It’s been a storied journey for the “Brazilian Samurai” Joao Zeferino. A journey that has finally lead him to a premier title fight in a premier setting at WSOF34 against current lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. He has spent the bulk of his professional career dabbling in some of mixed martial arts’ top competitive settings, leaving a backdrop of experience behind him as he readies himself to step into Madison Square Garden on December 31st. Here are ten important things you need to know about The Brazilian leading up to perhaps his greatest challenge to date.

– He is a weight division journeyman

Although Zeferino’s latest feats have been in the lightweight division, he is no stranger to heavier weight classes. In fact, the Brazilian has fought at a catchweight three times, including in his last bout against Jason High at WSOF33 as well as several times at welterweight and middleweight.

– He is no stranger to title contention

Zeferino first competed for a chance at gold in Brazilian promotion NCF in 2013. He didn’t reach that summit again until he entered the confines of WSOF after replacing Jake Shields at WSOF30 for the welterweight strap last year. Now against reigning champion Gaethje, the lightweight will strive to achieve his ultimate dream of becoming a champion at the iconic MSG.

– Despite having an extravagantly journeyed career, he has one major memory

Zeferino has spent the better part of his combat sports career competing at a high level. He has hauled several medals in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu circuit and has inched towards championship glory at various weight classes. But his fondest of memories came at the WSOF25 8-Man Tournament. “Fighting three fights at the same time [in one night] was an amazing experience,” hailed Zeferino.

– The American Dream

The 30-year-old’s illustrious career spans as far back as 2005 beginning its ascent competing for Brazilian promotion Santa Catarina Regional multiple times. But it’s no secret that the richness of MMA competition resides in the United States and it wasn’t until 2007 that Zeferino competed outside of Brazil for the first time for promotion Atlas Fights.

– BJJ is his forte

In 2002 at 16 years old, Zeferino began practicing the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Ataque Duplo eventually earning his purple belt under the banner. Later he achieved the ultimate by attaining his BJJ black belt under Alexandre de Souza of the Gracia Floripa Academy. In his MMA career, his decorated grappling experience reflects in his record with 15 submission victories to date.

– Quick finishes is the name of the game

Just by looking a Zeferino’s record alone one can imagine what kind of nightmarish grappling he can ensure upon his opponents. The former welterweight’s intelligent ground game is padded with 15 submission finishes throughout his MMA career – all of which have come within the first round. This not only makes Zeferino dangerous on the mats, but also incredibly dangerous within the opening minutes of any encounter.

– Staying on the theme of finishes…

With over a decade of professional competition under his belt, Zeferino has not fallen short of finishing fights in a magnificent fashion. Much of that has come by way of submissions, as mentioned earlier. But he has also has three TKO victories on his record bringing his finishing rate to a whopping 17 out of 29 professional fights.

– He isn’t defined by losing, but by experience

Prior to his third round TKO of Jason High at WSOF33, Zeferino suffered back-to-back losses scarring his WSOF record with two losses in five appearances. But the Brazilian doesn’t see these flaws on his record as undignified. He is known to rebound, suffering the same fate in the UFC in 2013 and coming back onto the MMA circuit with a seven-fight win streak.

– He’s confident in his entire arsenal

When specifically asked about his proficiency in wrestling, grappling, boxing, kickboxing, cardio and strength and conditioning Zeferino rated himself a high ten across the board. Such confidence is supported by the 30-year-old’s 21-8-0 record sprinkled with title challenges, high level BJJ championships such as becoming a 2008 CBJJE World Champion and multiple time silver medalist throughout Brazil.

– Zeferino is matchmakers dream

While both in the UFC and WSOF, Zeferino has stepped up to the plate on late notice making him an exceptionally game fighter. He saved the WSOF30 main event after accepting the welterweight title fight against the equally game Jon Fitch in the wake of Jake Shields‘ withdrawal. In the UFC, his debut came on the coattails of an injured Chris Camozzi at UFC on FX 8.

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