It’s been three days now since I witnessed UFC 120, and it’ll be four more until I can watch UFC 121. I won’t even front about it, as an MMA fan, getting two weeks of elite fighters shedding their blood for my entertainment makes me a very happy drunkard.
For those of you fight fans that didn’t get to watch the free Spike TV bouts this past weekend, I can sum up the co-main events rather quickly: Both pitted English guys against understated competitors from other parts of the world.
First up was the punk-rockin’ Dan Hardy, Nottingham’s biggest export since Robin Hood. His match’s result came as kind of a shocker, considering his reputation as one of the tougher men within the sport. He may have previously trained with Shaolin monks in China and not tapped to Georges St. Pierre’s submissions that would’ve broken the limbs of lesser men, but when it came to re-enacting the climactic scene from “Rocky,” he got the lesser end of the stick. In one of the year’s best knockouts, Albuquerque’s Carlos Condit beat him to the punch when both men attempted to land the same punch at the same time. This was arguably the biggest highlight of the night.
Afterward, Michael “The Count” Bisping came out and fought Yoshihiro Akiyama, a 35-year-old Japanese fighter. Before this fight, Akiyama’s UFC claims to fame were for having been submitted by fan favorite Chris Leben, and for needing a split decision from the judges to best Alan Belcher, a man who—for the record(!)—has one of the absolute worst tattoos in history. It’s said to be of my musical idol Johnny Cash, but personally, I think it more closely resembles James Dean. However, I digress.
Given his recent history, it’s safe to say that most people assumed Akiyama hadn’t yet earned a Michael Bisping-caliber opponent, but he proved them wrong by lasting the entire match and leaving it all in the judges' hands. Technically, he lost, but a loss isn’t always really a loss. Let’s just say that a lot more people have a lot more respect for him now than they did before. Bisping, on the other hand, may have won the match, but left us fans wondering if we hadn’t overrated him, especially given how easily Dan Henderson made him look like a chump at the centennial UFC event.
That double main event in London was just the teaser, if you will, for this weekend’s fighting continuation back in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Here’s a quick rundown on four of the better matchups currently scheduled.
Diego Sanchez and Paulo Thiago, both having lost their most recent Octagon campaigns, hope to salvage their respectable UFC careers by getting back into the win column at the Honda Center. The only problem? They have to face each other to do so, and these two 170 pounders are two of the toughest UFC has ever seen. On paper, this should be a great match. If I had to pick a victor, I guess I’d lean toward the Brazilian, Paulo Thiago, but that’s a tough call.
Another match I’m really looking forward to seeing is Matt Hamill, a former “The Ultimate Fighter” (TUF) contestant, taking on his TUF coach, Tito Ortiz. My best argument for Hamill? Sure, Ortiz is a former three-time Light Heavyweight Champion, but nowadays, he might also be a bit washed up. My best argument for Ortiz? Having observed many a Matt Hamill fight, the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” will probably know his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. So which is it, Hamill or Ortiz? Well, if the B.J. Penn vs. Joe “Daddy” Stevenson fiasco taught me anything, it’s that no matter how much we’d like to believe they are, legends just aren’t in the same league as their reality show colleagues. Therefore, I’m giving the edge in this contest to Mr. Jenna Jameson.
As if these two matches weren’t enough to build a card around, UFC threw in two other great ones just for our amusement. In case you missed him during his stints with Strikeforce, EliteXC, IFC, Bodog, K-1, Shooto, etc., Jake Shields will soon be entering your plasma screens by way of the UFC, as well.
This Saturday, the much-hyped BJJ black belt debuts against Martin Kampmann in what I expect will be a welterweight blow-out. Though I respect Kampmann’s muay thai and submission wrestling skills, I don’t think he’s yet ready to compete against Sherdog’s current No. 7-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in MMA and the current No. 3-ranked middleweight in the world according to a USA Today/SBN consensus Top 25 poll, two titles he earned by winning each of his last 14 fights. To put this in perspective, Jake Shields hasn’t lost a fight in five years!
Furthermore, I think Dana White knows this and is simply protecting his investment by starting him off against the highly-underdogged Danish fighter who fights out of Las Vegas. However, if Kampmann can find a way to topple Shields and end that five-year winning streak, it could mean huge things for his career, so my guess is that he’ll surely come into this match more motivated than ever before.
And then, finally, we’re capping off Spike TV’s “Brocktober” festivities with our main event: five rounds pitting defending champion Brock Lesnar against challenger Cain Velasquez, who if he could find a way to win, would become the first Mexican Heavyweight champion ever.
Cain’s a heavy-handed dude with decent mat grappling credentials. He’s a faster, albeit smaller version of Shane Carwin, and we all saw the wrecking crew-type damage Carwin inflicted on Brock until he tired out. From everything I’ve seen and heard, Velasquez’s cardio is exponentially better than Carwin’s, so I’m guessing that fizzling effect won’t factor into this match too much. The only thing left to ponder now is whether his hands are strong ENOUGH and whether his speed is fast ENOUGH to combat Lesnar’s skill set? After all, you have to remember, Brock’s a former NFL hopeful, a top NCAA competitor and a WWE champion, all of which take incredible amounts of athleticism, power and speed.
If Cain tries to go in there punching or attempting to outpace Brock, he may be playing right into his hands, and frankly, I’m not 100 percent sold on the fact that that’d be a game he can win just yet. Being that Brock is such an overpowering monster, I think the smart money’s still on Brock. However, considering I don’t like the guy one bit, my heart’s with Cain on this one. So, to recap, wallet = Brock, heart = Cain. Which will win out?
I think the answer to that last question is easy: the true winners of such a great card will be the fans. So place your bets and grab your beers, for we are in for one hell of a hardcore weekend!