Unlike the other two portions of the card, there doesn’t appear to be anyone on the main card of UFC Sao Paulo who’s planning to retire after Saturday night. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one fighter – maybe even two – whom fans believe should hang ‘em up. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – or Lil’ Nog to clarify things — is now 42-years old and keeps plugging away. His legendary twin brother – Big Nog – has been retired for three years now. His recent record hasn’t been encouraging, though it is better than that of former bantamweight champion Renan Barao. Barao may only be 31, but he’s a shell of the former fighter he once was. Should he consider an early retirement? We’ll have a better answer to that after Saturday.
The main card begins on FS1 at 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT on Saturday.
Alex Oliveira (19-5-1, 2 NC) vs. Carlo Pedersoli (11-1), Welterweight
Is it just me, or is this some odd matchmaking? Oliveira secures the biggest win of his career over former interim champion Carlos Condit and gets… Pedersoli? Pedersoli is a talented youngster who secured a decisive win in his UFC debut, but Oliveira is a BIG step up from Brad Scott.
Oliveira is considered by many to be a top action fighter, though that isn’t entirely accurate. Most of his contests are slow up until the point he explodes with a violent hook, a step-in elbow… or whatever the hell else he wants to pull out of his deep bag of tricks. Until that point, Oliveira tends to either clinch up in hopes of wresting the opposition to the ground or stick out the occasional jab. That’s the part of Oliveira that isn’t very exciting. Regardless, Oliveira’s improvement has been continual with no signs of him peaking any time soon.
Pedersoli, largely an unknown commodity upon his UFC debut, displaying an impressive array of kicks in dispatching of Scott. He also has a developing wrestling game and a basic boxing game that’s tight enough to be effective. However, Pedersoli doesn’t possess a lot of power and it’s difficult to see him getting Oliveira to the ground and submitting him.
Pedersoli’s volume and activity could very well result in an upset over Oliveira given the Brazilian’s tendency to coast. However, it’s far more likely Oliveira either grinds him out hurts his Italian foe with something big. It usually takes Oliveira a bit to figure out his opponent, so don’t expect the end to come in the first. Oliveira via TKO of RD2
Sam Alvey (33-10, 1 NC) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (22-8), Light Heavyweight
Nogueira, like his brother, was once lauded for his extreme durability. Few would associate that characteristic with him at this point as he’s been unable to show up to most of his scheduled contests due to injury in addition to being stopped in two of his last three losses. Nogueira may still have something in the tank as his technically sound boxing mechanics are about as good as there is in the division. If the fight goes to the ground, Nogueira’s wrestling doesn’t appear to be what it once was and though he’s a reputed grappler, he only has one submission victory in the last 12 years.
Alvey has been one of the busiest fighters on the roster, fighting 15 times since his debut in August 2014. By comparison, Nogueira has fought three times in that same time. Though he’s a solid wrestler, he primarily uses it to remain standing so he can hope to land his heavy right hand on his opponent’s chin. When it lands, their prone to go out. The problem is Alvey is solely a counter striker with little to no offense from the outside. He’s made strides to increase his output, but it’s still a major problem.
Alvey has struggled with savvy vets who know how to avoid his power. Nogueira is savvy, but he’s also glacially slow. He’ll have to step into the pocket at some point and Alvey is going to land something powerful. I have major doubts this contest will last long. Alvey via KO of RD1
Renan Barao (34-6, 1 NC) vs. Andre Ewell (13-4), Bantamweight
If someone were to claim a takeover of the human race similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers was taking place, Barao would be an ideal example of those happenings. The current iteration looks just like Barao. He sounds like Barao. But he sure as hell doesn’t fight like the guy who was considered one of the P4P best fighters in the world. Gone is the confident, self-assured, aggressive striker who was also an excellent scrambler. Now he’s a tentative striker, scared of getting hit while relying heavily upon his wrestling for offense. It’s enough to beat some of the bantamweights on the roster, but not very many.
It’s up in the air if Ewell is one of those members of the roster Barao can overcome. There is no doubt he’s a unique talent, clocking in at 5’11” with a 75” reach. The southpaw striker has already made the jab an effective weapon, a unique feature for a newcomer to the organization. However, Ewell’s biggest weakness is the one thing Barao can still do consistently well: wrestling. Ewell does have power that belies his lithe frame, but it will do him no good if Barao takes him off his feet as he pleases.
Ewell has the skills to beat Barao. No one questions that. However, Barao’s lone win since 2015 came in his single fight that took place in Brazil against a fighter notable for their lack of wrestling. If this contest was taking place in North America, I’d be picking Ewell. Given Barao is still durable and it’s rare a close decision goes against a Brazilian in Brazil, I’m reluctantly picking the former champion. Barao via decision
Randa Markos (8-6) vs. Marina Rodriguez (11-0), Women’s Strawweight
Predicting whether Markos wins or loses is simple: she alternates wins and losses like it’s nobody’s business. Given she lost her last contest, it’s a foregone conclusion she’s winning this one.
As Demetrious Johnson’s loss to Henry Cejudo a month ago proved, all streaks come to an end at some point, so predicting a Markos victory isn’t as simple as I just said it was, her opponent providing a hell of a challenge. Rodriguez is making her debut after an impressive showing on the Contender Series. Displaying a brutal clinch game with functional wrestling, Rodriguez has the appearance of a top-flight action fighter at the very least. She also has a lanky frame that should make her a tough fighter to deal with from a distance, but Rodriguez has yet to master her length for defensive purposes.
Markos is sure to expose that deficiency as Markos’ aggression is sure to puncture through Rodriguez at some point. However, it also can get her into trouble, such as walking into a submission from Cortney Casey. Markos has been able to measure her aggression a bit since that point, but has consistently been falling to strikers more disciplined than her. If that isn’t working for her, she has a sound wrestling game she can fall back on when she feels like she’s being overwhelmed on the feet.
This is a very difficult fight to call. Normally I’d side with the Brazilian in a contest like this as the judges tend to lean in the direction of the native countrymen for whatever reason. However, I’m leery about picking Rodriguez as she hasn’t faced the level of competition that Markos has. Even more troubling, Rodriguez hasn’t faced much in terms of wrestlers. Markos’ aggression pays off for her. Markos via decision