The UFC is heading south of the equator once again to bring fight fans everywhere a stacked UFC Fight Night 32 card at the Goiânia Arena in Brazil. Headlining the card is light heavyweight rematch between two legends of the sport in hometown hero Vitor Belfort and former ASU wrestler Dan Henderson.
Their first meeting between these two fighters came under the Pride FC banner in Japan back in 2006 and saw Henderson take a rather lackluster decision victory. Following the bout, Belfort would fail a post-fight drug test after testing positive for banned substances.
Fast forward seven years and the two will meet again, this time under the UFC banner. Belfort enters the bout as a the number contender at 185-pounds so this bout makes little sense for the “The Phenom” as Henderson is currently riding a two-fight losing streak at 205 pounds. With UFC president Dana White revealing a win for Belfort would earn him a middleweight title shot against the winner of Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, this fight carries huge implications for a weight class neither of these will be fighting in on Saturday.
The most even matchup of this entire fight has to be both men’s striking abilities as both possess the unique ability to end the fight with one powerful punch or one lightning fast head kick. Henderson will be looking to land his legendary overhand right. Dubbed the “H-Bomb” by his peers, the powerful weapon has helped Henderson put away 10 former champions in his long and illustrious career. Combine this with the 17 total knockdowns under the Pride FC/UF/Strikeforce banner — good for third most ever — and his opponent will have his hands full if Henderson lands what everyone knows is coming. But where Henderson excels in pure power, Belfort makes up for in speed, technique and accuracy. With back-to-back first round victories coming by way of violent head kick, Belfort has proved to be the more diverse striker as utilizes lightning quick punches to go along with a dizzying array of kicks to finish his opponent early and often. In fact his 11 first-round finishes under the UFC banner are the most in company history. Henderson does posses the power to turn Belfort’s lights out but the edge in striking as to go to Belfort for simply being more versatile.
An incredibly lopsided matchup as Henderson will enter the cage with one of the most impressive of amateur wrestling backgrounds in MMA. As a two-time Olympian, Henderson has made the transition from the wrestling mat to the octagon with ease and brings a Greco-Roman skillset that few can rival inside the cage. With an 87.5 takedown percentage from the clinch under UFC/PRIDE/Strikeforce banner, to go along with total career takedown accuracy of 42.9 percentage and 48 total takedowns landed, Henderson should have very little trouble dragging Belfort to the mat should he decide to close the distance between the dangerous striker. But while Henderson possesses all the tools to grind out a victory over his opponent, the former Sun Devil has relied on his powerful striking as of late. But he does decide to turn this fight into a grappling match there should be little doubt who will have their hand raised in the end.
Another lopsided matchup as Belfort enters the bout with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the legendary Carlson Gracie. With an incredibly underrated submission game, Belfort is extremely dangerous off his back and can lock on a submission if his opponent gets to comfortable throwing punches from the top. While he has only three submission victories in his career, Belfort was mere second away from snapping pound-for-pound kingpin Jon Jones’ elbow with an impressive armbar off his back. Henderson, on the other hand, only has one submission victory, and that was all the back in second professional fight in 1997, so the edge clearly goes to Belfort.
This bout has the potential to the Fight of the Night or one of the biggest disappointments of 2013. If Henderson decides to use his grappling ability to grind his opponent into the later rounds, his chances of victory will rise exponentially. Belfort, on the other hand, needs to finish the bout quickly as he’s shown to severely slow down as the fight drags on. Henderson will have to avoid Belfort’s signature early round blitzkrieg if he has any chance of winning. And with an average fight time of 19 minutes, fight fans know he can withstand the initial storm. However, I don’t see Henderson making it to the championship rounds as Father Time begins to catch up on the oldest active fighter in the UFC.
Belfort via Round 3 TKO
Here are the rest of my predictions for the main card and preliminary bouts:
• Cezar Ferreira def. Daniel Sarafian
• Rafael Cavalcante def. Igor Pakrajac
• Brandon Thatch def. Paulo Thiago
• Ryan LaFlare def. Santiago Ponzinibbio
• Rony Jason def. Jeremy Stephens
• Godofredo Pepey def. Sam Sicilia
• Thiago Perpetuo def. Omari Akhmedov
• Thiago Tavares def. Justin Salas
• Adriano Martins def. Daron Cruickshank
• Jose Maria Tome def. Dustin Ortiz