Inside the Cage Blog
PALM BEACH GARDENS - Born and raised in the same Brazilian town, Marlon Moraes and Edson "Junior" Barboza are training together in Palm Beach Gardens, something they've done together since the age of 9. ESPN 106.3 on WPTV's Emerson Lotzia reports.
It might all lead to this or at least to where we are going.
UFC on Fox 6 delivered on Saturday night. The fights were entertaining, the crowd was electric and despite an early glitch with the audio to start the telecast, the event lived up to expectations.
Now we’ll see if the exposure on network television can contribute to the growth of the UFC.
If you were casual fan of MMA passing by UFC on Fox 6, you would think that Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar were fighting in Chicago. Every commercial break included a 156 promo, both fighters were featured in a dedicated segment during UFC on Fox 6 and Joe Rogan could not get enough of discussing the fights importance during each free moment.
It’s the truth. Aldo vs Edgar is a huge fight. For the UFC. For the sport. For the fighters.
Names like Jones, St. Pierre and Silva rank among the best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class. Aldo’s name is always two or three steps behind, despite his 14-fight unbeaten streak and assesion to the tops of the featherweight ranks. He made the divisions’ greatest of all-time Urijah Faber wilt under a constant barrage of leg kicks during the one and only Pay Per View promoted by the WEC.
The card did 175-thousand buys.
He’s completely run through everyone that’s been in front of him, that is until the meets Edgar, the former champion of the UFC lightweight division. “The Answer” has seemingly always been fighting above his natural weight at 155, yet he unsat the divisions must accomplished champion BJ Penn in two epic fights, then went on to be the first to finish Gray Maynard during the third of their epic trilogy series, all while running through each with his constant footwork, hands and wrestling background.
Does the fight alone, because the supposed momentum gained by network television proposal live up to the numbers it's expected to deliver? Both fighters are two of the best in the sport, yet talent alone is not enough in this sport, at least to this point to sell a PPV. It takes a name like Brock Lesnar a champion like Anderson Silva or a showman like Chael Sonnen
Aldo and Edgar are not bitter rivals nor will there be any verbal exchanges by either. So that's out the window.
The event is big for the sport because it’s the first legitimate super-fight MMA has seen in quite sometime. If Aldo-Edgar is a generator for fans and PPV buys, the news that Silva has signed a new 10-fight deal with the promotion that includes fights against Georges St. Pierre and John Jones means that White’s dreams of a Texas Stadium or open-air soccer show are a reality.
For the fighters it means money and opportunity. I won’t argue Edgar’s validity of a title shot against Aldo, but he is coming off of two losses. That may be trend growing in the smart. On April 27th, Sonnen will meet Jones for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title despite his most recent outing in the Octagon, a 2nd round TKO aginst Silva. The same for Nick Diaz, coming off a loss the Stockton native meets St. Pierre at UFC 158 this March.
UFC 156 should draw. Traditionally the UFC has major cards on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, as this one has Alistair Overeem vs Bigfoot Silva as well as Rashad Evans
against Lil Nog. MMA fans will also know of the importance in the welterweight fight between Jon Fitch and Demian Maia. Last year’s UFC 143 did 400,000 buys, Silva vs Belfort did 725,000 buys in 2011 and the much changed UFC 109, headlined by Randy Couture and Mark Coleman did 275,000.
I would like to think that fans that tuned into UFC on Fox 6 were at least encouraged to make the UFC 156 purchase. Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson entertained for 5-rounds with their pace, ending with Johnson taking the win; albeit despite controversy over points deductions that referee Johb McCarthy did not take for a Johnson thrown illegal knee.
Anthony Pettis and Ricardo Lamas delivered spectacular finishes in their respective fights, positioning both to be on the doorstop of title shots, although Petti’s hand is probably on the door handle while Lamas might have to reach for it.
For UFC 156, I see Aldo retaining the title while Overeem and Evans score impressive finishes in their fight. Plus, I like Maia in the upset of Fitch and Joseph Benavidez to decision Ian McCall.
Here we go!
I thought it would be appropriate to steal a line from Mike Goldberg as he returns to the broadcast booth for UFC on Fox 6 later this month. The calendar may already say 2013 and there are two MMA events that have already taken place (Bellator's debut on Spike and Strikeforce’s final fight on Showtime), but the MMA year really gets going this Saturday with UFC on FX 7.
The reason, it’s main event which features a critical middleweight scrap between former title challenger Vitor Belfort and perennial contender Michael Bisping. Both men are hungry for a shot (Bisping) or rematch (Belfort) with the current titleholder Anderson Silva and if you're me, you want to see Bisping finally get over the hump and challenge for a title.
For me, he represents everything you want out of a mixed martial artist and professional athlete. He is well rounded in the sport, can sell a fight and carries with him a tremendous sports opinion from the fans; he’s either loved or hated. He also represents a new challenger to Silva and his title reign, a challenger that in my mind would not back down from a fight and would present a unique skill set that Silva has never seen. A fighter that can stand with him, yet will rely on constant pressure and his cardio to test the champion. Plus, the UFC has the opportunity (with a Bisping win) to schedule Silva in the money fights he covets.
Bisping vs Silva would make sense for an outdoor soccer stadium in Brazil or a large venue in the United Kingdom. UFC President Dana White is all about the dollars, and either situation would cause the cash register to boom.
However, Bisping needs to get by Belfort, a blitzkrieg of a challenge that posses some of the best hand speed in the sport. He is a tremendous problem for any opponent, with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills set to threaten from any position (see his near armbar vs Jon Jones).
Furthermore, Saturday’s fight takes place in Brazil, where 20,000+ Brazilians will be looking to tear Bisping apart.
I think Bisping gets it done, but I’ve been wrong before.
If you are not a Bisping fan (and most aren’t), then you might want to become a Daniel Cormier fan. Before I breakdown UFC on Fox 6, which takes place next week, I would be remised if I did not reflect back on Strikeforce. Not for its history because filling in my comments on Fedor, the Heavyweight World Grand Prix Tournament and Frank Shamrock’s braces are pointless. What I can (and should) focus on is what’s coming to the UFC, the Strikeforce imports.
Cormier is at the forefront as Strikeforce closes its doors. He is the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion and comes in as a consensus Top 4 Heavyweight with title aspirations in both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight division. He called out Frank Mir (subsequently, he will fight Mir at UFC on Fox 7) after his destruction of Dion Staring, plus announced he wanted to kick Jon Jones ass in the fall. Either way, Cormier’s confidence, wrestling pedigree and knockout power are trouble for anyone in either division.
The other big name on his way to the UFC is Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, a consensus top 5 lightweight that will make his UFC debut against the current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the main event of UFC on Fox 7. It’s the right fight for “El Nino”, having won the Strikeforce lightweight championship with his solid combination of boxing and wrestling. The “Smooth” and “El Nino” fight should be an instant classic and its’ free on Fox.
Outside of that, the names coming over to the UFC from Strikeforce that you need to know are light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi, welterweights Tarec Saffiedine and Nate Marquardt, lightweight Ryan Couture and a slew of middleweights.
Saffiedine is the reigning Strikeforce welterweight champion, having won the belt from the aforementioned Marquardt on Saturday night. Both fighters should be thrown right into the gauntlet of the UFC’s welterweight division, as should Mousasi at light-heavyweight, who hopes to challenge Shogun Rua or Lyoto Machida in his first fight. Couture, when he makes his UFC debut, will become the promotions first ever second-generation fighter; his father being UFC hall of famer Randy Couture.
The most interesting division is probably middleweight, which will see a slew of challengers enter at 185, each of which could cause some problems for the plans of Bisping, Belfort and the champion Silva. Leading the way should be the promotions champion Luke Rockhold along with the former champion
Jacare Souza. Rockhold is a enormous middleweight, whose wrestling pedigree and cardio cause fits in the cage. Jacare, which is alligator in Portuguese, is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that likes to snap his opponents in half. Plus, Lorenz Larkin, Roger Gracie and Tim Kennedy all figure to get interesting fights in their UFC debuts.
Last, but certainly not least, is Josh Barnett, the only former Strikeforce fighter to have fought in the UFC (ok, Nate Marquardt did too). However, “The Warmaster” is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, having only being stripped of the title. He’s fought all over the world and is still considered a dangerous man at heavyweight with his catch wrestling and submissions. The question is if he’ll ever make the transfer to the UFC. He has a contentious relationship with Dana White and his inability to get a fighters license consistently makes him a bit of a headache to deal with.
If he does come over, any fight he takes will be must watch.
The culmination to the most significant year in the history of the UFC and mixed martial arts comes to the forefront with the most prestigious championship of the sport, the UFC Heavyweight Title.
On Saturday night, Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez meet again to decide who the “Baddest Man on the Planet Is” and lead us to what should be a banner year for the sport in 2013.
Both dos Santos and Velasquez have rolled through the heavyweight division and thus earning their place as the top two heavyweights currently in MMA. The Champion dos Santos is unbeaten in his UFC career, has seven stoppages of his nine UFC wins and has defeated three former champions along the way.
Velasquez is just as impressive, with seven stoppages in his nine UFC contests, the only blemish being the knockout he sustained vs dos Santos over a year ago at UFC on Fox.
The winner has challengers on the horizon, with Alistair Overeem set to return from suspension and Daniel Cormier on his way from Strikeforce. Even Fabricio Werdum, who will fight Antonio Minotauro Noguiera early next year, could be a late 2013 opponent as well.
However, the bigger issue surrounding this fight is the health of dos Santos and Velasquez. According to multiple reports, both heavyweights were not 100 percent the last time they fought. In fact, both should not have even taken the fight.
Velasquez had reinjured his rotator cuff one week before the fight, an injury that had him sidelined six to eight months prior. Upon his return, Velasquez was apparently not in the same shape he normally fought at and thusly decided to fight dos Santos on the feet rather than relying on his pedigree of wrestling, one that sent him to the top of the heavyweight standings.
Dos Santos was also injured, deciding to take a cortisone shot on his knee prior to the fight. The Brazilian claimed that if the fight had gone to the ground, he would have been in significant trouble.
That being said, both fighters are reportedly 100 percent heading into Saturday night’s showdown so any excuse would not be viable following UFC 155. Therefore, I fully expect Velasquez to look to take the fight to the ground early in this fight, as standing with dos Santos has proven to be a daunting task. The former heavyweight champion has the best takedowns in the heavyweight division and (with being in shape this fight), has the cardio and gas tank to grind it out with dos Santos for 5-rounds. However, the goal is easier said then done. While dos Santos has yet to face a fighter with the caliber of Velasquez pedigree, the Brazilian champion has shown tremendous takedown defense in his previous fights against wrestlers and grapplers like Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin and Werdum.
Plus, we have yet to see the alleged brazilin jiu-jitsu skills of “Cigano”, who is a black belt under the Nogueira brothers.
Velasquez may not be even able to take dos Santos down and with a now suspect chin; the former champion could be in for a world of hurt on Saturday night.
Which leads to the second issue. If dos Santos is successful once again against Velasquez, what does that mean for the future of Cain? He would have already fought twice against dos Santos and would seemingly be out of the running for a third chance against him while he is champion. Velasquez cannot cut the weight to make 205 pounds and it’s too early in his career to consider “super-fights”. It’s almost as if Cain would become a Rich Franklin, unable to challenge the champion while still being youthful enough in their career to be an afterthought.
This is why there is added pressure on Cain to perform Saturday night. With a win, an instant trilogy fight would be available for the UFC to promote. A loss and its limbo land for Cain.
Here are my quick picks for Saturday’s fights:
Junior dos Santos over Cain Velasquez
Jim Miller over Joe Lauzon
Costa Philippou over Tim Boetsch
Alan Belcher over Yushin Okami
Chris Leben over Derek Brunson
Enjoy the fights and Happy New Year.
It’s time for the UFC to prove itself.
Saturday night is UFC on Fox 5, the fifth installment on network television for the premiere mixed martial arts promotion. While the event may be overshadowed to some because of the recent news of Ronda Rousey headlining UFC 157 in a title defense against Liz Carmouche or the announcement from UFC President Dana White that he wants to book a fight between UFC Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre and Nick Diaz, the news item that should take center stage is how well UFC on Fox 5. Will an audience tune in?
Everything is currently fine between the UFC and Fox. Officials from both have already begun preliminary talks about extending their current 7-year contract to show four events a year. Plus, the UFC will begin putting all of their scheduled preliminary fights on FX, generating a wider audience then they would have received by airing them on Fuel.
Numbers have been down and trending that way for the last three UFC on Fox events. The inaugural UFC event on Fox drew an industry-record 5.675 average viewers, peaking at 8.8 when Junior dos Santos knocked out Cain Velasquez to win the UFC Heavyweight Title.
Since then, numbers have declined, whether it had to do with A) Timing of the event B) Competition against the event C) the actual fight card.
On Saturday, you can throw any cliché in the sports book. The bases are loaded, there’s an open lane to the end zone and no defenders in sight. The UFC should hit a homerun and draw ratings similar to last November; if everything is right.
There are no significant sports competition on the broadcast calendar. The NFL does not have any games scheduled for Saturday night and college football is wrapped up. There are no Olympics, no huge movie-premieres and no events that are must see television. In fact, the only significant competition the UFC may face is the Heisman Trophy Presentation and the Manny Pacquiao fight later that night.
The card has also added additional support from Fox. Promos have been running throughout the last month during the NFL and Fox has promoted this week as official “Fight Week on Fox”, linking several of their network programs to a “fighting theme”. Also, the UFC has done right by advertising the event, purchasing billboards and running ads on buses in downtown areas.
Then there are the fights, which will be headlined by a lightweight title fight; only the second time the UFC has put a championship fight on Fox.
Now to the fights:
UFC Lightweight Championship: Benson Henderson (16-2) vs Nate Diaz (16-7)
Henderson has been under major scrutiny since winning the UFC Lightweight Title last February. Mostly because many fans felt that he did not earn a split decision over Frankie Edgar in his most recent fight.
I think that is ridiculous, especially in this day where every fighter knows the risk of handing a fight to the judges.
Henderson is an enormous lightweight that has hinted at an eventual move to the welterweight division. He is an accomplished wrestling with freakish strength, an endurance level that makes 5-round fights no problem for the man known as “Smooth”.
He has also demonstrated accomplished striking, utilizing his striking background to hit opponents with a variety of kicks and short elbows.
Against Nate Diaz, he’ll meet one of the hottest fighters in the division. The former Ultimate Fighter winner from Stockton, California has won three fights in a row to earn the title shot. He submitted Takanori Gomi in his return to lightweight, out-struck Donald Cerrone in a fight of the night performance and became the 1st man to stop Jim Miller in his 22-fight mixed martial arts career.
Diaz has great standup, his length allowing him to dictate timing and pace throughout a majority of his fights. He is also well accomplished on the ground and just doesn’t care. He comes to fight, which makes it extremely rewarding for those that tune in to see this one.
I think it’s close, but because of Henderson’s size/strength and after what we saw happening to Diaz against Rory MacDonald in a welterweight fight, I like Henderson to retain the title.
Wood’s Pick: Benson Henderson
Frank’s Pick: Nate Diaz
Shogun Rua (21-6) vs Alexander Gustafsson (14-1)
I'm not sure if Dana White is just trying to toy with us, but the UFC President announced that this fight would be a No. 1 contender fight for Jon Jones Light Heavyweight Title.
It’s hard to take the president on his word, especially with what we’ve seen happen with “No. 1” contenders over the past year. However, the fact remains that both Rua and Gustafsson are one fight away from earning that spot.
Rua is a former champion whose muay thai striking is some of the best still in the sport. If he hits you, lights go out. He’s also as tough as nails and despite being just 31-years old, is a sure fire UFC Hall of Famer.
The problem in this matchup is he meets Gustafsson, who has been pegged from early on in his career that he would be a champion.
Ever improving in every fight, “The Mauler” is just 25-years old and utilizes his size (6’5, 76.5 inch reach), and skill to dominate his opponents. Since a humbling defeat against Phil Davis over two years ago, he has destroyed his last five opponents, submitting Cyrille Diabate and James Te-Huna while stopping Matt Hammill and Vladimir Matyushenko. Most recently he outpointed Thiago Silva to earn the right to meet Shogun.
For me, this fight is more about champion Jon Jones. Does he get a new challenger or will be forced to retread? Would a Gustafsson win stop any of this Jones to Heavyweight talk? The likelihood is that more challengers means more time for Jones to stay at 205 and build his legacy.
I think he’ll get a chance to do it.
Wood’s Pick: Alexander Gustafsson
Frank’s Pick: Alexander Gustafsson
BJ Penn (16-8-2) vs Rory MacDonald (13-1)
If the aforementioned Gustafsson/Rua fight is important for the future, so to is Penn vs MacDonald.
BJ “The Prodigy” Penn is one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time. Along with Randy Couture, he is the only other man to hold a UFC title in two different weight classes. His hands are dynamite and the jiu-jitsu game of Penn is one of the best.
The unfortunate theme for Penn is if he’s ready for a fight. Over the last four years (FOUR YEARS) the same question has been asked of Penn. How motivated is he? How close to retirement is he? What weight class should he fight at?
Here are my answers: No, One Fight, Lightweight.
This fight is all about MacDonald, if he can perform in front of a networking audience and if he can add a name like Penn to his hit list.
MacDonald is the new breed of mixed martial artists, an athlete who began training mixed martial arts at age 14. He is an outstanding grappler that has a certain aura about him when he enters the Octagon. He also trains with some of the best at Tri-Star, where the current welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre calls home.
MacDonald has rag-dolled everyone he’s faced in the Octagon, including former title contender Carlos Condit. It should be more of the same on Saturday night.
Wood’s Pick: MacDonald
Frank’s Pick: MacDonald
Mike Swick (15-4) vs Matt Brown (17-11)
The network broadcast opens with Swick/Brown, two fighters that like to throw down and leave nothing behind. Swick at one point was a welterweight contender until a string of losses and battle with injuries kept him out of the sport for nearly two years. Brown had the look of a journeyman fighter until recently putting together a run of three victories. He’ll throw knees, punches and kicks, always looking for the finish.
The problem for Brown is that Swick is from the same fighting style, is bigger, stronger, taller, faster and hungrier.
I like Swick with a second round finish.
Wood’s Pick: Swick
Frank’s Pick: Brown
UFC on Fox 5 is going to be an excellent indicator for the sports future. Will future contenders finally earn their recognition? Can old standing veterans reclaim their status? Will a new champion be crowned or will the doubters be silenced.
And most importantly, will people tune in?
By: Jordan Sherwood
What makes one challenge greatness in sports?
As it relates to UFC 154 and the return of UFC Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre, I sure did.
It was not without reason. St. Pierre was returning from a 19-month layoff, an ACL injury that has crippled and ended similar athletes in their prime. He was fighting Carlos Condit, the most well-rounded opponent of his career. He was doing it in his home country of Canada, in front of his hometown of Montreal. All of this with the rumor, speculation, and shadow of a potential superfight with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva looming.
In the end none of it mattered, and it showcased why St. Pierre is considered one of the best in the world
First to the fight.
Once again St. Pierre utilized the boxing skills we learned he had back at UFC 124 against Josh Kosheck, picking apart Condit from distance and preventing the “Natural Born Killer” from mounting any type of offense. Initially, St. Pierre forced Condit to backpedal, something he had never seen before in his UFC career. Once he did, St. Pierre fell back on his wrestling, continually taking Condit to the mat and smothering him with top control, elbows, and ground & pound. Typically an advantage for Condit because of his ability to secure submissions from his back, natural submissions weren't available for Condit due to St. Pierre’s relentless assault, an onslaught that caused several cuts to Condit's face.
Not to be outdone, St. Pierre proved he has heart. Following a head kick that caught St. Pierre flush on the jaw, the welterweight champion was severely rocked and in trouble of losing the fight. Yet, despite the layoff and severity of the moment, St. Pierre went back to the lessons he learned back at UFC 69 when Matt Serra shocked the world and stopped St. Pierre via strikes. He secured guard and prevented the stoppage.
Isn’t that what we’ve come to expect from the great ones? Learn from your losses, have victory so close (and yet so far away) only to come back bigger, better and stronger. Michael Jordan experienced it. Lebron James did, too. So did John Elway, Coach K and a slew of others. Yes, St. Pierre reached back to the mountain-top seven fights before, but he was never in trouble in any of those fights. Not against Matt Hughes or his return fight against Serra. Not Jon Fitch, or BJ Penn, nor Dan Hardy, Thiago Alves, or Jake Shields. No one threatened St. Pierre until Condit did, a mere seconds away from the finish.
Jon Jones faced it once against Vitor Belfort’s armbar attempt and it could be argued Chael Sonnen made Anderson Silva fans uneasy for 5-rounds.
Yet, neither was as close as St. Pierre.
However, the showcase of his greatness does not end there. What we all hope for with today’s athletes is for them to be as accomplished outside of the sports arenas as they are inside of them.
On a night where the biggest fight in mixed martial arts history was supposed to be made, it wasn’t. Not because Anderson Silva wasn’t up for it, he seemingly is. Not because the UFC can’t get it done; they are targeting May in either Brazil, Canada or Dallas, Texas. Not because St. Pierre was a jerk about it. He’s not running away from the challenge. He’s not asking for money or any guarantees.
What St. Pierre wants are two things: time off and more importantly, what weight the fight will be at.
It’s a legitimate question for an athlete so consumed with his body that he raises valid concerns about his ability to make a desired weight or take on a fighter that could have a 40-pound advantage come fight night.
If injuries are going to be continually discussed amongst MMA fans, doesn’t St. Pierre have the right to raise these questions?
I think he does and it’s that approach that makes St. Pierre great. He understands the impact a Silva fight would have for him and the sport. He knows the dollars it could generate and the growth pattern it could create. He knows the risks. He knows the rewards.
He’s a professional, the best of any kind.