MMA Is Heating Up: 7 Fights To Look Forward To Over the Next Few Months
As promised here is part II of the fights I believe have the most importance attached to them and should prove to be highly exciting. In the first segment I went over the bouts starting at UFC 130 this month and going through UFC 132 which takes place in early July.
Starting with UFC 133 I will go over the top 10 bouts that will take place in the late summer/early fall period. As with anything that is planned out so many months ahead, things happen and fighters get injured, but the UFC has always been pretty good about finding suitable replacements.
UFC 134 also known as UFC: Rio has a handful of bouts that will get the fans extremely excited and ready for the fall months. So even though it will be time to say goodbye to summer, it will also be time to look forward to even more great fights. I will take a look and see what Strikeforce has planned as well.
Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko- Strikeforce in July
This bout is set for July 30th and most likely will be held in Chicago. I didn't hold my tongue when I wrote about the circumstances surrounding this fight not too long ago. Don't get me wrong I am all for seeing this two warriors go at it. Both Henderson and Emelianenko have meant so much to the sport and have had long, illustrious careers that will never be duplicated, but for Strikeforce to have this bout contested at either a 220lb catch-weight or in the heavyweight division is just plain stupid.
Henderson is the organizations Light Heavyweight Champion and Fedor is coming off a brutal loss to a much bigger, stronger Antonio Silva in the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix which was held in February. It was Emeleianenko's second consecutive loss after going his whole career and 33 fights without suffering a legitimate loss.
Without beating a dead horse here we can just get to the heart of the matter and that is the bout itself. Regardless of weight limits or lack there of, this has the makings of a classic match-up. Both men are very versatile although Henderson has become more reliant on his right hand as he has gotten older. A win for either man would be huge and just by putting this fight on is a feather in the cap of Strikeforce.
Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis: UFC 133
You can look at Evans dilemma two different ways. You can say it's his own fault for sitting on the sidelines for so long and passing up opportunities to fight because he wanted a crack at the light heavyweight title or you can say the man just has some piss poor luck. Either way you choose to look at it, Evans is once again out of a guaranteed title shot, but at least this time he is taking a chance rather than playing it safe.
Now that Jon Jones has pulled out of their UFC Light Heavyweight bout that was scheduled for UFC 133, Evans will now face the up and coming Phil Davis. The former four time All-American wrestling standout from the University of Penn State is coming off the biggest win of his career when he defeated Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in March. Unlike Evans, Davis is not guaranteed a title shot should he win, but it would certainly help push him up the ladder.
Evans will face Jones if he is victorious, but if he loses he may have to work his way back up before getting a shot at his former friend and teammate. The UFC will find away to get those two men together inside the Octagon because of the tension and how the relationship has turned sour. On August 6th a lot of questions will be answered, but as usual a lot of questions will still remain.
Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes: UFC 133
This bout has a chance to be one of the best bouts of the year. Mendes will look to keep Aldo grounded and stay away from the Brazilians superior striking, while Aldo will look to punish Mendes each and every time the Team Alpha Male shoots in for a take-down. I can see Mendes getting frustrated and an all-out brawl erupting in the Wachovia Center.
Aldo showed he was human at UFC 129 when he defeated Mark Hominick in a five round decision. Some say Aldo was sick, but to his credit he refused to use that as an excuse. He gave all the credit to Hominick for putting up one hell of a fight. Aldo has a great attitude and that is just one of the many reasons fans love to watch him fight.
Mendes is undefeated and really looked good when he defeated Japanese fighter Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 126 in February. He stymied the veteran with well timed take-downs and showed very crisp, accurate striking. Mendes will look for help from teammate Urijah Faber who was himself chopped down to size by the crushing leg kicks of Aldo at the first and only WEC pay-per-view in April of last year. This will be a great fight and should help open the eyes of fans not all that familiar with the featherweight division.
Yoshihiro Akiyame vs. Vitor Belfort- UFC 133
While Akiyama has yet to have any real success in the UFC, his bouts have all been exciting and hotly contested. His debut against Alan Belcher at UFC 100 netted both men an additional $100k for the Fight of the Night bonus and was a great way to introduce the Japanese Judoka to the American fans. He was awarded a split decision which was deemed very controversial, but there were no losers in that fight.
Belfort made his return to the UFC after an 11 year hiatus when he knocked out former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin in the first round of their UFC 103 bout in September of 2009. After a year and a half on the shelf due to various injuries, Belfort took on fellow Brazilian Anderson Silva for The Spider's middleweight title at UFC 126 this past February. Silva knocked Belfort out with an amazing front kick that was as beautiful as it was vicious.
Both men are in need of a victory. Belfort wants to prove his loss to Silva was just a simple case of ring rust and Akiyama is coming off of two straight losses of Chris Leben and Michael Bisping. Even though he lost those two bouts they were both awarded the Fight of the Night bonus, giving him three checks in three UFC fights. Expect these two to slug it out and give the fans as much excitement as they can handle. It seems history is on the side of the fans where this fight is concerned.
Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami: UFC 134
The trash talking for this fight has already begun and we are still over three and a half months away from the event. Okami responded to comments Silva made about their first bout which took place in January of 2006 at a Rumble on the Rock event. Okami was given a win via disqualification because of an up-kick that Silva landed. The Spider feels to this day that Okami could have continued while Okami could care less what Silva has to say.
Okami has a few things against him going into this bout. He is fighting Silva in Brazil, he is the last man to have handed Silva a loss and he is going to try and take the UFC Middleweight Championship from Silva. To say that Silva will be motivated is really putting it mildly! After 14 consecutive wins and eight straight title defenses, no one has solved the Anderson Silva puzzle.
Chael Sonnen came close, but fell victim to a Hail Mary in the fifth round of his UFC 117 bout with Silva. Sonnen and Okami have trained together in the past and you can bet that Okami will call upon the former number one contender to assist him with his wrestling, which by the way seems to be the only achilles heel that Silva has.
Forrest Griffin vs, Mauricio Rua II: UFC 134
When the UFC signed Mauricio "Shogun" Rua they needed to introduce him to the American fans in a big way. He was considered the top light heavyweight fighter in the world and was being hailed as the next great UFC Light Heavyweight. Forrest Griffin stepped up to defend the UFC 205lb fighters honor and did so in resounding fashion.
Their bout at UFC 76 was a back and forth affair that saw both men punish one another. Griffin was definitely the fighter who was in better shape as Rua seemed to tire early and eventually succumbed to the pressure put on by Griffin. With just 15 seconds left in the third round, Griffin was able to gain Rua's back and lock in a fight ending rear naked choke that set off a wild celebration by the winner of season one of The Ultimate Fighter.
Rua had knee problems before and after that fight, but Griffin was injured as well. Since that time both men have won and lost the light heavyweight title and a rematch seemed inevitable. This time Rua gets a shot at revenge and gets to do so in his native Brazil. The outcome may be different this time around, but both men will go all out and the winner will move that much closer to getting another shot at the title.
Matt Hughes vs. Diego Sanchez: UFC 135
At age 37 is this the last time we will see Matt Hughes inside the Octagon as an active fighter? The man many consider to be the best welterweight of all time is coming off a knockout loss to BJ Penn at UFC 123 that took all of 21 seconds. Before that Hughes had been riding a three fight winning streak with victories over Matt Serra, Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie. He may not be what he once was, but can Hughes prove he is still able to hang with the younger, well-rounded fighters of today?
Sanchez was last seen showing the tremendous heart and soul that has made him of the most exciting fighters in the world. Martin Kampmann and Sanchez went all-out, balls to the wall for 15 minutes in front of a hot Louisville, KY crowd. Sanchez, formerly known as "The Nightmare," but now known as "The Dream," was awarded a controversial split decision, but once again the real winners were the fans.
Since Sanchez has moved back up to welterweight and rejoined the Greg Jackson camp he has gone 2-0 with wins over Kampmann and Paulo Thiago. He seems intent on making some noise in the UFC's welterweight division and with a couple of more wins over credible opponents, he may get close to a title shot. First he has to beat Hughes who still has great wrestling and will try and control Sanchez on the ground, but as we have seen before, Diego is a tough nut to crack and may send Hughes to his farm permanently.