UFC Fight Night 38 from Natal, Brazil, Sunday night will be headlined by a huge rematch between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Dan Henderson, but there are plenty of evenly matched fights throughout the card.
Although most of the star power relates to Rua and Henderson, the vast majority of the bouts should be quite exciting. Most of them look too close to call on paper, and that should make for a spectacular event.
The added element of the card taking place in Brazil is an interesting wrinkle that could impact the fights as well. With that in mind, here are the latest predictions for the highly anticipated Fight Night 38.
Mauricio Rua vs. Dan Henderson
Rua and Henderson are two of the most popular fighters in UFC, so it should come as no surprise that there is plenty of hype surrounding their upcoming bout. Much of that is due to the fact that they engaged in one of the most exciting battles in recent memory back in 2011. As seen in this photo, courtesy of UFC, it was a hard-hitting and brutal affair:
Henderson won that fight by unanimous decision, due largely to his work in the first three rounds. Rua mounted a huge comeback and was nearly able to sway things in his favor, but he fell too far behind the eight ball. Shogun has struggled to bounce back from that loss, as his results have been mixed ever since, with two wins and two losses.
Meanwhile, Henderson has dropped three straight since that victory. The 43-year-old veteran is extremely vulnerable right now, and Rua intends to do whatever it takes to reign supreme, according to John Morgan of MMAJunkie.com:
It's a different fight. Obviously, I have big respect for Dan Henderson. He's a guy that hits hard and can do some damage. You've got to respect him. But I'm happy to have this chance because ... I like challenges ... Any way that I can come out with a win, I'm happy. Obviously, if I can win a fight that also pleases the fans, I'm even happier. But I'll take the win any way I can get it.
That any-means-necessary approach should serve Shogun well, and the fact that he is fighting on home soil is a definite advantage as well. Rua isn't in the best form of his career, but based on how poorly Henderson has performed in recent years, Shogun should take this one by unanimous decision.
Cezar Ferreira vs. C.B. Dollaway
Considered by many to be one of the fastest rising stars in UFC, Cezar Ferreira has a huge opportunity in front of him. He will take on C.B. Dollaway Sunday in a middleweight encounter that will go on right before the headliner between Rua and Henderson.
Ferreira is a national superstar in Brazil after winning The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil middleweight tournament, and he is a perfect 3-0 with UFC. He is coming off a big win over Daniel Sarafian in November, although it was somewhat controversial in nature, as it was a split decision.
Some feel as though Ferreira was able to escape that bout with a victory. Ferreira has gained a great deal of acclaim for his success on TUF, but there is a belief that he may be somewhat overrated due in part to that, according to Luca Fury of MMA Odds Cast:
While that may be true, Dollaway's results have been quite inconsistent as of late. He is just 2-3 over his past five fights, having been knocked out twice. He is definitely susceptible to a sudden ending, and he is facing a fighter in Ferreira who is quite versatile.
Due to Ferreira's ability to win in a number of different ways, the smart money is on him. Look for Ferreira to score a second-round knockout in front of a partisan crowd in Brazil.
Leonardo Santos vs. Norman Parke
In what may be the toughest test of his UFC career to this point, Northern Irish star Norman Parke will lock horns with Leonardo Santos in hostile territory. The 27-year-old lightweight has an overall MMA record of 19-2, and he has yet to lose a UFC bout in three tries. Santos is 12-3, but he will have the home crowd advantage in Brazil.
Although some fighters are able to block out the atmosphere when they compete, Parke isn't among them. According to Steven Marrocco and John Morgan of MMAJunkie.com, Parke is well aware of his surroundings in the middle of fights:
Of course you can still hear. People say you can never hear the crowd during the fight, but you can hear them. Only when you're first starting off in your career and you're that nervous, you're just thinking of him. But when you can see everything clearly, that's when you know you're more relaxed. When you land a nice shot, you can hear the crowd.
While Parke can feel the crowd, he seems like the type of fighter who feeds off of it rather than getting rattled. That will be key Sunday since the fans will be very much in Santos' corner.
Santos is on an impressive six-fight winning streak; however, Parke trumps that with 10 consecutive triumphs. He has seemingly mastered the art of winning on the scorecards, and he'll do so once again at UFC Fight Night 38.
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