Welcome to another edition of Championship Rounds, my weekly look at five big stories in the world of MMA. Thanks to everyone who read and commented last week. I knew I wasn’t the only one here with a passion for both pro wrestling and MMA. While the majority of people visit Wrestling Rambles to read about pro wrestling, I hope some of you will find space in your life for a little weekly MMA news and opinion. It’s been a newsworthy week, so let’s touch gloves and get this started!
Round 1 – UFC 153 – Anderson Silva is the greatest of all time…and probably a Jedi.
UFC 153 took place on Saturday 13th October from the raucous HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The card, which was plagued with injuries and cancelled fights, ended up being one of the more entertaining shows of the year. Once again the Rio crowd were electric all night with singing, chanting and partisan responses to anyone and anything Brazilian.
The main event of UFC 153 was another ‘you have to see it to believe it’ TKO win by the official ‘Greatest Fighter Of All Time’ Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, who took apart with ease an over matched but game Stephan Bonnar. Silva has now taken his status to a level that is reserved for those athletes who legitimately change perceptions of what someone can achieve in a sport.
Granted, Stephan Bonnar is not a top level fighter in the mould of a GSP or a Jon Jones (few fighters are) but he is a competent, experienced and tough as nails warrior. Silva was so good on Saturday against Bonnar, he looked like he was fighting me.
The fight was over as a contest the moment Bonnar threw a spinning kick and Silva calmly stepped out of the way, then stepped back to the same spot he moved from and beckoned Bonnar to throw punches. Bonnar replied with a combination of strikes and Silva moved out the way of them as if he were in the Matrix.
Immediately I had flashbacks to that famous moment (shown hundreds of times in the build up to the fight) when Forrest Griffin tried something similar in his fight with Silva, only to hit nothing but fresh air, before being put on his ass by a short straight jab from Silva, who was moving backwards at the time. Devastating, different class.
Watching Silva fight is something to behold. He fights like a computer; analysing his opponent’s techniques and timing, before deciding on the perfect way to end the fight. On Saturday he spent roughly four minutes dodging Bonnar’s punches with ease, defending his take down and clinch work, before striking with a brutal flying knee to the solar plexus that knocked all the air out of Bonnar and stopped for the first time in his career. It was like a cat toying with a bird before it finally goes for the kill.
After the fight all the talk was about Silva vs. Jon Jones or Silva vs. GSP as his next potential fights. Either fight will do monster PPV numbers and are the kind of super fights Silva should be having as his career draws to a close. Silva seems to be leaning towards fighting GSP but if Dana White can make the right kind of deal, I’m sure Silva would fight Jones. Both fights are incredibly intriguing but neither is a reality yet.
No matter who he fights next, the whole world should be watching because this kind of sporting greatness only comes along once in a generation. He is so much more talented than the majority of his peers that there is only one explanation for his skills – he’s an alien…or maybe a Jedi. He is unlike any fighter in any combat sport, both inside and outside the cage. He is, simply, the greatest of all time.
After all my gushing about my new boyfriend Anderson Silva you may think that nothing else of note happened in Rio on Saturday. Well, you’d be wrong. The show was notable for great fights up and down the card with some tremendous finishes. Expert submission wins by Damien Maia, Phil Davis and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would have normally stolen all the headlines but for me the undercard was about two things – the resurrection of John Fitch and the new toughest son of a bitch on the planet, Fabio Maldonado.
Fitch has long been labelled by fans as boring due to his strategy of grinding out decision wins with superior wrestling. The phrase ‘lay and prey’ is one that Fitch has been tagged with for years. Even a long winning streak and one of the best records in UFC history wasn’t good enough to stop fans calling Fitch boring and undeserving of top contender status.
On Saturday in Rio, coming off his 10 second KO defeat by Jonny Hendrix and then a lengthy lay off due to injury, Fitch wasn’t fighting for the approval of the fans. He said it himself; he was fighting to put food on his family’s table.
Standing across the cage from him was one of the most exciting and dangerous young Brazilian fighters in the UFC, Erick Silva. Silva has all the skills and raw aggression to be one of the most deadly strikers in the UFC over the next few years. This was old stager versus young lion and with the home town crowd baying for his blood, Fitch could and probably should have wilted under the pressure.
This was one of those rare occasions where the fight lived up to the hype. For fifteen exciting, back and forth minutes, Fitch was able to survive an early onslaught of strikes and a deep rear naked choke attempt in the second round. He then dominated a gassed Silva in the final round – which was so one sided it would be a crime to score it anything other than 10-8 to Fitch.
The man who had been called boring pushed the pace and took the fight to Silva throughout. When he got a dominant position on the ground the only fighter laying and preying was the young Brazilian as Fitch put on a clinic of brutal ground and pound. This was an eye opening performance from Fitch and a well deserved win against a dangerous opponent. Where that leaves Fitch in the division is a discussion for another day. What everyone should be talking about is the fact he delivered on his promise to earn the fight of the night bonus for his family.
While Fitch proved the doubters wrong, Fabio Maldonado left fans in no doubt that he is the toughest son of a bitch on the planet. Maldonado was absolutely destroyed by fellow Brazilian and ruthless striker Glover Teixeira in their light heavyweight fight. This was one of the most comprehensive ass kickings in UFC history. You know a guy is taking a beating when even Joe Rogan sounds like he isn’t enjoying what he’s watching.
Teixeira showed exactly why so many top contenders don’t want to fight him. His powerful striking was matched only by the absolutely brutal ground and pound he delivered to Maldonado throughout the fight. He dropped so many hard elbows that at one point I thought he had put Maldonado’s head through the mat.
Yet none of that would stop Maldonado. Despite literally having his face rearranged and absorbing the kind of punishment that would reduce mere mortals to puddles of blood and broken bones, Maldonado kept coming forward. He reminded me of an unstoppable character from a horror movie. At one point, after taking ungodly punishment from Teixeira, he landed a big left hook that wobbled Teixeira to the point that it looked like the mother of all upsets might be on the cards.
In the end the storybook ending didn’t happen and Maldonado was pulled out of the fight for his own good at the end of the second round. He lost the fight but everyone who witnessed his performance knows for a fact that Fabio Maldonado can not be killed by conventional weapons.
In the post fight interview Teixeira claimed Maldonado wasn’t human and you can’t argue with that. Fabio Maldonado is without a doubt the toughest and the craziest guy from this planet or any other.
UFC 153 saw a tremendous night of fights in Rio, with finishes all over the card, capped off with a mesmerising and downright scary performance from Anderson Silva. Go check out a replay as soon as you can.
Round 2 – Jake Shields fails drugs test
From the very best of MMA, to the very worst. Once again a fighter makes headlines for all the wrong reasons. This time it is Jake Shields who was suspended for six months by the Colorado Boxing Commission and fined $5000, after testing positive for a “prohibited substance” following his decision win over Ed Herman at UFC 150. The result of that fight has now been changed to a no-contest.
Details of exactly what “prohibited substance” Shields took have not been released. Shields did comment on the positive test and his subsequent suspension,
“This was a mistake that I fully regret,” Shields stated. “I have shared this issue with my family and the UFC and I have apologised to them, and now I apologise to the fans. I promise this will never occur again in my fighting career.”
While it’s commendable to see Shields hold his hands up and admit his guilt, it’s still a major black mark against him as a fighter and on the sport in general. The term ‘performance enhancing drug’ has not been used which could mean perhaps Shields tested positive for a recreational drug. Anyone who is thinking, ‘contact high from Nick Diaz’ wins the prize for most obvious joke of the week.
Round 3 – White hints at Overeem vs. winner of Dos Santos/Velasquez
Speaking of drug cheats, Alistair Overeem is back in the news this week. One of the most high profile fighters in the UFC and a man who has had his fair share of drug related controversy in his career. He famously failed a surprise drugs test in the lead up to his cancelled Heavyweight Title fight with Junior Dos Santos last year. For those of you keeping score at home he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone with a ratio of 14-to-1, over the allowed ratio rate of 6-to-1.
Overeem is currently without a licence to fight and can’t apply for one until 27th December when the Nevada State Athletic Commission will consider his application. That hasn’t stopped Dana White from confirming this week that Overeem’s first fight back in the UFC will be a Heavyweight Title fight, most likely in March or April of next year , against the winner of the Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez rematch which is schedule for 29th December in Las Vegas.
Dos Santos has been lobbying White for a fight against Overeem following some well directed trash talk by the controversial Dutchman. Dos Santos, if he can over come the not insubstantial challenge of former Heavyweight Champion Velasquez, will get his chance to settle his issue with Overeem early next year. The fight will be huge on PPV but many fans are questioning the decision to reward a drugs cheat with a high profile Heavyweight Title fight in his first fight back. Money talks folks. Speaking of which…
Round 4 – UFC drops bombshell – Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen to coach TUF Season 17
Let the heated debate begin! Season 17 of the flagging UFC reality show will see UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and premier trash talking superstar Chael Sonnen as opposing coaches. The show begins filming at the end of this month and will air on FX early next year. The two will then clash for the Light Heavyweight Title in April 2013 in what will be one of the UFC’s biggest PPV events of next year.
This announcement has split the MMA community right down the middle, although it doesn’t take much for the MMA community to disagree with each other. In one camp are those who believe this fight devalues the Light Heavyweight Title as Sonnen is not a worthy contender. They cite the fact that Sonnen has a decidedly average record in the UFC; the fact he hasn’t fought at Light Heavyweight since 2005 and is coming off a 2nd round TKO loss to Anderson Silva as reasons why he doesn’t deserve the shot at Jones and the Light Heavyweight Title. They feel he has talked his way into this fight and that is unfair to others in the division.
In the other camp are those who accept the UFC’s first priority is to make money and outside of Anderson Silva vs. Jones/GSP, this is the biggest money fight they can book. With all the recent controversy surrounding Jones and his decision to refuse a fight with Sonnen on eight days notice which lead to the cancellation of UFC 15, this fight seems like a no brainer. The personality clash, the history, the dynamic between the two men and Sonnen’s unmatched verbal ability to sell a fight, what’s not to like? Quite a lot, according to half the MMA community.
A lot of complaints relate to the fact that the UFC is more worried about saving the plummeting ratings of TUF (a record low of around 640,000 for the most recent episode) than about protecting the value of the Light Heavyweight Title or giving those fighters who are most deserving a shot at Jones and his gold. There’s no doubt the UFC have smashed the glass and pulled the lever in case of emergency when it comes to TUF and the question now is – what’s more important, ratings/money or the integrity of the Championship/sport?
Anyone who is not interested in the prospect of how Jones and Sonnen will co-exist on the show must have had their fun gland removed at birth. Yes this is a gimmick fight to help kick start the rating for TUF but what’s wrong with that? Jones is injured and can’t fight until April.
He also needs some rehabilitation in the eyes of the fans if he is to remain a big PPV draw and future superstar of the sport. A strong season of TUF against the best trash talker in the sport seems like the perfect chance for the UFC to rebuild Jones in the eyes of the fans.
The season will be equally entertaining (thanks to Sonnen’s trash talk) and intriguing (how will Jones react, what kind of a person is he really) and while not many people will be betting on Sonnen causing the upset, it’ll still be a fight worth watching.
The UFC doesn’t make fights that people think should happen, it makes fights that people want to happen. The reaction towards Jones and his refusal to fight Sonnen on short notice is what has brought us to this point. The fight is, of course, being used to turn TUF’s ratings around and it’s clear that is the UFC’s main priority in booking this fight.
Right now I’m sure the UFC are rubbing their hands together at just how strong the reaction (both positive and negative) has been to this announcement. It means people are interested. It means people are emotionally invested in what is going on. I doubt that has been the case with TUF since the Rampage/Rashad season. Even when proven PPV draw Brock Lesnar was a coach the ratings were not great because there was no conflict with permanent nice guy Junior Dos Santos.
Jones and Sonnen will bring nothing but conflict and despite the murmurs of the purists out there, this is a decision that will benefit the UFC and both Jones and Sonnen. It may also signal the end of TUF in it’s current format because if Jones and Sonnen can’t turn the ratings around and get people watching, no one can.
Round 5 – Eddie Alvarez wins his final fight on current Bellator contract – heading for UFC?
At Bellator 76, former Lightweight Champion, Eddie Alvarez, signed off on the last fight of his contract with an emphatic head kick KO of Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. The fight was a one round slugfest with both fighters swinging for the fences early and connecting with big punches throughout. It looked to be a short night for Alvarez as he dropped his opponent early. Alvarez didn’t have everything his own way and was rocked by Freire with a right hook later in the round. It was only Alvarez’s excellent speed and awareness of where he was in the cage that got him out of trouble. He ended the fight with only a few seconds left thanks to a perfectly placed head kick that dropped Freire and the referee quickly waved the fight off as the Brazilian face planted into the mat.
There’s been a ton of fan interest in Alvarez signing with the UFC and the potential match ups for him in the stacked 155 division are numerous. Following his win Dana White tweeted at Alvarez, “Congrats bro. Let’s talk.” This was the signal for the speculation to begin that Alvarez will soon sign with the UFC as one of the hottest free agents in the sport. It seems to be the right and the only move that he can make at this point in his career. Although as has been shown time and again – contract negotiations in sport are never simple or quick. Here’s hoping we seen Alvarez in the Octagon soon because with his skill level and UFC’s ability to market a fighter to the general public, he could be the next star of the 155 lbs division.
Ok folks, that’s a wrap for this week. We’ve seen out of this world performances, amazing fights, controversy and so much more this week. It’s weeks like this that remind me why I love this sport so much in the first place!
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Until next time…