If the first few days of April are any indication, the MMA community is going to have quite a month on its hands.
First, the news came that UFC on Fuel 9 headliner Alexander Gustafsson had sustained a serious cut a week before fight night. There was some will-he-or-won't-he footsie. Wanderlei Silva played a hilarious April Fool's Twitter joke.
The UFC then announced, four days before the event, that Gustafsson would not, in fact, be fighting, and that Ilir Latifi would replace him. Delightful!
Who could have predicted that? Not me. But I do know what a bold prediction looks like in general. Here are eight such predictions for a month that holds plenty of promise for boldness as it thunders out of the gate. Let the wild speculation begin.
I like Ilir Latifi, the light heavyweight who stepped in for Gustafsson on short notice to face Mousasi this Saturday. However, without time to do much else besides get his weight right, Latifi will be game but overmatched against the younger, more well-rounded Mousasi.
Now rewind a few days to Wanderlei Silva's April 1 Twitterfoolery—or, more specifically, Mousasi's gracious, earnest and since-deleted tweet accepting the match.
But whoopsie daisies. Wandy catch you all!
Mousasi expressed his bemusement in still more since-deleted tweets. The soft-spoken Dutch-Armenian is in the big leagues now, and as such will need to get over his fear of the microphone. What better way to make a splash and repair your own ego than to call out a highly famous but highly diminished fighter who just publicly embarrassed you?
You'd have to be blind not to see that angle, and I think Mousasi will be motivated enough to take it to the extreme.
On Thursday at Bellator 95, Karo "The Heat" Parisyan—a once-prominent fighter who found himself on a protracted absence from the sport because of personal problems—returns to the cage. He faces Rick Hawn in what should be a high-level grappling contest.
Parisyan is a heavy underdog. After more than two years out of action, that's understandable. But I'm predicting the upset right now, followed by a slot in the promotion's next welterweight tournament and a full-court "road-to-redemption" marketing blitz.
Former UFC fighter Will Campuzano is undefeated as a flyweight. Problem is, he dropped down to 125 from bantamweight after his UFC release, and before the UFC created its own flyweight division.
On April 12, Campuzano defends his Legacy Fighting Championships title. If he wins, I think the UFC will bring him back to flesh out a fairly thin (pun intended) division. What's more, he'll get a fight immediately and will quickly become a force.
Pat Curran is one of Bellator's best and most popular fighters. However, he'll lose his featherweight belt on Thursday to Russian Shahbulat Shamhalaev (pictured), who buzzsawed through three Bellator opponents in an average of 2:55 to win the Season 8 featherweight tourney and earn the title shot with Curran.
Curran's a tough guy and extremely dangerous, but Thursday night will not be his night.
After UFC on Fuel 9, the UFC has three more events scheduled for April: The Ultimate Fighter season 17 finale on April 13, UFC on Fox 7 on April 20 and UFC 159 on April 27.
The main or co-main event fighters currently scheduled for those events are Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen, Benson Henderson, Gilbert Melendez, Daniel Cormier, Frank Mir, Jon Jones, Chael Sonnen, Alan Belcher and Michael Bisping.
Five of these fighters—Melendez, Mir, Jones, Belcher and Bisping—have withdrawn or delayed a fight in the relatively recent past because of an injury. Personally, my money's on Melendez to do it this month.
In the wake of WrestleMania and still riding high on the big-time pay-per-view returns, WWE honcho Vince McMahon will issue a very public reiteration of his challenge to fight UFC counterpart Dana White.
White, who previously said McMahon was "too old" for such shenanigans, takes the bait this time. Let's get ready to rumble!
With four total events in April, at the end of the month the UFC will have a better sense of where the wheat begins and the chaff ends, and as such will be in good position to reprise February's Black Tuesday bloodbath that saw 16 fighters—including welterweight contender Jon Fitch—receive their walking papers.
We'll know more soon, but I think we're due for another big one. Another 16 cuts? More? I wouldn't be surprised if they hit a nice, even 20 this time. Guys like Roy Nelson, Alan Belcher, Frank Mir and even Urijah Faber (pictured) are some of the big names who might be feeling a little nervous after a loss—or even an unexciting win.
The premium cable channel found itself without MMA after Strikeforce turned out the lights in January. Shortly thereafter, Showtime Sports GM Stephen Espinoza said he and other execs were still interested in broadcasting MMA in some form.
Here's guessing the network picks up a new promotion this month. It could be all-female Invicta FC, assuming another successful event on April 5. Legacy Fighting Championships and Xtreme FC also might be in the mix.
But I wonder whether another promotion might be a possibility: Bellator. I'm no media insider, but to me some kind of partnership makes sense. Showtime is owned by CBS Corporation; current Bellator home Spike is owned by Viacom. The two corporations were one and the same until 2005, and still are connected through umbrella company National Amusements, which owns controlling shares in both.
Bellator may not at the moment have the following or the cache to stage a pay-per-view, but airing major cards on Showtime could be a logical next step for a growing promotion. What am I missing?