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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway – Main card preview

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Get the bare essentials on the early main card contests on UFC 212, including Vitor Belfort’s last appearance in a UFC cage against fellow veteran Nate Marquardt.

While there is no guarantee that Vitor Belfort is retiring after UFC 212, the Phenom has declared this will be his last fight within the confines of the UFC…even if this isn’t the last fight on his UFC contract. While I wouldn’t declare it the end of an era, it will bring to close one of the most colorful and controversial runs ever seen within the organization. Starting all the way back in 1996 when the UFC was still running one night tournaments, Belfort has seen the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in his three UFC stints…often simultaneously.

When Belfort won the world title from Randy Couture off of a fluke cut to Couture’s eye from Belfort’s glove, it came on the heels of his sister’s disappearance. When he put together one of the most impressive runs in 2013, obliterating high level opponents on his way to a title shot, it was in the midst of him receiving testosterone replacement therapy, leading to many labeling him a cheater.

Regardless of whether you are a fan of Vitor Belfort, he’s played a big role in the history of the UFC and MMA in general. It’s nice to see the UFC isn’t feeding him to an up-and-comer, instead giving him an opponent that was once a middleweight contender himself in Nate Marquardt. Sure, I would have rather seen this contest about six or seven years ago, but I’ll take it now even if it doesn’t completely excite me. It’s an appropriate matchup for both well-traveled vets.

The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs. Nate Marquardt (35-17-2), Middleweight

Part of the reason this is such an appropriate contest is due to the difficulty pundits have had in bringing themselves to pick either Belfort or Marquardt in a contest over the last few years. Belfort hasn’t been the same since the TRT ban, going 1-4 since that time. Marquardt has looked better since returning to middleweight after his short run at 170, going 3-4. However, Marquardt has also faced a lower level of competition than the Brazilian legend. His best win in that time? Probably C.B. Dollaway, who hasn’t won a fight in three years.

A big reason Marquardt has been able to find some success is because he has adjusted to the limitations that set in with age. Aside from his athletic ability declining, he no longer possesses the chin he once did either. As such, Marquardt no longer looks to engage in any sort of firefight, preferring to stay on the outside waiting to counter his opponent as they rush in. His reactions are as sharp as ever and if you couple that with his perpetually underrated power, Marquardt has found a recipe for success. Clearly it has its limits, but he has proven he can still win fights.

Belfort’s blitzing style would appear to ensure that this contest doesn’t go the distance. Belfort still has power and hand speed to overwhelm his opponent in short bursts. Keep in mind he did hurt Kelvin Gastelum before being finished. It’s worth noting that Belfort usually doesn’t go down to a single punch, often giving up when he’s trapped underneath an opponent eating a barrage of punches. If Marquardt lands that one punch he is often looking for, will it be enough to finish off Belfort?

If the fight hits the ground, Marquardt possesses the advantage. Belfort tends to panic as emotions and adrenaline rises, forgetting all of his training, going so far as to flail punches from off of his back when his opponent has the mount. Marquardt, though not able to take much damage, keeps calm under pressure. If Belfort is able to remain calm while possessing the advantage, he does have some beautiful BJJ fundamentals that have often been overlooked. Then again, his inability to keep his cool explains why his ground abilities aren’t given credit.

Am I the only one feeling uncomfortable in picking either one of these two? Belfort will attempt to blitz Marquardt at some point and Marquardt’s chin doesn’t take much to crack. But Marquardt also knows it’s going to be coming and will be looking to counter. Belfort isn’t the athletic marvel he once was, but I think he still has enough in the tank for a short burst that he can find a way to finish off Marquardt to add one final highlight for his UFC run. Belfort via KO, RD1

Paulo Borrachinha (9-0) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2), Middleweight

What the hell is this doing on the main card? Borrachinha does have some potential to become a major player in the division, though I wouldn’t call him a can’t-miss-prospect quite yet. Bamgbose? He’s fighting for his UFC career in this contest.

Borrachinha has finished every one of his nine contests in the first round, including dispatching of Garreth McLellan in just over a minute in his UFC debut. An athletic marvel, Borrachinha is constantly moving forward behind a barrage of punches. He throws them with power and accuracy, but he also tends to leave his chin out there to be touched up. Not much of a surprise given his youth.

Bamgbose is a very technical and explosive striker who is as liable as anyone to end a contest with a single strike. His kicks are the most dangerous element to his game, though his fists aren’t too far behind. However, he has next to zero wrestling ability and his grappling is strictly for defensive purposes. He has made strides in his submission defense, but the lack of diversity in his game makes him easy to prepare for.

To be fair to Bamgbose, Borrachinha’s own ground game is untested. Given that, it isn’t a given that he’ll look to take the fight to the ground despite Bamgbose’s reputation. Regardless, I’m still picking the Brazilian. Bamgbose requires space to get off his offense and I don’t see Borrachinha giving the room he needs to do that. Regardless of who wins, I don’t expect this to last very long. Borrachinha via, RD1

Erick Silva (19-7, 1 NC) vs. Yancy Medeiros (13-4, 1 NC), Welterweight

Silva has become the poster boy for unfulfilled potential, seemingly receiving every chance to advance up the ladder into contention only to come up short EVERY SINGLE TIME. Sure, he could beat lesser opponents with ease, scoring first round victories in his first six UFC wins. But get him past the first round when he tends to gas and it would be all she wrote for the talented Brazilian. However, Silva appears to be turning a page. Realizing he’s not as spry as he used to be, Silva has taken greater care not to exhaust his energy supply early and secured a third-round submission against Luan Chagas.

Medeiros hasn’t exactly drawn rave reviews for his gas tank either, but he was also draining himself to make weight at 155 until moving up to welterweight in his last contest. The contest with Sean Spencer didn’t last long enough to see if he can effectively wade in deep waters, but the returns were promising. Considering he rarely looks to wrestle – he hasn’t completed a takedown in his nine UFC appearances – it’s almost assured that he’ll be better off at the higher weight.

While both are high volume strikers, they take different approaches. Medeiros keeps a steady stream of pressure working behind his jab with the occasional round kick mixed in. Silva explodes into his opponent with a rapid flurry of punches or a flying knee. He’s been caught by sharp counter strikers in mid-attack, but has also finished off a number of opponents using this strategy. He picked his spots better against Chagas and showed greater attention to detail, but was still dropped twice.

I really like the potential for this contest to be FOTN. Silva displayed a potentially new and improved version of himself in his last contest, though the same could be said of Medeiros. There are areas in which one or the other is stronger, but the big one that is going to make the difference in this one is durability. Both have poor striking defense overall, but Medeiros has been very difficult to put away. Even when hurt, he continues to move forward. Given that, I don’t like Silva’s chances to survive Medeiros’ onslaught. Medeiros via TKO, RD2

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