Five Options For Junior Dos Santos At UFC 146

April 06, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Junior Dos SantosAlistair Overeem’s failed test has sent the UFC heavyweight championship into chaos. Overeem is not expected to get licensed for his UFC 146 title fight which leaves Junior Dos Santos and a championship opportunity open for one lucky heavyweight.

The MMA world is buzzing in anticipation of who Dana White will name as JDS’ new challenger. Speculation has run rapid on which fighter could be with the social media world guessing everyone from the obvious to the absurd. You really didn’t think you’d escape this story without seeing the name Fedor did you?

Dana White has already made it clear that there will be a UFC heavyweight championship fight at UFC 146. Unfortunately for the president, a card stacked with heavyweight fights makes it a little more difficult than usual to find a challenger and keep everyone happy. So now that we know there will be a challenger, let’s take a look at some possible (& very little possible) opponents for Junior Dos Santos.

Cain Velasquez - Cain seems to be the runaway favorite in my mind to get the shot. If Frankie Edgar can get an immediate rematch with Ben Henderson, why can’t Velasquez get an immediate rematch with JDS? It is high risk-high reward when you break down the money here as this is the biggest money fight the UFC can make, but do you want to give that fight away now as opposed to building a rematch in the future?

It is hard to argue with Velasquez’s record. He was undefeated up until he fought Dos Santos. He was knocked out in the first round, so unlike Frankie, this was not a close fight. However, Cain took the fight hurt. Velasquez could and should have backed out of the fight. Instead, he took one for the team. I can’t think of a better way for the UFC to repay him than with the championship opening.

Frank Mir - While I see Mir vs. Dos Santos as a huge mismatch, the fight probably makes more sense than any other. It won’t do the business that Cain vs. JDS would do, but if there is any heavyweight that has truly earned the fight, it is Mir. Mir is on a 3-0 streak, defeating top heavyweights in all three fights. If you are looking at the UFC as a pure sport, I don’t see how you don’t give it to Mir.

From a business standpoint I think this is the way you go. Mir going for a record third UFC heavyweight title is interesting. He is an engaging personality who knows how to sell a fight. More than anything, you save your Velasquez vs. JDS fight, you get one title defense under JDS’ belt, and you can move off of Mir. Let’s face it, if he doesn’t get the shot now, he must get one with another win.

Mark Hunt - Mark Hunt is starting to develop a nice cult following thanks to his heavy hitting and recent knockout. Hunt came over to the UFC as part of the Pride FC deal but didn’t debut until 2010. Behind the scenes the plan was to fulfill Hunt’s contract and get him out of there. Instead, Hunt has turned into one of the most explosive knock out artists in the division.

Like Mir, Hunt is currently on a 3-0 tear in the UFC heavyweight division. Unlike Mir, Hunt’s victims are not nearly as impressive. Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell, Chris Tuchscherer are not exactly elite wins. I think a Hunt vs. JDS fight could be a nice novelty but it would be highly unfair to Mir and Velasquez. It would be a fun fight but I think Hunt needs to prove himself against an elite heavyweight before we even begin to talk title picture.

Josh Barnett - Could the UFC cancel the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix final and move Barnett over into the UFC heavyweight title picture? Dana White has already stated that Barnett is welcome back to the UFC, but could the UFC really pull this off with a straight face? I don’t think so.

The unfortunate circumstance here for the UFC is that the parity in the UFC heavyweight division. Nobody has stood out lately that hasn’t been named already and nobody is on an impressive tear other than Mir. Going outside the company and bringing a fighter in and awarding him a title shot in his first fight would really taint the title in my opinion. But in this case you are bringing back a former UFC heavyweight champion that never lost the title. I highly doubt this happens but it has to be a consideration with such limited options.

Fedor Emelianenko - Listen I hate to do this but enough people have mentioned Fedor in the social media world to justify bringing him up in the blog. Fedor is currently on a 2-0 tear which unfortunately for his fans (and I am one) is less impressive than Mark Hunt’s streak. Dana White has made it clear in recent weeks that he has zero interest in signing Fedor but how many times has Dana said one thing to the media while working on the complete opposite behind the scenes?

In the past, Dana has said that he would give Fedor a title shot immediately. Of course a lot has changed since then. Fedor is clearly on the downside of his career and suffered three losses in a row in his last three high profile fights. Justifying a title shot against JDS is tough. But if the object here at the end of the day is to make the most money at UFC 146, you could do a lot worse. Giving Fedor the fight allows the UFC to retain Mir vs. Velasquez, thus keeping a strong card in check. Do I think it happens? Absolutely not, but I can’t think of anyone else in the UFC not listed already that deserves the shot any less than the Last Emperor.

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UFC Announces Rampage Jackson Vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua

March 14, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Rampage JacksonRampage Jackson has been doing a lot of talking and a lot of complaining the last week. One complaint was that he wished the UFC would match him up with strikers. Well, the UFC is about to give him one of the best in the game.

Rampage Jackson vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua will feature a battle of former UFC light heavyweight champions and Pride Fighting Championship icons. The fight was officially announced, although no date has been set as of this writing. This will be the final fight on Quinton Jackson’s UFC contract.

I almost entitled the blog, “Rampage Jackson’s last UFC fight announced.” However I learned a long time ago that when it comes to contracts, never assume anything. Jackson has been tweeting for a week that he is done with the UFC after his next fight. Yet this isn’t the first time that Jackson has made those claims about being done with the UFC. It would not shock me at all to see the two sides come to a new agreement whether it be before or even months after his next fight.

This is certainly an intriguing fight. One of Jackson’s big complaints recently is that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva matches him up with wrestlers. According to Jackson, this prohibited exciting fights as opposed to giving him fights with strikers that would be more appealing to fans.

I think Joe Silva needs to be slapped in the face,” he said. “I’m sorry, (but) you’ve got a fighter like me who likes to go out there and fight fights, so why do you keep giving me wrestlers who are going to take me down and hump me?

He has no excuse in this one for anything less than excitement if that is really what he believes has prohibited him from having thrilling bouts. He will be matched up against a fighter with 17 Kos and a legendary reputation.

On paper this fight seems like an easy win for Shogun. Shogun is coming off of arguably the fight of the year against Dan Henderson. Rua went five, grueling rounds and finished strong in a losing effort. Since losing the UFC light heavyweight title, Rua has gone 1-1. Just looking at Jackson in his last few fights as opposed to Rua in his last few, this almost looks too easy for Rua.

Rua and Jackson are no strangers as opponents. Jackson and Rua have matched up before in Pride. Rua scored a brutal win via soccer kicks over Jackson back in 2005 at Pride Total Elimination. The win came in the first round at 4:47. So there is always the revenge factor at play for Jackson, although I still can’t give Jackson much of a shot here.

A win for Rampage would be absolutely huge. He would be leaving the UFC with a win over a top five fighter. There are already rumors swirling that Jackson’s first fight outside of the UFC could be a Super Fight with Fedor Emilanenko in Russia. While the fight would still have appeal, it would not be nearly the same with Jackson coming off of two losses.

I am not sure what a win for Rua does here. I think most fans are hoping to see a rematch with Dan Henderson. Henderson is waiting out the Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans UFC light heavyweight title fight to fight the winner. My hunch is that Rua would need one more win after Rampage to get a championship fight, barring someone pulling out due to injury. A Henderson loss to the champion would probably wind up in a rematch between the UFC 139 opponents.

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Zuffa Buys Strikeforce, One Year Later

March 13, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White, Scott CokerDana White said it would be “business as usual” when the parent company of the UFC purchased rival MMA company Strikeforce in 2011. If gutting a company is considered business as usual, well then it has been a successful year for Strikeforce and Zuffa, LLC.

I was always a big Strikeforce fan and like many, was disappointed when Zuffa bought Strikeforce. I remember like most of you what happened when Zuffa bought Pride FC and years of broken promises later all that remains are a loop of highlight programs on Fuel TV. While we aren’t there with Strikeforce, I think it is fair to say that there is cause for plenty of concern.

It has been a virtual gutting of the company over the last year for Zuffa. Three Strikeforce champions moved to the UFC as champions, relinquishing their titles in the process. The biggest draws of the company are gone and the once promising Grand Prix heavyweight tournament has turned into a complete joke. Welcome to “business as usual.”

I can’t say I expected much different. Once again, I based my prediction off of how things played out after Zuffa purchased Pride FC. To be fair, it was a completely different situation. However, the promises of keeping Pride FC alive fell short in a hurry. If not for Showtime, I can’t imagine that things would be much different Strikeforce.

While Strikeforce was never the juggernaut that the UFC is, it had star power. Nick Diaz, Fedor Emilanenko, Alistair Overeem, and Dan Henderson were stars and Strikeforce had them. Today I think it would be fair to say that the biggest star that Strikeforce has is Ronda Rousey. With all due respect to Rousey and I think she’s great, she is not enough to carry Strikeforce.

The championship situation in Strikeforce is a mess. You had three champions that just up and left the company without losing their belts. Two of those titles remain vacant today. You have challengers that probably couldn’t even get into The Ultimate Fighter house. One champion was stripped after failing a PED test. There are no strong challengers for any title, thus rendering most of the title situations moot.

Zuffa promoted Strikeforce events heavy early on during UFC broadcasts. That rarely happens anymore. Quite frankly if you weren’t a hardcore MMA fan, you wouldn’t even know that the two companies are under the same umbrella. The synergy that appeared to be brewing between both companies immediately after the sale appears to have dissipated as quick as it came.

I won’t go as far as to say that the company is in trouble because as long as Showtime keeps airing shows, Strikeforce won’t go anywhere. However, recent comments from Dana White criticizing Showtime production values are either a calculated move to sabotage the relationship or just the ranting of a man that could care less whether Strikeforce lives or dies. It’s over without Showtime and for all I know that is exactly what the UFC president is hoping to happen.

This would be a lesson of disastrous mismanagement taught in an MBA class if we were looking at this story in any other business. Looking at how 2011 played out, I don’t have high hopes for Strikeforce in 2012.

The biggest losers here are the Strikeforce fans and fighters. This could have been huge. Strikeforce could have been turned into a strong #2, in synergy with the UFC, giving MMA fans exciting moments and dream fights. Instead, it appears to be nothing more than a write-off for the Zuffa bookkeepers.

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Fedor Emelianenko Wants To Fight In The UFC

March 07, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Fedor EmelianenkoJust when I thought we were done with the Fedor Emelianenko to UFC story was dead, it’s back. Fedor revealed in a recent interview that he wishes to fight in the UFC this summer. Is this another tease or will MMA fans finally get what they have wanted for the last five years?

I am not sure what to make of this story. Maybe it is Fedor publicly negotiating for a UFC contract, maybe it is just another way to keep his name and M1 Global in the news, or maybe the UFC will finally open up its doors to the Last Emperor.

I can tell you the timing of my next bout right now. It’s going to be in June or July,” said Emelianenko. “Of course, I want to compete at home, in front of my countryman. But at the moment, the strongest and most respected MMA organization is situated in America. It’s the UFC. Therefore, I have to go to the U.S. in order to face the strongest opponents.

I can’t recall Fedor ever making those wishes in the past. From what I remember, Fedor was always coy when asked about the UFC. I always got the impression it was the UFC and Dana White chasing Fedor as opposed to Fedor and M1 having any serious interest in fighting in the UFC. Maybe things have changed?

Fedor was extremely close to signing with the UFC a few years back. Some reports already had Fedor vs. Brock Lesnar penciled into the upcoming UFC schedule that summer. Instead, Fedor opted to sign with Strikeforce. Most reports indicated that Fedor left about $30 million on the table in expected pay per view and fight bonuses in exchange for the promotional rights that M1 got for signing with Strikeforce.

There are already rumors on some MMA forums and some blogs about a Fedor vs. Cain Velasquez or Fedor vs. Josh Barnett fight in the UFC. My guess is that those rumors are extremely premature, if not entirely baseless. Dana White has said that Fedor would get an immediate UFC heavyweight title shot in the past with a UFC deal. I can’t imagine Dana pushing Fedor to the front of the line at this stage of the game. At the same time money changes everything when it comes to the fight game.

While Fedor is on the decline of his MMA career, I have to think that his debut in the UFC would be a tremendous success. Even after losing twice in Strikeforce, he still brought big numbers to the Strikeforce broadcast against Dan Henderson. I just can’t imagine the UFC rolling out as long of a red carpet today as they did a few years back for Fedor.

I think we have all learned in following this story that this all comes down to M1 Global. M1’s insistence on co-promoting Fedor’s fights have always been the sticking point in negotiations. Now Zuffa and M1 did work together to promote Fedor’s last Strikeforce fight, but those were under terms of a deal that Zuffa didn’t negotiate. Unless Fedor and his management team are willing to drop their co-promotional demands, Fedor will be fighting somewhere else this summer.

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Bobby Lashley In Talks To Fight Fedor Emelianenko

January 24, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Bobby LashleyI have been critical at times at Bobby Lashley’s choice of opponent but his next one offers no room for criticism. Lashley is reportedly in talks to fight Fedor Emelianenko on an M-1 Global event. This would undoubtedly be the biggest test for the former WWE star gone MMA fighter yet.

Fighters Only Magazine broke the news with quotes from Lashley. According to the article, M-1 are currently in talks with several potential opponents for Fedor’s next fight. However, it is the name of the former WrestleMania star that has people talking.

Lashley left the WWE and entered the MMA business a few years back. Since making his fight debut in 2008, Lashley has gone 8-1. While the record may seem impressive, Lashley has been criticiszed for taking easy opponents (on paper anyway) and not evolving his fight game. Lashley is coming off a first round submission over Karl Knothe which wrangled him Shark Fights heavyweight championship.

Lashley is no fool and is fully aware of the leap he will be taking from fighting Knothe to Fedor. Lashley thinks his amateur wrestling background and skills give him the edge over the Last Emperor.

“I think that my wrestling would trump some of the things that he has. I know he’s a great fighter, but if I fought him then of course I’m going to try and wrestle him down… If it was Dave [Bautista], I’m standing and banging with him. I’ve been doing a lot of boxing.

Lashley also understands that the time is now to start testing himself against better opponents and squash any criticism that speculates Lashley isn’t taking his MMA career seriously.

“I wanna fight the best, so if I have an opportunity to fight Fedor, let’s do it. If I have an opportunity to fight anyone right now let’s just damn do it.

Lashley would certainly not be an easy mark for Fedor. Fedor would be coming into the fight on his first two-win fight strike since 2009. Fedor made easy work of Satoshi Ishii via KO back on New Year’s Eve. However, his previous win over Jeff Monson was what I would describe as alarming. Fedor dominated Monson for 3 full rounds but could not put him away, thus going to a decision. The old Fedor would have clocked Monson but the older Fedor looks like he may have lost some of that finishing power.

I look at Lashley as a younger, faster, stronger, inexperienced Monson. Lashley could take this thing if he can ground and pound Fedor in the first round. Unfortunately Lashley’s biggest issue here would be his conditioning. Lashley is a fast starter but is often exhausted by the end of the fight. Someone like Fedor is smart enough to know this and could pick him apart if the fight went past the first round. However, surviving an early-fight onslaught by Lashley may be easier said than done at this stageof the game for Fedor.

Lashley and his team are in the initial stages of talks. He will be a huge underdog going into the fight if it happens but he may just be one of those underdogs worth putitng a couple of bucks on if I were a betting man….which I am not.

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The Camel Clutch Blog MMA 2011 Year In Review

December 29, 2011 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

It is that time of the year again, time for the MMA Year End Awards. 2011 was certainly an interesting year in and out of the octagon for the UFC and MMA. A promotional acquisition and the emergence of a young prodigy are arguably the two biggest headlines of the year.

MMA Fighter of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Jon Jones: This was probably the easiest award to pick here and maybe any other year. I can’t remember an MMA fighter with as strong a year as Jon Jones. Four fights, a championship win, and two successful title defenses thrust Jones to the top of the list.

Hardcore MMA fans were well aware of Jones and his vicious elbows before he stepped into the octagon at UFC 128 and dismantled Shogun Rua. The potential was never in question, yet some wondered if the UFC were taking things too slowly with Bones. How would Bones do with ramped up competition? The answer is simple, he is even better than anyone thought.

Fighting four times in one year in the UFC is an accomplishment in itself. Handily winning three fights against the elite of the division is something else altogether. In a matter of eight months Jones has dominant wins over Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida. Sure champions fight more than once a year in the UFC, but rarely is their competition as good as Jones’.

Jones finishes the year with a highlight finish over Machida. Entering 2012 he is looking at potential fights with Rashad Evans and most likely Dan Henderson. At this point I can’t imagine anyone picking against him. The end game here has to be Anderson Silva. Whether Silva takes the fight or not is another story. Without the Silva fight in 2012, at this current pace he could clean out the division by next year’s end.

He may not be your favorite, but I don’t think anyone would have a hard time with giving this guy his props for a phenomenal MMA year.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, and Junior Dos Santos.

Brett Clendaniel of Jon “Bones” Jones: If you would have told Jon Jones at the beginning of the year that his opponents in 2011 would be Ryan “Darth” Bader, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, he probably would have settled for going 2-2 and getting a bit of experience under his belt. It was these 4 fighters, Jon Jones, and Rashad Evans that made up the Top 6 in the most stacked, competitive division that the UFC has to offer. Instead of backing down from the task at hand and wilting from the pressure, Jones rattled off four incredible victories that has many MMA pundits calling it the greatest single year for a fighter in MMA history. Not only were they four victories, but they were all dominating, decisive stoppages that earned Jones the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. He entered 2011 as a young, promising, up-and-comer who had the potential to be great one day. Instead, he proved to be a fighter who very well may dominate his weight class like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre have. The only fighters that could potentially cause a problem for Jones are Rashad Evans (who he was set to fight twice over the course of the year), Phil Davis (whose tall, lanky frame and A+ wrestling ability could prove to be a threat), and Dan Henderson (who has never been stopped and can KO anybody). Those three fighters are almost definitely on the agenda for Bones in 2012. If Bones gets through those three, you might as well give him the 2012 Fighter of the Year Award as well.

Honorable Mention: Dan Henderson, Nick Diaz, Ben Henderson, and Junior dos Santos

Jay Perrone – Jon Jones: I will get right to the point: Jon Jones. It’s true that fighters like The Hendersons (Ben and Dan), Frankie Edgar and Donald Cerrone all had great 2011’s, but Jones was on another level. From LHW contender to champ to defending the belt twice within one calendar year, Jones finished all four of his opponents, three of whom were former champs (ok, Shogun actually WAS the champ, so he is now a former champ…again). Barring any injuries, I anticipate another dominant year for Jones in 2012.

Lee McGregor of Fighter of the Year: Jon “Bones” Jones: In my opinion, no one had a better year than Jones in 2011. What criteria would one use for judging a fighter of the year? Let’s see…. Wins? Jones had four of them, all over consensus Top 15 Fighters. Losses? Jones had none. Stoppages? All four of Bones’ wins came via stoppage (3 Submissions and 1 TKO.) Titles? Jones defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in dominant fashion to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, then defended it twice. Most UFC Champions don’t fight more than twice in a year, Bones did it four times and dominated every fight that he was in.

MMA Fight of the Year

Eric G – Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber, July 2, 2011 (UFC 132): Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber will go down as one of the great main-event fights in UFC history. These two guys fought at a frenetic pace for 25 minutes, never slowing down for five full rounds of action. I think that at the end of the day this fight came down to a few takedowns in favor of Cruz.

These guys barely left their feet nor slowed down throughout the entire fight. I can’t remember seeing a five round fight with this much excitement in a long time or maybe even ever. Cruz went for takedowns but Faber popped right back up. Faber regularly connected on Cruz coming out of the clinch which I thought may have been a difference maker here. Both men were rocked a few times, yet I never got the impression that either man was close to being knocked out or tapped at any point of the fight.

In addition to delivering a classic, Cruz and Faber had a world of pressure on their shoulders and they delivered. As the first bantamweight fight to headline a UFC pay per view, anything less than a great fight would have set the entire division back. The UFC took a big risk here putting the smaller guys in the spotlight and it paid off. I think what Cruz and Faber did at UFC 132 has been understated. UFC fans now get just as excited to see the smaller guys fight in the top spot as they do the big boys.

Honorable Mentions: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua (UFC 139), Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley (Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley), Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler (Bellator 58), Nick Diaz vs. BJ Penn (UFC 137), Clay Guida vs. Ben Henderson (UFC on Fox), Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard (UFC 125), Mark Hominick vs. Jose Aldo (UFC 129)

Jay P – Chandler vs. Alvarez Bellator 58 & Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson UFC 139 (tie): Unlike Jones, who I truly believe is damned near impossible to argue against for Fighter of the Year (yes, I concede this is all subjective), there were two fights in 2011 that stood out. Michael Chandler versus Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator LW strap was a four round contest of awesome with fantastic back and forth boxing, several near finishes and an ending that saw Chandler get the upset win by rear naked choke. As great it was, however, Dan Henderson’s decision over Shogun at UFC 139 (which happened to occur several hours later on November 19, 2011) was nothing short of cinematic and, in my eyes, takes the honor for Fight Of The Year. Sure, the technical proficiency was not on par with the Chandler/Alvarez fight, but that is like saying Rocky vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV was less epic in the later rounds since it essentially became a street fight (yes, I know it was a movie, folks, but you see my point). Henderson landed some bombs in rounds one through three that would have put most men out. Shogun, bloodied, broken and bruised, pulls a Frankie Edgar-esque rabbit of his very short trunks and not only endures, but taps into his reserve gas tank and puts a two-round beating on Henderson to go the distance. It was the kind of war that goes down as one of the most memorable fights of all time and will be talked about for years to come.

Lee M – MMA Fight of the Year: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – UFC 139: I went back and forth a lot between this bout and the Bellator Lightweight Championship bout between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler. In the end what sealed the deal for me was that this fight went all five rounds and each round was a war jam packed with excitement. Where most fights usually have a lull in the action or a slow round this fight didn’t. These two warriors threw everything at one another and didn’t slow down and the fifth round is one of the most memorable in history. Knowing he needed a finish to taste victory, Shogun threw everything including the kitchen sink at Henderson, but Hendo was able to hang in there. Add in the fact that these were two storied veterans of the MMA game who were meeting for the first time in their respective careers, it was a very special fight. Throw in the post-fight photo at the hospital… win.

Brett C – Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (UFC 139): Going in to UFC 139, many people (myself included) really doubted the quality of the card as a whole. Henderson was in his first fight back in the UFC since 2009 and fresh off his stunning knockout of Fedor Emelianenko. Rua was coming off a pretty quick, easy victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC: Rio. Both of these PRIDE legends were on a roll heading into their matchup. It ended up being a fight that has already been heralded as one of the best fights in the history of mixed-martial arts. Even UFC honcho Dana White was comparing this fight to that of Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonner in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. It was a brutal battle that saw both men out of breath and drenched in blood. Either fighter was thought to be “on-the-ropes” a few times over the course of the fight. I can recall four times off the top of my head where I thought this fight was over. Nonetheless, both of these warriors continued to battle back and just refused to quit. In the end, it was Dan Henderson who was awarded the decision. What’s next for either guy is anyone’s guess. Henderson is considered to be in the mix at both 185 and 205, but I think the big money for the UFC is an immediate rematch between Henderson and Rua.

Honorable Mention: Michael Chadler vs Eddie Alvarez (Bellator 58), Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard II (UFC 125), Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley(Strikeforce: Diaz vs Daley), Ben Henderson vs Clay Guida (UFC on Fox 1), Diego Sanchez vs Martin Kampmann (UFC on Versus 3), Cheick Kongo vs Pat Berry (UFC on Versus 3), and Jose Aldo vs Mark Hominick (UFC 129)

MMA Upset of the Year

Eric G – Tito Ortiz submits Ryan Bader at UFC 132: I had a real hard time with this award, real hard time. I went back and forth between this fight and Antonio Silva’s win over Fedor Emelianenko for quite a while. However, when I went back to look at the betting odds going into the fight, Tito was a bigger underdog than Silva so I went with Tito.

Now as much as I like Ortiz, I think there is a serious question that needs to be asked. Did Tito really pull off the upset or was Bader overrated? I tend to lean towards Bader being overrated and overhyped, however if you judge by the betting odds Ortiz pulled off the bigger upset.

I don’t want to minimize Ortiz’s win here. He had more pressure on him than in years. He was told flat out that a loss would send him out of the UFC. Ortiz had not won a fight against anyone not named Ken Shamrock since 2006. That is five years! Now he is going in there with a kid reputed to be faster, stronger, and comparable on the ground with him and he pulls off the choke in 1:56 of the first round? On top of that, Ortiz hadn’t finished a fight with a submission since cranking Yuki Kondo at UFC 29 eleven years prior. This win was huge.

Honorable Mentions: Antonio Silva defeats Fedor Emelianenko in the Strikeforce Grand Prix Opening Round, Dan Henderson defeats Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), Charlie Brenneman defeats Rick Story (UFC Live 4), Joe Lauzon defeats Melvin Guillard (UFC 136), Clay Guida defeats Anthony Pettis (TUF 13 Finale), Dan Henderson defeats Rafael Cavalcante (Strikeforce: Fejiao vs. Henderson), Rick Story vs. Thiago Alves (UFC 130), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeats Brendan Schaub (UFC 134)

Lee M – MMA Upset of the Year: I’m going to go with Michael Chandler over Eddie Alvarez in Bellator for the Lightweight title. There were a couple of big upsets in 2011 Ortiz over Bader, Brenneman over Story and Joe Lauzon over Melvin Guillard all come to mind, but I’ve got to give props to Chandler. He may not have been the biggest betting underdog out of that list, but no one expected him to shed his prospect status and un-seat Alvarez as the Lightweight Champion of Bellator. You’ve got to consider the stakes of this fight and give Chandler a bit of a boost because of the championship status of the bout.

Brett C – Tito Ortiz defeats Ryan Bader at UFC 132: Tito Ortiz entered his match with Ryan Bader as a 5-to-1 underdog and was admittedly on the chopping block after five straight matches without a victory. In fact, Ortiz’s most recent win had come in 2006 against Ken Shamrock. A loss against Bader would have definitely been the end of his UFC (and, probably, MMA) career. With his back against the wall, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” got the break he was looking for. At little over a 1:30 into Round 1, Ortiz caught Bader with a right hand that sent him crashing to the mat. Ortiz quickly jumped on him with a flurry of punches before sinking in a guillotine choke which caused Bader to tap at just under two minutes in the first round. It was a stunning victory over a rising prospect for a guy that many had thought was done. This victory was enough to give Ortiz two more fights after it in 2011.

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Honorable Mention: Charlie Brenneman vs. Rick Story (UFC on Versus 4), Antonio “Big Foot” Silva over Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva), Daniel Cormier vs. Antonio “Big Foot Silva (Strikeforce: Grand Prix), Chan Sung Jung vs. Mark Hominick (UFC 140), Jake Ellenburger vs. Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night: Shields vs. Ellenberger)

MMA Story of the Year

Eric G – Zuffa, LLC purchases Strikeforce: It doesn’t get much bigger than this does it? The UFC for the second time in several years bought their only real competition. While I wouldn’t call Strikeforce competition at the time, they certainly had the most potential to give the UFC some headaches. That all ended this past March when news broke that the parent company of the UFC was now in possession of its rival.

A bigger part of this story may be the slow dismantling of the company since Zuffa took it over in March. Since the acquisition, Strikeforce has lost three of its champions to the UFC. Strikeforce’s two biggest draws in Nick Diaz and Fedor are gone. While rumors of a new television deal to keep Strikeforce on Showtime are running wild, nothing has been confirmed. Additionally, many of the key staff including the fight maker has been replaced.

“Business as usual”, according to Dana White.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Diaz returning to the UFC, Randy Couture retiring, the emergence of Jon Jones, the rash of injuries and match changes in the UFC, five-round non-title UFC main-events, Miguel Torres firing, The UFC-Fox network deal, Brazil TUF, Chael Sonnen’s return, the UFC canceling Diaz vs. GSP UFC 137 over Diaz not showing up for a press conference, GSP’s injury, the signing of Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem, Bellator moving to Spike TV, Fedor Emelianenko not fighting for a major United States promotion

Jay P – Zuffa LLC purchases Strikeforce & UFC on Fox (tie): Standing tall above the many news-worthy MMA stories this year were the UFC’s two huge announcements: its purchase of Strikeforce back in March and their network debut on Fox in November with Velasquez/dos Santos for the HW belt. While it was certainly not the first time an MMA promotion had been aired on broadcast TV (see: Elite XC hastily crossing the network finish line first a few years back on CBS), the Strikeforce deal gets the silver medal and here’s why: market share. Strikeforce, in my eyes, was never going to be bigger than the UFC, simply because the Zuffa machine was so far out ahead of the competition with superior talent (the few exceptions are now slowly trickling over to the Mother Ship), production value and marketing. While the actual HW title fight only lasted sixty-four seconds, the November 12th Fox card kicked off a multi-year deal across several properties including FX, FUEL, Fox Deportes and various regionally-specific Fox Sports Nets. While it is very weird to hear Joe Buck plugging UFC fights during Sunday football, the exposure to a noticeably larger cable/satellite/telco subscriber base and the media coverage that comes along with it could be unparalleled. For years the promotion was waiting for ‘the right deal’ and now, Dana & Co. have it.

Lee M – MMA Story of the Year: For me, it’s the UFC signing up with Fox. This is a landmark television deal for the UFC as the biggest MMA promotion in the world makes it’s debut on Network Television. It’s an absolutely huge deal and one that is going to benefit the sport of MMA for years to come. Their debut event went off with a couple of hitches, mainly Junior dos Santos making the fight last for only 2 minutes, but their second offering looks to be an extremely intriguing night of fights. Add in all of the UFC related programming on Fox Sports Net, Fuel TV and FX including UFC All Access, The Ultimate Fighter and Ultimate Fight Night events, this has to be the biggest story to come out of 2011.

Brett C – UFC Purchases Strikeforce: On March 13, 2011, one of the biggest MMA stories in years happened when Zuffa, Inc. (the parent company of UFC) purchased its main competitor, Strikeforce. It came at a time when Strikeforce was really starting to get their name out there as a formidable number two company. Big names such as Fedor Emelianenko, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem and Jake Shields called Strikeforce home and their performances had fans clamoring for dream fights that they thought weren’t possible. Instead, Zuffa jumped in, bought the competition (a la WWE/WCW), and the rest is history. Fedor is back in Russia fighting cans, while Diaz, Henderson, Overeem and Shields now call the UFC home. Pretty soon the entire Strikeforce Heavyweight division (unless it just seems that way) will call the UFC home. Don’t be shocked of Gilbert Melendez, “King” Mo Lawal, Gegard Mousassi, and Luke Rockhold follow suit before too long.
Honorable Mention: The Rise of Jon “Bones” Jones, UFC Merges with WEC (January 2011), UFC Announces Five Round Non-Title Fights, UFC on Fox Debut, and The Injury Bug Ravages UFC Main Eventers

MMA Knockout of the Year

Eric G – Cheick Kongo knocks out Pat Barry (UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry): 2011 saw some fantastic knockouts but none was more exciting than Cheick Kongo seemingly coming back from the dead to knockout Pat Barry in spectacular fashion live on Versus. It wasn’t so much the knockout but how and when it came about that still has people talking about this punch.

This was an unbelievable fight that only lasted a little over two minutes. The heavyweight collision saw Pat Barry rock Cheick Kongo early and nearly finish the fight. Barry dropped Kongo and swarmed in with an onslaught of punches. Kongo somehow managed to get up but was dropped again. Kongo then out of nowhere nails Barry (who had his arms down) with a punch and an uppercut and knows Barry out cold for the win at 2:39 of the first round. The visual of this action must be seen to be believed.

Honorable Mentions: Anderson Silva KOs Vitor Belfort (UFC 126), Lyoto Machida KOs Randy Couture (UFC 129), Dan Henderson KOs Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), Nick Diaz KOs Paul Daley (Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley), Chris Leben KOs Wanderlei Silva (UFC 132), Junior Dos Santos KOs Cain Velasquez, Sam Stout KOs Yves Edwards UFC 131, John Makdessi KOs Kyle Watson (UFC 129), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira KOs Brendan Schaub (UFC 134)

Jay P – Anderson Silva KOs Vitor Belfort UFC 126: How do you define “Knock Out Of the Year”? Do you base it on how hard the recipient gets rocked? The technique? The situation? These are all the things that were running through my head when trying to determine KOTY honors. I originally was going to go with Cheick Kongo’s hail mary KO of Pat Barry at UFC on Versus back in June simply for the “victory from the jaws of defeat” factor. Then I started thinking about Pat Barry’s tendency to make stupid mistakes in his recent fights and wondered if it was more of his running chin first into Kongo than anything else. Instead, yes, I am going with the consensus number one KOTY: Anderson Silva’s “That. Just. Happened” front kick KO of Vitor Belfort. It was beautiful. Silva took a front kick, one that in my novice-level martial arts experience use simply to create some distance when I am getting my butt whipped in the gym, and snapped it like a jab out of hell to put Belfort down before a few follow up shots sealed it. In related news, between that and Machida’s crane kick of Randy Couture, Steven Segal narrowly edges out Greg Jackson as Coach of the Year (just kidding).

Lee M – MMA Knockout of the Year: I have to give this one to Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida for his knock out of Randy Couture at UFC 129. Sure Anderson Silva did it first with the knockout of Vitor Belfort. But I think that Machida’s was just a bit flashier. Throw in the head feint to start it all off and the leaping front kick, magic. You also have to consider a slight bonus point for Machida since that knockout sent Couture straight into retirement, in very highlight reel fashion.

Brett C – Cheick Kongo KO’s Pat Berry at UFC on Versus 4: As opposed to explaining it, I think it’s better that you see this knockout for yourself. There’s a reason that this fight is the Knockout of the Year and an Honorable Mention for Fight of the Year. Take the threeminutes and enjoy!

Honorable Mention: Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort (UFC 126), Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture (UFC 129), Chan Sung Jung vs. Mark Hominick (UFC 140), Sam Stout vs. Eves Edwards (UFC 131), and Stefan Struve vs. Travis Browne (UFC 130)

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Fedor Emelianenko’s Next Fight Set For November 12

September 07, 2011 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Fedor Emelianenko may fight Kevin randlemanAfter weeks of speculation, Jeff Monson will be Fedor Emelianenko’s upcoming opponent. Fedor vs. Monson will take place November 12 in Russia. If November 12 sounds familiar that is because the first UFC on Fox will “coincidentally” be taking place on the same date.

Monson broke the news via his Twitter account and announced the fight.

Nov 12th vs Fedor in Russia M-1 confirmed” – @JeffMonson

Nothing has been officially announced from M1 Global as far as exact location or broadcast information. M1 Global’s Vadim Finkelstein has said in the past that the fight would take place in Russia. My hunch is that the fight will air live on the Internet. I can’t imagine anyone else airing the fight live with so much going on in the combat sports world that night.

The date is a rather curious choice for such a big event. Not only does the UFC on Fox Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez fight take place on November 12, but so does Manny Pacquiao’s next boxing fight. If M1 were hoping that nobody would watch Fedor’s next fight, well they couldn’t have picked a better day.

Most assumed that Fedor’s next fight would air on Showtime. However, Showtime will be broadcasting Manny Pacquiao’s fight on pay per view. I couldn’t imagine Showtime airing a live Fedor fight on free television the same time as one of its biggest pay per view events of the year. That tells me something happened between M1 and Showtime and either the relationship is over or not what we expected.

Monson isn’t exactly Dan Henderson or even Kevin Randleman but it could have been worse. Quite frankly I have no problem with Fedor taking an opponent like Monson coming off of three losses. It makes sense. I just don’t want to hear M1 start bragging about Fedor being the best heavyweight in the world if he wins and yes, I said if.

Monson isn’t exactly what I’d call dangerous. Yet, I wouldn’t call him a pushover. He is 40 years old and has a 54 fight record. Monson’s most recent fight was a loss to Daniel Cormier in Strikeforce. However, Monson ran off eight straight wins before the Cormier fight. Not that any of those guys were top fighters, but they were eight wins nonetheless. This isn’t as big of a “give me” for Fedor as I would have expected.

I also think it is fair to point out the potential problems Monson could have with getting a visa to fight in Russia. Monson is a known anarchist and does have a criminal record. If someone wants to make waves (and it isn’t as if M1 hasn’t made their enemies), they could make it very tough for Monson to get into Russia. I hope this was given consideration in making the fight.

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M1 Global Scrubbing The Bottom Fedor Emelianenko’s Next fight

August 15, 2011 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Fedor Emelianenko may fight Kevin randlemanFedor Emelianenko told MMA reporters after his recent loss to Dan Henderson that it would be God’s will whether he fought again or not. Well God must have a sense of humor because he will fight again and the list of potential opponents borders between ridiculous to pathetic.

I am a big Fedor Emelianenko fan going back to the Rings days. That said, if M1 Globa’s mission is to turn to completely obliterate what little respect Fedor has left in the world of MMA, well they certainly have the plan in motion to do it. Just days after Strikeforce said they would no longer book Fedor, M1 announced that they will book Fedor’s next fight and if you thought Brett Rogers was a set up for Fedor when he entered Strikeforce, well then you haven’t seen anything yet.

Fedor’s management company M1 Global is hard at work finding an opponent for the Last Emperor. M1 president Vadim Finkelstein recently spoke to a Russian website and discussed a number of potential opponents for Fedor. To say the list of Fedor’s potential opponents is unimpressive would probably be the MMA understatement of the year.

Topping the list is Kevin Randleman. Yes that Kevin Randleman. The same Kevin Randleman that Fedor demolished back in 2004 in Pride. The same Kevin Randleman that has lost eight of his last ten fights. Yes, M1 will spare no expense in testing their golden boy in his upcoming fight. Unlike Dan Henderson, Randleman is 40 and looks every bit of it in competition. Oh God, you are quite the funny spirit aren’t you?

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Travis Wiuff is another potential opponent for Fedor. Who? Yeah that is what I thought as well. I did a little research on Wiuff and the 33 year old fighter has a record of 63-14. Wiuff is what you would call a journeyman fighter or what those in the world of MMA call a Bobby Lashley opponent. Quite honestly Wiuff is probably the toughest opponent on the short list, but the appeal of this fight would be the same as watching a Fedor sambo match.

Mike Whitehead completes the short list of Fedor’s future opponents. Whitehead was at one time on a 13 fight winning streak, but that ended three years ago. Whitehead has gone a respectable 4-2 in his last fights. He has fought quite a few name fighters, yet has come out on the short end of the stick in most cases. He has power but he hardly has the knockout power to give Fedor a run for the money if they stood for a couple of rounds.

I don’t have a problem with a fighter looking to rebound with an easier opponent but this is ridiculous. For a management company that boasts about how great their fighter is, they are doing him no favors with this embarrassing list of opponents. Kimbo Slice took tougher fights!

I love Fedor, I really do but it is time to stop giving him a free pass here. For the last few years all we have heard about are the dumb Russians mismanaging Fedor. Fedor’s defenders continually tell us that the only reason Fedor isn’t fighting in the UFC or tougher competition is because of M1. Well hey, at some point Fedor has to be a man and be accountable of his actions, managed or not.

Fedor still has time to cling on to that legacy and walk away from this charade. Unfortunately the second he steps through the ropes to fight one of these tomato cans, his legacy will be tarnished beyond repair forever.

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