The swing bout at UFC 142 on Saturday night is a middleweight tilt, as Rousimar Palhares battles Mike Massenzio. As is a common booking theme on the Brazilian cards, the bout features a Brazilian, Palhares, looking to take a victory in front of a partial crowd as he takes on a foreigner in the form of the American wrestler Massenzio.
To say that Palhares is a fighter prone to making things interesting is akin to saying that Mount Everest is a pretty big mountain. Sure, some fighters may take to the cage with a more consistently exciting fighting style than Palhares, but when it comes to providing a bizarrely unique and entertaining viewing experience, there is none better than the stocky Brazilian referred to lovingly as "The Treestump" by fans, both for his squat appearance and, at times, his seemingly dead-wood fight IQ.
Generally this space is reserved for discussing the wins and losses of a fighter's prior outings. For Palhares, the W's and L's seem almost irrelevant. The question isn't did he win, it's did he do something insane, and three of the past four bouts the answer has been "He certainly did." Four fights ago, Palhares took on striker Tomas Drwal, and sunk in a nasty heel hook. All good until Drwal tapped, and the referee intervened, and Palhares just kept on twisting anyhow. For an encore, Palhares latched onto a quick leg lock in his next bout with Nate Marquardt only to see Marquardt pull out of the hold. Rousimar looked to the ref and shrugged out both arms in the universal sign for "what gives?" Marquardt took the free chance to dive through the open arms and knock Palhares out. After pulling off the upset by doing nothing crazy in his bounce-back fight with Dave Branch, Palhares took on Dan Miller and landed a front kick to drop his opponent. After landing a few punches on the still-defending Miller, Palhares took off and jumped onto the cage to celebrate his win, neglecting the part where it was never stopped. Immediately after the restart, Miller dropped Palhares with a hook, nearly ending the fight before Rousimar battled back to win a decision. For bonus crazy points, just watch what Palhares did recently at the ADCC grappling championships.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Few fighters make their strengths more plainly apparent than Palhares. He is coming into the Octagon intent on tearing off your leg, and if you think you can stop him from doing that, good for you. Palhares is small and compact, and a very powerful grappler capable of dragging his foes to the ground. Once on the ground, three of his past four victories have come by way of leg locks, with the only men to survive any time on the ground with Palhares in his last five bouts being Marquardt's knockout special, and Miller, a man who similarly was able to stymie grappling star Demian Maia's offense. Suffice it to say, if your grappling defense isn't top notch, you'd best stay off the ground. As for the weakness, just go ahead and read the prior section. When Palhares is fighting, the bout is never over until it's over, because every second the fight goes on is another second for Palhares to do something crazy and self-harming.
When it comes to picking Palhares to win a fight, it's usually a pretty straightforward proposition. If he's not facing an absolute top-notch MMA grappler, your chosen method of victory is a submission. Palhares has claimed the legs of many a black belt in the ring, and some of the world's best grapplers outside of it. Palhares by first round leg lock is your play to make. As for fantasy betting, Palhares may be one of the surest bets on the card, but at -680 there's little appeal as a straight bet or even as a part of a parlay, as there are simply more worthwhile payoffs to be had with only marginally less risk than is inherent in any bout with the mystery that is Palhares.
Lining up across the cage from "Toquinho" will be Massenzio, a fighter on his second stint within the UFC. With Massenzio a heavy underdog on the books and likely in need of a victory to maintain his status within the promotion, the desperate and overlooked fighter could prove just the right mix of variables to trigger a potentially costly Palhares error.
Massenzio is in the third fight of his second tour within the UFC. His initial run got off to a strong start with a kimura over Drew McFedries, however after a loss to CB Dolloway, a long layoff to injury and then falling to Brian Stann, Massenzio was released. It took only one win outside of the Octagon for Massenzio to earn his second chance by stepping in on late notice to face Krzysztof Soszynski in a bout at light heavyweight. Although Massenzio lost a decision, the fight on a short camp and up a weight class earned him another chance in the UFC, and he capitalized by defeating former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Steve Cantwell.
Strengths and Weaknesses
This in interesting fight for Massenzio as what would normally be his gameplan is almost certain to be the complete antithesis of his gameplan for this fight. A collegiate wrestler, Massenzio is normally reliant on bringing opponents down to ground and pound them en route to opening up a submission opportunity or winning a dominant decision. With Palhares, however, Massenzio is almost certain to aim to keep the fight standing for the duration, hoping instead to outpoint the BJJ specialist and possibly even land a KO blow. Massenzio has not shown much stand up in his time with the UFC, with the majority of his fights taking place on the mat, but if he is to come out a winner this time it will have to be on the feet.
This doesn't look like a great fight for Massenzio, who hasn't proven himself well rounded on the big stage yet and who will be forced to stay away from the area in which he's proved himself most-proficient. The always enticing +2 option is available for this fight, and if you're going to take it your best bet is likely hoping for Massenzio to score the upset by finding the Brazilian's chin early, before there's a chance for any grappling, with a quick KO victory. That said, you're better off staying away. As always, the +2 tends to come for a reason. With +640 on the fantasy lines Massenzio may be worth taking a small play on in the event Rousimar is Rousimar to a costly degree, but there are better ways to spend your fantasy dollar, as well.