Less than a year ago, Rameau Thierry Sokodjou (5-3) was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous light-heavyweights in MMA.
But after a less-than-impressive stint in the UFC led to Sokoudjou's recent dismissal from the organization, Renato "Babalu" Sobral (31-7) thinks "The African Assassin" presents little in the way of special challenges.
"I have to prepare a little bit for Sokoudjou's strikes, and I have to respect his judo skills of course," Sobral said in a recent media call. "I respect all his skills, but I know what I have to do to win this fight. And I don't have anything special prepared for Sokoudjou."
The two former UFC fighters will meet on the main card of "Affliction: Day of Reckoning," scheduled for Jan. 24 in Anaheim, Calif. The bout will be Sokoudjou's first since an October TKO loss to Luis Cane prompted his release from the UFC.
Sobral, a 10-year veteran with 30 more professional bouts than his adversary, believes that the difference in experience will not play a major role in the fight.
"The truth is that it doesn't matter," Sobral said. "If you have 100 fights in the bag or one fight, minutes before the fight everybody pretty much does the same. That's where you have to control more emotions over there, like minutes before the fight. But this really doesn't matter very much because some kids just coming up right now, they already know how to control (their pre-fight) emotions."
Instead, Sobral believes conditioning may prove to be a determining factor in the result of the bout.
"If you don't train hard -- if you don't train properly for the fight, you'll probably be more nervous than you should," Sobral said. "I just have to push the pace of the fight."
Sokoudjou owns two explosive victories over former top-ranked 205-pound fighters Ricardo Arona and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. But the 24-year-old's conditioning was an obvious question mark in his UFC losses to Cane and Lyoto Machida.
Sobral, currently riding a four-fight win streak that included a Strikeforce light-heavyweight title win in November, thinks that a full analysis of the bout is simple.
"I know how it's going to end," Sobral said. "It's going to end with me finishing the fight. I'm probably going to submit him."