It may be over three months away but the UFC is hard at work on making matches for UFC 133. The Philadelphia UFC event will feature a pair of former UFC champions. Rich Franklin and Vitor Belfort make their way into UFC 133 looking to rebound from previous losses with a pair of juicy matchups.
Dana White confirmed that Rich Franklin vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will go down at UFC 133. This would appear to be either the headliner or co-headliner for the big UFC event. Both fighters are coming off losses via unanimous decision and are in need of a win to get back in track in the light heavyweight division. Although for one fighter, he could be fighting for his job.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is coming off back to back losses and is likely in danger of being cut with one more loss. In all fairness to Lil’ Nog, the losses came against Phil Davis and Ryan Bader who are both very good fighters. However the bottom line is that Nogueira really hasn’t lived up to his billing in the UFC with only one real exciting fight under his belt and a .500 record to boot.
Franklin is also coming off a loss, a unanimous decision to Forrest Griffin. The difference here is that Franklin is in no danger of being cut with a loss due to his overall record and his last few performances. Unlike Nogueira, Franklin has had a series of fairly fun fights and overall seems to deliver in big spots as opposed to his opponent.
This has the potential to be the UFC 133 Fight of the Night. Both guys have heavy hands and prefer to strike. Both guys have struggled recently against pure wrestlers, thus this fight gives each guy a chance to do what they do best and that’s strike. I like Franklin a lot in this matchup but a loss certainly wouldn’t be a huge upset.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort will also return to competition at UFC 133. Belfort will continue to fight in the UFC middleweight division as he takes on Yoshihiro Akiyama in Philly. Like Franklin vs. Nogueira, Belfort vs. Akiyama will feature two fighters looking to rebound from recent losses.
Belfort is hoping to bounce back from one of the more embarrassing knockouts of his career against Anderson Silva. A quick kick to the face 3:00 into their championship fight at UFC 126 put the former UFC prodigy down on his back. Belfort came into the fight with a lot of hype so seeing someone at his level taken down from a subtle kick to the face was crushing for the former champion.
Akiyama comes into the fight off of back to back losses. Unlike Nogueira, I don’t think “Sexy-Ama” has anything to worry about with a loss. Even with the two losses, Akiyama was awarded Fight of the Night with both fights and continues to be one of the most exciting fighters in all of MMA. In the UFC the ability to “bring it” means just as much if not more in some cases than wins and losses. As long as Akiyama continues to deliver Fight of the Night performances, he will be just fine.
I think Belfort vs. Akiyama has a ton of potential to be a Fight of the Year. Both guys are exciting fighters and like the other matchup, they love to bang. I can’t imagine Akiyama hanging around too long if these two slug it out but it should be fun nonetheless. I like Belfort in this one and unfortunately for Akiyama fans I would be fairly surprised if he actually did pull this one out.
For Vitor Belfort, Akiyama reportedly was not the first choice UFC had for the former champ. Dana White reportedly wanted to sign a Wanderlei Silva vs. Vitor Belfort rematch. Wanderlei reportedly turned down the fight in hopes of getting a fight against Chris Leben, which was eventually signed. Belfort vs. Silva is probably a much stronger match to sell to casual MMA fans, whereas I’d imagine hardcore MMA fans are happier with the backup plan.
On paper, these are two great main events. Unfortunately I can’t imagine casual MMA fans getting too excited for either one of these fights. It hasn’t been announced yet whether one or both of these fights are the main-event. It is going to be tough to try and sell these fights as main-events to a Philly crowd that was offered BJ Penn and Anderson Silva on the last go-around at UFC 101.
Also confirmed for the UFC 133 fight card:
Middleweight bout: Jorge Rivera vs. Alessio Sakara
Bantamweight bout: Michael McDonald vs. Nick Pace
Middleweight bout: Rafael Natal vs. Riki Fukuda
Welterweight bout: Dennis Hallman vs. Brian Ebersole
UFC 133 is scheduled to take place on August 6, 2011 from Philadelphia, PA.