by Al Yu for MMAWeekly.com
Ryo Chonan (12-6) vs Paulo Filho (12-0)

Ryo Chonan is coming off of a split decision victory over Joey Villasenor. The fight was competitive and very close. I thought Villasenor did enough to earn the victory but the judges didn’t see it that way. Chonan suffered a broken eye socket near the end of his fight, probably from the foot stomp. It was reported that Chonan’s participation in the second round of the tournament would be questionable but it appears that his injury has healed. Brazilian Top Team’s Paulo Filho controlled his way to a unanimous decision over late replacement Gregory Bouchelaghem. A veteran of Cage Warriors, the taller Bouchelaghem was unable to keep the fight standing but did defend himself well from his back.

This is going to be a tough fight for Chonan. Then again, anybody who faces Paulo Filho will have a tough fight. Filho is known for his physical strength and ground control. He likes to bring his opponents down from the clinch or via single leg takedowns. Chonan’s takedown defense is decent but I foresee the majority of this fight on the ground. On their feet, the advantage goes to Chonan. Paulo realizes his limitations in his striking against certain opponents and utilizes his takedowns to compensate. In addition to knees from the clinch, Ryo likes to throw a lot of kicks. However, his kicks often lack the power to force a change in his opponent’s strategy. Against Filho, Chonan may need to be a bit more tentative with his kicks as they may be countered with a takedown.

As difficult of a time as I expect for Chonan, I don’t believe this fight will be as boring as Paulo’s previous fights. I can’t see Ryo knocking out Filho or submitting him but I do think Chonan will try to keep things competitive on the ground. I feel that Chonan’s ground game is underrated and he should be competent enough to avoid the Brazilian’s submission attempts. Ryo knows how to finish fights and he needs to be aggressive if wants to win this fight. Filho was dominant but not impressive in his last two Pride appearances. Hopefully, we’ll see the aggression Filho had early in his career. Look for Paulo to earn a decision in a fight that will probably be more competitive and closer than fans expect.

Prediction: Paulo Filho defeats Ryo Chonan by decision