Source: UFC

The UFC returns to Brazil with a blockbuster Middleweight showdown between Vitor Belfort and Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is making his second appearance at 185lbs, after an impressive victory over Tim Kennedy. He takes on a desperate Vitor Belfort, looking to bounce back into title relevancy after a loss to Gegard Mousasi, in what has been a very lean period for the Brazilian.

In the co-main event, local favourite and UFC legend Shogun Rua takes on brawler Gian Villante.

We take an in-depth look at the three main fights and will provide our predictions for every match-up, on what will be a spectacular night of fights.

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Vitor Belfort 25-12 vs Kelvin Gastelum 14-2

NICK: A symbol of the UFC glory days taking on one the new generation in this one. Belfort has the opportunity to remain relevant here, whilst Gastelum gets the chance to establish himself firmly as a contender in his new weight-class. Belfort has always been, and still is an animal. That destructive power and speed is still there. It just doesn’t last as long as it once did in a fight. If Belfort is going to win this fight, it’s going to come early on in the fight with him taking advantage of a mistake by Gastelum and knocking him senseless with a vicious kick. Gastelum is a very smart fighter though and he can’t see him presenting too many opportunities to Belfort. His striking has looked incredibly crisp in recent fights. The way he picked Tim Kennedy apart in his Middleweight debut was beautiful. On top of that he’s always been a very powerful fighter too with some decent wrestling. After he overcomes the Belfort onslaught to start the fight, it will go one of two ways. He will start to take over with his crisp boxing and overcome Belfort with his pressure and volume. The other path to victory is incorporating his wrestling and putting Belfort into some uncomfortable positions and finishing him much like Weidman did. I tend to go with the first path though, as Belfort can be dangerous off his back and is more likely to pull out a submission in his slower state, rather than a flash knockout. So I expect Gastelum to overcome the chaos to take control and pick Belfort apart as the fight goes on for a late finish. PREDICTION: Kelvin Gastelum via TKO in Round 3

ZACDuring the week Vitor Belfort suggested the idea of a UFC Legends division, with modified rules to minimise potential damage for the older guys, who want to keep fighting. To me this says a couple of things. Firstly Vitor has no plans to retire from fighting, and secondly, I feel as though he doesn’t think he can mix it up with young bulls in the middleweight division. This is not the best mindset to have leading into a fight, especially with someone with the skill-set of Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum put on an impressive performance in his last fight and middleweight debut against Tim Kennedy. He looked as good, if not better than we have ever seen him. After the fight he was still talking about trying to go back down to welterweight, but I think this fight against a legend like Vitor was too good to pass up. A lot of the time when we talk about these ageing legends like Belfort, we have to question if they still have it in them to come out and fight like they use to. Because if they can rekindle that spark, then they have a huge chance of winning. I don’t think that’s going to happen this weekend. Vitor has taken some beatings lately and Kelvin will be too fast and fit for him. If Gastelum fights smart early, I think he can overwhelm him as the fight goes on and get the finish. PREDICTION: Kelvin Gastelum via TKO in Round 3

Shogun Rua 24-10 vs Gian Villante 15-7

NICK: The second Brazilian legend on this card Shogun Rua, is looking to make one last run at the UFC Light Heavyweight title. In his way is one tough S.O.B. in Gian Villante. Rua hasn’t looked completely past it in recent times, but he hasn’t looked the dominating force that he once was. He is a pace or two behind these new killers with his speed now, and the competition is going to get tougher and tougher here on out, if hopes to stick around the top. Villante is a real test of where he is at. He has some tremendous power and a good chin, but he isn’t the complete package that a lot of these Light Heavyweight killers are. He definitely has a few ways to get this victory over Shogun though. He has a fair wrestling pedigree to rely on, but hasn’t used it much in his career to this point. With Shoguns decline in speed, he has opened himself up to taking punishment. If he puts his head into a position for Villante to land one of his hammer right hands, that will be the end of the fight. That is exactly how I think this will end, as Shogun slows down even further later in the fight. PREDICTION: Gian Villante via TKO in Round 3

ZACAnother aging legend taking on a rising prospect. These fights are so hard to predict, because there are so many unknowns. Has shogun still got the speed and power in his stand-up to trouble Villante? In my opinion he still has the power, but not the speed. Villante should look to use his wrestling pedigree to his advantage in this fight and negate Shoguns possible striking advantage. Rua is a BJJ Blackbelt, but only has one win via submission way back in 2006 against the late Kevin Randleman. Villante should be able to use top control and ground and pound to walk away with the victory. Unless Shogun can lure him into a stand-up fight and catch him early i, I can only see this going one way. A victory for Gian Villante, going back to back to put himself back in the conversation for a shot at a top 5 guy. PREDICTION: Gian Villante via unanimous decision

Edson Barboza 18-4 vs Beneil Dariush 14-2

NICK: By far the fight that I’m looking forward to the most on this card. Both guys are powerful athletes and in tremendous form. Throw in the fact that they are both really tough and love to scrap, and were looking at the fight of the night right here. Barboza is pushing himself right into title contention and a victory here inches himself that much closer. Dariush is also coming off some very impressive victories and will be looking to this fight as the catalyst to get his own name into those discussions. Barboza has potentially the most vicious pound for pound kicks in the UFC. Quick, powerful, deadly. He’ll be looking to use those to great effect in this fight, keeping Dariush at a distance. Dariush on the other hand,  will be looking to slip inside, land his heavy hands and suffocate Barboza with his clinch and groundwork. It’s honestly a very difficult fight to pick and a very exciting clash of styles. Ultimately I think Barboza’s form has been too hard to ignore. I think he’s going to be dominant enough in keeping Dariush at range, landing some vicious kicks and take the fight in a close decision. But don’t sleep on Dariush, he’ll be in contention very soon regardless of the outcome of this fight. PREDICTION: Edson Barboza via Unanimous Decision

ZAC: This is the fight I’m most excited about and my prediction for fight of the night. This fight will have massive ramifications on the lightweight rankings and potentially the title picture. Edson Barboza is possibly the most exciting striker in the UFC, his kicking technique is as good as anyone. His wheel kick KO over Terry Etim will be on highlight reels forever. His opponent Beneil Dariush is a super dangerous grappler and a dangerous striker in his own right. Not to the degree of Barboza, but definitely not to be underestimated. Both guys have won two fights in a row, and if the number 5 ranked Barboza can put on a dominant display, he will cement his spot as a title contender in the bottle neck that is the upper echelon of the division. On the flip-side if the ninth ranked Dariush can put away Barboza, he will Catapult himself deeper into the top 10, ahead of the likes of Michael Chiesa and Michael Johnson. I can’t see Dariush trying to stand with Barboza any longer than he has to. he will strike to close the distance and take him down into his world where he will try to submit him. Barboza will look to avoid the take down and use his reach and straight striking to maintain distance. I don’t expect him to use as many spinning or kicking techniques as we’ve seen in the past for fear of the takedown. This is a perfect example of the old saying styles make match ups. PREDICTION: Beneil Dariush via submission in Round 3

Fight Night: Belfort vs Gastelum

 NICKZAC
Vitor Belfort vs Kelvin GastelumGastelumGastelum
Shogun Rua vs Gian VillanteVillanteVillante
Edson Barboza vs Beneil DariushBarbozaDariush
Jussier Formiga vs Ray BorgBorgFormiga
Bethe Correia vs Marion ReneauReneauCorreia
Alex Oliveira vs Tim MeansMeansMeans
Francisco Trinaldo vs Kevin LeeTrinaldoLee
Sergio Moraes vs Davi RamosMoraesMoraes
Rani Yahya vs Joe SotoYahyaYahya
Michael Prazeres vs Josh BurkmanPrazeresBurkman
Rony Jason vs Jeremy KennedyKennedyJason
Garreth McLellan vs Paulo BorrachinhaBorrachinhaBorrachinha
SCORE TALLY:119109