Taking to the UFC Fight Night 44: Swanson vs Stephens fight card from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas this weekend (June 28, 2014) are two streaking middleweights who are looking to rise up the ranks with another convincing victory on the big stage, as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace Antonio Braga Neto looks to reel in his second submission win in the UFC against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 vet. Both are riding high on win streaks, so don’t expect either fighter to play it safe in this one.
Hester is a physical specimen who can keep this fight upright if he uses his athleticism and speed to his advantage this Saturday against Neto. He did succumb to a much lesser submission threat in Jimmy Quinlan on the show, but I’ve seen vast improvements in every facet of the game since then. Four of his last five wins have ended within the time limit, all by way of KO. His last fight with Andy Enz at UFC 169: Barao vs Faber 2 was a unanimous decision win.
Neto, a Jiu Jitsu world champion, is in the same boat with his last four wins being submission finishes. The lanky middleweight made quick work of Anthony “Lionheart” Smith in his Octagon debut last June–a kneebar submission in under two minutes–and has gone inactive since that point, making this the longest layoff in his eight year pro career.
Does that become a factor in his second UFC appearance against the much more powerful Hester?
Neto’s bum rush style of Jiu Jitsu may not be as successful against someone with the physical tools Hester possesses; he’s rangy but muscular as well, which could make it difficult for Neto to mount any sort of offensive attacks early in the fight.
I’m liking Hester’s ability to stay at range while carefully picking his shots and avoiding the BJJ expert’s fight-ending subs in the first few minutes. I like his power muay thai style to lead him to victory in this one, and I believe he has just enough awareness of submissions so he can stay out of danger long enough to land the money shot.
Assuming Neto will struggle getting this fight to the floor in the first few minutes by Hester making the Brazilian a target for his wide array of weapons on the feet, this one will most likely end in the first round. Either way it goes, it won’t reach the judges’ scorecards.
Prediction- Hester by TKO