Welcome to the first edition of Championship Rounds here on Wrestling Rambles. I know what you’re all thinking, “what the hell is a MMA column doing here?” Fear not true believers, while this is a new weekly look at the world of MMA, I can assure you Wrestling Rambles is not becoming Octagon Rambles. It’s not going to be all mouth guards and bragging about how many hours a week we roll in our BJJ class. We’re still here to talk wrestling.

It’s just nice to try something different. I like to think of this column as a damn tasty side dish to your usual main course. There’s a huge cross over between MMA and pro wrestling (although the purists from both sides won’t admit that in public) and it seemed like as good a time as any to bring some MMA comment and opinion to Wrestling Rambles.

I love pro wrestling. I’ve been a fan for over twenty years but MMA has, slowly but surely, taken over pro wrestling as my main passion. It’s a sport I now follow religiously. I wasn’t one of those people watching the Gracie era UFC from the early 90s, mainly because I was twelve years old at the time and I lived in the highlands of Scotland. When I was growing up, my TV was drawn on the outside of a cardboard box and the most popular form of youth entertainment was making tweed.

I became a fan of UFC and the sport of MMA, like a large majority of the current fan base, after the first season of the Ultimate Fighter. My interest in MMA reached its current full on fanboy level when Brock Lesnar signed with the UFC and quickly became their Heavyweight Champion and their highest drawing PPV star of the last couple of years.

These days I consume any and all MMA I can. I watch every UFC show from the PPVs all the way to the Facebook prelims on a Fuel TV card. I’m one of the few remaining people who every week watch both the new season of The Ultimate Fighter and the UK vs. Australia version of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes (a pay rise for the dude who came up with that name). When they actually run a show I will always watch Strikeforce. I enjoy watching BAMMA and Belator when I can find the time. I am also madly in love with and extremely intimidated by Ronda Rousey.

Let’s not kid ourselves here, I’m not a fighter. I don’t pretend to be a tough guy. I would probably shit my pants if I actually had to step into the Octagon, even if it was just to clean the mat or make sure the Corn Nuts ads were clearly visible on TV. It’s safe to say that I am an armchair critic (the worst kind of critic) but I have nothing but huge respect for the men and women who make MMA their profession and their passion.

It’s a sport you can’t go into half assed. It’s a sport that pushes the mind, body and soul of those who participate in it to the very limit. The level of courage, commitment, skill and athletic ability that is required to become a World Champion in MMA is second to none. This is the hardest sport in the world and one of the most exciting, dynamic and downright entertaining sports on the planet today. So I won’t be one of these douchebag keyboard warriors who say things like, “Carlos Condit was a pussy because he ran away from Nick Diaz instead of standing there and getting punched.” I know I couldn’t do what these guy do, that’s why I write about it instead.

I don’t consider myself a MMA expert. All I am is a huge fan of the sport, who can string a few entertaining sentences together and has the platform here to share my take on the world of MMA. Whether or not being a huge fan and somewhat of a student of MMA makes me qualified to comment on it in any meaningful fashion is up for debate. But that’s the wonder of our modern world – everyone is an expert and everyone is able to share their half baked opinions with the world.

With that said, let’s actually get some half baked MMA comment and opinion shall we? You’ll have noticed these ramblings are under the heading Championship Rounds. The idea is Championship fights in UFC are five round affairs and so each week I’ll bring my top five news stories from the world of MMA. They won’t be in any particular order of importance and given how much of the market they control, most of them will be UFC related. I will try to cover more than just UFC but, just like WWE, when you’re the only gig in town, you’re going to get all the focus – good or bad.

So let’s kick things off with our opening round and a story that links back to pro wrestling:

Round One – Dave Bautista wins his MMA debut.

Some know him as WWE World Champion Dave ‘The Animal’ Batista. Or maybe as Deacon Dave, remember, the big guy who looked after Reverend D-Von’s collection box? No matter what nickname he was known by, following his debut fight on Saturday 6th October 2012, Dave Bautista can now call himself a professional MMA fighter.

I’ll be honest , I had doubts about Bautista being able to make it in MMA. I don’t mean from a skills or heart point of view. It just seemed like time and circumstances were working against the big man. 43 years old, with no experience and a body that has been torn up with serious muscle and tendon injuries during his WWE career, did not make good reading for his potential success as a MMA fighter.

Thankfully I was proved wrong as Bautista was able to secure a win over a very tubby (and third late replacement) and slightly unhinged veteran fighter Vince Lucero (22-22-1) via TKO with strikes late in the 1st round.

It didn’t all go Bautista’s way as he looked to be suffering from a serious case of first fight jitters as he stepped into the cage at the CES 12 event called ‘Real Pain.’ He was rocked in the early going as Lucero came out throwing bombs and looking to end the fight early. Given the physical shape he was in, this was probably his best option. I never thought I’d see the day when Bautista had better cardio than his opponent. I still remember the days in WWE when he’d walk down the entrance ramp and get so blown up he’d have a semi asthma attack before getting into the ring.

Thankfully cardio wasn’t an issue in this fight as Bautista was able to take Lucero down with a double leg take down following the early scare. Big Dave showed his superior grappling skills and eventually pinned Lucero on the mat and landed repeated strikes to the head until the referee stopped the fight.

Whether this leads to a full time professional MMA career for Big Dave is doubtful. In a recent interview on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour his buddy CM Punk speculated that this could be a ‘bucket list’ achievement for Bautista. Punk stated he knew Bautista had always wanted to have a professional MMA fight and now he’s done that he can decide if he wants to become a full time professional or continue to train in Gracie Ju-jitsu and run his gym.

Whatever he decides to do Bautista has fulfilled a lifelong ambition of stepping in the cage and competing in a professional MMA fight. Which makes him a better and braver man than I.

Round Two – UFC returns to the UK with a great show.

The UFC returned to the UK on 29th September at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. When the card was announced a lot of fans complained there weren’t enough big stars on the card. Idiots. This card was booked to perfection with exciting match ups and plenty of fighters moving up the ranks thanks to their performances.

Yes, it’s nice to have big names on the card but from a ‘hardcore’ fans perspective, this was a top notch card to return to the UK with. In the end it was one of the best UFC shows of the year, with finishes up and down the card and some excellent performances from the UK fighters.

The UK’s own Brad Pickett lived up to his ‘one punch’ nickname with an awe inspiring uppercut KO of dangerous striker Yves Jabouin. Although he lost points in my book for his gangnam style victory dance. I’m not getting on that particular bandwagon no matter how much people go on about it. I lived through the Macarena and one twattish dance craze per life time is enough for me.

In the semi-main event hometown hero Dan Hardy made it two wins on the spin as he earned a unanimous decision over former Ultimate Fighter winner, Amir Sadollah. Hardy was excellent in this fight, refusing to be drawn into a slug fest in the opening round, he surprised many with his new found wrestling skills. He was able to take Sadollah down on multiple occasions in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and do some serious damage with slicing elbows and other vicious ground and pound strikes. By the end of the fight Sadollah looked liked he had walked into an airplane propeller a la that big bald scary Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In the main event battle of the up and coming heavyweight contenders Stefan Struve knocked out highly touted prospect Stipe Miocic in the second round. A great performance from the legit SEVEN FOOT TALL Dutch fighter, Struve did his future Title hopes no harm at all. Although I’d expect another high profile fight or two before he gets a shot at the Title.

A great night of action from Nottingham with one of the hottest crowds I’ve seen for a UFC event outside of Brazil. Let’s hope it’s not so long between visits to the UK from Dana White and the UFC crew.

Round Three – UFC on FX – Bigfoot SMASH.

The UFC/Fox partnership continued with UFC on FX on Friday 5th October. This was the night of the ‘come from behind finish’ as both Michael Johnson and Mike Pierce were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. If this show taught us anything it’s that you never count a MMA fighter out. Both Johnson and Pierce showed terrific heart and a will to win that will do their future prospects in the UFC no warm whatsoever.

Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson earned himself a shot at Flyweight (125 lbs) World Champion Demetrius Johnson by KOing BJJ expert Jussier Formiga in the second round. If you’ve never seen a fight between the flyweights it’s mind blowing. The speed these guys work at is unreal and the myth that they don’t finish fights was dispelled by Dodson with some excellent combination striking. The Champion Johnson is the fastest fighter in the UFC and his fight against Dodson is one you will have to record and then watch back in slow motion to see just what the hell happened.

Another heavyweight fight main event saw Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva KO an injured Travis Browne in pretty brutal fashion. Browne was unlucky to suffer a torn hamstring early in the fight and fought valiantly on one leg against the monstrously huge, Big Foot. Seriously, the guy is massive. His head must be the size of a cash register. Browne is no small man and I had predicted a Browne KO. But after suffering the injury early on, it was only a matter of time before Big Foot finished him with one of the most devastating right hand punches I’ve seen in a long time. Browne will be back in two to four months and has a bright future ahead of him. Big Foot moves up the rankings and gets his first win in the UFC after coming over from Strikeforce and being dissected in a bloody fashion by Cain Velasquez in his first fight. I could see UFC matching Struve and Big Foot against each other in the future in a battle of the giants. Of course Vince McMahon would’ve booked that on day one.

Another entertaining and fun show which set up one hell of an exciting fight for the Flyweight Title in the future.

Round Four – Mayhem Miller’s behaviour continues to worry fans.

The very public and very worrying meltdown of Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller continued earlier this week. Non UFC fans might know Mayhem from his Bully Beatdown show on MTV. A former coach on The Ultimate Fighter opposite Michael Bisping, Mayhem is known for his flashy entrances to the cage, his weird sense of humour and for never really living up to the hype when he fought in the UFC. He was destroyed by Bisping and a loss to CB Dollaway saw Mayhem cut from the UFC earlier this year.

He was recently arrested after getting naked and smashing up a church. Yep, an interesting character to say the least. His recent Twitter war with UFC President Dana White did start out as humorous but it quickly became evident that Mayhem is suffering from some form of mental health issue. White even publically acknowledged that Mayhem has had mental health problems in the past and that he needs help.

His most recent controversy was an appearance on the MMA Hour. Mayhem is one of the stars of new MMA movie, Here Comes The Boom. During the whole interview he stayed in his character from the movie, refusing to answer questions as Mayhem, before finally getting very shitty with Ariel Helwani, throwing things around the studio and then storming out of the interview. It was a surreal scene to say the least.

If Mayhem is channelling his inner Andy Kauffman that’s one thing. Given what’s happened to him in the recent past and his increasingly bizarre behaviour, a lot of fans are worried that Mayhem could be headed for major breakdown and there’s still the criminal charges he has to face over the naked church incident. Here’s hoping Mayhem gets the help and support he needs because he’s a damn entertaining guy and seems like a genuinely nice dude who is going through some bad times.

Round Five – Silva vs. Bonnar – UFC 153 from Brazil.

If there’s one thing 2012 will be remembered for in the UFC it will be injuries causing fights to be cancelled. This Saturday 13th October from Rio, Brazil, UFC 153 will take place live on PPV. This is one of the most altered cards in recent history. To go through all the changes would take another article. I won’t bore you with the details. Just know that this card is nothing like the one originally planned.

It’s safe to say that the main event of Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight Champion and the greatest fighter of all time) going up to Light Heavyweight to face Stephan Bonnar (veteran fighter and one half of the most important fight in UFC history – final of Ultimate Fighter Season 1) was not what anyone expected to see. With the main event falling through twice, Anderson Silva showed Jon Jones what it means to be a company man and a champion by agreeing to move up to Light Heavyweight and fight Bonnar in Rio.

The UFC are marketing this fight as a real life Rocky story. Bonnar is the atypical journeyman fighter, tough as nails, never knocked out, never submitted, fought all the top competition for over seven years in the UFC. One of the most popular and respected fighters on the roster. Anderson Silva is simply the greatest fighter of all time. The Michael Jordan of MMA. His record is spectacular, his level of skill is second to none. On paper this looks like one of the biggest mismatches of all time.

As fans of MMA will know, anything can happen and a fight can be finished at any time. Bonnar has the heart of a lion and will have a big size advantage over Silva who is naturally the smaller man. The question is will that heart, spirit and toughness be enough to shock the world and beat the best of all time in his home city. It’s a long shot, but stranger things have happened. My take is simple, Rocky lost in the first film and I don’t see anything else but an Anderson Silva win in this one. But if I’m wrong – holy shit will the UFC be turned on its head!

UFC 153 also sees the return of Heavyweight legend and Brazilian hero Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira as he takes on Dave Herman. The last time UFC were in Rio Nogueira stopped Brendan Shaub and the reaction from the Brazilian fans was one of the loudest and most insanely intense crowd pops I have seen in my life. If Big Nog wins this fight, expect more of the same.

Potential future star Glover Teixeira will finally get a fight in Rio after at least three UFC fighters refused to fight him. He’s a huge prospect and a World Champion in the making but no one in the mainstream knows who he is. I expect a big performance and big win over fellow Brazilian Fabio Maldonado. It won’t be easy but if Teixeira is as good as everyone says, this fight is a must win for him.

With other interesting and hard to predict fights like Jon Fitch vs. Erick Silva and Demian Maia vs. Rick Story on the card, UFC 153 has the potential to be a fantastic show with a main event that could either be one of the most one sided ass kickings in UFC history, or a true Hollywood style underdog tale that will warm the heart of even the most hardcore of MMA fans.

So there you have it folks, a MMA article on Wrestling Rambles, I never thought I’d see the day. Thanks for reading the first edition of Championship Rounds and I’ll be back next week with a review of UFC 153, plus four other stories from around the world of MMA.

If you’re so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter which is @MFXDuckman. You can also hear me and my partner in crime Sir Ian Trumps every week on the Marks for Xcellence podcast, where we take an alternative look at the week in WWE and TNA. You can find all the details for the show on the Wrestling Rambles podcast page or over at http://www.mfxpodcast.com.

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Until next time…