Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Championship Rounds here on Wrestling Rambles. You remember last week when I was gushing about how great GSP vs. Carlos Condit would be and how you should all watch that fight? I hope you followed my advice, because if you didn’t, you missed the triumphant return of one of the best fighters of all time and one of the fights of the year.

They say anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment. At UFC 154 GSP and Carlos Condit more than lived up to the hype. It was one of my favourite fights of 2012 and the UFC is a much better place with GSP back and healthy. I can’t start this week’s run down of my five big stories anywhere else apart from UFC 154. So let’s touch gloves and do this.

Round 1:

UFC 154 – GSP’s winning return sets up intriguing 2013.

After over 19 months away from the sport with a serious knee injury, Georges St-Pierre made his return to the octagon at UFC 154 in front of a raucous home town crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. The UFC’s biggest PPV draw and one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time earned a unanimous decision over former interim Welterweight Champion Carols Condit to once again become the undisputed Welterweight Champion.

The show drew 17,249 extremely patriotic and vocal Canadian fans for a gate of $3,143,000. The fight was one of the best of the year. The technical skills from both men were dazzling and the carnival atmosphere in the arena rivalled any of the big UFC shows of the past or indeed any other major sport. Despite the fight going five rounds it was never boring and kept fans on the edges of their seats throughout.

GSP laid to rest any concerns over his surgically reconstructed knee, which didn’t appear to have any effect on his takedowns or movement when standing. While he was slightly rusty and tired somewhat in the fifth round, he coped well with Condit’s superior stand up skills. In fact GSP was never in trouble standing until the 3rd round when Condit landed a picture perfect high kick to the head that knocked GSP down and had him badly hurt.

It looked like GSP would be finished for the first time since 2008 as Condit swarmed on him with strikes from the top position. GSP didn’t panic, he weathered the storm, got back to his feet and eventually took Condit down. He ended the round on top, reigning down more vicious ground and pound strikes. Any doubts about how GSP would cope if he got in trouble were blown away as he not only survived the scare, but ended the round in control and in a dominant position.

In the end GSP’s superior and seemingly unstoppable takedowns along with lengthy periods of top ground control earned him scores of 50-45, 49-46 and 50-45 from the judges. Two of the judges gave GSP the 3rd round, which shows just how impressive his performance was. That’s not to say he had everything his own way. At the end of the fight GSP’s face wore the cuts and bruises of a man who had just been in probably the toughest fight of his career.

As for Condit? His star power can only increase after this fight. He displayed great charisma and said all the right things in the build up to the fight. He fought bravely against one of the best of all time. Despite being badly cut from some slicing elbows, he continued to go for submissions from the bottom and landed good strikes when the fight was standing. While he didn’t have an answer for GSP’s powerful takedowns, he showed he is an elite level fighter and he came closer to finishing GSP than any of his recent opponents. Condit lost the fight but gained respect as one of the toughest and most skilled fighters in the UFC today.

The big questions coming out of the main event are what does the future hold for both men and the Welterweight division as a whole. In the build up to the fight the biggest distraction for GSP was the looming spectre of a super fight with Middleweight champion Anderson Silva. While fans, media, Dana White, my neighbour and his dog all want the fight to take place, GSP didn’t seem as keen and with good reason.

The size difference between GSP and Silva is marked. While GSP fights at 170lbs, he normally walks around at 190lbs. Silva fights at 185lbs and walks around closer to 220lbs. Finding a suitable catch weight for the fight is going to be difficult. The height and reach advantage will also lie with Silva. While GSP’s takedowns, wrestling ability and strength allow him to dominate his own weight class, it’s doubtful he will have those same advantages over the physically larger Silva. As far as striking goes, Silva is the best in the sport and with his unconventional style and lighting quick reflexes, he will give GSP nightmares when the fight is standing.

While there’s no doubt the fight would be a monster draw on PPV it could also leave both the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions on ice for up to a year. Whether that is a good business decision in the long run is up for debate. After the year they have had with injuries and cancelled Title fights, the last thing the UFC needs is more interim Titles and more high profile contenders sitting on the sidelines waiting for their shot at the gold.

Of course GSP vs. Anderson Silva will eventually happen. There’s too much money at stake and the momentum is now with those who want to see the super fight in 2013. But it won’t be a simple deal for Dana White to broker and after the performance GSP put on in his comeback, White has to be careful that in booking this super fight he doesn’t do harm to the mystic and drawing power of one or even both of his top stars.

Carlos Condit will be back and a rematch against the returning Nick Diaz would be interesting for a variety of reasons, not least that if Condit wins again it will put paid to the belief that Diaz is the second best Welterweight fighter in the world and should be next to fight GSP. Diaz vs. GSP seems to be getting further and further away at the moment, but a rematch against Condit, given their history, could be a big money fight.

In amongst all the super fight talk one man with a tremendous beard seems to have been forgotten. Johny Hendrix had one of the best knock out finishes I have ever seen in the UFC in the semi main event of UFC 154 against fellow top contender Martin Kampmann. Hendrix is famous for his hammer of a left hand which had previously knocked out John Fitch in ten seconds.

In Montreal the world once again saw the devastating power that Hendrix possess as he came in with a right hand set up and then a devastating left hook to the jaw which poleaxed Kampmann. The punch landed with such power that when Kampmann hit the ground he actually skidded backwards a good couple of feet on his back, it looked like he’d been hit with a car.

The force generated by Hendrix with that punch is down right scary and he lands it with laser accuracy. Add to that the fact that Hendrix is a phenomenal wrestler and he could be a serious threat to GSP and his Title. That fight seems to be right at the bottom of everyone’s list of priorities, which is a shame because no one in that division has done more to earn a Title shot than Hendrix.

Whatever happens next the UFC will be delighted to have GSP back, winning in such an exciting fashion and drawing what many insiders believe will be the second biggest PPV of the year. The current second placed show is Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans which drew around 700,000 buys. Only Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 2 has drawn more PPV buys this year.

UFC 154 was a night of high emotions which saw the return of one of the UFC’s top stars. It was also a career making night for Carlos Condit, who even in defeat proved why he was a deserving interim Champion and a force to be reckoned with at 170lbs. The next few months for GSP and the UFC are going to be extremely interesting and while the clamour is for a super fight, let’s hope it doesn’t come at the expense of two of the most exciting weight divisions in the UFC.

Round 2:

Thiago Silva fails post fight drugs test following win in Macau, China.

Last week I wrote about how impressive Thiago Silva looked in his submission win against Stanislav Nedkov and commented that the last time he looked that good he failed his post fight drugs test. Looks like lightening has struck twice as this week the UFC announced that Silva tested positive again, this time for marijuana. He has been handed a six month suspension by the UFC, his win has been overturned and the fight ruled a no contest.

UFC sent out a press release stating, “Thiago Silva has tested positive for marijuana metabolites following his bout at UFC on FUEL in Macau. The UFC organization has a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance-enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents. Silva has admitted to taking the banned substance and has agreed to participate in an approved drug-rehabilitation program and serve a six-month suspension retroactive to the November 10 event. He must pass a drug test upon completion of the suspension before receiving clearance to fight again.”

Here’s hoping Silva is able to get whatever issues he has under control through the UFC sponsored rehab programme. The use of marijuana is a controversial one as many fighters use it to help ease pain from training. Famously Nick Diaz was recently suspended for a year following his second failure for marijuana despite holding a card for medicinal use, granted there’s a lot more to that story. Whether or not marijuana enhances or even dulls performance is fiercely debated. What can’t be debated is if Silva doesn’t comply with the rehab programme or tests positive again once he returns, he will see his career in the UFC come to an end and quickly.

Round 3:

Chris Weidman out of UFC 155 with injury.

Another Championship Rounds, another fight off due to injury. Such is the nature of the beast when it comes to MMA. This time it’s a significant blow to the end of year PPV UFC 155 as Chris Weidman has had to withdraw from his middleweight contenders fight with Tim Boetsch.

Weidman is widely considered to be the unofficial number one contender to Anderson Silva and had been hoping to use a win against the tough Boetsch to finally cement his place as the next in line for a crack at the Middleweight king. Now Weidman is sidelined for a reported six months with a shoulder injury and dependant on the outcome of the fight between Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort, he could find himself back in the pack when he returns from injury.

With Weidman out, Costa Philippou will step in to fight Boetsch. Philippou, who is on a four fight win streak of his own, had been set to fight Nick Ring at UFC 154 before Ring pulled out due to illness. A win for Philippou and the already crowded Middleweight contender scene becomes even more complicated. With Anderson Silva stating he won’t fight until May 2013 and with that fight potentially being against GSP, the log jam of contenders at Middleweight looks set to continue into 2013.

Round 4:

UFC all female division will be 135lbs – no place for Cyborg?

Dana White has been revealing more of his plans for the UFC’s first female division and they don’t appear to make any room for the much hyped fight between Ronda Rousey and Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos.

White has confirmed that the division will be at Bantamweight (135lbs) and Ronda Rousey will be the first Champion of the division. She is the current Strikeforce 135lbs champion and that title will be replaced by a UFC title.

White is keen to get Rousey onto UFC PPV as soon as possible and has stated he would have her fight ‘next Saturday’ if he could. While no opponent has been named for Rousey’s first fight in the UFC, many are expecting the fight to happen early in 2013 as either the semi main or even main event of a PPV. That’s a big gamble as Rousey is an unknown factor when it comes to drawing on PPV, but given her star qualities, her ever rising popularity and the UFC promotional machine fully behind her, the results could surprise many doubters.

One opponent who won’t be fighting Rousey at 135lbs is the former Strikeforce female 145lbs champion Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos. Cyborg is currently suspended for one year for failing a drug test for steroids after her last fight in Strikeforce. Cyborg has long been plagued with rumours of steroid use due to her physical appearance (she looks like a female computer game character) but she is also one of the most deadly female MMA strikers in the world and a proven draw following her win in the historic first ever female MMA fight on national TV against Gina Carano a few years ago.

A war of words between Rousey and Cyborg has raged ever since Rousey burst onto the scene. Despite the bad blood between them and the money drawing potential of a big fight between them, it appears the fight won’t happen any time soon, especially in the UFC.

Cyborg has always maintained that she can’t cut to 135lbs due to health issues. Rousey has responded by telling her to get off steroids, drop some muscle mass and she could easily make 135lbs. Rousey’s belief is that Cyborg has been doping for her entire career and that has given her an unfair advantage over every opponent she has beaten.

Rousey holds all the cards in this situation as she is the new face of female MMA and as Champion doesn’t have to bend to the requests of Cyborg for the fight to take place at 145lbs. Cyborg could now find herself in the position of being one of the best female MMA fighters in the world but unable to compete on the biggest stage for the biggest pay days.

There isn’t currently any bigger fight in female MMA than Rousey vs. Cyborg but unfortunately it appears fans won’t get the chance to see them hook up in the UFC any time soon.

Round 5:

Henderson vs. Machida announced for UFC 157 on 23rd February 2013.

Two former Champions and two of the biggest names in the UFC will face off early next year when Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida fight in Anaheim, California. It will be a true clash of styles as wrestler Henderson will look to avoid the unorthodox striking of karate master Machida.

Henderson is fighting for the first time in a year and the former Pride and Strikeforce Champion will hope a win against former UFC Light Heavyweight Machida will propel him back into contention for a shot at current champion, Jon Jones. Henderson was scheduled to face Jones earlier this year but was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury.

Machida is also looking to get a second crack at Jones (who submitted him in spectacular fashion when they fought for the Title) and an impressive win against a legend like Dan Henderson will go a long way to secure his spot as number one contender. Machida is coming off a knock out of Ryan Bader in his last fight and he’ll be looking to do the same to Henderson when they step into the octagon in February.

Well there you have it folks, it’s been a huge week for the UFC and it’s damn good to see GSP back and healthy. Whoever he fights next it’s going to make headlines and draw money. Thanks for reading and be sure to join me again next week for more big news in 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. It’s funnier than John Cena trying to kiss and more confusing than TNA’s booking of James Storm.

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