Make no mistake, folks - From a matchmaking perspective, UFC 113 is the P4P best main card of any UFC offering ever. Ever.
Ok, I know there’s no such title, and it’s entirely subjective, but I stand by what I say damn it!
I’ll admit, I’m a little biased for a number of reasons - not the least of which being that as I write this I’m driving to Montreal to see the card live. I’m also a huge fan of the first Machida/Rua clash and have been eagerly anticipating the rematch. But mostly, you can’t argue with the matchmaking of this card. It’s as close to perfect from a casual viewer standpoint as any PPV card I’ve ever seen, structured like a classical symphony or a 5 course meal, each offering enticing the viewer on to the next.
We start with Stout vs. Stephens, a guaranteed fireworks fight between two hell bent for leather lightweights. After that, Cote vs. Belcher, which sees a hometown favourite return from injury after a long layoff - and also, as it happens, a guaranteed fireworks fight between two hell bent for leather middleweights.
Up next, the man, the myth, the YouTube phenom and inventor of words (I like “commitmentship” the most personally) Kimbo Slice, facing TUF’s “Meathead” Mitrione in what should amount to a rock ‘em sock ‘em robots style slugfest. Then Koscheck and Daley take to the cage riding a wave of hype, trash talk, and with a shot at Georges St. Pierre on the line - while happening to be two hell bent for leather welterweights in a guaranteed fireworks fight.
And then it’s Shogun and Machida. Fans can give him all the guff they want (and the frequently do), but UFC matchmaker Joe Silva has done an extraordinary job with this card. Top to bottom, there shouldn’t be a snoozer on the main card. Well, maybe if Koscheck decides to blanket Daley, but more on that later. First, it’s the biggest rematch of 2010 with pride, legacy, and a world title on the line.
Lyoto Machida vs. Maurico Rua
For many, Lyoto Machida’s Unanimous Decision victory over Maurico Rua at UFC 104 was nothing short of a miscarriage of justice. Chopping away at Machida’s legs and body over the course of 5 rounds, “Shogun” made the champ look human for the first time in his UFC career and by the end of 25 minutes had him limping, bleeding, and in full retreat. When Herb Dean raised Machida’s arm and Dana White put the belt back around his waist, many fans in Los Angeles openly booed. Judging from Machida’s frosty reception today at the UFC 113 weigh-ins, it seems to be a popular sentiment.
What do I think? First, I think it’s beyond stupid to boo a fighter for the pure judgement of a ringside official. All Machida did was fight tooth and nail for 25 minutes. It’s not his fault the judges disagreed with your drunken, ringside assessment of the fight - but what the hell, let’s boo the champ! As far as the fight itself goes, I rewatched it today for the first time in months with a clean slate and outside opinion. I scored it the same way I did at the time: 48-47 Shogun, with rounds 3-5 going to the challenger. The outside opinion scored it a draw, with round 3 being a 10-10.
Short story: the fight was close. Real close. You can argue it one way or another, but in the end, the only 25 minutes that matter are tomorrow night in Montreal.
This fight is really what MMA main events should be all about (and frequently are not) - two skilled, versatile and dedicated martial artists, both highly respective of the other, both utterly driven to win and overcome for competitive reasons. As representatives of our sport, you can’t get much better then Machida or Rua, and either guy is capable of carrying the standard at 205 for years to come.
So who takes it? There are two scenarios for how this fight plays out. Scenario A: “Shogun” has Machida’s number, plain and simple. He broke him in the first fight and is going to finish what he started this time around. Machida can’t change his fundamental Karate style, and he’ll be open to those devastating leg and body kicks once again. Scenario B: Machida has made the proper adjustments to his game to check Rua’s Muay Thai attack, forcing a desperate “Shogun” to wade in in aggressive Chute Boxe style. “The Dragon” does what he does best, lands a counter and puts Rua down to quiet and and all doubt.
Take your pick, folks. For my part, I’ll stay with with the same pick I made in their first fight.
Machida via TKO, Championship rounds.
Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley
When you put two egos the size of Koscheck’s and Daley’s together in a fight, trash talking is a certainty. On that front, this fight hasn’t disappointed. Over the last few weeks, the two polarizing welterweights have clashed in virtually every form of media available to them, and the amount of smack talking and posturing both men have done means they both have an awful lot to back up when they step into the cage Saturday night. Someone’s pride is taking a bruising in this fight no matter how it goes down.
And that was before Dana White announced the winner would get a shot at welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre, and a gig coaching opposite the Canadian champ on season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Talk about pressure. As a #1 contender’s fight, this makes the most sense of any upcoming welterweight tilts. I also can’t blame them for naming the winner and Georges St. Pierre as coaches on TUF, no matter how much it irks me that GSP will be sitting out the rest of 2010. “Rush” is quickly becoming the sport’s next crossover star, and Spike TV probably wanted to capitalize on his budding superstardom. No matter who the winner ends up being, their brash egos and tendency to trash talk means they’ll fit comfortably into the Tito Ortiz “heel” role opposite GSP’s straight talking good guy.
So who’s getting their shot at reality television glory? For me, this fight comes down to Koscheck, and what he decides to do. He has the wrestling pedigree to plant Daley on his back and keep him there all three rounds should he wish to. He really has no business standing with Daley and should be shooting from the moment the opening bell rings. But “Semtex” looks to have gotten in Kos’s head over the last few weeks, and may have convinced him into a pissing match on the feet.
That would be a mistake for Josh. Don’t get me wrong, his standup is powerful and precise. But it’s not on the same level as Daley’s, a European kickboxing champion who has been on a tear of TKO wins since his Octagon debut. Conversely, Daley has somewhat pedestrian takedown defense and grappling ability, and unless he’s made massive improvements there in the last few minutes Kos should have no problem handling him there. The only thing left to determine is if he’ll do that, or get lured by pride into trading bombs with a dude named “Semtex”.
Koscheck via. Decision
Kimbo Slice vs. Matt Mitrione
Kimbo Slice is to the UFC what Bob Sapp was to PRIDE. Sure, he’s basically a neophyte in MMA, and no one expects him to get much better or make a serious title run. But because of their mystique, their personality, their utter ability to captivate fan imagination - they are draws regardless.
In many ways, this fight represents a step back in competition for the former Miami street brawler. His last opponent, Houston Alexander, was a proven MMA commodity with some notable wins. Sure, he ended up flopping big come fight time, but on paper he represented a bigger threat to Slice then Mitrione, who’s only 1-0 as a pro. Sure, he sent “Big Baby” into la-la land with a sneaky one-two combination, but that’s about all he’s done. Not that Kimbo has a long and sterling resume, himself.
So this is afreakshow fight - but who cares, really? It’s going to be fun as hell, and like it or not Kimbo is undeniably charismatic. He commands interest and attention, and as long as he keeps winning he won’t stop. I think Kimbo actually has the advantage in the grappling department (remember his “Kimboplex” on Alexander?) but that’s not saying much because it’s highly unlikely this fight hit’s the floor.
Instead, these two will bang away with lots of gusto and not a whole lot in the way of technique and finesse. So it comes down to who has the better chin - which means I gotta go against the grain and pick “Meathead”. Hey, I love Kimbo as much as the next guy, but we all remember what happened with Seth Petruzelli. Matt Mitrione is a lot bigger and stronger then Seth Petruzelli.
Mitrione via TKO, Round 2.
Patrick Cote vs. Alan Belcher
Welcome back, Patrick. After a layoff of nearly 18 months, after two knee surgeries and a gruelling program of rehabilitation, Patrick “The Predator” Cote steps back into the Octagon for the first time since said knee injury cost him his title shot against Anderson Silva. He’s drawn a tough assignment for his return in the form of Alan “The Talent” Belcher, a spirited Muay Thai practitioner with solid BJJ skills to back up his standup game.
This fight is all about Cote, and how much the injury, the rehab and the long layoff have taken out of him. Will he suffer from ring rust from the long layoff? Will his injury prevent him from training to his fullest and cost him stamina as the fight goes on? Will the injury resurface come fight time and cost him the fight like it did against Anderson?
We don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and it’s likely we won’t until after the fight is over. If Cote shows up at or close to the form we saw him in when the injury sidelined him, I give him a more then fair shot at beating Belcher. Cote has a chin of granite and dynamite in either fist. He’s taken big shots from power punchers like Anderson Silva and Drew McFederies and not batted an eye. Belcher will be game, and could outland Cote in the early going. But Cote can stay in the pocket with anyone at 185, and it’s only a matter of time until he catches him with a shot that shuts off his lights.
Unless Cote is not 100% - in which case this fight could be a sad spectacle, indeed. Here’s hoping that’s not the case, and “The Predator” makes his return in dramatic fashion in front of his hometown fans.
Cote via TKO, Round 1.
Sam Stout vs. Jeremy Stephens
Like I mentioned before, this is about the perfect fight to kick off a PPV broadcast with. Lightweights are always good for exciting fights, and these two in particular have a lot in common that should make for a good time. Both have solid standup skills and the requisite chin and heart to go with it. They’re both capable of great brawls, with cardio to make sure it goes all three rounds. Finally, both have competent ground games to match their brawling styles.
Sam Stout has been showing great improvement in all areas recently, and his fight with Joe Lauzon displayed his much improved submission defence and wrestling. I see him taking this in what should be the Fight of the Night and moving into the rubber match with Spencer Fischer (here’s hoping).
Stout via Decision.
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