This week saw the UFC announce a slew of fights, Fight Entertainment Group announce a huge new financial backer and a few familiar faces make returns to competition.
Firstly FEG, the company that owns both K-1 and Dream have announced a partnership with the PUJI financial group, in an effort to expand firstly all over Asia and then to once again become the premier MMA outfit in the world. In their first year of partnership they aim to bring in an extra 230-345 million dollars for FEG, which will be used to expand the markets they currently operate in and attract foreign talent, which at the moment is largely gravitating towards the UFC.
Perhaps more importantly than the extra capital though, PUJI should also pave the way for FEG to enter the Chinese market, which is something that UFC has thus far failed to do. Entering China is a difficult enough thing logistically for any company to do at the best of times, but should the UFC try to do so with a rival already in place, and backed by Chinese funding, they may well find their entry blocked. Interesting times ahead.
A war of words between Eric “Butterbean” Esch and Polish strongman turned fighter Mariusz Pudzianowski has broken out, with Esch more or less challenging Pudz to fight him. Given that Esch is a part owner of Moosin MMA and that Pudz fought on their inaugural stateside event, this might all just be hype aimed at building towards their next main event.
Pudzianowski has also been linked to a fight against Kimbo Slice of late though, so it isn’t clear where or who he will be fighting next. Either way though both fights are a lot more winnable for Pudzianowski than his previous outing against Tim Sylvia turned out to be. Neither Esch or Kimbo is renowned for either their submission prowess or stamina, and if the Pole can get it to the ground quickly enough he could come out on top and add a much needed scalp to his record.
Former Pudzianowski conqueror Tim Sylvia meanwhile continues his climb back to relevancy next month, as he takes on fellow former UFC fighter Paul Buentello. While most fighters are at the very least indifferent to each other in real life, Buentello and Sylvia have had a running feud for several years now, and a win for either of them could mean being recalled into the big leagues.
In the same “War on the Mainland” event Jens Pulver makes his return after being cut from the WEC roster not long ago. Pulver is currently on a 5 fight losing streak, and had hopes of being given a commentator job with the WEC after his retirement. Partly because of the confusion over the future of the Zuffa owned promotion though he didn’t get the position, and instead seemingly has to fight on for the time being.
The continuing confusion over who Fedor Emelianenko’s next opponent will be looks like it might create more problems between his management and StrikeForce. The former are keen on a rematch against Fabricio Werdum, who shockingly submitted ‘The Last Emperor’ at the last StrikeForce event. Scott Coker, StrikeForce CEO however has said publicly that Fedor’s next opponent will be either Antonio Silva, Sergei Kharitonov or Alistair Overeem.
Given the problems that they have already had with his management though, and the efforts they have had to make to keep him, letting him rematch Werdum might just be the best thing all round. A reported elbow injury to Werdum looked like it might scupper the bout, especially with Fedor wanting to be back in action as soon as possible. The injury isn’t as serious as first thought though, and the rematch should be able to happen this year all being well.
Jake Shields has now officially signed with the UFC, and in addition will be returning to the welterweight division. His first appearance is scheduled for UFC 121, against Martin Kampmann. Currently Shields is ranked in the top three at welterweight on most ranking lists, and the UFC are no doubt hoping that they can match him up against the currently unstoppable looking Georges St. Pierre. So long as the champion can get past Josh Koscheck in December that is.
When the fight was first announced, many were writing it off as a replay from their first bout at UFC 74, when GSP out wrestled Koscheck and generally made pretty easy work of him. Since then though Koscheck has actually began to work on his wrestling again, where before he says he relied on his collegiate experience and tended to largely ignore it in training. He has also developed a dangerous if still rudimentary stand up game, which is an area St. Pierre has avoided in his last few appearances. If Koscheck can stuff GSP’s shots and get the better of him standing, the fight might be a lot closer than the first.
Michael Bisping vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama has been announced as the main event of UFC 120 in England which should be a very interesting fight. On paper Akiyama should have all the advantages, although he did lose to Chris Leben in his last outing, which many have pegged as an early fight of the year contender. Bisping by contrast had little trouble with Leben, albeit as a much earlier and less developed incarnation of the fighter he is today.
Fellow Brit Dan Hardy’s next fight has also been announced, which will be against former WEC champion Carlos Condit. Both men like to stand and trade, and as evidenced by recent fights neither is that likely to end up being finished on the ground.
Sadly the even more intriguing fight between Chris Leben and Wanderlei Silva that just about all the fans were hoping for isn’t happening in the near future because Silva is currently out due to knee surgery.