UFC FIGHT NIGHT PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview & Odds & Predictions including Belfort vs. Gastelum, Rua vs. Villante, Barbosa vs. Dariush

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

The UFC travels overseas to Fortaleza, Brazil for UFC Fight Night 106. The main event takes place in the middleweight division where Brazil’s own Vitor Belfort tries to stop a two-fight skid when he takes on Kelvin Gastelum. The co-main event features another native of Brazil in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua as he goes up against Gian Villante in a battle of light heavyweights.

The six-fight main card rounds out with Edson Barboza taking on Beneil Dariush in the lightweight  division, Jussier Formiga vs. Ray Borg in a battle of flyweights, then we go to the women’s bantamweight division for Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau and finally back to the men’s welterweight division for Alex Oliveira vs. Tim Means.

The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:30 p.m. CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 p.m. CT for the prelims. Keep it on FS1 for the main card starting at 9 p.m. CT.

Main Card

Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (13-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

Current Odds: Gastelum -365; Belfort +285

Vitor Belfort is 1-3 in his last four fights. Although the three losses came against the best the division has to offer, Belfort wasn’t competitive in any them. He lost by KO/TKO in all three with two not making it past the first round. The one win was against Dan Henderson who thought it would be a good idea to enter the fight with no game plan and get into a slugfest allowing Vitor to land the knockout blow. Even while approaching 40 years old Vitor Belfort still possesses big power and surprising quickness.

While Belfort won’t be fighting for a championship again, a win here will at least keep him relevant. Although, if he does somehow pull off the upset then this might be a good opportunity for him to ride off into the sunset after such a huge win.

Kelvin Gastelum is a young fighter just coming into his own. He’s riding a two fight win streak after beating Johny Hendricks by decision at UFC 200 and stopping Tim Kennedy at UFC 206. The only two blemishes on his record are split decision losses to Neil Magny and current champion, Tyron Woodley. Gastelum is a small middleweight but his constant pressure and knockout power make him a very dangerous fighter. He is also a good wrestler with an excellent gas tank, which comes into play the longer his fights go.

There’s a reason Kelvin Gastelum is almost a 4-1 favorite. Unless Belfort can land a knockout punch in the very first round, which is a very real possibility, this is Kelvin’s fight to win. Even if Belfort hurts him with strikes, Gastelum can fall back on his wrestling and take Vitor down and work his ground game. Expect some fireworks in the first and possibly the second round. If the fight goes past the second round Belfort will have long since gassed out allowing Gastelum to finish him. I’ve been a fan of Kelvin Gastelum ever since he won TUF and a win here should put him in line to face a top contender next.

Pick: Gastelum 

Mauricio Rua (24-10) vs. Gian Villante (15-7) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.

Current Odds: Rua -145; Villante +115

After losing back to back fights to Dan Henderson and Ovince Saint Preux, Mauricio Rua is now on a two fight winning streak. Both wins were by decision, first against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 190 and then Corey Anderson at UFC 198. While the UFC veteran is no longer contending for the title, his fights are still exciting to watch. And while the days of beating the best in the division are behind him, he can still compete with the bottom half. At 35 years old he still possess knockout power. 19 of Rua’s 24 wins are by KO/TKO, with only one via submission.

Gian Villante comes into the fight looking for his second straight win. After dropping a decision to Ilir Latifi at UFC 196, he returned at UFC Fight Night 102 where he stopped Saparbek Safarov in the second round with punches. Like Rua, Villante has the ability to put fighters to sleep. 10 of his 15 wins have come by way of KO/TKO, with only two via of submission.

Shogun in his prime would destroy Villante. Now, at 35 years old along with the damage he’s taken over the years it’s a much closer fight. Both fighters are strikers who like to press. They can also end the fight at any time with one punch. Neither of them has a problem standing in the pocket while exchanging punches. The difference here is that Rua is the better counter puncher.

This fight can go either way. I still think Shogun is quicker and the better striker. This one should be a slugfest with Rua finding the mark before Villante.

Pick: Rua by TKO

Edson Barboza (18-4) vs. Beneil Dariush (14-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.

Current Odds: Barboza -155; Dariush +125

After getting tapped by Tony Ferguson at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale, Edson Barboza has won two fights in a row. First, he beat Anthony Pettis at UFC 197 and then at UFC on FOX 20 he beat Gilbert Melendez. Both wins were by decision. Here, he looks for his third win a row when he goes up against fellow top 10 contender Beneil Dariush.

Dariush is on his own two fight win streak after losing to Michael Chiesa at UFC on FOX 19. First, he stopped James Vick with punches at UFC 199 and then at UFC Fight Night 98 he won a decision against Rashid Magomedov.

Barboza is an excellent striker who likes to keep distance. His speed and quickness is second to none; along with his excellent movement he is capable of doing damage from the outside without getting caught in the pocket. Barboza’s biggest weakness is his ground game. Of his 18 career wins only one is by submission.

On the other hand, Beneil Dariush has a great ground game. Six of his 14 wins are by submission. Dariush is the more aggressive fighter and will pressure Barboza looking to close range, get inside and try taking advantage of Barboz’s suspect chin. That said, Dariush’s best chance of winning is on the ground.

I love this fight and think it’s the best one on the card. It’s a shame one of these fighters has to lose because I like them both. If Dariush can get the fight to play primarily on the ground then he’ll win the fight. However, I think Barboza’s speed and quickness will be the difference here. His superior striking will keep Dariush at bay as he picks him apart on the feet leading to a decision.

Pick: Barboza by decision 

Jussier Formiga (19-4) vs. Ray Borg (10-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: Borg -120; Formiga -110

Ray Borg has won four of his last five fights. His most recent fight was at UFC 207 where he earned the decision over Louis Smolka in a fight I thought he’d lose. The 23 year old’s ground game is his biggest strength. Six of his ten wins have come via submission. His speed and quickness allows him to gain the advantage on his opponent in most scrambles where he’ll then look for the submission. Although he only has one KO/TKO in his entire MMA career, he is a capable striker.

Jussier Formiga has also won four of his last five fights. He’s 1-1 over his last two fights with his most recent fight coming at UFC Fight Night 95 where he took a decision over Dustin Ortiz. Formiga’s strength also lies in his ground game. Of his 19 wins, eight have been by submission. While Borg doesn’t have the best stand up, it’s still better than Formiga’s as his zero KO/TKO’s would indicate. Formiga’s best chance of winning is on the ground.

Ray Borg is clearly the faster and quicker fighter at this stage in each of their careers. I give Formiga the slight edge on the ground, and Borg the slight edge on the feet making this a tough fight to predict. I’m going to go with the younger, faster and quicker fighter, but would not be surprised if Formiga won.

Pick: Borg by decision 

Bethe Correia (10-2) vs. Marion Reneau (7-2) – Bantamweight 135 lbs. 

Current Odds: Reneau -120; Correia -110

Bethe Correia takes on Marion Reneau in what should be a very competitive bantamweight bout. Correia got back in the win column her last time in the cage after losing two straight fights. She beat Jessica Eye by decision at UFC 203 after losing first to Ronda Rousey at UFC 190 and then to Raquel Pennington by decision at UFC on FOX 19. Bethe prefers to keep the fight standing. While she doesn’t possess big power with only two knockouts in ten wins, she is a very solid striker.

Marion Reneau is also 1-2 in her last three fights. She followed up losses to Holly Holm at UFC Fight Night 71 and Ashley-Evans-Smith at UFC Fight Night 83 by finishing Milana Dudieva at UFC Fight Night 99. Here she is at another UFC Fight Night looking to get into title contention with a big win over Correia. Reneau is a finisher with six of her seven wins coming by either submission or KO/TKO.

I see this fight taking place mostly on the feet. Reneau has the advantage in both speed and power, but Correia is the more technical striker. This is the hardest fight on the card to predict. I’m going with Reneau by decision with little confidence.

Pick: Reneau by decision

Alex Oliveira (15-3-1, 1 NC) vs. Tim Means (26-7-1, 1 NC) – Welterweight 170 lbs.

Current Odds: Means -200; Oliveira +160

Veteran Tim Means takes on fellow veteran Alex Oliveira for the second time in three months. Their previous match-up was at UFC 207 which ended in a no-contest. Means connected with two knees to the head while Oliveira had his knee on the mat. The knees were considered to be accidental ruling the fight a no-contest.

Prior to the UFC 207 bout Means was on a two fight winning streak after stopping John Howard at UFC Fight Night 80 and Sabah Homasi at UFC 202. Means excels in the clinch and at striking. He is a strong, aggressive fighter who works extremely well inside the pocket. 18 of his 26 wins are by KO/TKO. I don’t expect Tim to take this fight to the ground at any point on Saturday night.

Alex Oliveira was also on a two fight win streak leading up to his UFC 207 fight against Means. He decisioned James Moontasri at UFC on FOX 20 and finished Will Brooks with punches at UFC Fight Night 96. Oliveira is a striker who likes to keep the fight standing. Ten of his 15 wins are by KO/TKO with only two by submission. Like Means, he also excels in the clinch so it’s going to be interesting to see who will get the better of those exchanges.

This fight is sure to provide fireworks as I don’t see either fighter wanting to go to the ground. Oliveira is the better athlete with more speed and quickness, but Means is the more skilled striker.

Pick: Means by TKO

Prelims Quick Look

Trinaldo over Lee

Moraes over Ramos

Yahya over Soto

Prazeres over Burkman

Early Prelims Quick Look

Kennedy over Jason

Borrachinha over McLellan

Enjoy the fights!

NOW CHECK OUT ECOCHARD’S PREVIEW OF THIS SAME EVENT: UFC Fight Night Primer: Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum headlines Saturday night’s event in Brazil on FS1

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