Thiago Alves (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Toe-to-Toe: UFC Fight Night 67 Preview and Predictions

UFC Fight Night 67 will be home sweet home for the Brazilians as the UFC heads to Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil. Each fight on this card features at least one Brazilian competing and, in a couple of cases, both fighters hail from the country.

The main event delivers a couple of familiar names who were formerly part of the makeup of the top of the welterweight division. Thiago Alves looks to extend his winning streak to three straight fights against Carlos Condit. Condit is making a return to the Octagon after a little over a year off due to a knee injury. Condit lost by TKO to Tyron Woodley in his last fight at UFC 171.

In the co-main event, featherweight Nik Lentz travels south to face Brazilian submission ace Charles Oliveira. Lentz and Oliveira previously fought at UFC Live 4 in 2011. The fight ended in a no-contest due to an illegal knee thrown by Oliveira. The two have been on similar paths ever since, with Oliveira going 5-3 and Lentz posting a 4-3 mark.


At lightweight, K.J. Noons looks to come back with a win after his last fight ended in a no-contest due to an eye poke. His opponent will be Alex Oliveira, who is looking to get back in the win column following a loss to Gilbert Burns in March.

Lightweights Norman Parke and Francisco Trinaldo, welterweights Wendell Oliveira and Darren Till, and light heavyweights Ryan Jimmo and Francimar Barroso round out the main card.

The first portion of the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night 67 begins at 7 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. The remainder of the prelims begin at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The main card kicks off at 10 p.m. ET and also airs on Fox Sports 1. Combat Press writers Vince Carey and Sal DeRose preview the event in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.

In 2009, Thiago Alves was a surging welterweight fighting for the title. Since his failed championship bid, he has gone just 4-3. However, he has won his two most recent fights after returning from more than a two-year layoff. Are we witnessing the beginning of an Alves march back to contender status, or will his latest opponent, Carlos Condit, put an end to any such notion?

Carey: Win or lose this weekend, Alves is back in business as a top welterweight. With tough grapplers like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Georges St-Pierre and Jake Shields all sitting at the top of the heap around the time that Alves started his slump, it’s not surprising that Alves had some problems during that stretch. However, the division seems far more suitable for the Brazilian’s skill set following his long layoff. The majority of the top guys in the division could have a hell of a time taking Alves to the mat, and there aren’t a ton of welterweights that are on the same level as “Pitbull” on the feet.

Condit is one of the few guys who will be able to hang with Alves in the stand-up, which is why I’m so excited to see these two go toe to toe. Both guys are extremely technical and mix up their strikes as well as anyone in the division, but this fight may come down to Condit’s combination of striking and speed against the brute force and power of Alves.

Condit is likely to do something similar to what he did against Nick Diaz a few years ago. He will attempt to use his movement and footwork to keep a stalking Alves at bay on Saturday, but the difference between Alves and Diaz is that Diaz didn’t throw leg kicks that looked like they could send the entire leg flying from the body once they landed. With Condit coming off a major knee surgery, there’s no way that his legs won’t be targeted by Alves. If constant movement is a major part of Condit’s strategy, then attacking the legs is going to be the best way for Alves to shut down Condit.

The ACL injury Condit suffered last year is a scary factor in this fight, but we’ve seen a couple of fighters come back looking like they were at full strength following similar injuries lately. Condit is quite capable of doing the same. Alves could land something vicious and early to put this one away, but Condit can stick and move with the best of them. If Condit can survive a couple of rounds, then the former interim champion should be able to pull off the win. Alves has never had the most trustworthy gas tank and this will be his first five-round fight in almost four years, so if Condit can make the Brazilian striker work and tire him out a bit early, then I like “The Natural Born Killer” by decision.

DeRose: I said this for the UFC 187 predictions regarding John Dodson, but there seem to be plenty of knee injuries to top fighters lately. Condit is just one of the guys on that list, and the success of other returning fighters bolsters my confidence in Condit’s chances.

Condit is a heavy striker, and a bum knee could do a lot to hamper his movement in the cage, as well as playing a role in his ability to defend takedowns and carry the weight of his opponent.

Then, there’s the gas tank of Alves, which my colleague already noted as one of the Brazilian’s weak points. Since his title fight with St-Pierre, Alves has seemed to be a different fighter. This was a man who was near the top of the division, but he has gone 4-3 since the championship affair. Alves is most likely going to have trouble in this fight facing somebody like Condit who, if healthy, can pose a lot of problems on the feet for Alves. If Alves doesn’t land the knockout blow, he won’t win this fight. If it goes the distance, Condit takes the fight.

Condit has a six-inch reach advantage over Alves, and he will most likely use that advantage to keep Alves on the outside and away from landing the power blow. So either Condit’s output picks apart Alves on the way to a decision, or Alves succumbs to strikes in the middle or late portion of the fight.

As far as contender status goes for Alves, those days are probably behind him. His previous losses are enough to suggest that he’ll struggle against the current crop of top-level talent in the welterweight division. Condit is just another guy in the top tier of the rankings who will claim a victory over Alves.

Featherweights Nik Lentz and Charles Oliveira have been grinding away in the UFC for more than half a decade now. They met once before, in 2011, in a fight that ended in a no-contest after Lentz ate an illegal knee from Oliveira and couldn’t continue. So, which fighter will finally pick up a win that’s four years in the making?

DeRose: After four years, fans can just disregard the last fight. Both fighters have grown since their fight ended with an illegal knee.

This fight will match up wrestling against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to see which discipline will walk away with bragging rights. Lentz is the top-notch wrestler, and he has used those skills to win four of his last five fights. Oliveira, the jiu-jitsu specialist, is now riding a three-fight winning streak after dropping back-to-back fights to top featherweights Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson.

Oliveira is going to be comfortable on his back in this fight. He is a very good grappler and has 11 submissions to his credit. Four of Oliveira’s last five victories have been submissions that range from calf slicers to anaconda chokes and all points in between. The Brazilian is also three inches taller and five inches longer in reach than Lentz. The extra inches could help Oliveira more easily wrap up a triangle choke when Lentz inevitably scores the takedown.

This is probably going to be a back-and-forth fight with each guy scoring equally, therefore leading to some very close rounds. Lentz may score on the takedowns, but Oliveira will threaten Lentz at least once with a submission. It just comes down to if Oliveira is able to finish or Lentz is able to wiggle out.

If Lentz is going to try to win this fight based on his wrestling, he can make no mistakes on the ground. That is a tough thing to do against a guy like Oliveira, who has such a wide range of submissions. It will be hard for Lentz to not leave himself open at least once for some submission.

My gut has let me down before, but I have a feeling that Oliveira is going to submit Lentz.

Carey: These two put on a really close and exciting fight the first time they met. Even four years later, it’s not difficult to envision the bout unfolding close to the same way this time around. Both men have definitely grown as fighters over the last few years and have become much better in pretty much all facets of MMA over that time, but their styles and game plans have remained largely the same.

Lentz has always been a guy who likes to press forward with strikes in order to set up his takedowns, and he did have some success with the strategy the first time these two met. The problem he had on that night will likely reveal itself again the weekend, though. Of course, that has to do with Oliveira being one of the most crafty and aggressive fighters in the sport off his back. It’s damn near impossible to completely stifle Oliveira’s submission game, something Lentz learned pretty quickly the last time they fought. The best “The Carny” can do is hope to get the fight to the floor and try to avoid and escape as many submissions as possible.

Even if Lentz decided to forgo his usual strategy in order to avoid Oliveira’s submissions, he’d be in for a rough night of work on Saturday. Oliveira’s striking is one of the more underrated parts of the Brazilian’s game, especially when he completely opens up and throws some of his wild and creative techniques from a distance. Lentz’s chances suffer if this fight stays standing, so he’s going to have to play with fire a little bit if he wants the victory.

I’m going to agree with my colleague and take Oliveira to win this weekend. Lentz could definitely score takedown after takedown and grind his way to victory, as he’s done so many times in the past, but Oliveira can finish the fight at any moment. Oliveira lands a submission at some point and takes home the win he gave up with an illegal knee four years ago.

Since storming into the UFC with a seven-second knockout of Anthony Perosh, Ryan Jimmo has gone 2-3 while alternating wins and losses. Jimmo was previously on an unbeaten run of 17 straight wins before he started hitting some bumps in the road. Can Jimmo find a way to establish another winning streak in his career? Does it start with Francimar Barroso on foreign soil?

Carey: On the bright side, Jimmo’s going to continue his current trend of alternating wins and losses this weekend, so he should move his overall UFC record to a respectable 4-3. Outside of that, though, there aren’t a ton of positives for Jimmo going forward. If Jimmo had been suffering losses to guys like Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson, that would be one thing. But Jimmo was soundly defeated by Ovince Saint Preux and Jimi Manuwa, who are solid top-10 competitors, granted, but not the kind of fighters to whom Jimmo should drop such one-sided affairs if he wants to crack the top 10 one day.

Jimmo’s MFC career relied heavily on decision victories, but he’s actually been fun to watch inside the Octagon. He’s pretty entertaining both while fighting and on the microphone after his wins. However, he’s never really looked like a top-tier fighter whenever he’s gotten a step up in competition. Now, even a winning streak of more than two or three fights seems unlikely. He will get past Barroso this weekend, but he’s probably looking at a fight with someone like Patrick Cummins or Fabio Maldonado next. His odds aren’t great against those two men or anyone else sitting in the Nos. 10-15 range in the UFC’s rankings.

DeRose: Yeah, Jimmo will have trouble with anybody in that range in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. He hasn’t beaten anybody of high caliber yet in his six UFC fights. Jimmo entered the promotion on a hot streak, but he has become stuck in a quagmire of guys who are just breaking the top 15 or were fringe top-10 fighters when they met Jimmo.

Jimmo does have power in his hands, as evidenced by two of his three UFC victories coming via a straight knockout. If Jimmo gets the right opportunity, he will put his opponent on their back.

Jimmo will get the win in Brazil. Barroso isn’t somebody that should scare Jimmo. The Brazilian is possibly on his way out of the UFC after suffering a loss to Hans Stringer in his last fight. He is looking at a possible two-fight losing streak if he cannot get past Jimmo.

Barroso isn’t a big name, nor is he high up in the rankings. He is somebody Jimmo should dominate. At 33 years old, Jimmo isn’t likely to make a run at the title. However, if Jimmo can find a way to put together a winning streak similar to the one he had when entering the UFC, he’ll certainly make it an interesting discussion.

“Stormin’” Norman Parke suffered the first blemish on his UFC record in his last fight, but prior to that The Ultimate Fighter: Nations winner was slowly but surely working his way up the 155-pound ladder. Can Parke erase the setback and get back on track against Francisco Trinaldo this weekend, or will the battle-tested Brazilian prove that Parke’s not even close to a spot in the rankings?

DeRose: Both of these guys have historically failed to break through against top competition. Parke had one shot earlier this year against Gleison Tibau, but he failed. Trinaldo had two separate opportunities to do the same. The Brazilian faced Michael Chiesa and Tibau and was on the wrong side of the unanimous decision in both fights.

Parke could eventually break the top 15, but a win here wouldn’t put him in the rankings. Right now, the 15th overall fighter at lightweight is Jorge Masvidal. The fighters ahead of Masvidal are Al Iaquinta and Beneil Dariush. In order to crack the rankings, Parke needs more than a win on fight night. Parke was getting close before he lost to Tibau in January. He was on a four-fight winning streak, with a draw mixed in, but he hadn’t really defeated anybody of name value to earn consideration for a top-15 ranking. Tibau would have been Parke’s biggest win by far, and Tibau isn’t even a top-15 fighter.

I hate picking against Brazilians when they fight on their home soil. Things tend to go a bit haywire when they get the home advantage, and decisions that seem to go in favor of the foreign fighter end up going the way of the Brazilian. Parke hasn’t really been a finisher in the UFC — five of his six fights went to the scorecards — and a Parke finish in this fight is unlikely. That inevitably leads us to the judges, and Trinaldo will either outwork Parke through three rounds or end up stealing a decision.

Carey: Yep, this fight is a nightmare to try to pick. Neither guy has an obvious advantage in the stand-up or on the ground. With no signs of real finishing ability from either man, this feels like a toss-up.

However, Parke has never looked like he didn’t belong with any of his Octagon opponents. He lost a tough fight to Tibau, but Tibau is one of the longest tenured guys on the UFC roster and represents a solid test for anyone looking to get into the top 15. Parke couldn’t get the job done and obviously wasn’t ready for the next step in competition quite yet, but he wasn’t too far off. Parke could get back on track pretty quickly if he gets a win this weekend.

If this fight was on U.S. or European soil, it would be no problem picking Parke to score a decision win. However, I’m also hesitant to pick against Brazilians in their native land. Furthermore, Trinaldo is a pretty solid lightweight when he’s on his game. He could definitely control Parke and earn a legitimate decision win.

I’m going against my better judgement and taking Parke despite the homefield advantage for Trinaldo. The Northern Ireland native is a little faster and should throw a lot more volume, and that should be enough to prove he deserves a decision nod.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Carey: I’m having a harder time picking a winner between Mirsad Bektic and Lucas Martins than anything else on the card, so I’ll go with the featherweights for my sleeper fight.

Bektic has looked really good in his two UFC wins thus far. He took out Paul Redmond and the underrated Chas Skelly to improve on his undefeated record. Bektic may not be stopping people left and right, but the Bosnian fighter has been solid enough thus far and could move into the top 20 of the division with an impressive win over Martins, who’s a really good featherweight in his own right.

Martins may only be 3-2 inside the Octagon, but his wins have been spectacular. He’s proven to be dangerous until the final bell, with two of his three stoppage wins in the Octagon coming inside the third frame.

Bektic will likely look to use some grappling and control to shut down the explosive Brazilian, but Martins could end this at any time. That’s what makes this fight very interesting.

DeRose: I’ll go with Nicolas Dalby and Elizeu Zaleski.

Dalby is undefeated and could very well be a part of the future crop of top fighters at welterweight. Say what you will about his record and his opposition, but a 13-0 mark is still an impressive record regardless of who it came against.

Zaleski is a finisher, which makes this fight extremely interesting. Zaleski has only gone to a decision three times in his career, and he’s gone 1-2 in those fights. His last four contests have all been finishes. Zaleski hasn’t gone to the scorecards since September 2012.

Both guys are making their UFC debuts, but I’m always more weary of the guys who compiled their records on the regional Brazilian circuit.

Pair this card with…

DeRose: A night at the bar of your choosing. I’m not going to sit here and try to make this event out to be a can’t-miss night of fights. The card is really filled with a bunch of mid-tier fighters, outside of a few guys. This begins a string of UFC cards that will occur on a weekly basis until the end of June, and fatigue might set in from watching so many cards. If you can’t miss this card, but still want to take my advice, I’m sure there are bars that will be airing the Fox Sports 1 card.

Carey: This may not be a can’t-miss night of fights, but Carlos Condit is a can’t-miss fighter, especially against someone guaranteed to bring the fight, like Alves is apt to do. I totally understand fight fatigue and I’ll probably choose either this or next week’s card to take a little break myself, but if I do, then I’m pairing this one with my DVR. The main event should be fantastic and I’m going to make sure I catch that fight, even if it’s a little late.

Fight Picks

Fight Carey’s Pick DeRose’s Pick
Main Card (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)
WW: Carlos Condit vs. Thiago Alves Condit Condit
FW: Nik Lentz vs. Charles Oliveira Oliveira Oliveira
LW: K.J. Noons vs. Alex Oliveira Noons Oliveira
LHW: Francimar Barroso vs. Ryan Jimmo Jimmo Jimmo
LW: Norman Parke vs. Francisco Trinaldo Parke Trinaldo
WW: Wendell Oliveira vs. Darren Till Till Oliveira
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET)
FW: Damon Jackson vs. Rony Jason Jason Jason
FlyW: Jussier “Formiga” da Silva vs. Wilson Reis Formiga Formiga
WW: Nicolas Dalby vs. Elizeu Zaleski Dalby Dalby
FW: Mirsad Bektic vs. Lucas Martins Bektic Bektic
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. ET)
Women’s StrawW: Ericka Almeida vs. Juliana Lima Almeida Lima
WW: Tom Breese vs. Luiz Dutra Dutra Dutra