Two days before the nation’s two-hundred and fifty-third birthday, the UFC delivers yet another card of premium mixed martial arts action in its thirteenth show of the year. Highlighting the night is a bantamweight title fight between reigning champion Dominick Cruz (16-1) and the only man to hold a victory over him, “The California Kid” Urijah Faber (25-4). Leading up to the main event is a collection of the usual fan pleasers and division shakers as “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva (34-10-1) and “The Crippler” Chris Leben (21-8) meet in a good ole fashioned brawler’s battle, “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim (17-4-3) squares off against “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (26-5) in a bid to see who belongs across the cage from “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2), and Dennis Siver (18-7) goes to war with Matt Wiman (13-5) to see whose four-fight win streak will earn him a spot in the title discussion. Also on the card is a rebuilding fight for the TUF wrestling machine “Darth” Ryan Bader (12-1) as he looks to get back on track against the last of the Dark Age champions “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (15-8-1). Ortiz is the last of the pre-Zuffa era warriors to continue pushing for fights against the best in the division as he refuses to become another relic of the UFC’s past.
San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center will be the site to host the second Strikeforce event, the first under the California-based company’s flagship promotion, under the Zuffa banner. The main card is stacked from top to bottom with some of the biggest names in Strikeforce including Welterweight Champion “El Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8), former UFC welterweight contender “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2), lightweight kingpin “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez (18-2), Japanese superstar Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2), “The Dream Catcher” Gegard Mousasi (24-3-1), and The Ultimate Fighter alum “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (15-9-1). Rounding out the star studded list is a match between Washington native wrestler “Fancy Pants” Lyle Beerbohm (15-1) and world class submission fighter “Tobikan Judan” Shinya Aoki (26-5). The match will mark the second time that the “10th Degree Black Belt of Flying Submissions” has fought in the United States in his illustrious career and will represent the continuing increase in the level of competition faced by Beerbohm. No match could better represent the increased quality of production and promotion brought by Zuffa as the opening bout of their first Strikeforce card.
This Saturday, March 19, in Newark, New Jersey, the UFC presents a Cinderella story as “Bones” Jon Jones (12-1) steps into the Octagon to face UFC Light Heavyweight Champion “Shogun” Mauricio Rua (19-4) at UFC 128. The headliner is one that has most MMA fan on the edge of their seats as the old PRIDE hero faces the UFC up-and-comer and reflects the rest of the card perfectly. UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones is stacked with matches that pit standouts of the non-UFC MMA world against the cream of the crop of the UFC’s middle tier including “Cro Cop” Mirko Filipovic (27-9-2) against The Ultimate Fighter 10 finalist “The Hybrid” Brendan Schaub (6-1), “The Great” Nate Marquardt (30-10-2) vs. a very game late replacement in Dan Miller (13-4), and WEC featherweight star “The California Kid” Urijah Faber (24-4), the longtime poster child of why the UFC should merge with the WEC, opposite fellow WEC stand-out Edward Wineland (17-6-1). Also slated for action are WEC warrior “The Prince of Persia” Kamal Shalorus (7-0-2) and UFC submission ace “The Mongoose” Jim Miller (19-2). The bout is a meeting of classic foes as Shalorus will pit his fast paced wrestling game against the slick submissions of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt from Sparta, New Jersey.
This past month rounding out the 2010 MMA calendar and transitioning into the New Year has been thrilling. UFC 124: St. Pierre vs. Koscheck II was for all intents and purposes an exciting affair. “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (21-2) put on another picture perfect fight against perennial contender “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-5) and “Pitbull” Thiago Alves (18-7) showed he could stay relevant at welterweight by testing the iron chin of “Doomsday” John Howard (14-6), Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu 2 was quite literally a knockout, WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis was an explosive send-off for the exciting organization, and the main event at UFC 125: Resolution featured lightweight champ “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) and his challenger, NCAA Div. I wrestler “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-0-1), partaking in a five round war dominated by stand-up that rather surprisingly resulted in a Draw. However a disturbing realization has come to light. It is likely that given the growth of MMA, especially the UFC, this beloved sport one day will begin to emulate the stale monotony of professional boxing. As the UFC and MMA continue to grow into the meganaut of combat sports, mainstream growth’s effect on the sport, its entertainment value, and its fighters will only become progressively more apparent.
Looks like “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (15-8-1) will be getting another shot in the UFC after all. Ortiz made his next and perhaps final bout in the promotion official by signing a contract to face “Little Nog” Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (18-4) as the main event at UFC Fight Night 24 on March 26 in Seattle, Washington.
Tonight, “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-4) will step into the Octagon to fight for the welterweight championship for a second time against dominant champion “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2). The card beneath them is filled with several quality match-ups featuring fellow welterweights “The Pitbull” Thiago Alves (16-7) and “Doomsday” John Howard (14-5), lightweights “Mongoose” Jim Miller (18-2), Charles Oliveira (14-0), “Daddy” Joe Stevenson (31-10), and Mac Danzig (19-8-1), and heavyweights “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (17-4) and “Big Sexy” Sean McCorkle (10-0), but the bout may as well stand alone atop the Pay-Per-View card. The hype surrounding this title fight is of a magnitude unseen since UFC 100, eclipsing even the Chael Sonnen (24-11-1)/”The Spider” Anderson Silva (27-4) fight at UFC 117. This fight is the perfect storm of marketing factors that hits every angle a fight possibly can. GSP is a beloved champion fighting on his home soil against “Kos”, a figure so easy to hate that his presence alone incites the rage of MMA fans – especially Canadian ones. They are fighting a rematch backed not only by the UFC marketing dynamo but by a season’s worth of animosity created by The Ultimate Fighter. It even exploits the international angle by pitting an American against an international opponent. The UFC could easily have raised their PPV price another 10 bucks and scrapped every other bout on the card and still set buy rate records with this fight, and the fact that these two athletes truly are the best two welterweights in the world ensures that the fight will live up to what should be the UFC’s crowning marketing achievement.
UFC 121 may go down in the books as one of the most pivotal cards in MMA history. The stacked card saw the first Mexican world heavyweight champion in either a major MMA or major boxing organization crowned, it saw the first top level Strikeforce fighter face Octagon-level competition, and it saw three generations of TUF fighters prove that their place in the UFC is deserved. With the dethroning of Brock Lesnar (5-2), the heavyweight rankings, and the UFC heavyweight division, have been thrown into a chaotic mess. The careers of a few of the men who lost at UFC 121 have also now enter a state of discord. To find out who won (whether their hand was raised or not), who lost, and who really damaged their career, MMA Gospel seeks out The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
It’s been a long hard road for “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (27-14-2). From his first appearance against Masakatsu Funaki (39-12-1) at Pancrase: Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 1 in September of 1993 to his recent dismantlement by “The Rock” Pedro Rizzo (18-9) at Impact FC 2: The Uprising in July of this year, Ken Shamrock has faced 31 separate opponents ranging from the legendary Royce Gracie (14-3-3) and “El Guapo” Bas Rutten (28-4-1) to modern era superstars “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (15-7-1) and ”Ace” Rich Franklin (27-5). He has recently fallen on hard times, however, dropping five of his last six outings and posting a meager 3-8 record since the turn of the century. This has led many fans and journalists to implore the UFC hall-of-famer to hang up his four-ounce gloves for good. Shamrock sees it differently. In fact he believes the exact opposite. He doesn’t believe that he should stop fighting, he told Sherdog.com that he should fight more…and I, for one, believe him.
In part one of this article, I explained the basic errors in the current stand-up training of the vast majority of MMA strikers. In part two I will cover how it is a direct result of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Olympic wrestling. It’s no news to anyone that the first four American MMA events, UFCs 1-4, were basically an advertisement for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Royce Gracie (14-3-3) faced a group of hand picked opponents, many of whom had no business being in the ring at all. The result was Royce winning several fights by submission, fights that couldn’t be stopped by the referee until UFC 3. Starting with Kimo Leopoldo (10-7-1) in UFC 3, “The Giant Killer” Keith Hackney (2-2) and “The Beast” Dan Severn (95-16-7) in UFC 4 and finally “The Worlds Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (27-14-2) in UFC 5, the way to defeat Gracie Jiu-Jitsu became apparent. Either keep it standing as Hackney and Kimo tried (Kimo tried to stand out of the guard the entire bout but Royce kept a death grip on his hair to prevent it) or smother it with solid top game and game and small ground ‘n’ pound as Severn and Shamrock (successfully) tried. It is also important to note that though Royce defeated Kimo, Keith, and Dan, he failed to finish any of them quickly enough to avoid the end of a round in the modern rules. UFC 5 started the reign of the wrestler in full as Dan Severn dominated the entire field and Ken Shamrock shut Gracie down a beat him to a pulp for 36 minutes. Over the next several tournaments, we saw it continue as strong collegiate wrestlers like “The Predator” Don Frye (20-8-1), “The Hammer” Mark Coleman (16-10), and “The Smashing Machine” Mark Kerr (15-11). Successful skilled strikers like “Mo” Maurice Smith (13-13) and “The King of the Streets” Marco Ruas (9-4-1) got lost in the mix, with the only credit for being a dangerous striker being given to one punch brawlers like “Tank” David Abbot (10-14) and “The Polar Bear” Paul Varelans (10-9) neither of whom managed to win a title in any organization or put together winning streaks of more than two fights in their careers. Let’s explore why this happened.
Let’s all get together for MMA story time:
In the beginning, four men sat in the locker room of a Japanese pro-wrestling show contemplating the validity of Japanese shoot fighting’s oldest principle: nobody will ever pay to see real fights; they come for entertainment, not reality. A year later, on September 21, 1993, they formed a promotion to test this principle. The result was an organization where the best kick boxers, catch wrestlers, and shoot fighters of the day would meet in a bout that followed the rules of worked shoot fighting but an actual combative competition. They called it Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling. The four men were Masakatsu Funaki (39-12-1), Minoru Suzuki (27-20-1), Yusuke Fuke (16-29-3), and “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (27-14-2). This was the birth of what we call mixed martial arts today. Three months later, just four days after competing in the third Pancrase show, Ken Shamrock became arguably the biggest star of the first UFC. Despite a loss in the semi-finals to Royce Gracie the fans were drawn to the chiseled features and movie star persona of “The Worlds Most Dangerous Man.” This is just a small piece of the history of the man who was arguably the most important fighter in history of MMA.
UFC on Versus: Jones vs. Matyushenko has promised to bring us a ton of action back in the pack of the UFC’s light, welter, and light heavyweight divisions. Joining a stellar card of mid-tier UFC warriors are middleweights “Thunder” Yushin Okami (24-5) and “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Mark Munoz (6-1). Both of these men are fighters who have proven themselves worthy of any middleweight athlete’s respect. Munoz has won three straight since his loss to “The Hammer” Matt Hamill (8-2) over a year ago, finishing two of his three opponents in a combined time of just over 10 minutes. Okami has gone 8-2 in the UFC with his only loses in the promotion coming at the hands of former champ “Ace” Rich Franklin (27-5) and current middleweight number one contender Chael Sonnen (24-10-1). Okami and Hamill both are strong wrestlers with powerful ground attacks, more than enough gas to keep up a hard pace from bell to bell, and a tendency to always seek the finish. This bout promises to be a wrestling fans dream come true, no lay and pray affair but an exciting ground fight with enough action to satisfy even the most KO hungry of the casual fans.