Well, I’m still here so that means there is more punchy punchy kick kick going on. Lots of good free cards this month with zero pay per views from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The UFC will just be running two cards on the two biggest networks they can air on. First on FX, Michael Bisping will fight Vitor Belfort in Brazil. On Big FOX they bring another strong offering with a flyweight title fight and three other fights that appear highly entertaining. The Zuffa hive mind is preparing to absorb another promotion with Strikeforce (FINALLY) being put to pasture 21 months after being purchased by Zuffa. It seems doubtful Strikeforce will go out gloiously ala WEC 53 but it should be a very Strikeforcey offering. Bellator starts up a proper season of tournaments on a new home channel and time. The new home is SpikeTV on Thursday nights at 10pm ET, no word yet if west coasters will get to watch fights live or on tape delay. Knowing SpikeTV it will be on tape delay (BOOO).
JAN 12 2013 Strikeforce - Marquardt vs. Saffiedine
The new year, a chance for new beginnings and all that stuff. Not for Strikeforce, since this is their last card before everything gets absorbed into the Zuffa hivemind proper. It started out being called “Champions”, every active champion was set to defend on this final card. Than Luke Rockhold, Gilbert Melendez, Lorenz Larkin, Pat Healy, Jorge Masvidal and i'm sure a couple guys I’ve just forgotten all got injured. Suddenly three title fights became one, welterweight champion Nate Marquardt defending against Tarec Saffiedine.
The remains of the card actually isn’t that bad. Marquardt Saffiedine is a damn good welterweight bout outside the UFC. Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett will be in action against Dion Staring and Nandor Guelmino. OK, not really even matchmaking right there but that’s heavyweight for ya. The fabled Gegard Mousasi returns to the cage taking on Mike Kyle, a fight that was to Strikeforce what Jorge Rivera vs Alessio Sakara was to the UFC. Hopefully both fighters will join the ranks of fighters in the UFC. Mike Kyle has made good improvements and can make for a fun action fighter. It took them a long time but UFC-Strikeforce crossover fights are finally happen with Ronald Souza vs UFC veteran Ed Herman. Roger Gracie will also be in action at middleweight, facing Anthony Smith. There is a lightweight bout on the card, between, KJ Noons and Ryan Couture.
Strikeforce is going out with card that is very representative of what Strikeforce was. A good headliner. A couple squash matches. With decent divisional fights sprinkled in between. Now this card just needs to happen already so everyone can go over to the UFC octagon.
JAN 17 2013 BFC - Bellator Fighting Championships 85
Emanating from the UCI Bren Events Center Bellator brings a pair of title fights at light and featherweight as well as the debut of Renato Babalu Sobral. Michael Chandler finally gets another fight, defending against Judo Olympian Rick Hawn. Hawn won the Season 6 lightweight tournament to earn his shot at the belt. Chandler is an improving wrestleboxer who makes up for striking technique with power and force. I’m interested to see how the wrestling of Chandler interacts with the Judo of Hawn. The featherweight title will be defended, champion Pat Curran defends against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Patricio won the Season 4 tournament but a mixture injuries to him and the champion has kept him out of action since May. Pat Curran has been timid in the past, playing the role of counter striker but not really countering or striking at times. All of which becomes very odd when he has shown the ability to unleash offensive beatdowns, like the one against former champion Joe Warren. Curran might be to cautious at the start and get clipped by the wild Pitbull Freire. Renato Babalu Sobral is making his Bellator debut against Mikhail Zayats. This has all the makings of a squash match and birth into the next light heavyweight tournament for the former Strikeforce champion.
JAN 19 2013 UFC on FX 7 - Belfort vs. Bisping
The UFC starts things off in Brazil, free on FX. The main event sees middleweights Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort square off. With George St. Pierre scheduled to defend his belt against Nick Diaz a win for Bisping makes a title fight with Anderson Silva highly probable. Vitor Belfot could play spoiler but he has a puncher's chance. Belfort doesn't have good cardio or the ability to stick to a game plan. The exact opposite of Michael Bisping. Belfort might be able to rush and clip Bisping, but the more likely outcome is Bisping out striking and maybe stopping Belfort late.
The rest of the card is a mix of Brazilian fighters from TUF: Brazil and actually good fights. One of those good fights is at heavyweight between Gabriel Gonzaga and Ben Rothwell. Rothwell has looked much better in recent outings and Gonzaga has always been better than the majority of heavyweights. Nick Lentz continues his run at featherweight, taking on gatekeeper Diego Nunez. A win over Nunez won’t make Lentz an automatic contender but it will certainly legitimize him to more people. Edson Barboza returns after being upset by Jamie Varner, facing Justin Salas. Barboza should slide right back into the win column with this fight.The rest of the card is a mixture of “loser leave town” type matches as the UFC looks to cut some of the fat from their roster.
JAN 26 2013 UFC on Fox 6 - Johnson vs. Dodson
It’s a quick turnaround for the UFC and FOX. Top to bottom UFC on FOX 6 is not as great as the fifth offering but the main card will be more than worth watching on network TV.
At the top of the card is a flyweight title fight between freshly crowned champion Demetrious Johnson and challenger John Dodson. Going into that whole mini-flyweight tournament Johnson was largely written off. I (along with most) do not think he he really won the first fight with Ian McCall but he most definitely beat him in their second fight. Going on to clearly win the flyweight title against Joseph Benavidez. His brand of “Ki-Ya” kickboxing might not pack the most punch or power, but it is effective. Down at 125lbs speed is the name of the game. TUF winner John Dodson is quick as most flyweight but he excels with surprising power in his hands. The biggest complaint against Dodson has been his inability to stick to game plans and be effectively offensive and not passive for no reason. See his Tim Elliot fight and fights prior to the UFC for example. Johnson won’t give you the chance to daydream midfight. This one is likely to go to a decision but the flyweight division is fast and atheltic, plenty of time for something awesome to happen.
Continuing the trend of the UFC sacrificing old stars to a newer generation, former PRIDE and UFC champion Quinton Rampage Jackson will face Glover Teixeira. OK, Teixeira is only a year younger than Jackson, but he is really hot in a division in need of challenges beyond Alexander Gustafsson and rematches. Teixeira brings a surprising three dimensional game (boxing submission decent wrestling) for a Brazillion. He has absolutely dominated his admittedly not great opposition in the UFC. Jackson just doesn't seem to care any more and has loudly reminded everyone that this is the final fight on his contract. He claims he won’t retire, he just doesn't want to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship anymore. The lack of conviction and consistency in Rampage mixed with a surging Teixeira points to the former PRIDE and UFC champion leaving on a lost.
Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis will finally square off. A fight that has been rumored for seemingly sixth months. This is going to be a fun action fight both guys are offensive kickboxers and grapplers. The cliche “In the mix” attribute is on full display here a win here would mean a rematch with Henderson. With Strikeforce set to die earlier in the month it could all depend on how quickly Gilbert Melendez heals his shoulder. Erik Koch vs Ricardo Lamas should decide who gets a crack at the winner of the Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar featherweight title fight.
The undercard is bland beyond the Clay Guida Hatsu Hioki fight. Other than that not much else really pops. UFC on FOX 6 is definitely worth watching on FOX, the other stuff eh if you want.
JAN 24 2013 BFC - Bellator Fighting Championships 86
Only two fights have been announced so far. One is a welterweight title fight between champion Ben “Funky” Askren and challenger Karl Amoussou and the debut of King Mo Lawal. Expect the Funky one to wrestle his way to victory, a submission victory wouldn’t be surprising against the primarily striking Amoussou. King Mo Lawal unceremoniously was kicked out of Strikeforce after testing positive for steroids, calling a Athletic Commision member a “bitch”, and nearly died of staph infection in 2011. Bellator swooped in signing the former light heavyweight champion to a dual deal between themselves and Total Nonstop Action wrestling, which also airs on SpikeTV. Having an active mma fighter on the roster isn’t new for TNA, they were in the Bobby Lashley business not to long ago. King Mo will easily run through Przemyslaw Mysiala enroute to a birth in the light heavyweight semifinals. Honestly it wouldn't be surprising to see Mo win both light heavyweight and heavyweight titles in Bellator and never face a major challenge in either division.
UPDATE: The first round of the Bellator Season 8 Welterweight tournament has been finalized and added to BFC 86. Marius Zaromskis, Douglas Lima, Ben Saunders and Jose de Ribamar Machado Gomes square off with Brent Weedman, Michail Tsarev, Koffi Adzitso and Raul Amaya, respectively.This plus the title fight atop the card and debut of King Mo, now makes this a more interesting card than previously.
JAN 31 2013 BFC - Bellator Fighting Championships 87
The lightweight quarter finals are scheduled to happen at BFC 87. Patricky Freire should be the favorite in the tournament. Yes, he is on a two fight losing streak part of which consists of tournament participant Loyd Woodward. Patricky Freire is offensive and that is it. It has gotten him into trouble, see the Woodward fight (BFC 62). Still being plainly offensive can go a long way in MMA, against most other participants that should be enough. If Patricky dosen’t walk away with the big check expect it to be in the hands of Loyd Woodward. The original “cupcake” is just a scrappy wrestle boxer with a fondness for Rocky quotes. Loyd Woodward will be facing David Rickles in the opening round. Alexander Sarnavskiy vs Thiago Michel Pereira Silva round out the tournament fights currently scheduled. Overall this is a much better lightweight tournament from the last one.
5 Fights Worth Watching in January
- Demetrius Johnson vs John Dodson – UFC on FOX 6 January 26 : Flyweights, I lovem and wish more people would give these guys a chance.
- Donald Cerrone vs Anthony Pettis – UFC on FOX 6 January 26 : Two of the WEC’s most entertaining lightweights FINALLY fight nothing else needs to be said.
- Michael Chandler vs Rick Hawn – Bellator 85 January 17: Michael Chandler upsetting Eddie Alvarez was a great thing. It has allowed for him and fighters like Rick Hawn to get, somewhat, out of the shadow of Eddie Alvarez. Chandler is still extremely raw but is improving and it will be interesting to see how his wrestling mixes with the Judo of Hawn.
- Pat Curran vs Pitbull Patricio Freire - Bellator 85 January 17: As one of the Pitbull brothers, Patricio has a penchant for brining fast, sudden, offense, which normally leaves opponets crumpled on the mat. Featherweight champion Pat Curran is to timid in the first rounds, not really countering but just getting warmed up. Will he have enough time to get warm?
- Ben Askren vs Karl Amoussou – Bellator 86 January 24; The Funky one can’t get no love. Being made out to be a poor excuse for a Jon Fitch imitation. Askren is primarily a grappler and has a knack for casuing scrambles, which he normally wins, and is actually pretty active in passing guard. Against Ammussou his grappling will be a key advantage, maybe he finally gets a submission.
A tradition in Japan is to have big fight cards on New Years Eve. Since the death of PRIDE and DREAM earlier this year these cards have become smaller and less televised. I'm still waiting for video of Kyoji Horiguchi vs Ian Loveland from Vale Tudo Japen 2012 to pop up. Well GLORY, the kickboxing/mma promotion helped continue the NYE tradition by hosting a copromoted card between themselves and DREAM (well in name only I have no idea what the current owners of the DREAM name plan but eh). Half the card featured kickboxing, an 16 man one night heavyweight kickboxing tournament among other matches. The other half was MMA with actually some good matches given the circumstances. Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Georgi Karakhanyan, Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Michihiro Omigawa, and Shinya Aoki vs. Antonio McKee are all very respectable fringe matches in terms of rankings. The entire card is avaliable on YouTube I leave you with the most surprising fight of the card Satoru Kitaoka vs. Will Brooks. Will Brooks looked extremely good against the submission specialist Kitaoka,
The rest of the fights are in the playlist which can be viewed by hitting the button within the embed
Also here is a link to Mirko Cro Cop fighting a Sumo wrestler at IGF - INOKI BOM-BA-YE 2012, which was well friggin JMMA to the max