(Lucio Linhares highlight reel courtesy of norja01.)
Tucked away on the preliminary card of UFC 107 this Saturday will be two promising Brazilian up-and-comers, trying to make their names on MMA’s greatest stage. Will they prove that they belong there, or will they just be more chum for the Octagon’s sharks? Let’s meet ‘em…
LUCIO LINHARES (MW)
Experience: 13-4 record, with multiple appearances in M-1 Challenge and Finland’s Fight Festival organization. Is currently on a five-fight win streak, with all wins by stoppage and notable victories over Karl Amoussou and Sean Salmon.
Will be facing: Rousimar Palhares (9-2, 2-1 UFC)
Lowdown: A native of Ipatinga, Brazil, the 36-year-old Linhares grew up studying a variety of martial arts including kung fu and capoeira before discovering jiu-jitsu. Now, "the gentle art" is how Spartan makes his living. Linhares is highly-regarded as a BJJ instructor, and his annual seminars in Finland have garnered him the unofficial title of "Godfather of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Finland." (He also competed in the M-1 Challenge as a ringer for Team Finland.) Though Linhares’s start in MMA came relatively late in life, he’s enjoyed great success recently thanks to an improving stand-up game. He describes Palhares as "my hardest opponent to date." However: "I know I have a good Brazilian jiu-jitsu and I am confident to face anyone in the UFC because this is the moment of truth for me."
RICARDO FUNCH (WW)
Experience: 7-0 record (5 wins by stoppage) in regional promotions including the WFL.
Will be facing: Johny Hendricks (6-0, 1-0 UFC)
Lowdown: Despite attending American International College on a soccer scholarship and graduating with a degree in biology, Ricardo Funch is neither a soccer player nor a biologist these days. He was introduced to jiu-jitsu by a wrestler friend at college, began training with Team Link, and made his pro debut one year later. Funch is currently a BJJ purple belt, and trains with UFC heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga: “The guy is a phenomenon…Gonzaga is a good coach and an exceptional athlete. I’m thankful to him for all the help he has given me in the preparation for this fight” And the young prospect understands that the biggest challenge on Saturday might not come from his opponent: "I faced other undefeated fighters and I say that the pressure is not his or my record, the pressure is fighting in UFC. He already has experience inside the Octagon that I do not, but I know I will be well psychologically…People told me it is better to debut on the undercard, because there are less people watching. I say that I can’t feel the difference of twenty thousand or one million of people. For me, the pressure is the same, but I will shine."