UFC Fight Night 29 is coming live from Brazil on Wednesday and just like other Brazilian cards it features a number of athletes from that native country. There are four fights on the card that may not lend themselves for exciting bouts but are very important within their respective weight classes. For some, winning these bouts can place them in the top ten of their weight class or even on the next contenders list.
Mike Pierce and Rousimar Palhares are set to do battle in the welterweight division in a fight that pits two very dangerous style match-ups against each other.
Pierce is an anomaly within the group as he is a tough out for nearly anyone within the welterweight division. He's lost three times in the Octagon to Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks; three names that stay among the highest rankings in the weight class. If he can put away Palhares and do so with a highlight reel knock out finish, it would be hard to deny him placement among the top ten within the weight class.
In moving down to 170 Rousimar has a tough test in front of him because Pierce has the wrestling ability to stifle his BJJ attacks. Everyone knows his game plan of going for leg locks but he's so good in that position it's often hard to stop him. One quick scramble on the mat can open up the positioning needed to coax the tap out, but Pierce has shown the ability to be smart in these positions in the past. With 2 straight defeats on his ledger, Rousimar needs this win or he can find himself on the way out of the UFC.
T.J. Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao should be fighting for a shot at Renan Barao when they meet on Wednesday. Both competitors are riding a four fight win streak and finishing opponents along the way.
The Team Alpha Male standout has knocked out two opponents in a row while submitting the fighter before that. Since his 2011 defeat to John Dodson he's grown to become someone worth watching in this bantamweight division. The addition to Duane Ludwig to the TAM camp has made that group more dangerous with their hands and Dillashaw has proven that in his two 2013 outings.
Assuncao has quietly climbed the ladder at 135 as he's finished two of his last four opponents. His last defeat came to Erik Koch at UFC 128 where he fell to an aggressive fighter who can put power shots together. It's anticipated for Dillashaw to be the underdog coming into those fight but he has the tools and the instructor to take advantage of Raphael's main weakness.
Erick Silva versus Dong Hyun Kim is the co-main event of the evening and the first that features four accomplished grapplers.
While most appreciate Silva for his high level striking, which he will most likely employ against the Korean standout, he has the abilities to survive on the mat against Kim's Judo attack. Kim has been very consistent in the welterweight division since 2008 but has never been recognized as a potential title challenger. He recently defeated another dangerous striker in Siyar Bahadurzada and has shown that he can deal with opponents who like to add pressure on the feet.
Silva has to be careful not to be controlled like he was against Fitch back at UFC 153. The wrestler was able to apply the pressure that wore the Brazilian down in the second and third rounds of the contest. Expect Silva to come out quickly with the intention of ending this fight in the first round because the longer it goes the more it plays into Kim's game plan. A win for either fighter can place them within the top five names of welterweight contenders.
Demian Maia versus Jake Shields is a grappling fan's fantasy as the main event. While this has all the makings to be a slow fight that is contested on the ground; the level of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that is set to be on display will excite many who enjoy that aspect of mixed martial arts.
What's important to note, is that in fights like this the striking game tends to come into play as both athletes will have the skills to stifle their opponent's ground attacks. If that occurs Maia holds the advantage as his striking has consistently improved over the years. While he has re-dedicated himself to his grappling roots since moving down to 170, do not be surprised if Maia shows his kickboxing skills against Jake who has often struggled on the feet.
A clear cut victory for Maia can place his as the next contender for the winner of the Hendricks vs. St. Pierre matchup later this year.
UFC Fight Night 29 is a very solid card that will feature some main card bouts worth paying attention to. Each one of the fighters mentioned are close key ranking positions within their weight class so walking out of the Octagon on Wednesday has become that much more important.