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MMA’s Month of May

By Scott Heritage

Over the next few weeks there are a whole host of interesting bouts coming up in various promotions. Some of them are significant to the rankings, others just represent an intriguing clash of styles. A few might even be considered freak matches. Either way though they are all worth a look if you can find them.

Mariusz Pudzianowski vs. Tim Sylvia

Moosin MMA has put together what will be one of the most interesting if not necessarily graceful fights this month as world’s strongest man winner Mariusz Pudzianowski takes on former UFC champion Tim Sylvia. For those who haven’t heard of it, Moosin is a fairly new promotion part owned by Eric Esch, otherwise known as Butterbean.

Sylvia was never the most popular fighter as UFC champion, and even now tends not to get a lot of flack. Some of that is because he lost to Ray Mercer, some because of his aversion to taking many risks during his time in the UFC. Others, whether they would admit it or not simply don’t like Sylvia because of his appearance. Sure he might resemble Shrek more than most, but his awkward fighting style was still enough to capture the UFC title multiple times. He remains the most decorated UFC heavyweight champion of all time.

Pudzianowski is big news in his native Poland, but is viewed with something of a cynical eye here in the States. Audiences here have already been sold two hulking behemoths in Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley of late, and however promising Pudz (as he is commonly known) appears to be, he will forever be measured against their achievements.

Pudzianowski’s first fight was against a part time Polish boxer, who he dispatched with little difficulty. The fight was ended mainly with soccer style leg kicks which chopped down the boxer in seconds. From there Pudz swarmed and the fight was stopped. Not much to be taken from that one really since it was so one sided.

More promisingly though, the Eastern European Olympic wrestlers who Pudz has been working with say he’s a natural, and that he holds his own against them already. Throw in some Karate and boxing experience as well as his obvious strength and he becomes an intriguing prospect. If he beats Sylvia, his profile will go through the roof and bigger organizations might start looking to pick him up. Which Sylvia turns up though might affect the outcome, if it’s the 320 pound version Mercer flattened, Pudz will triumph. If he shows up in shape and ready to fight, then the difference between part time boxers and former UFC champions might become more apparent.
Mauricio Rua vs. Lyoto Machida

Obviously the biggest fight happening this month is the rematch between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Lyoto Machida for the UFC light heavyweight championship. The first fight was close, and most scored it in favor of Shogun.  This time around both fighters have said publicly that they will have different game plans, but to be honest, I don’t see either of them being dominant enough over the other to get the stoppage. (It’ll probably end in the first round now I’ve said that.)

If anything I think Shogun’s game plan will probably involve more of the leg kicks and maybe some ground and pound. Machida will again rely on his counters, but might also be tempted to try some leg kicks and ground and pound of his own. Shogun has questionable conditioning when fights hit the ground, and his knee has been rebuilt twice already. If Machida can target those areas he should be able to control the distance better, which he struggled with in the first fight.

As for the winner, I think Machida will just edge it out again. Last time out Shogun had a great game plan and a great performance while Machida was just doing what he always has. This time around Machida will know what to expect and can make some changes. The odds with most bookmakers favor Machida as well for what that’s worth, and they rarely get it wrong.

Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley

Aside from the main event, Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley will be another interesting fight, if only because of the pre-fight trash talk that the pair of them has been coming out with. In their recent UFC.com blogs both of them have been rather scathing of the other, and while Daley has gotten the better of that exchange, it looks like Koscheck will win the fight. The reason being that he appears to now be aware of the fact that he has the wrestling to beat just about anyone in the division not named Georges.

It isn’t that his striking is bad as such, but against a certified banger like Daley, it’s a big risk to take. Sure Kos might land a haymaker and put Daley out cold, but the chances are that Daley lands one of his own first. For the sake of the division I hope Koscheck wins. As exciting as Daley is no one wants to watch St. Pierre lay on him for 5 rounds. At least Kos has the wrestling to force parts of the fight to take place on the feet.

Alistair Overeem vs. Brett Rogers

Alistair Overeem makes his long awaited return to StrikeForce on May 14th, where he will defend his heavyweight title against Brett Rogers. Injuries and commitments abroad have kept Overeem away from the United States for the best part of two years, during which time rumor has been rife that he might be using steroids.

Certainly Overeem has bulked up significantly since his days in Pride as a light heavyweight. People have to remember though that standing at 6’5,” cutting down to 205 pounds was a tall order, and he regularly lost fights he was otherwise winning from gassing out. Why it took him until just a couple of years ago to figure this out I don’t know, but going from the size he was then to the 265 pounds or so he is now isn’t that miraculous in the two years or so since he stopped cutting. Someone his size was already probably around 235 pounds between cuts, so steroid talk isn’t necessarily the most likely explanation.

As for his fight with Rogers, although Overeem is the much more polished striker not to mention experienced fighter, he has some worrying habits which Rogers might be able to exploit. Overeem’s knees are deadly, and he is undoubtedly better on the ground than Rogers as well. However, between clinches he has a tendency to cover up and take whatever his opponents might want to throw at him before retaliating. Against lesser punchers this is a sound tactic, but against someone with the undeniably heavy hands of Rogers, this might be a mistake. Overeem should win this given his more well rounded skills, but don’t be surprised if Rogers lands a one punch knockout either.

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