Hello and welcome to the first Championship Rounds of 2013. Due to the Christmas holiday it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted. Hopefully you guys have been able to survive without your weekly fix of MMA news here on Wrestling Rambles.
While it’s been quiet recently on the Championship Rounds front, in the world of MMA it’s been anything but. Today I’m going to take a quick look back at the main event of UFC 155 and four other stories of the last couple of weeks that have caught my eye. So let’s touch gloves and do this!
Round 1 – Cain Velasquez destroys Junior Dos Santos at UFC 155 to become 2 time Heavyweight Champion.
There is a new official ‘baddest man on the planet’ and his name is Cain Velasquez. At the final UFC show of the year Velasquez regained the UFC Heavyweight Title from Junior Dos Santos, the man who defeated him for the Title in 60 seconds on the first UFC on Fox card back in November 2011.
Their first fight, which was one of the most anticipated and important in UFC history, ended with a flash KO of Velazquez. Despite making no excuses for his loss it has since come to light that Velasquez was suffering from a serious knee injury at the time of the historic fight on Fox. Looking at that fight now it’s obvious that Velasquez was not 100% healthy and had nowhere near the level of aggression required to pose a significant challenge to Dos Santos.
On 29th December in Las Vegas, Velasquez was fully healthy and ready to show the world that he is the best heavyweight fighter in MMA today. His five round destruction of Dos Santos proved that to be the case. Over the course of 25 minutes Velasquez dominated Dos Santos in every aspect of the fight. Dos Santos was overly concerned with defending the take down and constantly kept his hands low while standing. This resulted in him absorbing a large number of punches throughout the fight that would have finished most fighters.
The fight was effectively over as a contest in the first round when Velasquez landed a huge right hand that dropped Dos Santos and had him stunned and staggered for the next three rounds. It was something of a miracle that the fight wasn’t finished in the seconds following that huge punch.
As the fight went on Velasquez used his wrestling base to bully Dos Santos against the cage, land hard strikes and then take him down to the mat and display his brutal ground and pound technique. This left Dos Santos with a face so bloody and swollen that post fight he looked like a failed face transplant patient.
It was the kind of beating that takes years off a fighter’s career. Despite the one sided nature of the loss Dos Santos showed incredible heart and a granite jaw to last the full five rounds and even come back into the fight in round five. He immediately called for a rematch as he knew his game plan for the fight (blocking punches with his head) failed badly. I doubt an immediate rematch will be in the UFC’s plans.
As far as Velasquez is concerned this fight was redemption for the 60 second loss on Fox. Many within the sport have long claimed he is the greatest heavyweight fighter in MMA today. The next year and how he fairs in his Title defences will go a long way to confirming that. It was a spectacular performance by Velasquez who will now be positioned as the UFC’s huge Hispanic star and will no doubt be at the forefront of UFC’s attempts to break into the Mexican TV and PPV market during the coming year.
Round 2 – Alistair Overeem cleared for return at UFC156
While Cain Velasquez can bask in the glory of his heavyweight title win, his next potential challenger was granted his licence to fight on 8th January in a ten minute hearing by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The highly controversial Alistair Overeem will return to UFC action on 2nd February at UFC156 in a fight against Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva.
A win for Overeem will secure him the next shot at Velasquez and the heavyweight title. This is the same title shot Overeem would have had against Junior Dos Santos in May last year, had he not failed a surprise drugs test following a press conference to promote the fight.
The award of Overeem’s fighter licence was a rubber stamp affair. The Commission confirmed Overeem had submitted urine samples for drug testing between June and December, all of which came back clean. Given the fact Overeem could choose when to submit the samples, it would have been the mother of all shocks if the results came back positive. The Commission also tested Overeem on 16th November and again on 21st December with both tests coming back negative.
Overeem was in Japan over New Year competing in celebrity arm wrestling and tug of war contests and weighed in at 262 pounds, which is a few pounds over his usual fighting weight. He was reportedly still huge but not with the Streetfighter computer game character physique he is famous for.
The fight between Overeem and Silva should be a formality for the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion as Silva does not have anywhere near the striking skills of Overeem. Although when talking about heavyweights fighting in UFC it really is a case of anything can happen considering the size of the fighters involved. Still, I would expect Overeem to win this fight handily, by KO, to set up a big money clash with Velasquez in the Spring or early Summer.
Round 3 – Tyson Fury calls out Velasquez/Bisping
In one of the funnier stories of the last couple of weeks, British heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury gained himself some publicity by calling out Cain Velasquez on Twitter.
The fun and games began when Fury claimed he was the ‘baddest man on the planet’ and challenged Velasquez to a fight either in the ring or in the cage. Unsurprisingly Fury was the subject to widespread LOLs with many MMA fans reminding him of what happened when James Tony (a much better boxer than Fury) fought Randy Couture. For those of you who don’t know, Tony was taken down, beaten up and choked out inside two minutes. Of course Fury would not be deterred and continued his lame ranting on Twitter in an attempt to get someone from the UFC to rise to the bait. Enter Michael Bisping.
Never one known to hold his tongue in these situations, Bisping chimed in claiming Fury was an idiot who would get destroyed by Velasquez in a MMA fight (which he certainly would). Fury responded calling Bisping a prize prick and claiming he would beat both Velasquez and Bisping at the same time. It’s worth keeping in mind that Fury is someone who managed to uppercut himself in the face during a boxing match. Seriously. Comedy of the highest calibre.
While Fury is one of the big hopes in UK boxing (David Price is the real Heavyweight Champion prospect in my eyes) and he has some skills, he is deluded if he thinks he could beat Velasquez and to be honest, I doubt he’d have much success with Bisping either. The boxer always has the advantage when the fight is standing, but as soon as it went to the ground, Fury would be a sitting duck. Still, he’s brought some publicity to himself (which had to be his main aim in all of this) and he’s given MMA and boxing fans plenty to laugh about early in the new year.
Round 4 – Yushin Okami vs. Hector Lombard set for UFC’s return to Japan
When the UFC returns to Japan on 3rd March (with a card headlined by Brian Stann against Wanderlei Silva) two middleweights who are looking to get into title contention will clash as Yushin Okami takes on Hector Lombard.
Okami is coming off a three round dry hump-a-thon win over Alan Belcher at UFC 155 in December. Winning one of the most boring fights of 2012 didn’t really do much to enhance Okami’s standing as one of the gate keepers of the UFC. He’s a solid fighter who will never win a Title but who top contenders will have to beat to progress. Okami will be fighting in front of his home countrymen and hopefully that will inspire him to fight in a less conservative style than he did against Belcher.
Lombard is a guy you just know the UFC want to build around. He has a large international fan base, an impressive win record, a great look and when he is healthy he is one of the most dynamic and devastating strikers in MMA. A disappointing debut loss against Tim Boetsch was followed up with an aggressive knockout of the dangerous Rousimar Palhares last month in Australia. If that Lombard turns up in Japan, expect fireworks. A impressive win against Okami and perhaps one more against a top contender and Lombard could be in line to challenge Anderson Silva for the Middleweight Title late in 2013.
Round 5 – Final Strikeforce show this weekend
With all the excitement of the first Monday back at work after New Year, Strikeforce will put on its final show ever this weekend. To say the promotion is going out with a splutter would be an understatement. I don’t remember a Strikeforce show that has been so under promoted. Which is a shame because there are a couple of interesting fights on the card.
Here’s the main card on Showtime, there’s a few mismatches but it does look like it could be an exciting night of fights:
-Nate Marquardt (32-10-2) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (13-3)
-Daniel Cormier (10-0) vs. Dion Starin (28-7)
-Josh Barnett (31-6) vs. Nandor Guelmino (11-3-1)
-Gegard Mousasi (32-3-2) vs. Mike Kyle (19-8-1)
-Ronaldo Jacare Souza (16-3) vs. Ed Herman (20-8)
The show will really be a shop window for the UFC who own Strikeforce and will absorb a number of fighters onto their roster following the show. A lot of fighters will be looking to put in an impressive performance to secure a future contract with a the UFC. While big names such as Daniel Cormier and Nate Marquardt will be automatically picked up by the UFC, some others such as Ronaldo Jacare Souza and Mike Kyle could be fighting for their UFC futures.
A lot of fans are salivating at the prospect of Daniel Cormier (current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion) joining the ranks of the UFC, although he has indicated he will not fight his team mate Cain Velasquez. Which could mean a move down to Light Heavyweight and a huge fight with Jon Jones.
Personally I’ll miss Strikeforce. If it wasn’t for the promotion I would never have got to see Nick Diaz and Paul Daley have the single most entertaining and exciting one round fight I’ve ever seen. They brought fighters like Werdum, Fedor, Overeem and Josh Barnett together for the Heavyweight Grand Prix (a tournament idea taken from PRIDE but which ended up fizzling out). Plus they gave us one of the best trilogy of fights in recent memory between Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thompson.
Strikeforce were also the driving force behind female MMA, first with Gina Carano and now with Ronda Rousey. A Strikeforce show was always entertaining and I’m a big fan of guys like Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich on commentary.
They say variety is the spice of life and now with PRIDE, WEC and Strikeforce all bought up by the UFC, the MMA scene (especially in the USA) is now resembling the wrestling scene with a real lack of competition against the one dominant promotion. Let’s hope that the lack of competition doesn’t make UFC as lazy and boring as WWE has become in recent years.
Well, that will do for Championship Rounds this week. It’s good to be back and bringing some MMA news, views and opinion to Wrestling Rambles. Be sure to check back next week when I will be previewing Michael Bisping’s huge fight against Vitor Belfort which takes place next Saturday, plus the usual look at four other stories 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.
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Until next time…