Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Brazil for the first time since 1998 on Saturday, Aug, 27. Back then, there were essentially no rules. It was Vale Tudo, or "anything goes," and Frank Shamrock headlined a card that also featured a 21-year-old Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Pat MIletich and Pedro Rizzo.
Here, in 2011, the UFC 134 card in Rio is even more stacked with top fighters. Here are the five fights that intrigue us the most heading into Saturday night.
5) Rousimar Palhares vs. Dan Miller
Neither one of these fighters will figure into the middleweight title picture any time soon, but Palhares has crazy submissions. He ankle-locked two opponents in a row and almost had a third in Nate Marquardt before making a dumb move and getting caught by knockout. Miller hasn't beaten a top opponent in his UFC career, so this could be a big fight for him.
4) Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Forrest Griffin
A pair of former light heavyweight champions here. Shogun was at the top of his game before a third knee injury kept him out for a year, then he ran into Jon Jones, hence the use of "former" in the previous sentence. Could he back in top shape with his devastating Muay Thai striking? Griffin is as tough as they come and wears opponents down with his mix of striking and ground work.
3) Edson Barboza vs. Ross Pearson
Every weight division has a fast-tracked prospect that everyone wants to say is the next big thing. Barboza is that fighter in the lightweight division. He's lightning-quick with the hands and legs and draws comparisons to Jose Aldo. Pearson, an "Ultimate Fighter" winner from the UK, has precision striking skills and will likely want to keep this fight standing. Of course, if he does that, Barboza's leg kicks will take a huge toll.
2) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub
Big Nog will be the big crowd favorite fighting in his home country, but this fight is more interesting from Schaub's point of view. He's another rising star in the heavyweight division, a young, personable guy with big power. A win here makes it five in a row in the UFC, including three against former big names in the promotion (Mirko Cro Cop, Gabriel Gonzaga). "Minotauro" Nogueira, who has dealt with his share of injuries, was fought twice since December 2008.
1) Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami
Of course this main event is our top fight this time around. It's Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight champion, the guy who hasn't lost a fight in 39 years (and he's only 36 years old). Maybe he'll lose, maybe he'll win. Maybe he'll be the fighter we saw against Demian Maia, and maybe he'll be the fighter we saw against Vitor Belfort. Either way, we'll want to watch the best in the business go about his business Saturday in his home country.