UFC 84: Facelift for the Light Heavyweight Division

Devin FratusContributor IApril 23, 2008

On May 24, UFC 84 will broadcast live from Las Vegas and the main event will feature a lightweight title fight between B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk. While that is sure to be an exciting fight, many fight fans will tune in to witness the most explosive gathering of 205-lb. fights ever to be featured on a single UFC card.

The first light heavyweight bout will feature two former PRIDE fighters still looking for their first UFC win. Rameau Sokoudjo (4-2-0) will take on Kazuhiro Nakamura (11-7-0).

Joe Silva and Dana White had high hopes for these two impressive imports, but those hopes were promptly dashed by Lyoto Machida.

Many critics behold Sokoudjo as one of the top 205-pounders, but he has yet to prevail inside the octagon.

The witty Nakamura made a name for himself by going the distance with the likes of Antonio Nogueria and "Shogun" Rua.

This fight is sure to be a clash of styles with "The African Assassin" who likes to strike from the clinch and "Kaz" who prefers to go for takedowns and uses his conditioning to earn decision victories.

Next up is undefeated Thiago Silva (12-0-0) vs. UFC newcomer Antonio "Samuray" Mendes (14-2-0). Mendes has not lost a fight since March of 2004.

I truly believe that this fight has the potential to steal the show. All three of Silva's UFC wins have come by way of TKO and Mendes has three TKOs of his own in addition to three KO wins, one of which took place just thirty seconds into the bout.

Though both fighters originate from Brazil, the fight will be a clash of Silva's American Top Team and Mendes' lesser-known European Top Team—a combination of thai boxe and vale tudo fighting styles.

Do not to miss this fight—if their records foreshadow anything, we are likely to see an early knockout.

Third on the card for the light heavyweights is Wilson Gouveia (10-4-0) against another UFC newcomer, Goran Reljic (7-0-0).  This fight should prove to be a rare 205-lb. ground battle.

Both fighters have earned black belts in Brazilian jiu-jistu but have earned TKO wins, two for Gouveia in the UFC.

Gouveia's only UFC loss came in a decision against fellow UFC 84 fighter, Keith Jardine. Since then, he has won four fights, finishing his opponent in the second round or earlier.

Reljic will be fighting in the U.S. for the first time. His previous fights have all taken place in Europe, mostly in his home country of Croatia.

Some may favor the younger Reljic in this fight, but as we have seen with the likes of the formerly undefeated Tomasz Drwal and fellow Croatian Mirko Cro Cop—success over seas does not equal success here in America.

The next light heavyweight showdown could prove to be the most impactful fight of the night.

If Lyoto Machida (12-0-0) can remain undefeated and overcome former champ Tito Ortiz (15-5-1), the repercussions will be huge for both fighters.

If Machida wins, then he may be one fight away from title contention, and Ortiz will have gone three fights without a win.  He will then be left scrambling to prove his worth to Dana White and compel him to re-sign him as this will be the final fight on his current contract. 

Machida's inability to finish and produce exciting fights formerly kept him from being signed to big bouts.  That came to an abrupt halt when he submitted the largely hyped Rameau Sokoudjo.

As of late, Ortiz has been given the role of proving ground for up and coming fighters—most recently in his three-round battle ending in a draw with Rashad Evans. A win could also put Ortiz back in the title hunt.

One thing is for sure, if the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" fails to come out with a win, it may be a while until he gets some meaningful competition again.

Perhaps the celeb girlfriend plague that has afflicted Tony Romo and Tom Brady is what's ailing Ortiz, who has been spending his time with porn starlet Jenna Jameson.

The last of the 205-lb. battles is the most interesting of the night as Keith Jardine (13-3-1) will take on former PRIDE champion, Wanderlei Silva (31-8-1).  Jardine has the most to gain in this fight, while Silva has the most to lose. 

Jardine is no stranger to the underdog role—playing such a role in his fights with Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, both of which he won by TKO and split decision, respectively.

A win against another elite fighter like Silva would most likely catapult "The Dean of Mean" into a title bout against the winner of the July 5 Rampage-Griffin showdown.

Many questioned Jardine's rank amongst the 205-pounders when he was TKO'd by Houston Alexander in just forty-eight seconds, a possible result of Jardine's underestimation of the then newcomer.

But, Jardine has proved that, when focused, he can hang with the best fighters the sport has to offer.

Now we turn to the plight of Wanderlei Silva.

"The Axe Murderer" is now on a three-loss skid, losing to Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, then Liddell.  A fourth loss would lead many to question if the 31-year-old is beginning to feel the effects of consistently fighting three to five times a year.

Much excitement and anticipation followed the re-signing of Silva to the UFC, but the buzz was killed when he lost a unanimous decision to "The Iceman".

Plain and simple, Silva needs a victory to remain amongst the elite light heavyweights. 

On paper, this fight looks to end in a sure-fire knockout. However, the same was said for both fighters' most recent bouts with Chuck Liddell—both ending in a decision.

Never the less, with Jardine's herky-jerky style of heavy hands and heavier kicks against Silva's sometimes unpredictable but always exciting Chute Boxe teachings, this fight is all but guaranteed to be one of the most explosive fights of the year to date.

UFC 84 is likely to change the landscape of the 205-lb. division for a long time to come. With the potential to propel fighters into title contention and put the careers of once great fighters in jeopardy, this PPV is well worth the $40 ordering fee.