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July 25, 2014

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UFC 134: Breakdown & Picks

The UFC likes to stack cards with big names and native fighters when visiting a new location or one it hasn’t visited in a prolonged period of time. That’s once again evidenced by this Saturday’s UFC Rio card. It’s the promotion’s second trip to Brazil’s second biggest city, but first in 13 years and under the Zuffa ownership. Ten of the 11 bouts slated for the HSBC Arena include at least one Brazilian. Four former champions are included in the event. Brazilian Anderson Silva puts his middleweight belt at risk in the main event against Yushin Okami. Silva is the most famous fighter to ever come out of Brazil and unarguably the best. Below is a breakdown and picks from our panel of Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (62-38), ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (47-21), KSNV’s Kevin West (63-37) and ESPN Radio/Cagewriter.com’s Steve Cofield (61-39). Odds are provided by The Venetian/Lagasse’s Stadium and subject to change.

Yushin Okami

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’2''
  • Weight: 206
  • UFC record 10-2
  • MMA record 26-5
  • Out of: Kanagawa, Japan
  • Betting line: +375

Anderson Silva

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’2''
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 13-0
  • MMA record 30-4
  • Out of: Curitiba, Brazil
  • Betting line: -550

Middleweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous decision over Nate Marquardt at UFC 122.

Punch list: Okami is the opposite of Silva in a lot of ways. He’s a wrestler first with average striking ability. Although he’s not the most exciting performer, he’s consistently found a way to win throughout his career. Other notable victories for Okami — aside from the Marquardt bout and Silva disqualification — include Mark Munoz and Mike Swick.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Silva

Cofield: Silva

Last fight: First round knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126.

Punch list: “The Spider” is not his usual antisocial mood leading up to this weekend’s fight. He’s enjoying the UFC visiting his home country and has been very generous with media and fans. His handlers say he’s at his best when motivated. If that’s true, Silva could put on one heck of a performance Saturday.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Silva

Okamoto: Silva

Forrest Griffin

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 9-4
  • MMA record 18-6
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +180

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’1''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 3-3
  • MMA record 19-5
  • Out of: Curitiba, Brazil
  • Betting line: -220

Light Heavyweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Rich Franklin at UFC 126.

Punch list: A win here would count as Griffin’s third in a row and put him right back in title contention two-and-a-half-years after losing the 205-pound belt. Griffin could have an advantage on the ground, where he submitted Rua in 2006, with his larger frame.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Rua

Cofield: Rua

Last fight: Third round TKO loss to Jon Jones at UFC 128.

Punch list: If Shogun is healthy, he deserves the 2-to-1 favorite tag over Griffin. But that’s always a question for the former champion. He’s looked fantastic in four of his last six fights, and downright sloppy in the other two.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Rua

Okamoto: Griffin

Brendan Schaub

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’4’’
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 9-1
  • Out of: Denver
  • Betting line: -240

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’3’’
  • Weight: 240
  • UFC record 3-2
  • MMA record 32-6-1
  • Out of: Bahia, Brazil
  • Betting line: +190

Heavyweight Bout

Featured Fight

Last fight: Third round TKO win over Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 128.

Punch list: Schaub campaigned for the shot at the legend Nogueira on this card. He thinks a win should lead him into a title shot. The former runner-up on “The Ultimate Fighter” has won four straight since losing to Roy Nelson in the show’s finale.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Schaub

Cofield: Schaub

Last fight: First round knockout loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 110.

Punch list: The man with a couple nicknames — “Minotauro” and “Big Nog” — is returning from having surgery on both of his knees. As a former PRIDE champion, Nogueira has compiled an impressive career, but this bout should go a long way in determining how much longer it lasts.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Nogueira

Okamoto: Schaub

Edson Barboza

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’11''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 8-0
  • Out of: Jupiter, Fla.
  • Betting line: -300

Ross Pearson

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’8''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 14-4
  • Out of: Sunderland, England
  • Betting line: +220

Lightweight Bout

Pay-per-view contest

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Anthony Njokuani at UFC 128.

Punch list: Many are pointing toward Barboza as the next Brazilian champion in the UFC. That’s a lot of pressure to hold, especially when the prospect hasn’t fought any top level competition so far in his career.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Pearson

Cofield: Barboza

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Spencer Fisher at UFC 127.

Punch list: Pearson seems like a forgotten man in the 155-pound weight class, which shouldn’t be the case. He’s impressed ever since winning the ninth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” with his only setback coming via submission to jiu-jitsu ace Cole Miller.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Barboza

Okamoto: Pearson

Stanislav Nedkov

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 11-0
  • Out of: Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria
  • Betting line: +170

Luiz Cane

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 4-3
  • MMA record 12-3-1
  • Out of: Sao Paolo, Brazil
  • Betting line: -200

Light Heavyweight Bout

Pay-per-view opener

Last fight: First round submission win against Helgiy Augustin Eygen at Max Fight XIII: Sofia Grand Prix.

Punch list: The prospect has slammed all comers in Bulgaria and Japan with nine of his 11 wins coming via stoppage. But it’s always hard to tell how a fighter like Nedkov will match up against heightened competition in the octagon

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Cane

Cofield: Cane

Last fight: Knocked out Eliot Marshall in the first round at UFC 128.

Punch list: He’s either gotten knocked out or done the knocking out in five of his last six fights. Cane looked his best in March when he overwhelmed Marshall and put an end to the bout 2:15 after it started.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Cane

Okamoto: Cane

Spencer Fisher

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 9-6
  • MMA record 24-7
  • Out of: Davenport, Iowa
  • Betting line: +170

Thiago Tavares

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 5-4-1
  • MMA record 15-4-1
  • Out of: Florianapolis, Brazil
  • Betting line: -200

Lightweight Bout

Spike prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision defeat to Ross Pearson at UFC 127.

Punch list: Fisher is a striker first, but has a sneaky-good Brazilian jiu-jitsu game. He’s submitted nine opponents and only lost by the technique once when he tapped out to Joe Stevenson’s strikes two years ago.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Tavares

Cofield: Fisher

Last fight: Second round knockout loss to Shane Roller at UFC on Versus 3.

Punch list: He’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. To do his best work, Tavares has to get takedowns. An up-and-down path has been the story of his UFC career, which is shown with a 1-1-1 record in Tavares’ last three contests.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Fisher

Okamoto: Fisher

Dan Miller

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 5-4
  • MMA record 13-5
  • Out of: Whippany, N.J.
  • Betting line: +200

Rousimar Palhares

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 5-2
  • MMA record 12-3
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: -250

Middleweight Bout

Spike prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Nate Marquardt at UFC 128.

Punch list: For the second straight time, Miller worked his way up the card by filling in for a scratched fighter. He takes the place of Alexandre Ferreira, Palhares’ original opponent. Miller is a wrestler who is usually most successful when grinding out decision victories.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Palhares

Cofield: Miller

Last fight: Second round submission victory over Dave Branch at UFC on Versus 3.

Punch list: The ground is where Palhares wants the fight, because it’s where he can work his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He’s submitted nine opponents, including in his last three victories, throughout his career and specifically looks for heel hooks.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Palhares

Okamoto: Palhares

David Mitchell

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Santa Rosa, Calif.
  • Betting line: +300

Paulo Thiago

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 3-3
  • MMA record 13-3
  • Out of: Brasilia, Brazil
  • Betting line: -400

Welterweight Bout

Facebook prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision defeat to T.J. Waldburger at UFC Fight Night 22.

Punch list: Mitchell has endured an 11-month layoff since his octagon debut after scheduled fights fell by the wayside. The grappler said he was eager to get back into action and prove his loss was not representative of his abilities.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Thiago

Cofield: Thiago

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Diego Sanchez at UFC 121.

Punch list: Similar to Mitchell, it’s been 10 months since Thiago last fought. An elbow injury following losses to Sanchez and Martin Kampmann kept Thiago out of the octagon. He’s known for two things: entertaining contests and his UFC 95 upset knockout of Josh Koscheck.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Thiago

Okamoto: Thiago

Johnny Eduardo

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 25-8
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: +140

Raphael Assuncao

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 14-4
  • Out of: Atlanta
  • Betting line: -170

Bantamweight Bout

Facebook prelim

Last fight: Third round submission win against Jose Wilson at Shooto Brazil 22.

Punch list: The local signed with the UFC for the event riding an impressive streak. Eduardo has won 11 straight bouts with an accompanying finish in nine of them.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Eduardo

Cofield: Assuncao

Last fight: First round knockout loss to Erik Koch at UFC 128.

Punch list: Assuncao is now 1-3 in his last four bouts. To go after a possible rebirth for his career, the Brazilian native dropped to bantamweight. The WEC veteran hasn’t finished an opponent in three years.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Eduardo

Okamoto: Assuncao

Luis Ramos

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 19-6
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: +200

Erick Silva

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: Vila Velha, Brazil
  • Betting line: -300

Welterweight Bout

Facebook prelim

Last fight: First round submission win over Dimitri Burgos at WOCS Watch Out Combat Show 14.

Punch list: Ramos holds the 170-pound championship belt in Shooto Brazil, a respected promotion in the country. He trains at Nova Uniao alongside UFC standouts like featherweight champion Jose Aldo.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Silva

Cofield: Silva

Last fight: First round submission win against Francisco Ayon at Jungle Fight 23.

Punch list: Silva holds the 170-pound championship belt in Jungle Fight, a respected promotion in the country. He trains at Team Nogueira alongside UFC standouts like middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Silva

Okamoto: Silva

Felipe Arantes

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 13-3
  • Out of: Newark, N.J.
  • Betting line: +300

Yuri Alacantara

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 24-3
  • Out of: Soure, Brazil
  • Betting line: -400

Featherweight Bout

Facebook prelim

Last fight: Fight with Andy Main at UCC 4 ended in a no contest.

Punch list: The Sao Paolo native got the call to appear in his home country despite living some 4,700 miles away in New Jersey. His record indicates he’s well rounded with lethal Brazilian jiu-jitsu to match his kickboxing.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Alacantara

Cofield: Alacantara

Last fight: First round knockout win against Ricardo Lamas at WEC 52.

Punch list: Alcantara promptly made his WEC debut in the last event before the organization merged with the UFC. In a still-shallow featherweight division, he looks gifted enough to get into the title picture with a few consecutive wins.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Alacantara

Okamoto: Alacantara

Ian Loveland

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 14-8
  • Out of: Portland, Ore.
  • Betting line: -180

Yves Jabouin

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 15-7
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: +150

Bantamweight Bout

Facebook prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Joe Benavidez at UFC 128.

Punch list: He caught a lot of attention in his last fight. Although Loveland lost, but arguably won one of three rounds, he went blow for blow with the man many believe is the second best bantamweight in the world.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Loveland

Cofield: Loveland

Last fight: First round submission loss to Pablo Garza at UFC 129.

Punch list: At 1-3 in his last four fights with Zuffa, this could be a must-win for Jabouin. It’s the first time he’s dropped to the 135-pound class, where he hopes his striking power translates into a more significant factor.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Jabouin

Okamoto: Loveland

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