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UFC Fight Night 77 Preview: 5 storylines to watch, betting odds & predictions

Vitor Belfort takes on Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 77.

A trilogy going back to the days of PRIDE in 2006 comes to a conclusion Saturday night as the Octagon returns to Brazil for the first time since August for UFC Fight Night 77 from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The event kicks off four straight Saturdays of UFC action in November, and is the first of eight fight cards between November 7 and December 19. The action kicks off with preliminary card action on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 PM eastern time before moving over to FS1 for more preliminary fights at 8 PM eastern time, all leading into the main card on FS1 at 10 PM eastern time.

The headline bout is the third fight between former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Vitor Belfort and former PRIDE and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson as each man looks to be the one with two wins against the other. The UFC brings a very solid card down to Brazil as the co-main event is a light heavyweight bout between contenders Glover Teixeira and Patrick Cummins. Also on the card is fast-rising bantamweight prospect Thomas Almeida and UFC veterans including Clay Guida, Gleison Tibau, Fabio Maldonado and Thiago Tavares. Let's dive deeper into the fight card and give you five storylines to keep an eye on Saturday night during UFC Fight Night 77.

1. Who wins the rubber match between Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson?

Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson will meet in a trilogy bout in the headliner of UFC Fight Night 77, and if they were ever going to fight for a third time, now seems to be the best time for both men as they continue to enter the twilight of their careers. Both of their prior bouts came when they competed as light heavyweights. Henderson won a decision over Belfort in PRIDE in October 2006, but Belfort avenged that defeat when he knocked out Henderson in the Octagon in November 2013. Belfort's knockout win over Henderson came in Brazil, where they will compete on Saturday night, but also came at the height of Belfort being under the suspension of bending the rules while competing with an exemption for using testosterone replacement therapy. Henderson also used TRT, but he didn't have the obvious transformation or killing instinct that Belfort seemed to gain from it.

Belfort looked completely different when he took on Chris Weidman at UFC 187 in May, which was the first time he fought since the November 2013 win over Henderson. He was much smaller and didn't have the same explosiveness and ended up losing by TKO in the first round. Meanwhile, Henderson is coming off a 28-second knockout win over Tim Boetsch in June, showing he still has some fight left. Prior to that win, Henderson had lost five of his last six fights, and many were wondering if it was time for Henderson to hang up the gloves. Henderson still has the big power in his right hand, and he has gone to strictly relying on that in fights, going away from the power wrestling game. It makes sense as he has gotten older, but trading fists in a fight these days aren't as easy as they used to be as Henderson's chin has faded.

If the Belfort that showed up against Weidman shows up once again, he might not be around much longer. That version of Belfort is going to have a tough time competing in the middleweight division. Henderson still has the big right hand that can end a fight at any moment, but his chin is no longer what it once was. He has slowed down as well. Belfort is looking better visually than he did leading up to the Weidman fight, and he still has the better overall striking. Henderson would be wise to use his wrestling, but that probably won't happen as his gameplans have become very specific in the latter days of his career. Belfort is going to strike and has a full arsenal at his disposal. It remains to be seen if he still has his knockout power from a few years ago, and he will certainly have confidence after knocking out Henderson in their last bout. It's a rubber match and one that is tough to call. I like Henderson to score a knockout win.

2. Will Glover Teixeira continue his climb back into the 205-pound title picture?

Glover Teixeira has fought once for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, coming up short against Jon Jones at UFC 172 in April 2014 after scoring 20 consecutive wins to earn his title opportunity. While Jones simply outclassed Teixeira, with his impressive record before the title shot, and the depth of the light heavyweight title picture being shallow, a few rebound wins could've landed Teixeira another opportunity at winning the title. However, Teixeira dropped his next fight when he was dominated by Phil Davis at UFC 179 in October 2014. With two straight losses and Jones dominating the competition, it was looking like Teixeira was out of the title picture all together.

Flash forward to today where Daniel Cormier is the current champion at 205 pounds, and Teixeira is coming off an impressive submission win over Ovince Saint Preux in August. There is new life in the division, though Jones has recently been reinstated from suspension, but Teixeira is back up to fourth in the light heavyweight rankings, and knocking on the door of getting back into title contention. He fights Patrick Cummins in the co-main event on Saturday night, and it is a big opportunity for Cummins to establish himself as a threat in the division. It is a dangerous fight for Teixeira against a strong wrestler, but Teixeira has the big experience edge and will have the crowd behind him. Teixeira has some of the best striking in the division, and if he can block the takedown attempts from Cummins, this fight is set up for him to take the win.

3. Will Thomas Almeida extend his perfect record to 21-0?

Thomas Almeida is one of the brightest prospects in the UFC, and perhaps the top prospect in the tough bantamweight division, one that also includes skilled prospects in Aljamain Sterling and Cody Garbrandt. His record currently stands at a perfect 20-0, and he just turned 24-years-old. Not only has he won all 20 of his professional bouts, an astonishing 19 of those wins have come by stoppage, with 15 coming by knockout and four coming by submission. His lone decision win came over Tim Gorman in his UFC debut, and he has backed that up with knockout wins over Yves Jabouin and Brad Pickett. The Pickett win was impressive as Almeida came close to being on the brink of defeat in the first round, only to come back and knockout Pickett out with a spectacular flying knee. Also, he has earned performance bonuses in all three of his UFC bouts.

Needless to say, Almeida has proven himself to be a legitmate threat and prospect at 135 pounds. It has been said that even Urijah Faber has once turned down a fight against Almeida. He has yet to fight a true top-flight bantamweight contender, but he does get a tough opponent on Saturday night in Anthony Birchak. Birchak is just 1-1 in his short UFC career, but he is coming off an impressive knockout win over Joe Soto in June. Birchak is 12-2 in his career and a promising prospect in the bantamweight division, and he is a heavy-handed striker. While Birchak doesn't have the experience that Almeida's last two opponents had, at this point, Birchak is the toughest test to date for Almeida. It is an interesting battle between two bright prospects, and one is going to prove they belong in the upper-tier of the division. I see Almeida expanding his record to 21-0 in impressive fashion.

4. With a fairly stacked card, what fight is flying under the radar?

The UFC Fight Night 77 card is a fairly stacked card, especially for a free-televised event taking place in Brazil. All six of the main card fights are solid bouts with promising fighters working their way up their respective divisions, and the preliminary card has a solid mix of UFC veterans and more promising prospects, with some on very solid win streaks. One fight on the main card I wanna keep an eye on is the lightweight bout between Gilbert Burns and Rashid Magomedov. Burns is a perfect 10-0 in his MMA career and is one of the most decorated jiu-jitsu fighters in the sport, and has won nine of his ten fights by stoppage. Magomedov will be appearing in his 21st career fight and is looking to extend an 11-fight win streak. He has yet to fight in 2015 after making his first three appearances inside the Octagon in 2014.

The big fight to watch in the preliminary card, and really the one flying under the radar, is the featherweight bout between long-time UFC veterans Clay Guida and Thiago Tavares. Guida made his UFC debut in 2006, and Tavares made his in 2007, and both have been in the promotion since then. This will be Guida's 22nd UFC appearance while it will be the 17th UFC fight for Tavares. Both men fought for a long time as lightweights, and despite both being around for so long, they surprisingly have never been booked for a fight against each other. Both have been the recepients of numerous post-fight bonus awards- Guida has won nine and Tavares has won six. And, both have dropped to 145 pounds looking for a new start at title contention. Both have had mixed success as Guida is 3-2 at featherweight, and Tavares is 1-1. A bout between these two could have easily been a co-main event of a fight night card in the Spike TV days, but is buried down on the prelims on this fight card. It definitely is a fight that needs to be watched as it has the makings of some fun action.

5. What else is there to look for on the card?

Other solid action on the card includes two other main card bouts- a lightweight bout between Alex Oliveira and Piotr Hallmann, and a light heavyweight bout between Fabio Maldonado and former "TUF" winner Corey Anderson. Oliveira fights for the fourth time in the UFC in 2015, but will be fighting for the first time with a full training camp. Hallmann is looking to end a two-fight losing skid. Maldonado is looking to rebound from a loss to Quinton Jackson at UFC 186 in April, and at the same time, is looking to add to his UFC light heavyweight record for most significant strikes landed. Anderson replaced our own MMA contributor to the site, Tom Lawlor, who was forced out due to a concussion, and he is looking to score a second straight win after defeating Jan Blachowicz at UFC 191 in September.

In other preliminary card action, Gleison Tibau will fight for the 26th time inside the Octagon, tying Matt Hughes and Frank Mir for second-most all time. He takes on Abel Trujillo, who looks to get back into the win column. Both men lost to Tony Ferguson in their last bouts. Yan Cabral looks to improve on his 12-1 record when he takes on Johnny Case, who has won eleven straight fights. Kevin Souza looks to remain undefeated in the UFC when he puts his ten-fight win streak on the line against Chas Skelly, who has a 14-1 career record and the distinction of having the record of fewest days between UFC wins, as he won two fights in 13 days in 2014. In a solid match-up during the UFC Fight Pass portion of the preliminary card, Pedro Munhoz, who has one career loss, will take on Jimmie Rivera, who comes into Saturday night on a 16-fight win streak. Both men are other solid prospects in the bantamweight division.

Full UFC Fight Night 77 Fight Card, Betting Odds & Predictions


Middleweights: (#4) Vitor Belfort vs. (#12) Dan Henderson
Betting Odds:
Belfort (-360), Henderson (+300)
Prediction: Henderson by knockout in round 2

Light Heavyweights: (#4) Glover Teixeira vs. (#9) Patrick Cummins
Betting Odds:
Teixeira (-440), Cummins (+350)
Prediction: Teixeira by knockout in round 2

Bantamweights: (#8) Thomas Almeida vs. Anthony Birchak
Betting Odds:
Almeida (-440), Birchak (+350)
Prediction: Almeida by knockout in round 1

Lightweights: Alex Oliveira vs. Piotr Hallmann
Betting Odds:
Oliveira (-200), Hallmann (+170)
Prediction: Oliveira by decision

Lightweights: Gilbert Burns vs. Rashid Magomedov
Betting Odds:
Burns (+140), Magomedov (-160)
Prediction: Burns by submission in round 2

Light Heavyweights: (#12) Fabio Maldonado vs. (#14) Corey Anderson
Betting Odds:
Maldonado (+400), Anderson (-500)
Prediction: Anderson by decision


Lightweights: Gleison Tibau vs. Abel Trujillo
Betting Odds:
Tibau (-125), Trujillo (+105)
Prediction: Tibau by decision

Lightweights: Yan Cabral vs. Johnny Case
Betting Odds:
Cabral (+205), Case (-245)
Prediction: Case by knockout in round 3

Featherweights: (#11) Clay Guida vs. Thiago Tavares
Betting Odds:
Guida (-165), Tavares (+145)
Prediction: Guida by decision

Featherweights: Kevin Souza vs. Chas Skelly
Betting Odds:
Souza (+140), Skelly (-160)
Prediction: Skelly by decision


Welterweights: Viscardi Andrade vs. Gasan Umalatov
Betting Odds:
Andrade (+105), Umalatov (-125)
Prediction: Umalatov by decision

Bantamweights: Pedro Munhoz vs. Jimmie Rivera
Betting Odds:
Munhoz (-175), Rivera (+155)
Prediction: Rivera by decision

Flyweights: Bruno Korea vs. Matheus Nicolau
Betting Odds:
Korea (+155), Nicolau (-175)
Prediction: Korea by submission in round 2