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The UFC is finally going home; on Saturday night in Rio, the organization will host only its second major event in the birthplace of MMA. It’s been over seventy years since Helio Gracie put the wheels in motion when he challenged all comers in the pages of local papers, thank you Mr. Gracie for the greatest show on earth!

There will no doubt be pandemonium in the HSBC stadium when Anderson Silva walks out to defend his Middleweight title for a record-breaking ninth time against Yushin Okami. With all due respect to Okami, it is highly likely that this run will continue. To become Asia’s first UFC champion, his only chance is to apply the blueprint used by his training partner Chael Sonnen.

Okami has to get this fight to the ground as early as possible, set up takedowns behind his jab and beat the champion up from the guard. Any prolonged engagements on the feet will result in an early night for the challenger and he knows it. So if and when he takes the champion down he needs to keep him there and inflict as much damage as possible. If he’s going to win it’ll have to be ugly.

Anderson Silva is no fool, and he’ll be expecting this. The Chael Sonnen bout will have taught him to never again underestimate a wrestler after he was made look very ordinary, so getting him to the deck maybe easier said than done. If the champion avoids being taken down he will neutralize Okami, whose stand up is decent but very rudimentary. Silva is equally lethal with all four limbs and is as explosive on the back foot as he is going forward. This will most likely play a factor if a frustrated Okami decides to charge him. It comes down to numbers here; Okami can only really win one way, while the champion can finish this fight just about any way he chooses. My prediction: Silva by TKO in round 2.

The co-main event is harder to call, with former light heavyweight champions Shogun Rua and Forrest Griffin locking horns for the second time. Last time out at UFC 76, Griffin choked out Rua with fifteen seconds left in the fight and Brazilian will no doubt want to avenge this. This fight is hugely important for both men; Rua will want to bounce back immediately after losing his title to Jon Jones and show that he has mentally recovered from that defeat, while Griffin needs to prove he is still a contender in the division having only fought once since 2009.

You’d have to give the edge in the stand up to Rua, although Griffin is very technical striker he does not have Shogun’s knock out power.  To combat this, he needs to come forward, use his reach advantage and devastating outside leg kicks to keep his opponent at bay. Rua likes to charge opponents and barrage them with strikes, if Griffin allows this to happen there will be smelling salts in his immediate future.

Griffin should then use his superior strength to strangle Rua and take him to the mat much like he did to Rampage. From there he can chip away at him with ground and pound and look to pass his guard, Shogun is no slouch when it comes to BJJ but Forest is the superior grappler and should be able to submit him.  However, one slip standing or on the ground and Rua will pounce, he has finished some heavy hitters in his time and Forrest will find himself on that list if he lapses even for a moment.

It’s all about the game plan. My prediction: Griffin by submission in Round 3.

Rising star and KO artist Brendan Schaub taking on living legend and hometown hero Minotauro Nogueira has the potential for fight, knockout or submission of the night. The difference in this fight is down to where these men are in their careers, Schuab is looking to get into top contender status and take a run at the title, while Nogueira’s illustrious career is winding down. At thirty five he has already won heavyweight titles in Pride and the UFC, he has achieved everything he can, whether he likes to admit or not he will not be as hungry as his opponent.

Both fighters have great boxing skills, but Schaub pips Nog in the speed and power department. Despite having ever improving Jiu Jitsu skills Schaub will not want this to go to the ground, Minotauro has the best BJJ in the heavyweight division and could easily submit him there. As the Brazilian is not wrestler of any note The Hybrid should have no problem keeping things standing. He should be patient and pick his punches, open him up 1-2 combinations and then look for the power shot. Nogueira has a great chin and is incredibly durable, but it all seems a little inevitable.

My prediction: Schaub by KO in Round 2.

 

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