After gathering returning contenders and signing new talent, Bellator Fighting Championships has set the match-ups for the first round of the Season 6 Middleweight Tournament. With Bellator king “Shango” Hector Lombard (31-2) scheduled for his second title defense and rematch with “The Storm” Alexander Shlemenko (34-5) in the late spring or early summer, both he and his challenger have eyes on yet another title contender who will rise from the eight fighters to earn the chance for a shot at the gold around Lombard’s waist.
Did you miss me? Well, dry your tears icemigos. I have returned. There was a rough few weeks with no MMA events – at least none that I was able to see. And now… now… I have three events to draw from. Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson, Strikeforce Challengers: Voelker vs. Bowling III, and Bellator 47.
Let’s start from the top. What’s up with Fedor? Sure, anyone can get knocked out by Dan Henderson but before that Fedor was swinging wildly. Yes, Fedor is known to try and finish a fight when he has someone hurt but there was an almost desperate recklessness in Fedor’s attempt to finish – not the precision timing that KO’d Andrei Arlovski in mid-air.
Strikeforce has come and gone from the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, leaving empty seats and the occasional snack wrapper or beer bottle where thousands of screaming fans once stood watching “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-4) fight for the second time in the Windy City. The world’s second most powerful force in MMA presented one of its most stacked cards to date last night and while some of the bouts went pretty much as expected, big things still went down. From the first bell of the prelims to the last punch of Fedor’s main event brawl against “Hendo” Dan Henderson (28-8), MMA Gospel was there, looking for the lasting effects a card with this much name recognition would have on the MMA world.
Chicago, Illinois’ Sears Center plays host to one of the year’s most spectacular cards when Strikeforce and M-1 Global come together to present Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson. “Hands of Steel” Scott Smith (16-8) takes on “Sponge” Tarec Saffiedine (10-2) in a welterweight battle. Two crowd favorites collide when US Army veteran Tim Kennedy (14-3) is granted his wish to fight knockout artist “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-7). The ladies grace the Windy City when “Takedown” Miesha Tate (11-2) challenges Marloes Coenen (17-4) for the female 135lbs. welterweight title. In the main event, “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-3) meets Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion “Dangerous” Dan Henderson (27-8) in a catchweight battle that fulfills a long-time PRIDE FC fantasy. In the middle of all this action, former Strikeforce welterweight contender “Semtex” Paul Daley (24-11-2) hopes to let his hands bring him back to title contention when he fights up-and-coming prospect “T-Wood” Tyron Woodley (10-0). Daley’s hands are a weapon in itself but the unforgiving wrestling of Woodley leaves many smothered before tapping out. Now with former welterweight champion “El Diablo” Nick Diaz (24-8) vacating the title challenge reigning 170lbs. king “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2) under the UFC banner, a win for either fighter would pull them closer to a shot at the belt.
“Psycho” Karl Amoussou (12-3-2) entered the lion’s den of European MMA with three first-round submission wins that earned him the honor of cutting his teeth in the ranks of the world famous M-1 Global promotion. Toting an 8-2 record within the organization, of which only two bouts saw the judges, Amoussou’s explosive style and finishing power established him as a fan favorite and a powerhouse amongst European fighters. In August 2009 the Frenchman made his US debut also under the M-1 banner in the promotion’s first ever live televised event in the United States, M-1 Global: Breakthrough. Despite disposing of his opponent John Doyle (9-16) in impressive fashion via first-round Rear Naked Choke, the Judo black belt Amoussou still went relatively unnoticed in the landscape of US MMA.
Six months later in February 2010, Amoussou entered the Strikeforce cage against South African fighter Trevor Prangley (23-7) in a bout that many believed the more experienced Prangley would dominate. Against Prangley, Amoussou showed that he’s no pushover. He got the better exchanges and was picking Prangley apart until he received an accidental eye poke and consequently was unable to see or continue the fight. The match was ruled a Draw and despite his commanding performance, the memory of all but the outcome faded in many fans’ minds.
Amoussou would not compete again on American soil until May 21 at Bellator 45. The main card feature fight pitted the 25-year-old M-1 veteran and undercover police officer against King of the Cage veteran “Smiling” Sam Alvey (13-2) for a spot in the Bellator Season 5 Middleweight Tournament. After a three-round battle in which “Psycho” arguably dominated at least 10 of the 15 minutes, two out of the bout’s three judges gave the nod to Alvey and sent Amoussou back to France without a spot in Bellator’s upcoming 185lbs. tournament.
MMA Gospel staff writer Cole Moorman recently interviewed the “Psycho” in hopes of turning the American eye to the bright future of Karl Amoussou.
So, I’m moving this week. It sucks. I don’t own a lot of stuff but when you have to pack it up, you suddenly wish you were a monk…. Okay, maybe a monk with a really kick ass laptop but still. Anyway, I’m still writing my column just for you guys. I hope you appreciate it. I also won’t be able to attend to my normal MMA Gospel Radio show co-hosting duties this Wednesday but before you start weeping, relax – your buddy, your hero, yours truly has arranged for a very special treat for you in my absence. Filling in for me will be none other than the man who saved us from communism at WEC 53 and is so witty that he has been featured in UFC’s Tweets of the Week column for over four months running, UFC lightweight bad ass “Dannyboy” Downes! You’re welcome. I give and I give and I’m still as poor as a monk but with a lot more shit – as I believe I mentioned. So, enough of my whining… there are a lot of fights to get to. UFC Fight Night 24: Nogueira vs. Davis, Bellator 38, Titan Fighting Championship 17, and M-1 Global’s debut Challenge show on Showtime.
I gotta be honest with ya, icemigos, I dunno if I’m feeling up to this column this week. I know there’s maybe two or three of you that look forward to it but you want the snarky commentary. Y’know, the comedy gold. But that’s what I’m not feeling. I’ll try and soldier through. Just for you. Maybe it’s Fedor’s sad loss in the opening of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix this weekend and even sadder indication that he may retire following his second loss in a row. Maybe it’s the exceptional amount of douchebaggery that followed on Twitter. Or maybe I’m just feeling moody. Who knows?
I mean, yeah, even the best have to lose eventually but getting caught in an Arm Bar/Triangle Choke from a top level Jiu-Jitsu guy like Fabricio Werdum is one thing and getting an ass beating in what was, in my book, an 8/10 round is another. There was a lot of venom and vitriol back-and-forth amongst MMA fans following the loss. Some people seemed to think Fedor was always overrated – these people are clearly dumb. Some people followed the Dana White view that Fedor hasn’t been any good in years and M-1 was sure to coddle their cash cow by giving him easy opponents that had big names but were comfortably past their prime – Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski. Maybe, but at the point Fedor fought them, both guys were only at the beginning of their decline. They were still dangerous guys who were much bigger than Fedor. So, I know you’re thinking “Ice, my main man, please tell us… what IS the truth?! What happened to Fedor? Why? Good God, man! WHY!?” Okay. I will tell you… because I love you and you need to know. You all need to know. So, listen up.
Strikeforce launched its World Heavyweight Grand Prix last night to the eager cheers of one of the largest crowds it has ever hosted. The night was filled with exciting barn burners including a main card that opened with four straight first round finishes and ended with what many are viewing as the biggest upset in modern MMA history. As a whole the card was an overwhelming success and did its job of hyping the casual fan base for the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix magnificently. It brought all the ingredients of a fan pleasing MMA production to the table with big names against big underdogs, fast paced casual fan-friendly brawls, bouts which displayed that higher level of technical precision that awes the pundits, big finishes and even bigger upsets. However, it is not all wine and roses for the San Jose-based promotion. One of their biggest drawing fighters announced his potential retirement after being knocked out of the tournament along with another fan favorite, there were a few close calls from the referees that could have easily caused a controversy, and their commentary was even more painful than usual. There are always ups and downs with every fight, so to help sort them out MMA Gospel presents The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
MMA Gospel Radio’s Gary Friedman and Amy Barton kicked off this week’s show with an in-depth round table discussion of the upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix with MMA Gospel staff writer Cole Moorman and Rich of My Take Radio. The panel discussed each of the tournament’s eight participants as well as the brackets, and some interesting points were covered ranging from the involvement of “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko’s (31-2) infamous management team at M-1 Global to the inclusion of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (30-12) in the early tournament rounds.
“The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) has been on the sidelines ever since his shocking first round submission defeat at the hands of Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1) in June. Fans have been enthusiastically anticipating his return to action, but before that could happen, he had to reach a new agreement with the San Jose, California promotion that he has called home for over a year. Yesterday, that deal was signed, and Fedor will fight at least four more times under the Strikeforce/M-1 Global banner. The deal announced yesterday says M-1 and Strikeforce will co-promote events that Fedor will headline and Showtime, the American premium cable network, will broadcast.
The year 2010 showcased a wealth of fights and events for the mixed martial arts world to marvel over. “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1) defeated one of the greatest lightweights of all time in “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (16-7-1). Boxing great “Lights Out” James Toney (0-1) stepped into the the cage to face UFC Hall of Famer “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-10) in what was intended to determine the superior combat sport, MMA or boxing. Couture pummeled Toney for nearly three minutes of pure fan delight before submitting him via Arm Triangle Choke. The MMA world was shaken and the heavyweight rankings sent into a state of disarray when the top ranked “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) was handed his first legitimate loss via first round submission to Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1).
To follow up with the 2009 roster exchange agreement between the Strikeforce, DREAM, and M-1 Global MMA promotions, the UFC ended 2010 with the intake of the WEC organization. With all the memorable fights and events that have taken place in the last 12 months, 2011 is the year where prospects can become contenders, fighters inflicted with injury or tribulations return to fight their way to a title, and champions become legends.
Here are some of the top fighters to look out for in 2011.
Strikeforce and top ranked heavyweight “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko’s (31-2) management M-1 Global are in negotiations to schedule the multiple time Russian Sambo Champion’s date to fulfill the one remaining fight on his current Strikeforce contract. “The Last Emperor” is set to face BJJ and Judo black belt “Bigfoot” Antonio Silva (14-2) some time in the early months of 2011.
The promotion initially was trying to schedule the heavyweight meeting as the main event of its January 29 card, but has not been able to reach an agreement with M-1 Global. Fedor’s management was in disagreement with the initial terms of his final contracted fight with Strikeforce, as they wanted him to first avenge his first round Arm Triangle Choke loss to Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1) in June. The fight was considered one of the biggest upsets of 2010 and caused an upheaval in the top heavyweight rankings.