UFC 145: A Lot at Stake for Canadian Fighters
The fight card was originally announced for the end of March in Montreal, and because of that many of the UFC's Canadian fighters were booked to fight prior to the card being switched to Atlanta due to scheduling issues.
Six Canadian fighters will step in to the Octagon at UFC 146, with each fighter having a lot at stake when the lock clangs on the cage door.
Jobs, rankings and national bragging rights are all on the line in each of the fights on April 21st.
Here is a complete look at what is at stake for each Canadian fighter.
Chris Clements vs Keith Wisniewski
Ontario native Chris "The Menace" Clements has paid his dues in this sport. He is making his UFC debut in Atlanta after fighting professionally in the small shows of Canada for seven years. Clements is 10-4 in his career, and is known north of the border for being a devastating puncher who hurts you when he lands.
Clements got his shot at the big show on impressive victories over former UFC veterans Jonathan Goulet and Rich Clementi. Clements is also known for holding the world record for fastest knockout in a fight with his three-second win over Lautaro Tucas in 2006.
What's At Stake?
Clements has fought hard and waited a long time to realize his dream of making it to the UFC. The new husband and father knows that a win here could put him on track in the UFC, and possibly secure him a spot on one of the upcoming Canadian shows.
This being his debut fight, a loss may not be the end of the world for Clements. Wisniewski is a tough guy (as are all fighters in the UFC), but a loss to him would kill some of the buzz that the powerful Clements has coming in. Rumour is that he signed a three-fight deal, but he has to make the most of this chance to turn heads in the UFC.
John Makdessi vs Anthony Njokuani
Montreal's John "The Bull" Makdessi is 9-1 in his career and 2-1 in the UFC. His loss to Dennis Hallman at UFC 140 in Toronto in December was his first professional loss.
Makdessi is an electrifying and feared striker who is looking to round out his game to combat the best grapplers and wrestlers in the world. The 26-year-old trains at the famed Tristar Gym in Montreal with some of the best fighters in the world.
All of Makdessi's fights to date have been in the lightweight division.
What's At Stake?
Makdessi's stock took a bit of a hit with the way Hallman dominated him on the ground in his last fight. Even though Hallman missed weight and came in the larger man, the fight exposed Makdessi's ground game a bit.
The young fighter is just in the beginning of his career in the UFC and a loss to Njokuani would not be the end of the world for him. It would, however, mark two losses in a row and put the young fighter's back up against the wall in his young career. The UFC lightweight division is one of the deepest the organization has, and no one can afford a three-fight losing streak.
John Alessio vs Mark Bocek
Vancouver veteran John Alessio is one of Canada's longest-standing and most decorated mixed martial artists. The 32-year-old has a 34-14 record in his career, with most of those fights coming in the 170-pound division.
Alessio was one of the first fighters out of Canada to compete in the UFC back in 2000, when he was parachuted in for a welterweight title fight which he lost to then division king Pat Miletich. He fought and lost two more times in his first go-around in the UFC.
Alessio made the switch down to 155 pounds, and this will be his second fight as a lightweight.
What's At Stake?
As soon as Alessio made the switch to fight in the lightweight division, many people north of the border immediately crowned him the best lightweight in Canada. The stakes are high, as this is his second shot at the big show and the 32-year-old is not getting any younger.
In addition to the heat of his second shot, Alessio has now stepped in on short notice to fight fellow Canadian Mark Bocek. Alessio recently stated that he wanted to fight the best lightweight in Canada, and he will get his wish with Bocek. The title of best lightweight in Canada has been between Bocek and Sam Stout for a few years now, but now Alessio and TJ Grant are also worthy of consideration.
The fight with Bocek next weekend will figuratively declare a UFC Canadian lightweight champion. A win will vault Alessio to the top of fans' minds. A loss may bounce him out of the UFC for the final time.
Mark Bocek vs John Alessio
Woodbridge, Ontario's Mark Bocek as long been considered the best lightweight fighter in Canada. He is 10-4 in his career and 6-4 in the UFC, but his record is somewhat deceiving. His four losses have come to the very best in the world in the division—Frankie Edgar, Mac Danzig, Jim Miller and current champion Benson Henderson.
Bocek has a relentless jiu-jitsu top game, and smothering his opponents is his blueprint to victory. He is also known for teaching jiu-jitsu to UFC President Dana White and owners the Fertitta brothers.
What's At Stake?
Bocek needs to get on a nice run of victories in the UFC to really get to where he wants to be. He has flip-flopped between wins and losses recently, and can't seem to get on that run that would open the door to the world top ten.
His standing in the promotion is fairly secure, but his fighting style leaves him vulnerable to fan malaise at times. A convincing win here will solidify his place as Canada's best lightweight and secure his spot for big name fights in the future.
A loss to Alessio will knock him off his current perch for the first time in years and again leave him dead in the water as a lightweight contender.
Mark Hominick vs Eddie Yagin
Thamesford native Mark Hominick is Canada's top featherweight fighter and one of the most popular in the country right now. Hominick has an impressive 20-10 career record and is 3-2 in the UFC.
Hominick is a technical striking wizard whose work ethic in the gym has earned him the nickname "The Machine." He is an owner and head trainer at the Adrenaline Training Center in London, Ontario, and one of the original prized students of the late coach Shawn Tompkins.
After ten years of fighting in this business, Hominick gained somewhat instant notoriety last year with his title fight loss to Jose Aldo at UFC 129.
What's At Stake?
Hominick has been fighting tough fights all of his life, and no fight has been bigger than the one next weekend. He was in line for a title just one year ago, but his loss to Aldo and shockingly quick loss to Chan Sung Jung in December has put his back up against the UFC wall.
It's no secret that Hominick has had a lot on his plate in the last year, but his sole focus for the coming fight is to get back on the winning track. (See above.)
A decisive win over Yagin in Atlanta will put Hominick right back on track in his solid career, and keep him in the mix for the title in 2012. Depending on how it occurs, a loss could find Hominick on the outside looking in, with a very long and tough climb back to the place he wants to be.
Rory MacDonald vs Che Mills
Quesnel, British Columbia, native Rory "Ares" MacDonald has been on a career meteor for the last couple of years now and is thought of as one of the best young fighters in the world. MacDonald is 12-1 in his career and 3-1 in the UFC, with his only loss coming to current interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit.
The fighter out of Tristar in Montreal is an incredible athlete who can transition his game between precision striking and strength and grappling with seamless ease. "Ares" has dominated in all of his wins in the UFC, the most recent being a first-round TKO of Mike Pyle.
What's At Stake?
MacDonald is a rising star who has an incredibly bright future in this sport, regardless of how this risky fight goes down. Many people in the know feel that MacDonald is ready for a much bigger name than Mills, though, and a loss here would surprise many and knock him off his current pedestal.
A win for MacDonald will not do much to lift his stock higher than it already is. Mills is just not a big enough name to really propel Rory, no matter how convincingly he beats him and that makes it a no-win fight.
Regardless of the opponent, MacDonald loves to fight and seems to have the ability to shut out all the hype and focus on the task at hand.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA, MMA Editor at CKSN.ca and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca.