MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down UFC 226s top bouts, and today, we look at the first four main-card bouts.
UFC Fight Night 134 takes place Sunday at Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany, and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
    UFC Fight Night 134 main-event breakdown: Can Anthony Smith make noise at 205 against ex-champ ‘Shogun’ Rua?UFC co-main event breakdown: Wrestling key to Glover Teixeira vs. Corey Anderson?

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Vitor Miranda (12-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC)

Staple info:
  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 39 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 77″
  • Last fight: (June 25, 2017)
  • Camp: Team Nogueira (Brazil)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 3 finalist
23-8-1 as a pro kickboxer
Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
10 KO victories
2 submission wins
8 first-round finishes
KO power
Building pace and pressure
Accurate jab
Dangerous Thai kicks
^ Variates between leg and head
Strong inside of the clinch
Solid transitional grappling
^ Improved getup game

Abu Azaitar (13-2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC)

Staple info:
  • Height: 5’10” Age: 39 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Michael Arrant (Oct. 7, 2016)
  • Camp: Elite Training Center (Amsterdam/Germany)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
Regional MMA title
European K-1 titles
Amateur muay Thai accolades
7 KO victories
1 Submission wins
7 first-round finishes
KO power
Explosive athlete
^ Closes distance quickly
Heavy hooks and crosses
^ Coming forward and off the counter
Hard Thai kicks and teeps
Strong inside the clinch
Solid wrestling ability
Summary: In a fun meeting of middleweights, Vitor Miranda will welcome Abu Azaitar to the octagon.
Once credited as being the best muay Thai fighter in Brazil, Miranda will attempt to get back to the form that saw him amass a three-fight winning streak under the UFC banner. And after dropping his last two fights by decision, the pressure will be on the 39-year-old Brazilian, who will have to step behind enemy lines to get the win here.
A German-born Morrocan, Azaitar will at least have the comfort of home soil for his UFC debut. The 32-year-old was set to make his first appearance last year against Siyar Bahadurzada before being forced to withdraw due to injury, but now appears ready to introduce himself to mainstream audiences.
Starting off on the feet, we have a matchup of the muay Thai tacticians who embrace the art in different ways.
Miranda, the more fluent flower of the two, will typically start off a bit slower, steadily building his way to a boiling point. Working behind an accurate jab, the 15-year pro puts together his punches smoothly, punctuating his presence with hard leg kicks accordingly. Once able to either lull the rhythm of a fight or misdirect the attention of his enemy, Miranda will go up high with Thai kicks, typically sneaking them in over the shoulders.
Still, as much as Miranda makes his money standing, he will need to be careful not to get taxed with what will be coming back his way.
A striking powerhouse, Azaitar’s combination of explosive athleticism and harnessed technique have earned him multiple titles on the K-1 European circuits, as well as amateur accolades in muay Thai. The 9-year pro seems to work in measured bursts, demonstrating the ability to work on the outside and counter or come forward with meaningful blitzes. Keeping a devastating right hand at the ready, Azaitar will trigger off the smallest openings and offerings presented by his opponents, but also shows the patience to break his enemies to the body before going for the kill.
Nevertheless, I suspect these two styles may clash in a close fashion, making potential clinch and wrestling offense a crucial junction of this contest.
Both men appear to handle themselves well in close, keeping their bases and balance firmly intact while wielding the threats of knees, elbows and the occasional trip. That said, I see a considerable difference in takedown styles and sensibilities that could come into play. Although Azaitar’s background in wrestling (among other areas) can be foggy, he does seem to have some experience in that department or a proclivity toward it at the very least.
Usually going to it to dissuade pressure from his opponents, Azaitar packs an explosive level-changing takedown that could disrupt the game of Miranda. But if Azaitar can get the Brazilan down, he will likely need to work hard to keep him there. Miranda, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a solid transitional grappler who has shown improvements to his getup game in the cage over the latest stretch of his career, as well as keeps a solid defensive game overall.
The oddsmakers and public seem to be liking the UFC newcomer, listing Azaitar -190 and Miranda 165 as of this writing.
Given the shaky sample size from each fighter in recent years (particularly Azaitar), it can be hard to know what exactly we’ll be in for when the bell sounds. Even at Miranda’s best, he needs about a round or so to find his reads and get going. If Azaitar doesn’t show the ability or initiative to take Miranda down or hurt him standing, then the Brazilian could easily ride his rhythm to a building victory.
Ultimately, I’ll be siding with the younger athlete in Azaitar. Both men are durable and hard to stop, which makes me suspect that this battle may be won by the stronger man who is more inclined to look for the takedown. We still have a lot to learn about Azaitar, so I suggest keeping your money away from this one regardless of which side you’re on.

Official pick: Azaitar by decision

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