Charles Oliveira and Glover Teixeira losing UFC title bouts in 2022 were huge blows to Brazil in MMA, but UFC Fight Pass Brazil commentator Andre Azevedo sees the glass as half full.
“Crisis? Quite the opposite,” Azevedo said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Trocacao Franca. We’re at a wonderful moment. If you divide belts by country, it’s all very spread. The United States has only one: Aljamain Sterling’s. You have Kyrgyzstan, Russia.
“We’re in a good moment and we have promising Brazilians in every weight class.”
Brazil holds the titles in four weight categories, with Alex Pereira at midweight and Deiveson Figueiredo as flyweight. Amanda Nunes is in second place in both divisions. If Figueiredo retains against Brandon Moreno and Glover Teixeira regains the light heavyweight belt versus Jamahal Hill on the same night on Jan. 21 at UFC 283, Brazil will have five of the 12 UFC titles by the end of the month.
“Accidents will happen, no one will win all the time,” he said, “but the [expectation] is that we end 2023 with a lot of people well-ranked in every division in the UFC.”
Azevedo can see many Brazilians earning title shots in 2023 and adding more gold to the country in Brazil, including Oliveira, Taila Santos, and Ketlen Vieira.
“There’s a great group at strawweight too,” Azevedo said. “There’s Jessica Andrade, Amanda Lemos, Marina Rodriguez, Amanda Ribas, Mackenzie Dern, Luana Pinheiro, Polyana Viana [and Virna Jandiroba]. This division has eight Brazilians.
“But Weili Zhu is hardy, man. I even joked she’s Shevchenk-ing. She was like “Who’s stopping her?” in the last fights. This woman is a tank.”
The UFC commentator believes the odds that Gilbert Burns gets another shot at the 170-pound title in 2023 are “more difficult” since he faces Neil Magny at UFC 283, but will likely still stay behind Khamzat Chimaev and Colby Covington even with a win.
On the other hand, Brazilians have already kicked off 2023 well-ranked in other divisions.
” We already have Poatan at middleweight but we also have some Brazilians,” Azevedo stated. “[Andre Muniz] ‘Sergipano’ is the closest one [to the top] now other than [Paulo Costa] ‘Borrachinha’, who’s on this [contract] imbroglio. At 205, we have Glover, and at heavyweight we have [Jailton Almeida] ‘Malhadinho,’ who I think will be a top-five [fighter] by the end of the year. It’s still too soon for him to fight for the belt, unless the stars really align for him.
“[Almeida] is hungry and he doesn’t get hurt, he doesn’t get hit,” he continued. “He finishes his fights quickly. This kid is unique. This man is a rare specimen. He can fight at both heavyweight and light weight. He is strong, technical and can take down anyone and catch them. This kid is athletic and strong, as well as charismatic. This kid if the total package.”
Azevedo believes Oliveira can work his way back to the top at lightweight in 2023 if he’s impressive in his first fight back, and says a rematch with Islam Makhachev would be his dream fight to call this year.
Can “do Bronx” bounce back and end Makhachev’s impressive run, though?
“He should look back at what failed and devise a new strategy to defeat Makhachev,” Azevedo stated. “The odds of him doing the same thing and getting frustrated again are big, right? It could happen. I’m not in his shoes and I’m not a professional fighter, but that game didn’t work that night. Will you trust the same game? Cool. It could work. You’re Charles. But you have already lost the second one. Look at the openings Makhachev has given you, if he has given any opening to attack, and come prepared.”