UFC on FX 8, taking place in Jaragua, Brazil, doesn’t exactly have fight fans foaming at the mouths. But who can blame them? The first fight card of the summer has the unfortunate position of being sandwiched between UFC 159, headlined by the highly anticipated Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen match, and UFC 160 headlined by Cain Velasquez’s first title defense in his second reign as the UFC Heavyweight Champion. But as far as free fight cards go, this has the makings of an absolutely spectacular fight card headlined by two former Strikeforce champions making their octagon debuts against two of the toughest UFC veterans in the business.
Rafael “Sapo” Natal (15-4-1) vs. Joao “The Brazilian Samurai” Zeferino (13-4)
The main card kicks off with a matchup between Brazilian middleweights Rafael Natal and UFC rookie Joao Zeferino. Originally scheduled to face Chris Camozzi before injuries forced a reshuffling of the fight card, Natal has come into his own with wins in three of his past four fights. While he has proven himself against UFC level competition, he has done little to distinguish himself in the deep middleweight division. He is the definition of being good at many things but great at nothing. That being said, his experience should come into play as he welcomes the surging 27 year-old Zeferino to the UFC. Although he is riding a seven-fight win streak, The Brazilian Samurai has not faced anyone even remotely close to UFC talent. With a very aggressive and suffocating attack, the UFC rookie should be able to hold his own against the UFC veteran, but in the end I see Sapo’s impressive takedown defense and experience as the key factors to winning a rather lackluster opening fight.
Natal via unanimous decision
Rafael dos Anjos (18-6) vs. Evan Dunham (14-3)
Lightweights lock horns in the second fight of the main card. Both Evan Dunham and Rafael dos Anjos are both 3-1 in their four bouts and a win here would move each man one step closer to title contention in the UFC’s most stacked division.
Since losing to Gleison Tibau back in November 2011, Dos Anjos has strung together three straight wins with an absolutely dominating performance over Mark Bocek in his last fight at UFC 154. Dunham, on the other hand, is coming off a win over Tibau after a loss to top-10 lightweight T.J. Grant snapped his two-fight win streak back at UFC 152.
This fight could go either way as Dos Anjos is easily the better grappler with the superior submission attack, but Dunham has yet to be submitted and has a rather underrated ground game. This should be a very closely contested fight as both men have the tools to cancel out the other’s attack. In the end, I see Dos Anjos’s wrestling and improved striking attack playing the key factor as he picks up the tough win.
Dos Anjos via Split Decision
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (17-3) vs. Chris Camozzi (19-5)
This is the fight this writer is most looking forward to on this card, as the incredibly talented Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is finally making his long-awaited UFC debut. For years, Jacare was labeled the best middleweight outside of the UFC, as he absolutely dominated the Strikeforce 185-pound division en route to the middleweight championship. Following an absolutely spectacular performance against Robbie Lawler in his first title defense, Jacare dropped a controversial split decision against Luke Rockhold, which has been the only blemish on his record over the last five years. He’s more than made up for the loss with three consecutive finishes to end his Strikeforce career.
Though he was originally scheduled to square off against the surging Costa Philippou, injuries forced Chris Camozzi to take the fight on incredibly short notice. Hats off to Camozzi for stepping up against a very challenging opponent, and even though he’s no slouch in the cage, I don’t give him much of a chance to have his hand raised in the end. With arguably the best jiu-jitsu in the middleweight division and a vastly improved striking game, I see Jacare finishing Camozzi and finishing him fast.
Souza via first round submission
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (22-10) vs. Luke Rockhold
A lot has been said between these two men leading up to their main event fight, mostly about the controversial Testosterone Replacement Therapy Vitor Belfort has undergone during his last few fights. With his opponent, final Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, becoming a strong advocate for the opposition of TRT, neither man is exactly the other’s biggest fan. Combine this with the fact that the winner will most likely be named the new number-one contender at 185-pounds, and the stakes have never been higher for either man at this point in their career.
Belfort has only two losses since returning to the octagon in 2009, both of which came in championship matches at middleweight and light heavyweight. At UFC on FX 8, he could earn yet another shot at the gold as he looks to improve his record at 185-pounds to 5-1 since 2009. But Rockhold, who is making his UFC debut, hasn’t lost since 2007 with an undefeated record during his Strikeforce tenure that included victories over Jacare, UFC veteran Keith Jardine and U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Tim Kennedy.
I see Belfort putting on a typical Belfort performance as he comes out of the gate guns blazing. With more first-round knockouts than anyone else in UFC history, Belfort is going to have to go for the kill early if he’s going to have a chance at victory. But if Rockhold can keep the explosive Brazilian at bay for two rounds, it will become his fight to win as he’s proven he has the endurance to last a five-round fight. But Belfort proved me wrong in his last fight against the very durable Michael Bisping, as he head kicked the Brit’s lights out in the UFC’s last trip to Brazil. I see this fight ending in similar fashion as Rockhold’s impressive winning streak comes to a thunderous end.
Belfort second round KO