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The undercard for the upcoming UFC Fight Night show in Brasilia, Brazil showcases a slew of veteran fighters looking to return to their winning ways after recent setbacks. While there are a few prospects littering this undercard, it's the veterans who really highlight the show here, with five bouts in total and 45 total fights of UFC experience between 10 fighters.
At the top of the show, former Ultimate Fighter Brazil runner-up Godofredo Pepey looks to build on his last victory - a flying knee knockout of Noad Lahat - as he takes on Dashon Johnson.
Also on the card, Igor Araujo looks to keep his current undefeated record in the UFC intact when he faces American George Sullivan. One-time welterweight contender Paulo Thiago will also try to erase his recent losses when he meets Sean Spencer in a pivotal bout for both competitors at 170 pounds.
In today's fantasy preview, we are going to examine the undercard to see which veterans will pick up victories and if there are any upsets brewing in Brazil.
GODOFREDO PEPEY VS. DASHON JOHNSON
Look for an explosive finish in this matchup between Brazilian Godofredo Pepey and Dashon Johnson. Pepey is the definition of a 'go big or go home' type fighter, one who comes forward with devastating power and doesn’t mind throwing in a flashy move or two to keep his opponent off balance. Johnson will also be happier to fight a striker this time around as opposed to the massive grappler he took on in his last trip to the Octagon when he was submitted by Australian prospect Jake Matthews.
Pepey doesn't fly off the paper with his statistics - he only hits 2.11 significant strikes per minute with 40 percent accuracy and he averages less than a half a takedown per fight. Where Pepey makes up for it is in an exciting style that usually leads to a Performance of the Night or Fight of the Night type performance. Pepey throws hard and often and he has the ability to really overwhelm an opponent, which is what's likely to happen on Saturday night against Johnson.
Johnson's 9-1 record looks impressive, but he still had a 'deer in the headlights' moment last fight when he just couldn't get any offense going against Matthews. Maybe he's worked those jitters out of his system now, but Pepey will knock them right back in to him with a style that lends itself toward knockouts and devastating finishes.
Look for Pepey to play to his home Brazilian crowd and put Johnson away early. Pepey tends to get hit to give a few punches back, and while that's backfired a few times in his career, this seems to be a pretty safe fight for him to go out, throw caution to the wind and just blast away at Johnson until the bout is stopped. It could happen early, so don't go anywhere when the opening horn sounds in this one.
IGOR ARAUJO VS. GEORGE SULLIVAN
Igor Araujo has been flawless thus far in his UFC career with a 2-0 record, but he hasn't exactly had the kind of memorable performances to earn him a shot on the main card just yet. His upcoming opponent George Sullivan has a vibrant style that could make this a sleeper hit on the undercard though.
Araujo trains out of the Greg Jackson / Mike Winkeljohn gym in New Mexico and he's shown tremendous fundamental basics through two fights in the UFC, but he may need to dig a little deeper to get a win over Sullivan on Saturday night. Araujo isn't flashy in anything he does in the Octagon, but he gets the job done. The Brazilian has the ability to frustrate his opponents to the point of exhaustion and that's what he'll look to do again while hopefully stopping Sullivan's power on the feet.
Sullivan is a dangerous fighter at 170 pounds thanks to his boxing and takedown defense. While he only has one fight thus far in the UFC, he looked solid in all areas in that bout. He landed over four strikes per minute and took his opponent, Mike Rhodes, down on two occasions. In this fight his aggressiveness could lead to some counters from Araujo, and that's where the danger lies in this matchup.
Araujo is an equalizer. He doesn't do anything great, but he can match his opponents strike for strike, takedown for takedown. If Sullvan gets overzealous with his offense on the feet, it could open things up for Araujo to play lockdown on the ground or in the clinch. Araujo just has to worry about slowing Sullivan down, but once he makes that happen he can start to mount a bigger counter attack with punches in bunches and a tough top game if he gets this fight to the mat.
Sullivan has better power and range with his kickboxing, but keeping Araujo at bay will probably be a problem for the American.
Look for Araujo to weather any storm caused by Sullivan's offensive attacks and then either work his opponent over against the cage or drag this one to the mat. Rinse, wash, repeat and it's a unanimous decision win for Igor Araujo.
FRANCISCO TRINALDO VS. LEANDRO SILVA
It's a battle of Brazilians as Francisco Trinaldo tries to rebound from his recent loss to Ultimate Fighter winner Michael Chiesa when he faces Leandro Silva, who is currently riding a five-fight win streak after suffering a loss in his only appearance in the UFC.
Trinaldo is always a tough matchup for anyone in the lightweight division because he knows how to play great defense and keeps the fight close in every round. Trinaldo is known best for his submission game, where he picked up two early finishes in his UFC career, both by arm-triangle choke. On average, Trinaldo only takes opponents to the mat 1.1 times per 15 minutes, which could account for a large part of his rollercoaster-like performances in the UFC.
Leandro Silva returns to the UFC looking to erase the memories of his last fight against Ildemar Alcantara, where he lost by unanimous decision after three rounds. Silva has a lot of wins on his record by submission, but he is primarily a striker. He trains out of the famed Chute Boxe camp in Brazil, where he regularly works with a diverse array of Muay Thai specialists all looking to take his head off. Silva has a nasty left hook and a deceptive high kick, although he may best be served keeping to his punches in this fight to avoid the takedown attempts from Trinaldo.
The key in this fight is Silva's ability to put combinations together and never allowing Trinaldo to get a hold of him. Silva needs to stay on the outside, pepper away at his opponent with short, rapid fire punches and get out again. If he can continuously stick and move, pop shot Trinaldo from the outside and never get held down, Silva's got a great chance of winning this fight. Don't count Trinaldo out if he gets this to the mat, especially if he's on top, but lately he's been so hit and miss with his willingness to commit to the takedown it's hard to predict what he'll do Saturday night. Given those unknowns, Silva is the favorite to get the win in a three-round battle.
PAULO THIAGO VS. SEAN SPENCER
It seems so long ago that Paulo Thiago knocked out Josh Koscheck and submitted Mike Swick to become a legitimate threat to the welterweight title. Now five years after his UFC debut, Thiago approaches a fight this weekend against Sean Spencer with everything on the line for his career.
Thiago has gone a paltry 1-4 in his last five fights and he desperately needs a win on Saturday to remain in the UFC. Thiago is still an extremely dangerous fighter on the ground, where he averages 1.35 submission attempts per 15 minutes in the cage, but his inability to get an opponent down has backfired on him time and time again in the UFC. Thiago only hits takedowns at 37.84 percent accuracy, but if he hopes to beat a speedy and tough opponent in Brazil he has to get this one to the mat.
Spencer has looked good since dropping back to welterweight after his initial fight in the UFC came on short notice at 185 pounds. Since then, Spencer has gone 2-1 with his only loss coming by way of split decision. Spencer's one weakness is that two of his three career losses have come by submission, so he has to be wary of Thiago's ground game.
If Spencer can out quick Thiago on the feet, he should be able to avoid the takedown and abuse the Brazilian on the feet. Thiago has knockout power, but striking has not been his strong suit lately. Thiago's inability to land strikes first has hurt him a ton in recent fights, and Spencer should have no problem putting together combinations to hurt the Brazilian before swooping out of the way of any kind of counter.
Spencer should be able to shrug off Thiago's takedowns and continue to crack the veteran with his hands while looking for knees if they get locked in the clinch. Either way the result stays the same - Sean Spencer winning by decision.
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