Welcome to another edition of Championship Rounds.  CR is back with your weekly look at five big stories in the world of MMA here on Wrestling Rambles.  CR was on holiday last week as I was looking after my two year old nephew.  Finding time to even get online (let alone sit down and write something) is almost impossible when you’ve got a two year old demanding you run around the house all day like a nutter!  Plus looking after kids is exhausting.  I don’t know how people do it full time.

So this week’s CR is going to look at a mixture of the last two weeks of MMA news.  We’ll go back in time for a brief review of UFC156.  There’s the announcement of Bellator’s new reality show.  Plus some big fight announcements, a recommendation for UFC Primetime viewing and a look ahead to UFC on Fuel TV which takes place this weekend at Wembley Arena in London.  I’m off babysitting duties and back into the swing of MMA news, views and opinions.  So let’s touch gloves and do this.


Round 1 – UFC156 – ‘Bigfoot’ Silva upset the odds.

If ever an event turned the plans of the UFC matchmakers on their head it was UFC156.  Going into the big Superbowl weekend show all the talk was about how quickly Alistair Overeem would knock out ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and secure himself a shot at Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez.

When the dust settled all bets were off and all plans were scrapped.  In a big upset Silva knocked out Overeem 25 seconds into the third round.  It was an hugely emotional win for Silva who had been mocked and dismissed by Overeem repeatedly in the build up to the fight.  Truth be told, a lot of fans (including me) felt Silva was simply going to be a punching bag for Overeem.  How wrong we were.

Overeem, in his first fight back after failing a drugs test, was noticeably smaller and less ridiculously muscular (funny that) than in his previous UFC fight against Brock Lesnar.  Overeem was overly confident, kept his hands low throughout the fight, hoping to rely on his much hyped striking skills.  Silva for his part always looked dangerous and appeared to be growing in confidence as the fight went on.  He landed a few big strikes at the end of the 2nd round that Overeem did not react well too.  While Silva got stronger and more aggressive as the fight went on, it was the opposite for Overeem.

When he came out for the final round the big Dutchman was noticeably tired.  When Silva caught Overeem and then landed a huge barrage of punches against the cage, the crowd went wild as they sensed the big upset was coming.  A few more well placed right hand punches to the jaw and Overeem slumped to the floor, out cold before he hit the ground.

The emotion in the giant was evident as he stood over the unconscious Overeem, yelling at him before he was dragged away by referee Herb Dean.  As Joe Rogan pointed out on commentary, thank God Herb was refereeing that fight and not Kim Winslow, as she would never have been able to drag the fired up and super aggressive Silva away!

With the big upset win Silva threw the UFC’s Heavyweight Title plans into disarray.  He also gained a lot of fans with his performance.  Let’s be honest, Overeem isn’t the most likeable of fighters.  He’s a drugs cheat, with a much hyped record that hasn’t exactly lived up to the billing since he began fighting more regularly in the US.  I know I bought into a lot of the hype surrounding Overeem but his cocky attitude, lack of respect for the power of Silva and his lack of cardio to get through three rounds, has left me doubting he’s as good as he thinks he is and as his fans make out.

It wasn’t a great night either for Overeem’s team mate Rashad Evans who struggled in one of the worst performances of his career (and one of the worst fights in a long time) losing a unanimous points decision to Little Nog. Evans looked like a spent force, who was out of shape and seemed content to continually paw out a weak and pointless jab.  Where Evans goes from here is anyone’s guess.  He certainly won’t be fighting in any of the pre-fight rumoured match ups with the likes of Jon Jones or Anderson Silva any time soon.

Only the epic main event super fight for the Featherweight Title between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar went according to plan.  Aldo won but Edgar pushed him all the way and on many scorecards took the final two rounds and an argument could be made for him winning the 3rd round.  It was an excellent fight and another brave showing from Edgar who must be one of the toughest and most respected fighters in the sport today.  In the end though Aldo’s crisp striking, devastating leg kicks and excellent takedown defence were enough to repel the challenge of Edgar who has now lost his last three Title fights (two at 155lbs) and will now need to drop back into the back and work his way back to another shot at the seemingly unstoppable Aldo.

Elsewhere on the card Damian Maia continued his impressive run of performances since moving down to Welterweight by dominating Jon Fitch for three rounds.  Maia took Fitch down and controlled him for long spells of the fight – effectively ‘out Fitching’ Jon Fitch.  While the best submission fighter in the UFC wasn’t able to finish the fighter with the best submission defensive in the UFC, Maia really did make a statement with this dominant performance and he must now be considered in the conversation for a Title shot in the future.  The move down to 170lbs has given Maia a new lease on life.

UFC156 belonged to the Brazilian’s with Maia, Nogueira, Silva and Aldo all winning their fights.  Although no one will deny that the star of the show was Antonio Silva, who with his upset win has turned the UFC Heavyweight Division on its head.  Speaking of which….


Round 2 – UFC announces huge fights across their divisions.

In the last few days the UFC have confirmed that Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva will fight Cain Velasquez at UFC160 on 25th May in Las Vegas.  This will be Silva’s first shot at the UFC Heavyweight Title, although it will be his second fight with Velasquez.  Silva will be hoping to avoid a repeat of their first fight which saw Velasquez take the big man down and destroy him with vicious ground and pound that left Silva a bloody mess on the mat.

Silva has earned his shot at the Title thanks to his extremely impressive win over Alistair Overeem.  Dana White was quoted after UFC 156 as saying,

“Going into (the Overeem vs. Silva fight), we talked about if Alistair Overeem won.  Silva and Cain Velasquez just fought recently, but I’m telling you, the way that he looked in this fight, what he did to Alistair, maybe we do this fight again.”

The fight has now been confirmed and it will be supported by another huge clash at Heavyweight as former Champion Junior Dos Santos gets his long awaited fight with Alistair Overeem.  If all had gone to plan these two would have fought for the Heavyweight Title in 2011.  As is always shown in MMA, anything can happen and now thanks to both men losing to Velasquez and Silva, they now face off in a fight that could have Title implications later on down the line.

Another man who will get his first chance to fight for a UFC Title is Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis.  Coming off his recent one sided destruction of Donald Cerrone on UFC on Fox many fans expected Pettis to fight the winner of the upcoming 155lb title fight between Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez.  But a text message from Pettis to Dana White after the Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar fight changed all that.  When Pettis told White he wanted to fight Aldo next the UFC President was quick to make the fight official.

UFC recently confirmed that Pettis will drop down to 145lbs to challenge Aldo for his Title in August.  While a location for this highly intriguing fight hasn’t been announced, Dana White did confirm the UFC are looking at Texas, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Rio de Jeneiro as potential host cities.

The decision by the UFC to allow Pettis to ‘jump the line’ and move straight into a Title fight against Aldo will upset many fans who expect the UFC to follow the line of ‘whoever wins the most fights in their division gets a Title shot.’  If the UFC was simply a sport this would be a perfectly reasonable attitude to take.  However the UFC is not just a sport.  It’s a business.  A money making business, whose main revenue stream is PPV buys.  Anthony Pettis (thanks to his stunning display on Fox) is a much bigger name and draw on PPV than the ‘rightful’ number one contender Ricardo Lamas.

The UFC are also desperate to solidify Aldo as a true superstar of MMA and a win over a fighter like Pettis will do much more for Aldo’s own money drawing ability than a win over Lamas, no matter how deserving a contender Lamas is.  The fight itself should be one of the best of the year.  Pettis and Aldo are two of the most dynamic, gifted and exciting strikers in MMA today and even if it upsets the purists, it’s a fight that all MMA fan should be excited for.  Trust me, one of them is going to do some crazy ass Matrix like move off the cage and you do not want to miss that!

Ok, a few more fight announcements.  First up, Demetrious Johnson will defend his UFC flyweight title against John Moraga at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale on 13th April in Las Vegas.   It’s a quick turn around for Johnson who recently successfully defended his Title against John Dodson.  Moraga is 2-0 inside the UFC Octagon with a knockout over Ulysses Gomez and a submission victory over Chris Cariaso.

While all the attention will be on Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche as they fight next week in the first ever female MMA fight in the UFC and the first female fight to headline a PPV, the promotion announced another all female fight for The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale on 13th April.

Miesha Tate will square off with Cat Zingano at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale on April 13 in Las Vegas.  Tate is a former Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion.  She lost the Title to Rousey last year but proved herself to be one of the toughest fighters on the planet (male or female) by surviving some of the most horrendous looking armbars by Rousey before finally submitting – thankfully before her arm was literally ripped out of the socket.

Tate is tough as nails, good looking and cuts great interviews.  If she wins impressively here and Rousey wins against Carmouche, don’t be surprised if Rousey vs. Tate 2 appears on the horizon in the near future.

Round 3 – Bellator announce reality show starring Dana White’s top three least favourite people in MMA

One of the most newsworthy headlines in recent weeks was the announcement of Bellator’s upcoming reality show on Spike TV.  The show, “Fight Master:  Bellator MMA” is similar in content and format to the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter in that 32 hopefuls will battle it out for a six figure payday and a place in a Bellator tournament.  The main differences in format announced are that instead of two coaches per season there will be four,  the fighters will get to pick who coaches them and train in camps and unlike in TUF the fighters themselves will chose who they fight during the show.

The main talking point of the announcement was the coaches, who were confirmed as Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock, Greg Jackson and Joe Warren.  It’s safe to say that if Bellator and Spike were looking for people right at the top of Dana White’s shit list, they secured the top three in Couture, Shamrock and Jackson.  I don’t know what White’s relationship with long time Bellator fighter Warren is, but it’s well documented that the other three coaches have long been the subject of plenty of Dana White trademark rants and accusations.

Couture’s situation with White has become increasingly vicious in recent weeks.  White has not held back in running Couture down verbally for being ‘anything but a real man’ in his business dealings with the UFC.  He’s stated Couture couldn’t even buy a ticket to get into a UFC event now and that’s glad he no longer has to deal with him or his management team.

Shamrock and White have had a long standing hatred of each other with White recently dismissing Shamrock as both a moron and a dick.  Shamrock should be in the UFC Hall of Fame as one of the first big stars of the company but his constant criticism of the UFC and White personally has put paid to that.

Greg Jackson felt White’s wrath when he advised Jon Jones not to fight Chael Sonnen on eight days notice last year, which caused the first ever cancellation of a UFC event.  He’s also accused Jackson of ‘killing this sport’ by implementing fight safe first game plans for his fighters and turning a crowd pleasing, exciting and wild fighter like Clay Guida into a boring and cautious points fighter.

It will be interesting to see the show when it airs later this year.  The Ultimate Fighter has suffered from a slump in ratings, in no small part due to the stale format of the show.  Bellator will be hoping that the tweaks they’ve made to the TUF format, along with four big name coaches, will be a ratings draw on Spike and more importantly, create some new stars for the promotion which was what helped launch UFC to the wider general public back in 2005.

Round 4 – Rousey/Carmouche Primetime is must see TV

Just a quick recommendation to check out the UFC Primetime series which is hyping the upcoming first female UFC fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche.  The first episode is available on the UFC You Tube channel right now.

These shows are exactly what WWE and TNA should be doing to add some much needed realism to their performers.  They are designed to introduce you to the person behind the fighter and allow you to become emotionally invested in their personality.  They are some of the most effective marketing tools the UFC has at its disposal.

In the opening episode the stand out moment is the final few minutes with Rousey talking about her father who committed suicide when she was 8 years old.  It is one of the most emotional, effective, intense and interesting pieces of television you’ll see this week.  I can’t recommend it highly enough and if you want to see the real Ronda Rousey then this is must see viewing.


Round 5 – Preview UFC London.

Tomorrow night (Saturday 16th February) the UFC returns to the UK with a show at Wembley Arena in London.  The event, which will be broadcast on ESPN UK and Fuel TV in the states, is headlined by a fight for the interim Bantamweight Title as Champion Renan Barao defends against Michael McDonald.

McDonald is looking to break the record of Jon Jones by becoming the youngest champion in UFC history.  Barao is another dangerous striker from Brazil who dismantled Uriah Fabre to win the Title.  The fight, if it goes any length of time, has the potential to be one of the best of the year.  McDonald is a highly skilled young fighter who has been highly impressive in his last few outings.  I don’t know if this Title fight has come a little early in his career, but if he does make history and becomes the youngest UFC Champion of all time, expect to hear a lot more about the talented young fighter in the coming months.

The card is staked with a number of potentially excellent fights with Cub Swanson v Dustin Poirier/Jimi Manuwa v Cyrille Diabate and Gunnar Nelson v Jorge Santiago standing out on the main card.  The show will also feature a number of UK fighters on the undercard including Che Mills, Terry Etim, Paul Sass and former BAMMA Champion, Tom ‘Kong’ Watson.

Interestingly at the press conference to hype the show Dana White did announce that UFC are negotiating for a new TV deal in the UK (potentially with Sky Sports) and that if the deal comes off they will run a couple of annual events in the UK and bring bigger fights (including Title fights) to the UK on a regular basis.  That’s got to be good news for UK based UFC fans.  I’m just keeping my fingers crossed they eventually make the trip to Scotland for the long promised UFC event in Glasgow.

That new aside, it’s an exciting weekend for UFC fans in the UK and the show from London should be one of the more exciting events you will see this year.  The main event Title fight will be very interesting and the undercard is full of great match ups, with UK fighters looking to make their names in front of their fellow countrymen.  The crowd in London should be the usual loud and passionate UK crowd which always brings these events up another level.

Ok folks, that’ll do for Championship Rounds for another week.  Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week with five more big stories from the world of MMA.  I hope you enjoy UFC London and any other MMA you watch this weekend.

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.

This week we’ve got a great 90 minute interview with former ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness.  If you’re a fan of wrestling, you owe it to yourself to hear this excellent interview.  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…