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UFC 117: What to Expect

By Gina L. Caliboso

Are there any good boxing matches out there? Hello? Is anybody in combat sports listening or pay attention? Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather? Anyone listening? As boxing is on a hiatus of sorts, with the exception of the recent fights with Nonito Donaire and Juan Manuel Lopez as they won in great fashion, I’d now like to turn attention to the miracle that has taken place for this combat sports reporter.

However reluctant or critical I may have been about the quality of MMA fights these days, I’ve changed my mind about the sport of MMA overall. As I’ve now covered a Strikeforce event, both UFC and Strikeforce have peaked my interest. Even though it meant giving up my 3 rounds of computer chess on a Saturday night, I actually went out to a bar and watched UFC 116 and I thought all the fights were really good. And now, I look to great anticipation to UFC 117 to be held in Oakland, CA on August 7th. Here’s just a preview for what I think makes for a great night of Octagon action.

Although the main bout features MMA fan favorite Anderson “Spider” Silva, I’m looking forward to watching UFC veteran and Ultimate Fighter coach, Matt Hughes, 45-7-0, fight for the second time this year. In a non-title bout, Hughes will go up against Ricardo Almeida, 12-3-0 fighting at 170. There is no doubt that Hughes still has some competitive ability. He has seen his fair share of fights, but at the ripe age of 36, competition and heart in the MMA can often outweigh the wear and tear of having been in as many bouts as Hughes.

In his last fight, Hughes scored a TKO over Renzo Gracie, 13-7-1, 1 NC, in the 3rd round. Prior to his victory over Gracie, Hughes defeated the favored Matt Serra, 17-6-0 with a 3 round unanimous decision. In only going back to 2007, Hughes has fought the talented and strong fighter Georges St. Pierre, 20-2-0. Hughes first lost to St. Pierre back in November 2006 by a TKO. Later, Hughes lost again to St. Pierre by submission (arm lock) against in December 2007. It’s worth mentioning that St. Pierre did at one time lose to Hughes back in October 2004. Hughes fight record comprises of a who’s who of the current wave of strong MMA fighters in the UFC. It’s my hope that as long as Hughes’ body holds out, as well as his competitive will, Hughes will win against Almeida just based on experience.

The main bout will feature Anderson “Spider” Silva, 26-4-0 vs. Chael Sonnen, 26-10-1 for the Middleweight championship. Silva is a solid, all around fighter with good stand up and striking ability. At the ripe age of 35, he now faces the up and coming fighters ready to take his place. Even though he KO’d Forest Griffin at 3:23 in the first round of their bout back in August 2009, he has been contested to two full five round bouts. Prior to his bout with Griffin, Silva earned a UD over Thales Leites and most recently in April this year, he fought Demian Maia, 12-2-0 to five rounds and came away with a UD as well. Although well-rounded, Silva’s winning formula just may have been figured out by any potential opponents.

By contrast, Sonnen, a skilled wrestler and with strong attack skills, has an excellent opportunity to become a UFC titleholder. In his last three bouts, he has earned nothing but unanimous decisions. In May 2009, he defeated Dan Miller, 11-4-0, 1 NC followed by another win over Yushin Okami, 25-5-0. In 2010, he fought against Nate Marquardt, 32-9-2 and came away with the UD over three rounds. But let’s just be clear about one thing, all three of these UD’s were not necessarily against fighters of champion Silva caliber. Sonnen will challenge Silva and as I’ve learned, on any given night, the underdog can easily become champion.

In another bout, Jon Fitch, 25-3-0-1 NC will face Thiago “Pit bull” Alves, 22-5-0. Fitch has been competitive and victorious in his last three bouts going back to 2009 having earned 3 unanimous decisions over 3 round non-title bouts. Fitch faces strong competition against Alves, a strong jiu-jitsu and striker. Alves faces redemption considering his last fight was a loss suffered at the hands of champion George St. Pierre last year in a 5 round unanimous decision.

As one of the more interesting fighters, Clay “The Carpenter” Guida, 26-8-0 is set to face Rafael Dos Anjos, 14-0-0 at 155 lbs. Guida is a fighter that can be tough and erratic at times. Going back to 2009, Guida has a 50-50 record at best. He earned a win against Nate Diaz, 12-5-0, followed by two losses against UFC fan favorites Diego Sanchez, 23-4-0, and Kenny Florian, 15-4-0. Against Florian, Guida was on the receiving end of a 2nd round submission by choke. In his last bout against Shannon Dogerty, he earned the submission by choke in the 2nd round.

Finally, Ultimate Fighter winner Roy “Big Country” Nelson, 16-4-0, will fight against Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos, 11-1-0. As the newcomer to the UFC, his last two fights have been in the first round with KO’s. In the Ultimate Fighter – Heavyweights finale, Nelson defeated Brendan Schaub, 7-1-0 at 3:45 in the first round. And later, in March 2010, he defeated Stefan Struve, 23-4-0 as well with a KO in the first round. With his current weight at 263, there’s still time for him to lose weight and possibly put some much needed competition in the heavyweight division. As for Dos Santos, he has a 4 inch height advantage as well as having faced stronger fighters. To date, Dos Santos fought Mirko Cro Cop, 27-7-2, 1 NC and got the submission in the 3rd round.

Okay, so I think that’s enough of a preview that I’m sure my RSR MMA colleague Scott Heritage will surely cover in a month’s time, if not sooner. But regardless, this is one combat sports reporter with a newfound appreciation for MMA and the UFC.

As long as the fights and matchups continue to get competitive and adding a mix of veteran fighters against youngsters, I’ll be there watching – foregoing my usual night of computer chess – and heading out to watch some what I believe, outstanding upcoming MMA bouts.

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