DECEMBER OFFFERS UP APPEALING FIGHTS IN THE CHAOTIC WORLD OF MMA/ULTIMATE FIGHTING
With the mixed martial arts rankings thrown into disarray by the recent knockout losses suffered by living legends Chuck Liddel and Randy Couture at the hands of a reality t.v. show winner and a WWE cast-off, respectively, MMA fans look to December’s slate of fights to hopefully bring some order into the now chaotic world of no holds barred fighting. Even if order cannot be restored, December offers fights that will appeal to the hardcore fan and casual observer alike.
First, Zuffa’s WEC promotion, which has begun to rival the Shooto organization of Japan in terms of lightweight, flyweight and bantamweight talent, returns to its home on the Versus network Wednesday, December 3rd. Top-ranked bantamweight champion Miguel Torres looks to keep his name in the running for the title of “Best Pound for Pound Fighter in the World” as he takes on fellow top ten bantamweight fighter Manny Tapia in the five round main event. Look both fighters’ stick-and-move strategies to cancel each other out on the feet, which will force the action to the mat where Torres holds a distinct advantage. Two other top ten bantamweights clash on the undercard, as Hardcore Gym product Brian Bowles locks horns with Brazilian muay thai specialist Will Ribeiro. Finally, two superstars of the now defunct International Fight League make their WEC debuts as featherweight ace Wagney Fabiano and Miletich Fighting Systems welterweight Bart Palaszewski round out a solid undercard.
Keeping up its recent tradition of balancing “casual fan friendly” free fights on Spike TV with blockbuster pay-per-view cards, the UFC has three events panned for the month of December. The first is the “UFC Fight for the Troops” on Spike TV December 10th. In the main event, American Kickboxing Academy’s resident All-American wrestler, Josh Koscheck, looks to bounce back from a loss to Thiago Alves at UFC 90, a fight Koscheck took on short notice, as he faces Japanese welterweight Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Look for Koscheck to use his superior wrestling skills to take down Yoshida at will, and ground-and-pound his way to a victory. The undercard is littered with familiar names like Mike Swick, Frankie Edgar and Matt Wiman, as well as WEC light heavyweight champ Steve Cantwell, who made the jump to the UFC when Zuffa scrapped WEC’s light heavyweight and middleweight divisions.
The UFC returns to Spike TV on December 13th to crown the light heavyweight and lightweight winners of the most recent installment of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show. Although Zuffa has yet to announce the entire undercard, names like Jason McDonald, Wilson Gouveia and Anthony Johnson have mentioned as possible participants.
The UFC caps off its trifecta on December 27th , as it puts on a pay-per-view card stacked with talent, and headlined by a clash of Ultimate Fighter coaches Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, with the winner guaranteeing himself a title unifying fight with Brock Lesner sometime in the new year. With each fighter possessing a world class jiu jitsu game, look for the bout to be decided on the feet. There, Nogueira should be able to use his superior striking and stamina to wear Mir down. The undercard showcases four of the top six light heavyweights in the world, as Forest Griffin makes his first title defense against fellow Ultimate Fighter alum Rashad Evans, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson tries for a third time to best Wanderlei Silva, something he has been unable to do in two previous tries.
Finally, the month of December is wrapped up by a stellar New Year’s Eve card from Tokyo, Japan. There, the K-1 organization will put on the 2008 edition of its annual Dynamite!! card. Headlining the event will be a class between top-ranked lightweights, as surprise winner of the DREAM lightweight grand prix, Joachim Hansen, squares off against American Top Team standout Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante. The card also features a rematch between Croatian superstar Mirko “Cro-Cop” Filipovic and Dutch striker Alistar Overeem. Their previous match, which took place at DREAM 6, was halted due to repeated low blows on the part of Overeem. Other rumored participants include living legend Kuzushi Sakuraba, jiu jitsu wizard Shinya Aoki and American bad boy Nick Diaz.
While I tried to hit the high points, this does not begin to cover the multitude of smaller events, both televised and non-televised. For information on events, schools and everything else having to do with mixed martial arts in Texas, visit www.txmma.com. And remember, it’s always funny until someone gets hurt, and then it’s HILARIOUS.
Mike Matthews is a former MMA Fighter and is currently an Assistant District Attorney