Ten Brazilians to watch in 2011
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But the country already has a new crop of athletes on the rise. 2010 saw up-and-comers such as Edson Mendes Barboza Jr., Charles Oliveira, Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalves and Renan "Barao" go from relative obscurity to contendership under the Zuffa banner. 2011 could be the year for even more Brazilian fighters to shine in international rings.
Below is a sample of that emerging talent: a list of 10 Brazilian fighters to keep an eye on this year, many of whom are certain to star in some of 2011's best battles.
Glover Teixeira (11-2)
Largely considered the top fighter currently operating in Brazil, Teixeira boasts an excellent striking game honed by years of training with the likes of Chuck Liddell at The Pit gym in Woodland Hills, Calif. The 205-pound powerhouse also possesses great submission wrestling skills: In 2009, he submitted nearly all of his opponents en route to winning the 2009 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Brazilian trials and had a solid showing at the world championships. Teixeira hasn't fought in the United States since 2008 because of visa issues, which have continued to plague him as he's tried to fight internationally. However, Teixeira assures that it will all be resolved in the first half of 2011. Pegged by training partner Pedro Rizzo as a potential elite light heavyweight, Teixeira may be able to prove Rizzo right if he signs with a major American promotion.
Erick Silva (12-1, 1 NC)
Silva showed great versatility in 2010 on his way to becoming the first-ever Jungle Fight welterweight champion. In July, the 26-year-old scored a technical knockout in a tense match with the dreaded "Zezao Trator," Jose Gomes de Ribamar. On Oct. 30, he won the belt by submitting a pair of dangerous opponents in one night. First, Silva tapped Gil de Freitas with a guillotine choke set up by a strong kick to the ribs. In the final, the Nogueira- and X-Gym-trained fighter needed only 67 seconds to submit Francisco Ayon with an arm-triangle choke. Silva has been noted by sparring partner Anderson Silva as a future 170-pound contender in the UFC and could follow in the footsteps of fellow Jungle Fight champion Yuri Alcantara, who made a successful Zuffa debut in December.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima (8-0)
Unbeaten since turning to MMA from the world of kickboxing -- where he won 70 of his 76 bouts -- Lima gained fame in Brazil in October, when he became the second man to defeat Paulo Filho. Blessed with not only an excellent stand-up background but great athleticism as well, "Pezao" has focused on evolving his wrestling and ground game with Marcos Barbosa, one of the most renowned jiu-jitsu coaches in Brazil. Lima is due to make his international debut shortly and will impress at 205 pounds.
Bruno Carvalho (4-1)
The most feared lightweight striker in Brazil, Carvalho has defeated MMA standouts Andre Amado and Edson Mendes Barboza Jr., under Muay Thai rules. In fact, the hard-throwing Carvalho knocked out almost every opponent he faced in Muay Thai competition. A student of Cristiano Marcello under the blossoming CM System banner, Carvalho suffered his first defeat in MMA or Muay Thai in June against Felipe Olivieri under controversial circumstances, but he has since rebounded with a pair of wins. As his MMA experience has increased, however, Carvalho has encountered trouble finding willing and suitable opponents on the local scene. His ascent to the international level will be ensured if he can continue to develop his ground game at the current pace.
Francimar Barroso (12-2)
The Nova União light heavyweight is out to prove that sub-155 pounders aren't the only fighters Andre Pederneiras' team has to show. Barroso has a strong ground game, moving powerfully and mixing submissions into his knockout-heavy résumé. He is an incredibly strong physical specimen. Besides training with Thales Leites, Jose Aldo and Marlon Sandro at Nova Uniao, "Bodao" is a sparring partner of Glover Teixeira and Pedro Rizzo, making him all the more complete and dangerous.
Antonio Glaristone (10-6, 1 NC)
Born in Paraiba, the same state that produced fighters like Antonio Silva and Jean Silva, Glaristone was involved in one of Brazil's best fights of 2010. His Nov. 13 unanimous decision win over Igor Fernandes drew applause from all who witnessed it, including Anderson Silva, Junior dos Santos and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. After dozens of unrecorded fights in northeastern Brazil, the lightweight Glaristone has moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he has become a pupil of MMA legend Murilo Bustamante, who believes Glaristone will be one of the new stars of Brazilian Top Team in 2011.
Vitor Vianna (10-1-1)
A training partner of Wanderlei Silva in Las Vegas, Vianna was the runner-up in the Fury FC grand prix that turned UFC standout Thiago Silva into a must-have prospect. That loss, due to an arm injury, is the only one on Vianna's ledger. Despite excellent technique on the ground, Vianna is starting to show the results of training with "The Axe Murderer" and has become a serious threat in the stand-up. Already cutting his teeth stateside, Vianna might be a strong win or two away from a major contract.
Renato Moicano (3-0)
Moicano is a 19-year-old student of Ataide Junior, the same coach who gave the world Paulo Thiago and Rani Yahya. Moicano has quickly racked up three wins, all in Brazil's biggest promotion, Jungle Fight. With two submissions he has the familiar characteristics of his teammates, but in his December win over veteran Eduardo Felipe, he showed great, developing striking and looked to be the next great Brazilian featherweight. After the win, he decided to dedicate himself to MMA full time, leaving law school in the nation's capital, Brasilia.
Luiz Alberto Nogueira (10-1)
"Betao" is a student of Márcio Cromado at Renovacao Fight Team, the top luta livre squad in Brazil. Nogueira is well-rounded but, as you might expect, has the kind of choke and leg-lock attacks that define luta livre's greats. Nogueira has only one defeat in his career against Nova Uniao prospect Eduardo Dantas; he was scheduled to rematch Dantas in December before injury nixed the bout. The pair expect to square off in the first half of 2011 for Dantas' Shooto 132-pound South American title in a contest that would crown the undisputed top bantamweight prospect in Brazil.
John Lineker (12-5)
Lineker is a native of Paranagua, the state of Parana's port city, some 75 miles from Curitiba. However, his style is reminiscent of one of Curitiba's fighting heroes, Mauricio Rua. With a hyperaggressive Muay Thai attack, Lineker is making massive strides on the ground with Emporium Jiu-Jitsu, and stole the show at Shooto Brazil 18 in September, when he submitted Alvino Jose Torres with a rear-naked choke. In February, he'll take on Alessandro Cordeiro, Rafael Silva and Diego Avila in Nitrix Fight's four-man bantamweight grand prix, an opportunity that could put him on the national stage in Brazil.
Gleidson Venga is a contributor to Sherdog.com.