Bellator vs. UFC. It’s WAR

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The UFC has long been the dominant brand in Mixed Martial Arts, but their supremacy appears like it will be challenged as Bellator Fighting Championships have also secured a regular mainstream television slot and backed by the prodigious clout of owners Viacom have set out to scoop up free agents and stop their prize talents being poached by the big dog.

With the back room moves that have resulted in the UFC putting more than half of their events out, free to view on FOX affiliated channels and opening up Spike TV as a mainstream platform for Bellator, we can easily see the current contractual love triangle between the UFC, Eddie Alvarez and Bellator as the first shot in a war for MMA dominance.

Now, I’ve never hidden the fact that before I was an MMA fan, I was a fan of pro wrestling and this situation puts me in mind of the turn of events that led to the most compelling period in that form of entertainment’s history.

Lets set the scene. After spending a decade solidifying their dominance and consuming lesser competitors, the long term top dog enters a period of stagnation with older stars retiring, picking their matches and/or falling out with the company and leaving.

Now, of their competitors, there is only one significant domestic opponent left, a company which has long seemed a little bit… shall we say parochial? This company has however established a reputation for putting on quality matches, booking consistently and generally doing its job well, even if the production values, marketing reach and star power aren’t quite there.

What happens when that underdog competitor gains some momentum, gets a backer with enough finance and clout to equal and perhaps even exceed the long term market leader?

Then my friends, we have a competition and has history and entry level economic theory has shown us, this leads to great things for everyone involved, except perhaps the stress levels of the higher management of the rival companies.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of pro wrestling in the 90s and MMA now will see that I’m drawing parallels between the then WWF and the modern UFC and the one time Jim Crocket Promotions, later better known as WCW and Bellator.

Of course, it’s not a perfect analogy – I don’t expect Bellator to poach Georges St-Pierre from the UFC anytime soon (or, ever…) in the way that WCW drew Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and later Kevin Nash and Scott Hall from the WWF and with the differs business models and broadcast arrangements on show, the competition isn’t as direct as it was during the Monday Night Wars.

Back in the 90s, WCW and the WWF competed over TV ratings for directly opposing cable TV shows, with monthly pay per view but rates as a secondary way of keeping score. Of course, Bellator and the UFC aren’t directly competing at any point as UFC events invariably take place on Saturdays while Bellator have settled on Thursdays.

It’s also worth noting that Bellator don’t (yet) offer the PPVs which make up about a third of the UFC’s output and remains their major source of income and that the respective reach of Spike TV is different to the UFC’s various televisual homes (FOX being more widely available, FX and Fuel TV less so) which makes a direct comparison of viewer numbers pointless.

However, the point is that all of a sudden, Bellator have the financial clout and sheer visibility to actually offer a serious alternative for fighters and fans.

It’s simple economics that when one organisation controls a whole industry (or the whole top strata of an industry) then those who work in that industry and consume its output have greatly diminished choice.

In MMA terms, this meant that if you want to watch MMA then the UFC was the only easy thing to find and if you were a fighter who wanted to succeed at the highest level and perhaps retire with enough money saved to REALLY retire, you pretty much had to take what the UFC were offering.

Now however, it’s perfectly viable for fans (in the United States at least) to watch a live MMA card every week on their home TV and have the word ‘Ultimate’ never be uttered.

Similarly, UFC fighters coming to the end of their contract will be able to dangle the possibility of Bellator being a more attractive prospect to bump up their deals. It also allows free agents who’ve built their name in other, less monied promotions a degree of choice.

Market economics dictates that increased competition (defined as an increased number of choices for both consumers, supplies and employees, and when accompanied by a relatively level playing field in terms of consumer information) causes wages to rise, prices to fall and quality to increase.

Say that at some point the UFC and Bellator start running live events in direct opposition. At that point, the pressure will be on for both companies to put on a tangibly BETTER show than their rival. Hence, quality should increase.

Say that at some point, both companies are running pay per views. Now, folks can only afford so many pay per views in a month and if choosing whether to buy the UFC or Bellator offering this month, price might come into the equation as much as the perceived quality of the card. Thus, prices should drop for consumers and the same should apply to live events.

Last year, Bellator’s Middleweight champion, Hector Lombard‘s contract expired and he moved to the brighter lights of the UFC almost as a matter of course. Recently, former Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez has come to a similar point, yet Bellator feel strong enough in their position to challenge whether the UFC have offered Alvarez a superior contract. Thus far, judges have ruled in favour of Bellator but this twisted case has a way to run yet.

That news has been swiftly followed by UFC Hall of Famer, Randy Couture has signed a multi-year contract with Bellator and Spike to coach on their new reality TV show which has to be seen as a major commitment as Randy isn’t cheap…

I’m not saying that Bellator are currently or soon to be on a level with the UFC, as a promotion on a cable channel who has never ran a pay per view can hardly compare for clout or opportunity with a company on network TV running over a dozen pay over views a year. The point is, their reach is improving exponentially and the weight of their backing cannot be disputed. That potentially makes things very interesting.

In a very real sense, and more as a statement of future intent than an immediate feeling that they can go toe to toe with the UFC, Bellator have drawn a line in the sand and made a “just bring it” motion towards the UFC.

All of this may amount to nothing and they may end up as just another ‘next big thing’ that squared off with the UFC and ended up sleeping with the fishes but if Bellator can continue to bring quality, profitable events and appear more like a credible alternative to the UFC in the eyes of fans, sponsors and fighters then the MMA marketplace could be about to experience some of its most exciting and competitive times to date.

If you’re not down with that, I’ve got two words for you…

UCMMA 32 kicks off SAFE MMA era this Saturday

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On Saturday, February 2nd at London’s Troxy UCMMA 32 will be the first event held under the auspices of SAFE MMA, ushering in a new era of safety and credibility for UKMMA.

The card, headlined by a Light Heavyweight title match between Linton Vassell (10-3) and Zelg Galesic (11-7) will be broadcast on Primetime and YouTube and if you’re minded to attend this landmark event and don’t yet have tickets, you can get them here.

That main event match promises to be a compelling encounter between striker Galesic, who has had great success in the UK previously but has proven susceptible to submissions at the highest level, falling to the likes of Ronaldo Souza in DREAM and Alexander Shlemenko in Bellator faces off with the well rounded Vassell who is riding a five fight win streak since his loss to Matti Makela in 2010.

For more information on UCMMA 32, please check www.ucmma.tv.
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SAFE MMA is a not for profit organisation established to improve the safety of MMA fighters in the UK. Under the Safe MMA banner, the medical centre provides a secure, centralised and confidential database for fighter medical records; and coordinates affordable, standardised blood and medical tests for all registered fighters. Additionally, SAFE MMA members will have access to advice from leading world experts in sports medicine.

UK promotions Cage Warriors, BAMMA and UCMMA united to help found the project and have agreed that from 1st January 1013 all fighters on their cards must be registered to SAFE MMA and undergo annual medical tests and bi-annual blood tests. The promotions have agreed only to use fighters that are deemed medically safe to fight under the SAFE MMA (green light) system and not to use fighters that are suspended due to injuries, such as concussion, or who are overdue for blood tests, for example. Additionally, the promotions have pledged to have medical professionals carry out pre- and post-fight tests with all results to be submitted to the confidential medical database at 76 Harley St. Medical data will never be transmitted to anyone but SAFE MMA will be able to give a rapid and all-hours service to inform authorised promotions of who is medically safe to fight and who needs to be rechecked, at the time of enquiry. Visit www.safemma.co.uk for further information.
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To coincide with their first event, SAFE MMA have released their own line of Safe MMA Apparel via British MMA clothing brand, Impact LPA; with branded T-shirts in black and in white available now from www.impactlpa.com. Bespoke Safe MMA branded designs are also available for promotions, gyms or retailers on request.

Impact LPA has generously pledged to donate all profits generated from the sale of all Safe MMA apparel to a fund for fighters needing financial assistance with Safe MMA registration fees.

Please, show your support for UKMMA by checking out UCMMA 32 in person or onscreen and by ordering yourself one of these stylish t-shirts. We will be.

Follow @SAFEMMAUK and @UCMMA on Twitter.

First two matches announced for BAMMA 12, Ray defends British Lightweight Title

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BAMMA today announced two matches for the BAMMA 12 main card, set to take place at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on Saturday 9th March 2013.

First up is Steven Ray vs. Curt Warburton in a square-off for the BAMMA Lonsdale British Lightweight title.

Reigning BAMMA Lonsdale British Lightweight champion, Steven ‘Braveheart’ Ray, debuted at BAMMA in December 2012 where he earned the title in a distance bout against Dale Hardiman. Hailing from Scotland, the Judo black-belt turned MMA Pro in 2010 and dominated the Welterweight division on the Scottish circuit to claim the On Top Welterweight belt before dropping to Lightweight for his BAMMA 11 title shot. Ray presents a professional MMA record of 12-3-0; and his clash with Warburton marks his first defence of the BAMMA Lonsdale belt.

Curt ‘The War’ Warburton presents a formidable challenge armed with a catalogue of notable wins on his 11-3-0 record, most famously against Ross Pearson. Warburton fought three times in the UFC before fighting Tim Newman at BAMMA 8. BAMMA 10 saw Warburton return for a World Lightweight title contenders match against Lee Wieczorek, in which he delivered his second BAMMA decision win. Warburton was slated to challenge BAMMA’s World Lightweight champion, Rob Sinclair, on the forthcoming card, until Sinclair was forced to withdraw injured; leaving Warburton to set his sights on another BAMMA belt.

British Champion , Stevie Ray said:

“I’ve been really excited about this fight. Soon as I heard it was getting announced today it got me right in the mood to train – and today is supposed to be my rest day! This is a tough fight but that’s what I want. I was super motivated for my previous BAMMA title fight; I came to win no matter how I did it and I wasn’t leaving without that belt. I feel really privileged to be fighting for BAMMA again and I can’t wait to get in the cage and do it all over again. Curt Warburton looks tough. I’ve had a little look at him, just to see what he’s about and to spot what his strengths and weaknesses are. He’s on the run to get back to the UFC so beating him will be massive for me. I will be training harder than ever, and as always pushing myself that one step further. Fans can expect a Fight of the Night performance, an even better and improved Steven Ray and 15 minutes of fast paced action. As Chael Sonnen said, ‘When two fighters want it so badly, that’s when you know it’s going to be an exciting fight.”

“ If I can, I’d like to thank my family, friends, sponsors (Geo Thompson Knock Out Art, Sportsense Nutrition, 1st Choice Glazing, Stark Partnership and Fitness Factor Gym), my management On Top Promotions, my coach James Doolan, everyone from Dinky Ninjas fight team and lastly everyone at BAMMA”

Challenger Curt Warburton said:

“I’m looking forward to the fight. Obviously it’s a different fight than I originally planned for and I’ve had to go back to the drawing board so my gameplan’s totally changed. Stevie Ray’s a completely different fighter, more of a wrestler: He’s a good fighter and a champion for a reason, but I’m coming to take that belt off him. I’ll be fighting in my hometown and there’s going to be good support. Expect fireworks, a knock out and a new BAMMA Lonsdale champ.”

BAMMA’s Managing Director, Ashley Bothwell, said:

“Stevie Ray and Curt Warburton are both fierce talents who are well respected on the British scene. It’s been a chance injury that’s brought these two together but for me it’s going to be one of the most exciting fights of the night. Warburton brings longer experience at a higher level but Ray poses a serious threat and a tough challenge. Warburton also brings the home crowd so you can expect this to be a fight to bring the house down. Everyone at BAMMA wishes injured World champ, Rob Sinclair, a strong and speedy recovery and we look forward to seeing him back very soon. ”

The second bout announced will be a Welterweight match between Bola Omoyele and Wayne Murrie set to feature on the preliminary card.

American Top Team and Team Titan fighter, Bola ‘Cashflow’ Omoyele, boasts a record of 6-1-0. Bola has achieved 5 of his wins within 2:45 and none of his fights have reached the third, with the majority coming by TKO. Bola participated in reality TV series ‘The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes’ in 2012, in which he was defeated by Manny Rodriguez in episode 5.

West Yorkshire’s Wayne ‘Mayhem’ Murrie carries a record of 15-5-1and has a history of tough clashes against experienced opponents. With 12 of his battles not leaving the first, Murrie has also shown he can go the distance against names that include John Maguire and Peter Irving. With victories through Knock Out power, via TKO and Submission, Murrie has defeated half of his opponents via an array of Chokes.

Bola Omoyele said:

“I’m looking forward to showcasing my skill against a top ranked fighter and I can’t wait to get into the BAMMA cage and get it cracking.”

Wayne Murrie said:

“I can’t wait for the opportunity to fight on BAMMA and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I’ll be flying the flag for Ludus Magnus Training Centre and for Old Skool Fight Management. I’ll be looking to finish the fight in style.”

BAMMA’s Managing Director, Ashley Bothwell, said:

“This is a match up that has Fight of the Night written all over it. Both guys are exciting fighters who have built up a reputation across other shows to become real hot property. It’s fantastic to be able to showcase this calibre of British talent and I fully expect this meeting to have everyone on the edge of their seats.”

BAMMA 12 will feature on Channel 5 and on 5* in the UK; and will be televised on AXS-TV in the US, The Fight Network in Canada, Red Media in Russia, TV Esporte Interativo in Brazil and Setanta in Africa.

Follow @StevenRayMMA , @CurtWarburton , @BolaOmoyelemma and @BAMMAUK on Twitter

With more matches soon to be announced, we’ll keep you updated with any further BAMMA announcements.

UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar Preview

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Sat, 02 Feb 2013
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

It may be their third event in as many weeks, but this is the first proper UFC pay per view of the year and as much as last week’s FOX card was stacked, this event beats it hands down.

The main event is billed as a superfight, and a year ago it would truly have been just that. Twelve months ago, Jose Aldo (20-1) had just retained his Featherweight title with a knockout of the year contender against Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar was looking ahead to his fourth defence of the Lightweight title having disposed of BJ Penn and Gray Maynard against all the odds.

Now, however the picture is a little different. Injury has kept Aldo inactive since his memorable victory and crowd dive in Brazil and Edgar has suffered back to back decision defeats, no longer owns the Lightweight belt and boasts a record of (15-3-1).

However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t still a compelling fight. Despite labouring to overcome Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian in his first UFC matches, Aldo showed against Mendes exactly why he’s rated as a top 3 pound for pound talent. Incredible speed, precise, powerful and varied kicks, great takedown defence and a formidable jiujitsu game should the bout go to the floor make Aldo a scary proposition for anyone.

Aldo’s only career defeat came by a second round submission back in 2005 and since then he’s been wrecking the careers of wrestlers, kickboxers, submission specialists a d everyone in between.

I’ve complained a lot recently about guys coming off defeats getting a title shot, but I don’t really mind in the case of Frankie Edgar. You see, Edgar literally punched well above his weight in the 155lb division, as a fighter who is of a size more usually associated with the 145lb class and could probably make 135lb without too much difficulty he was competing against guys who naturally weighed between ten and thirty pounds more than him.

In that light, his wins over BJ Penn and Gray Maynard are all the more remarkable and his wafer thin decision losses to Benson Henderson almost carry a feeling that Henderson should have been handicapped somehow.

Relieved of the Lightweight title, Edgar drops to Featherweight and immediately skips to the front of the queue as the most marketable and credible threat to Aldo’s belt.

While Aldo has made a habit of beating up wrestler-boxers, he’s never yet faced one with Edgar’s sheer level of excellence. Edgar’s movement, hand speed and ability to switch levels and land sudden, inescapable takedowns befuddled most at 155lbs and for once, he’ll be fighting a guy who only weighs a wee bit more than him.

I find myself genuinely unable to predict this fight. If Aldo can land his trademark leg kicks early and dictate distance, Edgar could be in for a long (or brief) night, but if Edgar boxes on the outside, evades the leg kicks and finds the timing for his takedowns he could easily decision or knock the champion out.

In the co-main event slot, we have the return of two of the Light Heavyweight division’s old horses looking for a big win to return them to title contention as Rashad Evans (17-2-1) faces Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5).

Evans is the consensus #2 light heavyweight in the world, but having been unable to do much in his title challenge against former teammate Jon Jones last April his chances of a speedy rematch don’t look great. The option of cutting to middleweight seems to be one Rashad isn’t too happy to contemplate so he’d rather earn himself another shot.

Nogueira was billed as the top free agent at 205lbs when he signed for the UFC back in 2009 but a run of stogy performances against wrestlers mean that it’s only his debut against Luis Cane and his most recent win over Tito Ortiz which have really been memorable.

Here we have two well rounded and experienced fighters, with a jiujitsu specialist and Olympic calibre boxer facing off with a wrestler who has some of the sharpest MMA boxing in the division.

Like the main event, I’m loathe to predict this as both of these guys are capable of highlight reel KOs, grinding out decision wins or just having an off day at the office. We’ll need to see which version of ‘Suga’ or ‘Lil Nog’ turn up…

Astonishingly in a lowly mid card slot, we find Alistair Overeem (36-11) returning from his year long drugs ban to re-earn a shot at the UFC title if he can overcome this years designated gatekeeper, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (17-4)

What can I say about Overeem, a K1 Grand Prix champion who fought in Pride as a light heavyweight before packing on about sixty pounds of muscle mass in a suspiciously short time frame and went on a twelve fight unbeaten streak to stand as arguably the biggest challenge to UFC champ Cain Velasquez.

Silva on the other hand, you can either see as the dominant, heavy handed jiujitsu machine that the UFC are trying to portray him as, or you can see him as the somewhat overmatched fighter with a glass jaw who is still riding his one great moment, his 2011 TKO of Fedor Emelianenko.

I’m not saying for one second that Silva isn’t legit and wouldn’t squash me like a bug, but at the elite level he’s been badly exposed by Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez in the past year and a half, and his TKO win over Travis Browne had more to do with Browne pulling a tendon in his leg than it did to Silva’s dominance.

Put it this way, I see this as much as a gimme win for Overeem as he’s gonna get. Like Velasquez, the UFC brass are feeding Silva to him to give him a highlight reel win to carry into his near inevitable title match.

Funny, that’s how WWE used the Big Show for years as well…

… the difference is, that this is MMA and Bigfoot could easily upset the script. If Overeem puts in a tired performance as he did against Fabricio Werdum or Bigfoot gets the fight to the ground, this one could easily be less clear cut than my cynicism expects…

Wait, the awesome fights aren’t over yet! Now we have the interesting-again Jon Fitch (24-4-1-1) fresh from his exciting (yes, I said exciting) win over Erick Silva facing off with arguably the only man at 170bs that Fitch might have second thoughts going to the ground with, Demian Maia (17-4).

Fitch has made a career out of taking fighters down and rubbing his chest and shoulders into their face for fifteen minutes before being awarded a unanimous decision victory. However, following the shock of losing two rounds against BJ Penn (Fitch brutalised Penn in the third to earn a draw) and following that up with KO loss to Johny Hendricks, Fitch appeared to have embraced the desire to finish fights, or at least try to and thus make them fun to watch in his tussle with Silva.

Maia spent a long time as the designated jiujitsu guy at Middleweight, subbing most guys but occasionally getting knocked the hell out or decisioned by quality wrestlers or strikers he couldn’t get close enough to. Since dropping to welterweight, where he adds a strength advantage to his jiujitsu acumen, he’s looked a bit scary and in his last match became the first competitor to finish noted grinder Rick Story with a nasty looking neck crank submission.

Now, does Fitch try and take Maia down, knowing what he’s capable of off his back? Does Maia try and pull guard in Fitch, knowing what he’s capable of on top? Does both or either fighter decide to see how it plays out striking before going to their usual gameplan?

If you’re the kind of MMA ‘fan’ who chants ‘stand them up’ after ten seconds on the ground or boos a fight where guys aren’t throwing haymakers or flying knees, this one might not be for you. However to me, it’s as interesting a styles clash as anything on the card and I’m very interested to see how it plays out.

Rounding off the main card is a bout that could so easily have been for the inaugural Flyweight title if only Ian McCall (11-3-1) had been a bit more focused and put Demtrious Johnson away last March. Instead, the bout was ruled a draw and Johnson went on to win the belt against Joseph Benavidez (16-3) after defeating McCall in the rematch.

McCall is still seeking his first win in the UFC, while Benavidez has still never been stopped and has only lost to guys who ended up going on to win title belts.

Admittedly, two of McCall’s losses are to the same champions (Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson) and he comes into this match as very much the man with more to lose. Like a job. 0-2-1 is not an Octagon record that does much for your hopes of future employment with the UFC.

Sadly, because I’m a huge fan of Uncle Creepy, I see Benavidez winning this as he’s bigger and finishes more of his fights. Of course, I’d be only too happy if McCall took the win back to Team Oyama, because the UFC flyweight division needs characters as much as it needs off the peg Team Alpha Male jocks…

The pick of the preliminary card is easily the FX main event between Evan Dunham (13-3) and Gleison Tibau (26-8), two guys who’ve pretty much spent the last few years just outside the top ten of the Lightweight division, reliably putting on fun fights and generally losing to guys on their way towards title contention.

This is a quite stunning card and I’m very much looking forward to staying up till silly am UK time to watch it. For viewing details wherever you are, please check www.ufc.com

MAIN (Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
• Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar – for featherweight title
• Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
• Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva
• Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia
• Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall

PRELIMINARY (FX, 8 p.m. ET)
• Evan Dunham vs. Gleison Tibau
• Jay Hieron vs. Tyron Woodley
• Bobby Green vs. Jacob Volkmann
• Yves Edwards vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg

PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 7 p.m. ET)
• Chico Camus vs. Dustin Kimura
• Edwin Figueroa vs. Francisco Rivera

Anderson Silva: What next for the GOAT?

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Say the name Anderson Silva to anyone involved with MMA today and you will likely be met with a string of superlatives describing his lightening fast speed, cat like reflexes, pin-point accurate striking, etc. There are very few, if any, that would place him anywhere other than No.1 on the Pound for Pound list, with most of them claiming that not only is he the best fighter in the game today but in fact the greatest of all time.

During 2012, with Anderson concentrating mainly on his rematch with Chael Sonnen and then the unexpected fight at Light Heavyweight with Stephan Bonnar, the contenders at his usual home of Middleweight began to stack up. Names like Mark Munoz, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping, Chris Weidman, Hector Lombard & Alan Belcher were just a few names being thrown around, with the UFC at one point even announcing a possible MW tournament in order to determine Silva’s next challenger.

However, as we begin 2013 the picture has drastically changed. Recent losses for the likes of Munoz, Belcher, Boetsch & Bisping have removed them from immediate contention and with Anderson saying he wants a fight in the spring much is now being discussed about who will indeed be the next to attempt to topple the record breaking Brazilian. With this in mind I wanted to examine the potential candidates and give my prediction of who I believe that person will be. Here goes:

Main Contenders

Chris Weidman (9-0)

With an unbeaten record of 9-0 and coming off big wins over Demian Maia & Mark Munoz, with the latter earning Weidman KO of the Night honours, it is pretty much a given that Chris is the defacto, by the numbers No. 1 Contender at Middleweight at this point in time. He has certainly been doing his level best to hype the idea of the fight himself over the past few months, however Anderson has so far been less than enthusiastic about the prospect claiming that he does not feel he is a big enough name yet to make it worthwhile. This has led to some quarters claiming that Anderson is ducking Weidman due his wrestling skills, which after Chael Sonnen’s first performance against Silva, would appear to be his weak spot if indeed he has any. Whether this is enough to motivate Anderson to sign on the dotted line remains to be seen.

Luke Rockhold (10-1)

The AKA fighter was the last Strikeforce Middleweight champion before they were recently folded into the UFC and he is currently awaiting his first fight for the organisation. The story side of this writes itself with any fight between the 2 likely to be billed as Champion vs. Champion to unify the UFC & Strikeforce belts. Anderson has expressed some interest in this bout which could well be the tipping factor in any decision. Rockhold is a brown belt in BJJ and started his MMA career with a string of 1st round submission victories, but has also shown in recent fights that he is capable of getting the TKO or working his way to a decision victory over a full 5 rounds which makes this a potentially compelling matchup.

All that could stand in Luke’s way however is that with no fights in the UFC as of yet under his belt and the fact that he isn’t as big a draw as some other candidates either Anderson or the UFC could decide to hold off on throwing him straight in at the deep end.

Vitor Belfort (22-10)

Belfort should need no introduction to even the most casual of UFC fans. He is a former 2 weight class champion aswell as clocking in a number of fights at Middleweight, including a previous title shot with the man in question back in Feb of 2011. Despite the fact that that fight ended in one of the most recognisable  knockouts in Silva’s resume, the shortness of the fight and the fact that Belfort never really got a chance to show what he was capable off could make for an intriguing rematch. Vitor has only lost to Silva and Jon Jones, arguably the 2 best fighters in the world today, since 2007 and is coming off and impressive win over Michael Bisping. After that fight he chose to call out Jones for a rematch instead of Anderson though so it could be that Belfort simply isn’t interested at taking another shot at the MW belt at this time.

Cung Le (9-2)

A surprising name to be placed under main contenders I hear you say? Well, yes, but Cung is the one guy that Anderson Silva and his manager Ed Soares have come out and said they would have some interest in fighting. Their logic is that at this stage in Anderson’s career they only want to be fighting guys with some name and drawing power who are coming off wins, and on paper at least that would seem to apply to Le. It is also worth remembering that the UFC is committed to cracking the Asian market and having Cung challenging for the title as the headline of an event in China for example could really work in the the their favour. The only possible downside I could see here is that Cung is 3-2 in his last 5 fights which isn’t exactly No. 1 contender form and the UFC have already been taking heat of late for some rather questionable choices for title shots.

Outside Contenders

Winner of Hector Lombard (32-3-1-1) vs. Yushin Okami (28-7)

Lombard is coming of an impressive win over Rousimar Palhares and Okami recently defeated Alan Belcher to remove him from contention. They will now face each other in Japan in March and if either gets an convincing win then they could catapult themselves right into the mix. Granted it is not that long since Okami had his last shot so the odds on him are surely longer than they would be on Lombard if he was victorious. The timescale aswell might not fit however, especially if the winner needed some time to heal up after the fight which is why they are outside contenders at best.

Constantinos Philippou (12-2)

Costa has been somewhat of a dark horse quietly working his way up the rankings over the past couple of years. He is currently riding a 5 fight win streak, the most recent of which was when he stepped in at UFC 155 on short notice against Tim Boetsch. He may not have been tested much at the top of the division so far but he has proven himself to be a tough competitor and has provided some entertaining fights so should an injury crisis akin to that of last year happen again then he could yet find himself staring across the Octagon at The Spider sooner rather than later.

Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza (17-3-1)

The former Strikeforce champion is one of the top prospects to come from the fallen organisation, and had he not lost the Middleweight title to the aforementioned Rockhold he would surely have been all but certain of a shot at Anderson at this point. Even with that loss though he has since put together a 3 fight win streak and remains a compelling matchup given that he possesses arguably some of the best BJJ in MMA today. Although, the fact that he is a Blackhouse fighter could be the fly in the ointment. They are known as being a very close knit team so both fighters could be reluctant to face each other.

Mamed Khalidov (26-4-2)

Khalidov is by far the longest shot of all the contenders I have mentioned so far given that he is not even in the UFC at this point. A lot of casual UFC fans will likely not even have heard of him, however the current KSW Middleweight Champion has long been considered one of the very top talents outside of the UFC. In fact they have already tried to sign Mamed, offering a contract which he turned down as he was making more money with KSW. The reason I include him on this is partly because the UFC have already shown interest and I think it is inevitable that we will see him in the Octagon at some point, but also that Dana White made a statement after UFC on FOX 6 last week, saying that they were waiting on something before announcing Anderson’s next opponent, could it be they are waiting on Khalidov accepting a new contract offer? It’s a long shot, especially since his name value in the States is minimal, but surely stranger things have happened.

Super Fights

Dana White has said that Silva’s next fight will not be a super fight, however knowing that anything can happen it seems only right to include them as potential candidates however unlikely they may be at the moment.

Georges St-Pierre (23-2)

GSP is the current UFC Welterweight Champion and arguably the No. 2 pound for pound fighter in the world behind Anderson Silva. The talk of a super fight between the 2 has rumbled on for a number of years. It was thought unlikely until very recently when Silva for the first time expressed an interest in facing St-Pierre. GSP is currently set to face Nick Diaz in March so any fight with The Spider would need to wait until after then and would likely be dependent upon him beating Diaz. Another potential stumbling block though is that GSP himself has never fully committed himself to the fight, stating that if it ever were to happen then he would need 6 months to make a permanant move to Middleweight the right way. All these factors included it would seem very unlikely that this will be appearing on Silva’s schedule in early to mid 2013.

Jon Jones

If you believe the internet and general media chatter then this is the biggest fight available to the UFC at the moment and would be the majority of fans first choice. Jones has pretty much walked through everyone presented to him at Light Heavyweight thus far and with Anderson having previously moved up to the division there would be no weight issues getting in the way. Even with White saying that he all but guarantee’s that the fight will happen at some point before Anderson retires, both Jones & Silva had said that they are not interested in the fight any time soon. Add that to the fact that Jones is set to face Chael Sonnen in April and it would seem that this too would be unlikely to happen this spring.

So that covers off all of the potential candidates I think are in any way whatsoever in the running to face Anderson. If I were to predict who I think it will end up being then my gut is telling me Chris Weidman. Despite Silva saying he is not interested in the fight due to his name value he has been doing his best to raise his profile recently and really cement himself as the No. 1 contender. He was in Chicago for UFC on FOX last weekend simply to track down Dana White to beg for the shot and he really seems to think that he can become the next champion. This isn’t the first time Anderson has said he wouldn’t fight someone and then did so I get the feeling history will repeat itself and we will see Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman for the UFC MIddleweight Championship sometime soon.

Do you agree/disagree? Do you think there is anyone I have missed out? Please feel free to get the discussion flowing and let me know.

Ross Stevenson

Bellator 87 Preview

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Thu, 31 Jan 201
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Three weeks into their tenure on Spike TV, Bellator Fighting Championship face the first real test of their credentials and the first chance we’ll get to see what their ratings really look like.

In their debut and sophomore cards on Spike, Bellator combined the curiosity factor of being a new show with three title matches and the big name debuts of fighters who’ve earned greater acclaim elsewhere. This third week lacks a title match, the much awaited debut of a former Zuffa fighter, even one of Bellator’s hit and miss ‘super-fights’ and strips the promotion down to it’s bare bones, it’s core hook, the thing that set Bellator apart from other domestic promotions and continues to make it a distinct and compelling part of the wider pantheon of MMA.

That is of course, their recurring championship tournaments, whereby ‘title shots are earned, not given’ and while we have had the first rounds of the Light heavyweight and Welterweight tournaments over the past few weeks, they’ve been very much in a supporting role. This week, they step into centre stage with one of Bellator’s most reliably compelling weigh classes – Lightweight.

Topping the bill (at least by my reckoning, there seems to be no real consensus as to which bout is the main event) is the bout pitting Patricky Friere (10-4) against Guilliame DeLorenzi (10-1) which should be guaranteed fireworks as these tow have a chunky fifteen knockouts in a combined twenty wins. That’s a 75% chance of a knockout. I like those odds.

Friere has been one of Bellator’s go-to-guys for a while, but currently sits on a 1-3 run with his re-retiral of Kurt Pellegrino offset by losses to Michael Chandler, Lloyd Woodard and Eddie Alvarez. On the other hand, DeLorenzi comes in on a 5-0 streak including four finishes since his sole career loss to the fighter formerly known as John Koppenhavner.

DeLorenzi has all the momentum, but it’s worth remembering that Friere has lost to a superior quality of opposition to anyone he’s faced and also holds the advantage in terms of age and experience (a rare combination) but there’s always that question as to whether his chin or mind have been broken by his losses.

Next up comes Russian submission ace Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy (21-1) looking to improve on his 1-1 record on US soil, having bounced back from a split decision loss to Rich Clementi on his Bellator debut. Across the cage from Sarnavskiy is a Brazilian knockout artist with a weakness for being subbed, Thiago Michel (11-3).

With Sarnavskiy having never been stopped and all three of Michel’s losses coming to superior grapplers, I’m gonna have to place my bet in this grappler vs. striker bout on the Russian.

The next bout is between two guys who’s only losses have come against guys who’ve gone on to win tournaments as Lloyd Woodard (12-2) and David Rickels (11-1) face off in a contest of submission specialists. Woodard’s losses to Michael Chandler and Rick Hawn came via decision and KO, while Rickels sole loss came via split decision to the larger Karl Amoussou. I’m tempted to go with Woodard here, but I have a suspicion the younger Rickels might make his size count.

Our last tournament bout is between undefeated Will Brooks (8-0), making his BFC debut off the back of a TKO win over Satoru Kitaoka at the Dream New Year show against Brazilian Ricardo Tirloni (15-3) who tends to stop whoever he faces, unless they have genuine top notch quality (his losses coming via sub to now-UFC champ Benson Henderson, KO to Rick Hawn and split decision to the underrated Dave Jansen.)

This match is a real acid test for Brooks in his first truly high profile match in the US, while Tirloni will be looking to improve his workmanlike 2-2 record in BFC.

As usual, Bellator have assembled a lightweight tournament which has some familiar names, some of the usual suspects and some wild cards. If I had to call a winner at this point, I’d probably pick Friere or Sarnavskiy but couldn’t count out anyone in the field, especially after the upsets in the opening round of the LIght Heavyweight Tournament.

This Thursday will be an interesting night for Bellator, as they see how appealing their format and brand is without the added bells and whistles of title matches and new network debuts. I hope they hold onto the bulk of their audience, because more eyes on MMA is a good thing…

MAIN (Spike TV, 10 p.m. ET)
• David Rickels vs. Lloyd Woodard – lightweight-tourney opening round
• Guillaume DeLorenzi vs. Patricky Freire – lightweight-tourney opening round
• Will Brooks vs. Ricardo Tirloni – lightweight-tourney opening round
• Thiago Michel vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy – lightweight-tourney opening round

PRELIMINARY (Spike.com, 8 p.m. ET)
• Saad Awad vs. Jason Fischer
• Ben Lagman vs. Sam Quito
• James Reese vs. David Shepherd
• Justin Houghton vs. Cody Stamann
• Karl Etherington vs. Jason Fish
• Amir Khillah vs. John Schulz
• Nick Kirk vs. Tony Zelinski

Maguire vs. Mulholland rounds out Cage Warriors 52 Main Card

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The main card line-up for Cage Warriors 52 is now complete following today’s addition of an exciting lightweight clash to the bill.

Tommy Maguire will face Merv Mulholland at CWFC’s opening event of 2013, which is set for London’s HMV Forum on Saturday, March 9.

Maguire (14-5), who recently signed an exclusive Cage Warriors contract, will be making his CWFC debut on the back of a run of five wins in his last six outings.

The younger brother of UFC welterweight John Maguire, 25-year-old Tommy appeared on season nine of The Ultimate Fighter and hasn’t been stopped since a second-round TKO defeat to John Hathaway back in 2007.

Mulholland (10-4), who has taken eight of his 10 wins by first-round stoppage, will be looking for a third consecutive Cage Warriors victory on March 9.

The 22-year-old, who hails from Belfast, is currently ranked 14th in the UK and secured a Submission of the Night bonus for his defeat of Daniel Thomas at Cage Warriors 49 in Cardiff back in October.

Cage Warriors 52 will be headlined by a welterweight title bout between Cathal Pendred and defending champion Gael Grimaud and we’ll keep you posted with any event updates.

MAIN CARD (Live worldwide on MMAJunkie.com at 9pm GMT)

Gael Grimaud (champion) v Cathal Pendred – CWFC welterweight title bout

Mohsen Bahari v Bruno Carvalho

Tommy Maguire v Merv Mulholland

Matt Inman v Jack Mason

Paul Redmond v Alexei Roberts

Liam James v Alan Philpott

PRELIMINARY CARD (Live worldwide on Facebook at 7.45pm GMT)

Chris Fishgold v Steve O’Keeffe

Brett Bassett v Brett Sizeland

Alex Enlund v Martin McDonough

Tickets for Cage Warriors 52, which takes place at London’s HMV Forum on March 9, are available to purchase here.