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UFC 134: Rio Predictions

The UFC hasn't put on an event in Brazil since 1998, before the Fertittas and Dana White took over and LONG before the big Fox television deal the organization announced last week. It will be a triumphant return for the octagon, as demand for tickets would have filled a soccer stadium. They probably hopre it will be a triumphant return for some of their most popular Brazilian fighters as well, since the card is chock full of them and headlined by Anderson Silva, possibly the greatest Brazilian MMA star of all time (and putting finishing touches on his application to be the greatest MMA star of all time period).

But throughout his 13-fight winning streak in the UFC, Anderson Silva hasn't been very predictable. With one of his previous losses, Yushin Okami, standing across the cage and a massively pro-Spider crowd egging him on, there's no telling what kind of performance we'll see from the mercurial champion.

Anderson Silva (c) vs. Yushin Okami

Bruce: Okami handed Silva his last win, albeit by DQ. Since then, Silva has gone on to become the longest reigning champion in the UFC, rattling off 13 straight victories. Okami hasn't put together as impressive a win streak, but he's battled through the middleweight ranks to secure a shot at Silva and his title. I just can't bring myself to vote against Silva in this one. Home field advantage? Silva. Grudge? Silva. I think things are just too stacked. WINNER: Silva by KO in 2nd

Matt: This is the last hurdle before Anderson Silva becomes the "greatest of all time" in MMA. You can murmur about a superfight with Georges St. Pierre, but GSP is dragging his feet worse than Floyd Mayweather, so by the time it actually happens Silva will be even closer to retirement. The Spider hasn't lost since that 2006 DQ against Okami, so this is his chance to avenge one of his few losses. We may never see him as motivated as he will be for this fight, unless maybe that rematch with Chael Sonnen materializes. Okami isn't just some "Irish" Terry Conklin being paraded out for a payday; he's quietly earned this shot after being The Only Contender Left Standing in the middleweight division. Dana White and co. kept shuffling Okami to the back of the deck and he just kept showing up on top. Of his five losses, four went the distance (including losses to Sonnen and Rich Franklin). He hasn't been finished since 2003. I sincerely think he has a legitimate shot at the upset...but I'm totally fooling myself. Silva will bounce around for one or two rounds and then finish this one off late. WINNER: Silva by submission in 4th

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Forrest Griffin

Bruce: I'm really not sure which way to go on this one. Griffin won their last fight with a rear naked choke, but that was nearly four years ago. Since then, both fighters have had serious ups and downs. Both have lost the Light Heavyweight Title, Griffin to Rashad Evans and Rua to Jon Jones. Rua has the home field advantage, but I can see Griffin going “ugly American” in this one. I think this one ends up with hands flying and someone going down. WINNER: Griffin by KO in 3rd

Matt: It's tough to say this about a guy who is so damn likeable, but I don't think Forrest Griffin has a truly remarkable victory to his credit. He's had two wins in the past two years, and both were against aging former champions (Tito Ortiz and Franklin). That came after a two-fight KTFO losing streak to more athletic strikers (Anderson Silva and Evans). Before that, he turned an upset over a debuting-but-injury-plagued Shogun into a title fight against Rampage Jackson, which he won through "right place, right time" luck. It's up to the reader to decide if I meant the leg kick that shut down Rampage's game or the judges who handed Griffin two rounds he didn't win. Now it's 2011, and Shogun's bum knee from 2007 has been surgically repaired. He couldn't deliver combinations with any speed or prejudice in the first fight, and that allowed the bigger Griffin to wear him down and make it a brawl. I don't think Forrest gets as lucky this time. WINNER: Rua by TKO in 2nd

Brendan Schaub vs. Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro Nogueria

Bruce: Minotauro is coming off a loss to Cain Velasquez. Schaub has ripped off four straight wins since losing to Roy Nelson in The Ultimate Fighter finale. I've been impressed with Schaub since he started on TUF. Nothing has happened to change my opinion. He's a fighter on the rise. He's also my pick in this one. WINNER: Schaub by TKO in 1st

Matt: I get pulled in two directions when we pick these fights. There's the cynical, realistic side that wants to pick based on records or marginalize a guy's resume (see my Griffin hatchet job above). Then there's the more idealistic, sports-movie-loving side that wants to see the underdogs win and the great personal stories persevere. Back in his prime (or his UFC heavyweight title run), Nogueria would go into a fight like this, take a ton of abuse and slowly work his BJJ until he catches a limb and holds on tight. Now that he's coming off knee and hip surgery, it would be nice to see him recapture the magic in his home country. But the cynical side says that he didn't get surgery on the suspect chin that turned his lights out against Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez. Schaub isn't championship level yet, but this fight will put him in the conversation. WINNER: Schaub by KO in 2nd

Ross Pearson vs. Edson Barboza

Bruce: Barboza is an undefeated Brazilian kickboxer with a smidge of BJJ. Pearson is a taekwondo/judo fighter. I've said it before and I'll say it again now: Never vote against the BJJ guy. Pearson will give Barboza all he can handle, but I just don't think its going to be enough. WINNER: Barboza by decision

Matt: Like most of his British brethren, Pearson's got no ground game. When he fought a guy with some BJJ skills (Cole Miller) he tapped in the second. I don't think Barboza will need that long. WINNER: Barboza by submission in 1st.

Luiz Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov

Bruce: Our last fight featured an undefeated Brazilian. This one features an undefeated Bulgarian in Nedkov. This is his UFC debut and Zuffa is feeding him a perpetual low card Brazilian in Cane. Nedkov looks to be more well rounded. This has the feel of the UFC getting behind a rising star. I'm on the bandwagon. WINNER: Nedkov by TKO in 2nd

Matt: Cane was supposed to be a young gun in the light heavyweight division before he got schooled by two relative old-timers (Rogerio Nogueria and Cyril Diabate). Seems like he's a setup man now, but he's also fighting in his home country while Nedkov has to fight on another continent for the first time in his life. Call it culture shock or the adjustment to the octagon, but I think Nedkov struggles with his environment. WINNER: Cane by unanimous decision

Thiago Tavares vs. Spencer Fisher

Bruce: Now that we're into the prelims the selection process gets even more difficult. Tavares has only two wins in his last six. Fisher has lost three of four, a pair by unanimous decision. Unfortunately for Fisher, I don't think his luck changes this time out. WINNER: Tavares by unanimous decision

Matt: Man, what happened to Spencer Fisher? That guy used to be awesome. In fact, Thiago Tavares has seen better days, too.  It's like someone kidnapped this fight in June 2007 and threw it in a time machine set for Saturday. Loser of this fight probably gets sent packing, and I feel like Tavares already has a foot out the door. Fisher has had a rough stretch but he's got bigger names on his record. I think he keeps his head above water for three more months with a win here. WINNER: Fisher by TKO in 2nd

Rousimar Palhares vs. Dan Miller

Bruce: Given the skill sets of these two fighters, this one will be decided on the ground. Given the UFC experience disparity, I think the odds are in Miller's favor. I look for a hard fought submission victory in this one. WINNER: Miller by submission in 3rd

Matt: Miller's one of the go-to scrappers when someone needs to fill in, and that's exactly what he's doing here. The upside is that his job stays safe even if he takes a few extra losses. The downside is that he is still gonna take those losses.  WINNER: Palhares by submission in 1st

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