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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The UFC's March schedule closes out on Sunday with UFC Fight Night 38 in Brazil, bringing the rematch between Dan Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the main event. There's not a ton in the way of significance on the card, but there are a couple of solid undercard fights promising exciting action. Here are some quick thoughts on the night's main card along with my picks for the event:
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Dan Henderson (Light Heavyweight):
Had this rematch happened at this time last year, I'd have picked Henderson in a heartbeat. But a lot has happened in the last year.
Henderson's showing his age at 43. It's only natural, and it was bound to happen, but his run from Strikeforce back into the UFC from 2009-2011 seems a distant memory compared to his 2013 performances. Yes, he had tough, not necessarily action-packed fights with Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida, and he got blitzed by a surging Vitor Belfort; it's not a condemnation of his skillset, but there's no question he's lost a step, and isn't quite as good as he was when he and Shogun fought two and a half years ago.
As for Shogun, he hit both ends of the spectrum in 2013, shockingly losing by submission to Chael Sonnen, then rebounding with a knockout of James Te Huna in his best performance in years.
Coming into the rematch here, Shogun's running a little momentum behind the knockout win, and of the two fighters has more time in the sport left in him to rebound in the division. Henderson can win this fight, but even in their first bout he faded badly after failing to put Shogun away. That will be to his detriment further this time around, and I think Shogun wins by TKO in the third round.
Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira vs. C.B. Dollaway (Middleweight):
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil winner meets The Ultimate Fighter 7 runner-up in this bout. It's hard to know just where Mutante is in the division right now. He's won two fights by decision in the UFC with one quick first round submission sandwiched in between, and while he's got some good grappling skills, it will take an inferior opponent for him to score the impressive finish.
Dollaway, while not a world beater, is certainly not an inferior opponent in this fight. He's got experience and a fairly well-rounded game. He does a lot of things well, but nothing stands out as spectacular for him. He's had a couple of lengthier layoffs over the last couple years, going 2-1 in three close fights against Jason Miller, Daniel Sarafian, and Tim Boetsch since 2012. I'd imagine we're going to see a similarly close, probably uneventful fight here, and under those circumstances, I'll take Dollaway by decision.
Leonardo Santos vs. Norman Parke (Lightweight):
Another pair of Ultimate Fighter vets hits this fight, this time with two international season winners. Santos won "TUF: Brazil 2" while Parke won "TUF: The Smashes", and both hope to keep winning streaks alive here.
Santos hasn't fought since winning his season last June with a submission over William Macario, but he brings a more than solid 12-3 record, which includes six straight wins.
Parke has picked up three straight decision wins in the UFC, defeating Colin Fletcher, Kazuki Takudome, and Jon Tuck to extend his streak to nine. Both fighters are quite adept on the ground, but Santos is certainly the more dangerous of the two. If Parke can avoid really bad positions, he can pick up a decision here. I think that could happen, so I'll take Parke by decision.
Fabio Maldonado vs. Gian Villante (Light Heavyweight):
After a rough three fight losing streak, Maldonado has bounced back with consecutive decision wins. He's got a granite chin and is willing to engage in brawls. Often that works for him, but he's taken a ton of damage because of it as well.
Villante hits pretty hard himself, and he's the quicker of the two fighters here so he might be able to score more from an output perspective. That said, he doesn't have the same chin, and in what is likely to be a sloppy brawl, I don't know that I like him to do enough to take two rounds. Maldonado by decision.
Michel Prazeres vs. Mairbek Taisumov (Lightweight):
Prazeres has had a couple of fairly dull fights to decision in the UFC thus far, and though he's got eight submission wins to his credit, he's gone to decision as many times as well.
Taisumov picked up a win in his debut in Singapore in January in a solid, but unspectacular performance. Still, he has a high upside, and is really well rounded with ten wins by (T)KO and nine by submission.
This is bound to be a competitive fight between two lightweights trying to show the UFC they belong. At this stage, I think Taisumov will come out better than in his debut for the win in what will probably be a close fight. Taisumov by decision.
Rony Jason vs. Steven Siler (Featherweight):
Rony Jason got knocked out cold by Jeremy Stephens last October and proceeded to put himself on the shelf longer by elbowing through a plexiglass window backstage and cutting himself open. Another "TUF: Brazil" winner, Jason can be highly exciting at his best, and he's got a lot of tools at his disposal to stop a fight.
Siler's got a lot of weapons himself, but he's failed to take the next step in the division when he faces top end competition. Dennis Bermudez is proving to be just that, Darren Elkins is a top 15 guy, Cole Escovedo's an outlier, and Chad Mendes is the likely next contender. Those are Siler's losses dating back to 2009, and he's won nine fights in that stretch.
Of the two, Jason's more likely to score a stoppage, but this is a fight Siler can win with control and staying out of danger. I don't know that Jason can control Siler the same way Bermudez or Elkins did, and if Siler dictates the pace I think he'll win here. Siler by decision.
[Dan Henderson art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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