In heavyweight action, Brazilian standout Junior Dos Santos (9-1, 3-0 UFC) will battle PRIDE veteran and UFC newcomer Gilbert “The Hurricane” Yvel (36-13-1) in what could have potential upset written all over it. Yvel is one of the more infamous characters in mixed martial arts history with a rash of in-ring incidents that have given him a “bad boy” image. He bit Karimula Barkalaev in 1998 during a fight, eye gouged Don Frye repeatedly in a 2001 PRIDE showdown, and he knocked out a referee in a 2004 match-up with Atte Backman after refusing to have the fight restarted in the clinch. He was refused licensing in Nevada in 2007 due to the history of his conduct, and this will be his second fight back on American soil after being allowed licensing on a one-fight only basis in January.
Dos Santos enters this contest following his TKO victory over Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic at UFC 103 while Yvel is coming off a brutal first round TKO victory over Pedro Rizzo at Ultimate Chaos: Lashley vs. Sapp. Yvel’s first foray back in the North American MMA market took place at Affliction: Day of Reckoning in a losing effort against what many believed was the #2 ranked heavyweight in the world on Josh Barnett back in January of 2009.
Stylistically, this will probably go down as a striking war with Yvel having some real potential to be the better striker in this match-up. He has an extensive background in Muay Thai and kickboxing, and he has translated that into a dynamic striking repertoire that features K-1 kicking power, brutal Muay Thai clinch knees, and powerful hands. The only factor that detracts from that is that Yvel likes to throw heavy shots that can take away from the technical aspects of his striking.
Dos Santos offers some equally impressive power in his stand-up game, but he’s also been susceptible to the looping power game in the past much like Yvel. His bout with Mirko Filipovic was a good example of his improvement in his technical capacity, and he also has the chops on the floor as a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Interestingly enough, Gilbert Yvel is highly underrated in his grappling ability. He has a very active guard, works for submissions, and was able to use that guard to frustrate Josh Barnett for most of their battle at Affliction: Day of Reckoning.
While Yvel might have a solid ground game, he’s still very much hateful toward anything resulting in the fight hitting the floor. He’ll want to keep this fight standing and try to brutalize Dos Santos. He’s also very dangerous in the scramble as Rizzo found out, and he has deceptively powerful hands even late in fights as Cheick Kongo found out as well.
This is a very intriguing test for the UFC’s young prospect in Dos Santos. He could potentially control this fight on the ground with his length, but waging war on the feet is probably not the best gameplan. Yvel is just powerful enough at all stages in a fight to put the hurt and stop on Dos Santos’ dreams of becoming champion. While I think Dos Santos takes this match-up, upsets are going to happen at some point on this card. I’ll take Gilbert Yvel via TKO.
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