It is a homecoming of all sorts as Brazilians and fellow fight fans around the world alike are treated to UFC 142 straight from the HSBC center in Rio de Janiero, Brazil this Saturday night. Muay Thai aficionado Edson Barboza (9-0) takes on Terry Etim (15-3) in the lightweight opener. A battle of Brazilians is set as “Indio” Erick Silva (8-2) welcomes “Neo” Carlo Prater (27-11-1) to the Octagon. The co-main event is sure to have mouthpieces flying, bodies dropping, and consciousness lost as “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (20-9) clashes with “Rumble” Anthony Johnson (10-3). Stakes could not be any higher as “Money” Chad Mendes (11-0) puts his undefeated steak on the line as he challenges “Junior” Jose Aldo (19-1) for his featherweight title in the main event. In middle of all this action, the hometown favorite “Toquinho” Rousimar Palhares (15-5) and “The Master of Disaster” Mike Massenzio (13-5) prepare to butt heads. While UFC’s last event in Brazil, UFC 134, lacked any submission victories, BJJ is bound to get its credit due as these two veterans of the art will seek to take the victory at the expense of the other’s limbs.
At First Glance: Massenzio enters the eight-sided cage Saturday following a Unanimous Decision victory at UFC 136 but still on thin-ice as he is 2-5 within the promotion. With this in mind, Massenzio would have to understand that as much as a good show is expected out of him it is a convincing win that is needed overall to secure his stay in the UFC. Palhares though is a Brazilian powerhouse who has been wading outside of contender status and with a victory, he can essentially see himself breaking into the higher echelon of the middleweight division. His past antics have deemed him odd and bizarre but he has proven that given the chance he will outmuscle anyone for a takedown then slap a submission on quickly and violently before the opposition even realizes what’s going on. With two fighters who have different implications available to them entering in their bout this Saturday, the crowd in Rio de Janiero, Brazil is going to see Massenzio and Palhares take their game to a different level to come out on top.
In Depth: Unlike the UFC’s last event in Rio, a “Submission of the Night” is possible to be handed out as Palhares and Massenzio are two fighters who are specialists in the art of Jiu-Jitsu. Both men hold black belts and respectable showings in submission fighting leagues such as ADCC and NAGA but with a superb blend of raw power and physicality meshing with technique, Palhares should be seen as the superior grappler. As quickly as “Toquinho”’s back touches the mat, Massenzio can expect a barrage of submission attempts to immediately follow. Unlike many other practitioners in the cage, Palhares’ mastery of Jiu-Jitsu is on a higher level as he is able to quickly and effectively link together submission after submission. His fight with Dave Branch (8-2) in March 2011 was a clinic of such as Palhares began threatening with armbars and triangles consistently before locking in his trademark Heel Hook in the second round. Massenzio is a respectable Jiu-Jitsu practitioner himself with a credible wrestling background but a majority of his showings in the UFC prove he has faced difficulty trying to convey it, as much of his efforts to draw the fight to the canvas are foiled. Against Palhares, this is a serious concern as the Brazilian has shown his own willingness and capability to wrestle even if it is not the most textbook way of approaching. Massenzio’s resolve for this lies in his stand-up. It is not the most polished but as made evident in his last showing against “The Robot” Steve Cantwell (7-5), it is effective. He stands as the better striker against Palhares and if he can hold off from being taken down or submitted, Massenzio could see the fight won standing.
Wild Card: Palhares is a dangerous submission artist with barbaric-like striking to follow but he has shown lapses of judgement that have costed him dearly. Palhares was barred from competition for nearly three months when he failed to let go of a submission, injuring “Gorilla” Tomasz Drawl (19-4). His assumption that “The Great” Nate Marquadt’s (31-10-2) leg was greased and attempt to plea to the official during time costed him with a technical knockout loss. Recently, Palhares at UFC 134 almost succumbed to another loss when he assumed he knocked out Dan Miller (13-6) only to be told by referee Herb Dean that the match was not stopped. The time elapsed gave Miller enough time to recover and an opportunity to land a crippling combination of his own. Should “Toquinho” lose sight of the task at hand again against Massenzio, a fighter who can hold his own especially as time passes, he could end the night in his native Brazil disappointed.
The Verdict: Each combatant is a force to be dealt with but Palhares has been relatively unstoppable. His gameplan of seeking the submission is predictable but his brute strength and vast Jiu-Jitsu IQ will be too much for Massenzio to handle. Massenzio is the better stand-up fighter but Palhares does not get bullied around so easily. It will be cliché to assume how Palhares will win this fight but with a quick glance at his track history, it should not be too far-fetched to stray from the norm. Palhares via Submission (Heel Hook), Round 2