season finale over fellow contestant Cristiano Marcello but has suffered a dip in form since then. Sicilia heads in to Saturday’s fight on the back of successive defeats to Rony Mariano Bezerra and Maximo Blanco and must know that he will need to perform to continue fighting with the UFC.

Castro is a BJJ black belt but I cannot see him getting Sicilia down often enough and for long enough periods of time for him to work his superior ground game to a conclusion. Sicilia holds a significant advantage over Castro on the feet and will likely find a home for one of his shots as the fight progresses.

Prediction – Sicilia via KO/TKO in the 2nd round.

Thiago ‘Bodao’ Perpétuo (9-1-1) vs. Omari Akhmedov (11-0-0) –
The middleweights are up next, as Thiago Perpétuo faces off with Omari Akhmedov.

Like Castro before, Thiago Perpétuo found his way in to the UFC off the back of a stint in The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil competition but fell short of the final, losing out to eventual winner Cezar Ferreira. Perpétuo would go on to make his debut at UFC 147 against Leonardo Mafra in successful fashion, finishing his opponent with strikes in his most recent performance.

Omari Akhmedov will be making his UFC debut this weekend and enters the Octagon with a perfect record having competed almost exclusively in his native Russia other than the one fight in the Ukraine. Akhmedov most recently competed back in May of this year and registered the most significant victory of his career in defeating Fabricio Nascimento via submission.

Both fighters are well matched with each man possessing knockout power, but with Perpétuo preferring a more measured approach to his attacks and Akhmedov more inclined to throwing limbs with the intention of knocking your head clean off. For me, this appears to be somewhat of a litmus test for Akhmedov, designed to see where his abilities are and if he can handle the pressure that comes with fighting a Brazilian in his home country. I wouldn’t say it was an upset if Perpétuo took this one, but I have to favour Akhmedov’s aggressive approach to triumph over the more calculated attack of Perpétuo.

Prediction – Akhmedov via KO/TKO in the 1st round.

Thiago Tavares (17-5-1) vs. Justin ‘J-Bomb’ Salas (11-4-0) –
Here we have a clash of lightweights as Thiago Tavares takes on Justin Salas.

Similar to other fighters on this undercard, Tavares could do with a win here. While the Brazilian is a long-time competitor in the UFC, having made his debut back in 2007, and not exactly on a terrible run of form (2-2 in his last four), Tavares enters the Octagon this Saturday not only on the back of a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov but also a failed drug test. Tavares has finished his nine month suspension but you can imagine that back-to-back losses in a division as dense as lightweight is would be looked up on a whole lot more favourably for a fighter that has started not only losing fights, but also post fight drug tests.

Since signing on with the UFC in February 2012, Justin Salas has made a steady start to his UFC career. Having defeated Aaron Riley last time out at UFC on Fox 8 back in July, Salas has compiled a 2-1 record over his three Octagon appearances and will be looking to secure successive UFC victories for the first time when he takes on Tavares.

Both men are solid on the ground but I do not think that this is where the contest will be decided as I doubt Tavares’ abilities to take Salas down and Salas’ desire to take the fight to the mat when Tavares holds an advantage over Salas in BJJ credentials. Salas is not renowned for his striking technique, but he does pack a punch and I favour Salas to land on enough occasions to wobble Tavares.

Prediction – Salas via KO/TKO in the 2nd round.

Adriano Martins (24-6-0) vs. Daron ‘The Detroit Superstar’ Cruickshank (13-3-0) –
Another set of lightweights do battle as Adriano Martins and Daron Cruickshank square off.

Adrian Martins will be making his UFC debut on Saturday having last competed under the Strikeforce banner at their final show back in January, where he defeated Jorge Gurgel by unanimous decision. Martins is no stranger to fighting in Brazil having competed primarily on the Brazilian circuit, most notably for Jungle Fights, however he has also competed for Dream.

Daron Cruickshank has made a pretty good account of himself so far in the Octagon. Cruickshank will be making his fifth appearance inside the Octagon on Saturday and prior to UFC Fight Night 32, Cruickshank has compiled a 3-1 record with the lone defeat coming against John Makdessi and with his most recent victory came over Yves Edwards.

This fight will come down to who can best impose their striking attack on the other. Cruickshank will want to push the pace more whilst utilising his diverse range of strikes, whereas Martins will look to dictate the range and pace of the striking in order to better work his effective brand of counter striking. I’ll go with Martins here to get his strikes off with maybe not as much volume as Cruickshank, but enough telling blows will land over the course of the fight leading to a late stoppage.

Prediction – Martins via KO/TKO in the 3rd round

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