Welcome to the MMA News’ Sleeper Scrap! The relentless schedule of the MMA world means that some fans don’t have a full look at a fight card until days before the event, leaving the promoters to decide which bouts you should be paying the most attention to.
Everyone wants to tune in for main events and fights that feature popular names, but that means meaningful or potentially action-packed matchups from elsewhere on fight cards sometimes get lost in the shuffle. A Sleeper Scrap might highlight interesting style matchups, fighters with notable storylines, or bouts that simply have the chance to be a Fight of the Night contender.
The UFC‘s 2023 schedule opened last weekend with UFC Vegas 67, and that event’s Sleeper Scrap saw Javid Basharat spoil the debut of Mateus Mendonça in a battle between undefeated bantamweights. The promotion is now set to hold its first event in Brazil since 2020 with UFC 283, and fittingly this week’s Sleeper Scrap is an all-Brazilian middleweight matchup featuring Gregory Rodrigues and Brunno Ferreira.
Both of these fighters are veterans of the Contender Series, but Gregory Rodrigues actually came up short in his matchup when Jordan Williams stopped him with strikes in 2020.
“Robocop” rebounded the following year by stopping Al Matavao in LFA before winning the promotion’s middleweight title in his next fight. That run was enough for the UFC to sign the Brazilian outright, and less than a month after winning the LFA title Rodrigues successfully debuted with a unanimous decision against Duško Todorović.
The 30-year-old is a decorated grappler and was an eight-time National BJJ Champion in Brazil, but in the UFC he’s largely been earning wins with his striking. “Robocop” faced a pair of dangerous finishers in his last two fights with Julian Marquez and Chidi Njokuani, but in both cases, he ended up stopping his opponents with punches.
The Marquez knockout netted Rodrigues a Performance of the Night bonus, but his win over Njokuani was likely the most impressive of his career so far. “Chidi Bang Bang” entered that fight having finished his first two UFC opponents in the first round, but Rodrigues rallied back after suffering one of the nastiest cuts in UFC history to stop the 34-year-old with ground and pound in the second round.
Bruno Ferreira had better luck than Rodrigues during his own Contender Series fight, as the 30-year-old finished Leon Aliu in under two minutes to secure a UFC contract last September.
The victory was certainly an eye-catching one, but it wasn’t much of a surprise to see “The Hulk” stop yet another opponent in the first round. Ferreira’s record currently sits at a perfect 9-0 with all of his wins coming via finish, and the Brazilian has only gone to the second round twice in his career.
On the smaller side for the middleweight division, the 30-year-old likes to bounce in and out while frequently switching stances when engaging on the feet. He’s happy to work from range and tag opponents with a variety of kicks, but when he does close the distance, his punches are capable of ending things quickly.
“The Hulk” lived up to his nickname with some of the strength he showed on the Brazilian regional scene, as opponents that held significant size advantages like Well Oliveira and Adercino de Jesus were easily slammed to the mat when Ferreira decided to shoot for takedowns.
Ferreira showed in those previous bouts that he loves to control opponents from mount and land huge ground and pound, but given Rodrigues’ grappling credentials, it may be a mistake for him to try that approach in this fight. If these two men do decide to simply stand and trade, there’s a good chance this fight doesn’t make it out of the first round.
Ferreira will be making his UFC debut on short notice after Brad Tavares was originally booked to meet Rodrigues, and the difficulty of his debut matchup is matched by the momentum he could gain with an upset victory.
Considering he’s a late replacement and facing an opponent with several UFC bouts already under his belt, a loss for Ferreira wouldn’t be especially damaging. The biggest concern would be if Rodrigues were to uncover any significant holes in his countryman’s game, as there will always be question marks around a fighter that’s mainly scored quick finishes over what has sometimes been less-than-stellar competition.
Barring a very quick finish from “The Hulk”, Rodrigues is almost certainly going to test the 30-year-old’s chin. If things go on a bit longer it will also be interesting to see how Ferreira’s gas tank holds up, as his bouncing stance and big, dynamic movements don’t appear to be techniques that might last into the latter stages of a fight.
As is often the case for late-notice debuts, this is an extremely dangerous fight for Rodrigues, and he stands to lose a lot more than Ferreira if things don’t go his way.
“Robocop” has already proven he belongs in the UFC and is rightly the favorite ahead of this matchup, but he can’t get overconfident against someone as explosive as Ferreira. Rodrigues hasn’t been knocked out since that Contender Series loss, but he’s certainly taken some punishment during his UFC tenure and probably doesn’t want to rely too much on his toughness in this fight.
If Rodrigues is able to handle the debuting Ferreira and do it in fairly comprehensive fashion, the 30-year-old will find himself on a solid three-fight winning streak. A win over “The Hulk” won’t carry the same kind of impact as beating a longtime UFC veteran like Tavares, but it will put Rodrigues in a strong enough position that he could break into the middleweight top 15 within his next couple of fights.
“Robocop” had already established himself as a bit of an action fighter with his last two performances, and this matchup with a finisher like Ferreira means fans won’t want to miss a second of this fight.
Both men will no doubt be fired up by the Brazilian crowd, and there’s a good chance this Sleeper Scrap ends inside the distance with an early finish or after some back-and-forth violence like in Rodrigues’ last Fight of the Night performance.
How do you think this bout between Rodrigues and Ferreira will turn out? Are there any other fights from UFC 283 that you feel deserve more attention?