Pretty decent fight card in Sao Paulo tonight, on the UFC Fight Night stream on ESPN+.
A collection of former UFC title holders, world champions, contenders, savvy veteran, and newcomers will throw down in the Octagon at the Ibirapuera Gymnasium. The only place to stream UFC Sao Paulo is ESPN Plus, with the prelims starting at 2 p.m. PST and the main card kicking off at 5 p.m. on the west coast.
The big story heading into UFC Paulo is how will Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza look in his debut at light heavyweight. A former Strikeforce world champion at middleweight, “Jacare” has been a major force for the last decade, using some of the best Brazilian jiu jitsu in all of mixed martial arts to rack up wins over the likes of Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort, and Gegard Mousasi. Still, he could never quite get into the UFC title picture at 185 pounds, and this move up to light heavyweight represents a fresh start for “Jacare,” albeit against one hell of an opponent in sixth-ranked Jan Blachowicz. It’s definitely a fight worth watching.
There are a number of other compelling scraps on the card. There are a pair of interesting welterweight matchups on the prelims with James Krause taking on Sergio Moraes, and Randy “Rude Boy” Brown challenging Warlley Alves, the only man to beat Colby Covington. There’s also a rad lightweight fight between Bobby “King” Green and Francisco Trinaldo, a pair of vets who have been in a number of wars.
Overall, this is definitely a fight card geared towards the hardcore MMA audience, but considering the UFC is on hiatus the following two weekends, this is everyone’s last chance to take in all the action from the Octagon until December 7.
So, here’s a little primer to prep you for UFC Sao Paulo.
Is Jan Blachowicz the Middleweight Hype Killer?
Having already focused on “Jacare” and his move up to light heavyweight, it’s important to understand that his opponent, Poland’s Jan Blachowicz, is a vastly underrated MMA fighter who has been in the Octagon with some of the best fighters at 205 pounds.
Both a striker and a grappler, Blachowicz is often overlooked, perhaps because people have trouble pronouncing his name, but more likely because he’s gone 7-5 during his UFC run, never quite reaching the title picture. But still, Blachowicz can fight.
He can also crush the hype.
Coming off the biggest win of his MMA career, Blachowicz earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his most recent bout against Luke Rockhold, finishing the former middleweight champion at UFC 239 with a picturesque left hook and follow-up punches. The fight was supposed to be a showcase for Rockhold, who was making his light heavyweight debut while clamoring for a title shot against Jon Jones, but Blachowicz was having none of it, finishing the fight in stunning and violent fashion.
So brutal was the knockout that Luke Rockhold may never fight mixed martial arts again. Now the question is, can Blachowicz give “Jacare” an equally warm welcome to the light heavyweight division?
Does “Shogun” Rua have one last stand in him?
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is one of the most decorated mixed martial artists in history.
A former UFC and Pride champion, “Shogun” has been in there with so many legendary opponents, guys like Jon Jones, Chuck Liddell, Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva, “Rampage” Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Lyoto Machida, and Alistair Overeem. He’s an undeniable MMA legend.
Returning after a near yearlong layoff, “Shogun” takes on Scotsman Paul Craig at UFC Sao Paulo, and many are wondering whether or not Rua might actually make one last title run in the wide open light heavyweight division. He has won four out of his last five afterall.
Stylistically, the fight against Craig is rather favorable for “Shogun” who has knockout power and can defend well against the Scot’s jiu jitsu. But Craig once submitted an opponent with literally one second remaining in the fight, so he can never be counted out.
The main attraction here is “Shogun” though, and any time he fights, it’s worth it to tune in and witness a legend doing his thing.
Is Charles Oliveira the UFC’s Greatest Submission Artist of All Time?
When you think about submission specialists in the UFC, it’s likely that Royce Gracie, the winner of the first two UFC tournaments, will be the first thing that comes to mind. Back in the day, Gracie was teaching the world all about Brazilian jiu jitsu, snatching arms and necks like it was nobody’s business.
But here’s the thing, sometime around the start of this decade, Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira entered the Octagon and ended up breaking basically every submission record in the history of the UFC.
Ironically, Oliveira enters UFC Sao Paulo coming off a TKO win, the only knockout of his UFC career, but “Do Bronx” has 13 submission wins inside the Octagon, which basically solidifies him as the greatest submission artist in the history of the UFC.
Currently riding a five-fight win streak, all of which have come by way of stoppage, Oliveira takes on New Yorker Jared Gordon on Saturday. Gordon is a clever fighter with tons of toughness and heart, but “Do Bronx” is really on a different level when it comes to grappling, and we very well could see Oliveira add to his UFC submission record in Sao Paulo.
Is there a new player at 125?
While flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko is currently making her case as the most dominant champion in the UFC, a division is building beneath her, a division that is still very wide open.
While it’s likely that Katlyn Chookagian will be the next challenger for Shevchenko, there’s a lot of room for new contenders to shake things up in the division. A February 2020 fight between Andrea Lee and Lauren Murphy could potentially put one of those fighters near title contention, while a fight between phenom Maycee Barber and Roxanne Modafferi, which is tentatively slated for UFC 246 in January 2020, could also produce a challenger.
UFC Sao Paulo features a pair of women’s flyweight fights which kick off the preliminary card, and there remains a lot of intrigue surrounding Tracy Cortez, who will make her UFC debut after scoring a win on Dana White’s Contender Series in July.
It’s still a bit too soon to know how far Cortez can go in the division, but pundits will be watching her every step of the way.
Is this the end of the road for Renan Barao?
Five-and-a-half years ago, UFC president Dana White declared Renan Barao to be one of the best MMA fighters in the world. Ever since, he’s gone 2-7 since and lost his UFC title. It just seems to get a little bit worse for Barao every time out.
Entering UFC Sao Paulo on the heels of four straight losses, it’s time to start considering that this may be it for Barao, which is pretty wild considering he once went unbeaten over a 33-fight span which lasted from 2005-2014.
Barao was absolutely dominant in the early days of the UFC bantamweight division, finishing the likes of Urijah Faber, Eddie Wineland, and Michael MacDonald, all the while salsa dancing his way around the Octagon in celebration. Now, however, it feels like he’s come to the end of his road with the UFC, and this bout against Douglas Silva de Andrade could very well be Barao’s swansong.
UFC Sao Paulo Main Card (ESPN+ 5 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. EST)
Jan Blachowicz vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Paul Craig
Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira vs. Jared Gordon
Antonio Arroyo vs. Andre Muniz
Markus Perez vs. Wellington Turman
UFC Sao Paulo Prelims (ESPN+ 2 p.m. PST / 5 p.m. EST)
Sergio Moraes vs. James Krause
Ricardo Ramos vs. Luiz Eduardo Garagorri
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Bobby Green
Warlley Alves vs. Randy Brown
Renan Barao vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade
Ariane Lipski vs. Veronica Macedo
Tracy Cortez vs. Vanessa Melo
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