UFC Fight Night 77 offers fight fans the rare-as-ever trilogy, when Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson step into the cage together for the third time in their storied careers. Dropping 20 pounds since the last time they faced at light heavyweight in November 2013, Belfort vs. Henderson is sure to bring the fireworks the second meeting created.
Also featured on the card is a light heavyweight matchup between two of the best fighters currently competing at 205 pounds. Former title contender Glover Teixeira looks to get back to a title shot at light heavyweight, needing to get past decorated collegiate wrestler, Patrick Cummins, in order to get there.
Several fights inside of the Octagon in Sao Paulo are sure to bring the action, giving analysts a tough time in predicting a winner. We give it our best effort below:
- Matheus Nicoleau Pereira def. Bruno Rodrigues via decision
- Jimmie Rivera def. Pedro Munhoz via decision
- Gasan Umalatov def. Viscardi Andrade via decision
- Kevin Souza def. Chas Skelly via TKO
- Clay Guida def. Thiago Tavares via decision
- Yan Cabral def. Johnny Case via submission
- Gleison Tibau def. Abel Trujillo via decision
- Corey Anderson def. Fabio Maldonado via decision
- Gilbert Burns def. Rashid Magomedov via submission
- Piotr Halmann def. Alex Oliveira via submission
Thomas Almeida vs. Anthony Birchak
Quietly making his way up the rankings of the UFC’s top-heavy bantamweight division, 135-pound Brazilian Thomas Almeida looks to make his latest statement inside the Octagon when he faces Anthony Birchak in Sao Paulo.
Undefeated through 19 professional bouts, Almeida looks every part of the future of the bantamweight division. Traditional MMA fans have only had three opportunities to see the 24-year-old, four-year veteran do his thing inside the Octagon, but his latest knockout victory over longtime WEC and WEC veteran Brad Pickett is what put him on the map. A ferocious striker, only four of Almeida’s 19 opponents can say they weren’t finished by strikes. Three opponents managed to find out how crafty the BJJ brown belt was on the canvas. Only one’s managed to go to the judges, and even that fight ended in a unanimous decision for Almeida.
Birchak is no slouch, but considering he dropped his UFC debut to Ian Entwistle before likely shocking matchmaker Sean Shelby with a first-round KO over former title contender Joe Soto in June, Saturday won’t be easy for the Tuscon native. Colored a wrestler after competing in the NCAA Division II waters, Birchak’s going to need to get this fight to the canvas to make sure he stands a chance Saturday night. It probably won’t happen, though.
Prediction: Almeida def. Birchak via TKO
Glover Teixeira vs. Patrick Cummins
Facing a similar opponent to the one who most recently defeated him back at UFC 179 in Rio de Janeiro, Glover Teixeira is faced with the opportunity to prove he’s as good of a defensive wrestler we all thought he was when he first entered the UFC in 2012. It didn’t quite work out the way we’d anticipated the first time he was asked to compete against a top-level grappler, claiming a bad weight-cut prevented him from dealing with Phil Davis’ relentless double-legs.
Bad weight-cuts aside, there’s no reason Teixeira shouldn’t see his hand raised on Saturday night. This, in many ways, is a terrible matchup for Patrick Cummins and his grapple-heavy approach to the game.
There are two things the average fan thinks of when Cummins’ named is mentioned in conversation: He’s a former barista and he’s the man who made Cormier cry inside the wrestling room as he helped “DC” prepare for his days as an Olympian. Only one of things is relevant here, and you can bet your last dollar we’re not talking 20-ounce Frappuccinos here.
The fact of the matter is Cummins stands no chance of moving further up the ladder if he can’t close the gap between himself and even the most medial striker in the division. Teixeira may not be the division’s best puncher, but he’s far from the middle, which means bad things for “Durkin.”
Prediction: Teixeira def. Cummins via TKO
Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson
Last time we saw both of these fighters, they were experiencing a bit of unexpected performances, both good and bad.
Let us start with the good: Dan Henderson. Just as we believed the aging legend was at the end of the road, he gave us all a reason to want to see him fight at least one more time. He knocked out Tim Boetsch in the first-round of their headlining bout at UFC Fight Night 68 in June. It was only his second victory since 2013, putting him at a less-than-desirable 2-5 in his last seven. But it wasn’t just seeing Henderson lose on such a consistent basis that had us pining for his retirement. “Hendo,” long known for his iron chin, was getting clipped and dropped far more often than we’d gotten used to seeing. No longer able to absorb the damage or fool as many opponents into falling in line for his patented “H-Bomb,” you really started to wonder how much longer Henderson could keep this going.
Now for the bad: Vitor Belfort. After a few years of dominating younger, less experienced middleweight fighters, Belfort finally stepped into the cage with the best of the “new generation’s” crop of mixed martial artists: middleweight champion Chris Weidman. His first fight since the UFC outlawed testosterone replacement therapy, Belfort was nowhere near the destructive force he’d been in his previous five bouts. As expected, the TRT-less “Phenom” looked every part of the 38-year-old fighter facing off against the younger, more well-equipped fighter in Weidman.
Still, for as good as Henderson and bad as Belfort looked in their most previous outings, Belfort’s still the faster, more dynamic fighter here. Not to mention he’s had an extra five months to cope with the post TRT era.
Prediction: Belfort def. Henderson via TKO