As usual it’s been an eventful week in mixed martial arts, with several fight announcements and plenty of big events coming up for the week ahead.
Firstly, this weekend former UFC champion Tim Sylvia takes to the cage once again in a fight that will probably make or break his career. He takes on Mariusz Pudzianowski under the Moosin MMA banner and knows this fight is a must win if he ever hopes to get the chance to avenge his other losses in both StrikeForce and the UFC.
In ten days time Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Rashad Evans will finally meet in the octagon and settle their long rivalry which began when the pair served as coaches on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter. The original match was supposed to have taken place back in September at UFC 107 but was postponed when Jackson took a hiatus to star in the upcoming A-Team movie. Obviously this went down like a lead balloon with Dana White, but after a public feud and subsequent court case, the two settled their differences and Rampage returned to the fold, for now.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I wouldn’t bet against Rampage quitting MMA altogether if the movie proves to be a success and leads to other work or sequels. In each promotion he has fought for, eventually Jackson has had an issue with the management and the UFC is no different. Dana White tried to placate Jackson by buying him a car not long ago, but just this week he was again saying that he wasn’t happy with the UFC and that he would quit at the end of his current contract.
The fight itself will be an interesting affair, and might largely depend on how well Rampage has trained. In a couple of his recent bouts he has looked out of shape and his plan of attack lately seems to involve lumbering forward looking for a knockout punch. Against the quicker Evans this isn’t a good strategy, if only for the fact that Greg Jackson and his guys watch a lot of tape on their opponents and tailor game plans for each one. If Rampage is in shape and looks sharp and focused, then his heavier hands and solid chin should take it, if he comes in sloppy, Rashad will run rings around him and pick him apart.
Dana White also announced this week that the winner of Rampage vs. Rashad would get a title shot against newly minted champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. Rampage has fought Shogun before of course under the Pride FC banner in Japan, which resulted in a one sided beat down in Shogun’s favor. While Shogun doesn’t look as dynamic as he once did, and Rampage is more polished standing up, a rematch would no doubt be interesting.
Aside from the main event though, much of the rest of the UFC 113 card is straight forward to pick and will result in a lot of matches probably being very one sided. Obviously though this is largely due to injuries and lack of available fighters, and there are bound to be a few upsets along the way. One sided cards are even sometimes the best cards to purchase if you are getting them on pay per view because the sooner the fights end, the more fights you will get to see.
Also pertaining to the future of the light heavyweight division, Vitor Belfort today announced that he will be ready to fight again in the fall. His opponent will be Anderson Silva, as long as he retains his title against Chael Sonnen that is. If Silva wins both of those fights, then he will be free to move up to the light heavyweight division and work his way towards a title shot and potentially being a two weight champion, which is something very few have achieved in the sport before for any major promotion. Only Randy Couture for the UFC and Dan Henderson for Pride spring to mind, and achieving that would no doubt put Silva among the all time greats of the sport.
Fans were robbed of an entire card last weekend due partly to the machinations of Boxing promoter and miniature flag aficionado Don King. Despite having a weak case and waiting until the literal last minute, he eventually succeeded in getting Ricardo Mayorga pulled from the planned Shine Fights pay per view which was scheduled for Saturday night.
The reasoning by King was that since the card was being promoted as a boxer vs. MMA fighter, this fell under his jurisdiction as Mayorga’s exclusive boxing representation. He also mentioned that his promotional company planned to use Mayorga as an opponent for middleweight champion Felix Sturm in late July. This is odd because Mayorga had seemingly not been offered this fight yet, which he would probably have taken over an MMA match given the choice.
Obviously the loss of Mayorga vs. Thomas would have damaged the pay per view sales, but the event planned to go ahead with Murilo “Ninja” Rua vs.David Heath as the main event. Due to safety concerns though, the entire card was eventually pulled by the commission. So the lawsuit and all the attention given to Don King and co might have been for nothing anyway, presumably the commission would have had the same concerns even with a semi-famous boxer on the card.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Robert Drysdale is making his professional MMA debut later this month with Canadian promotion Armageddon fighting championship. Those not familiar with grappling circuits might recognize the name as someone who has trained numerous fighters including Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva and Forrest Griffin.
For fans of The Ultimate Fighter he is also on a couple of the regular commercials between segments of the show putting someone into a flying triangle choke and a flying arm bar. Whether his MMA career will be as successful as his grappling will have to remain to be seen for the time being. Obviously he will be dangerous on the ground, but many submission cross over stars tend not to have either the wrestling or the stand up to hang in MMA right off the bat.