UFC Bisping vs. Kennedy / TUF Nations Finale Preview

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April 16, 2014 | Colisee Pepsi | Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Despite being for a lesser TUF series and being held midweek (which really sucks for those of us who are not in the Americas and are working on Thursday…) this card is damn fantastic, to the point where I’m going to break my rule of talking about one match other than the main event and have a wee chat about two of them.

Headlining the show are middleweight contenders Michael Bisping (24-5) and Tim Kennedy (17-4) who face off in what must count as neutral territory with Bisping being your archetypal ‘mouthy Brit’ in many Americans eyes, while Kennedy’s ‘Ranger Up’ persona is well established I guess that French-speaking Canada is as appropriate a venue as any.

Bisping is the perennial ‘one win away from a title shot’ guy, while Kennedy is riding a 3-0 streak that showcases his well rounded skills and his KO of Rafael Natal was exactly the kind of thing that boosts you closer to a title shot than a mundane win, so whoever gets their hand raised is right in line for a crack at the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida for the Middleweight gold.

Both guys are well rounded, with quality striking and grappling skills, so in many ways this fight is a really tough one to predict. That said, Bisping has the clear edge in experience, both in terms of number of fights and the calibre of opponents he’s faced, which could prove decisive

Basically, this is a match worthy of co-main eventing a pay per view, which is pretty good going for a midweek TUF finale…

… which is just as well seeing as I don’t think many folks paid much, if any attention to TUF Nations at least outside of Canada & Australia. I know I didn’t.

With that in mind, I’ve got pretty much nothing to say about the tourney finals or even the coaches bout except that Patrick Cote & Kyle Noke are both fun fighters and should produce an entertaining matchup.

Much more interesting to me are some of the supporting fights, with Akira Corassani (12-3) getting his biggest matchup to date against perennial contender & top ten fixture Dustin Poirer (15-3).

Corassani is undefeated in the UFC with wins over Andy Ogle, Robbie Peralta and Maximo Blanco, while Poirer is currently on a 2-0 streak with wins over former #1 contender Erik Koch and TUF winner Diego Brandao.

Both fighters are well rounded and experienced and a bump in terms of rankings, paydays and quality of opponents is the prize for both of them. This should be a cracking fight.

The last fight I really want to concentrate on features Canada’s Sarah Kaufman (16-2, 1NC) taking on late replacement Leslie Smith (6-4-1).

Kaufman remains one of the top bantamweights in the world, despite her (overturned) decision loss to Jessica Eye and fast loss to Ronda Rousey. Across the cage, Smith’s record does not reflect her skills and entertainment value and with an eye to redress a prior loss to Kaufman

This is sure to be a competitive, action packed fight between two ladies who deserve more acclaim than they have received.

Throw in some potentially very fun matches between Sam Stout and KJ Noons as well as George Roop and Dustin Kimura and this is one of the most solid and overlooked cards the UFC has put together in a while.

The only question that remains is ‘dare I risk falling asleep at work on Thursday to stay up and watch the fights?’

I just might.

Main CARD – BT Sport 12 midnight
Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy
Patrick Cote vs. Kyle Noke
Elias Theodorou vs. Sheldon Westcott – “TUF Nations” middleweight final
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Chad Laprise – “TUF Nations” welterweight final
Akira Corassani vs. Dustin Poirier

Preliminary CARD – BT Sport 10 p.m.
K.J. Noons vs. Sam Stout
Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith
Ryan Jimmo vs. Sean O’Connell
Dustin Kimura vs. George Roop

Preliminary CARD – UFC Fight Pass, 8:15 p.m.
Mark Bocek vs. Mike De La Torre
Vik Grujic vs. Nordine Taleb
Chris Indich vs. Richard Walsh
Mitch Gagnon vs. Tim Gorman

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Title Shot For ‘The Dragon’?

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Dana White today said that a win for Lyoto Machida next weekend against Gegard Mousasi could well result in the former Light heavyweight champion being awarded the next Middleweight shot against the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort.

It’s probably much to early to be speculating about such things, for a start Weidman-Belfort isn’t for a good few months yet and there is always the possibility that the victor will be injured for a while and/or that a rematch will be forthcoming.

I’m sure that Lyoto wouldn’t want to sit out for an extended period waiting for a title shot that could so easily be taken away at the last minute by injury and or a fighter who’s been active in the meantime being on a hot streak, and it’s also been shown that lengthy absences from the cage can blunt your skills.

Aside from that, there are a few other contenders at Middleweight who could rightly take umbrage at the recent entrant to the division skipping to the head of the queue.

Interestingly, these fighters are booked against each other in the coming months.

Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza vs. Francis Carmont – UFC Fight Night 36, February 15th

‘Jacare’ is often spoken off as a natural challenger for the title, as he comes into his next bout on a five match winning streak, with his only blip in the past five years coming against Luke Rockhold.

With a top notch submission game and increasingly dangerous striking game, should Souza beat the tough Carmont he’d surely be in the conversation for a title shot.

Similarly, Francis Carmont can feel a tad aggrieved to not have been talked about for a title shot, seeing as he currently rides an eleven fight winning streak including top notch talent like Costas Philippou and Lorenz Larkin.

To be fair, Carmont’s run of decision victories haven’t bumped him up the star-ladder as quickly as highlight reel finishes. Still, with a twelve fight win streak and a win over Jacare in Brazil, the UFC brass would have to sit up and take notice.

Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy – TUF Nations Finale, April 16th

Bisping is persistently just outside title contention, invariably falling to a loss just as he’s about to get a shot. With the division in flux and Bisping coming off a win, a second might tip the former Ultimate Fighter winner over the top into a title shot and he would be an easy sell as a challenger for Vitor Belfort, following their heated contest last year.

No longer a poor man’s Brian Stann, Tim Kennedy has come of age in the UFC and rides a three fight win streak in the company.

The stereotypical outspoken American hero, Kennedy is an easy sell to the UFC’s core audience and with a four fight win streak, especially with a win over the big name of Bisping, he’d be an good contender for a title shot.

All of these fighters have paid their dues in the UFC Middleweight division, winning matches and building a case for a title shot, but it has to be said that Machida’s pedigree, existing headliner status and refound tendency to deliver highlight reel knockouts

Last but not least, it’s best not to discount Gegard Mousasi from the possibility of an underdog victory over Machida.

Let’s remember that Mousasi has suffered only one loss in the last seven and a half years and that was at Light Heavyweight, with Middleweight victories coming over Hector Lombard and ‘Jacare’ amongst others.  While this is his first UFC bout at Middleweight, a victory over Machida would instantly elevate him into contention.

If I had the UFC book (which on balance, it’s probably best I don’t) I’d place the winners of Machida-Mousasi and Souza-Carmont in a eliminator match on the undercard of UFC 173: Weidman vs. Belfort, so the timelines match up nicely with the title match headlining that event.

Three months is a reasonable enough turnaround, assuming injuries don’t play a part and the winner of that match would have a near unassailable position as no.1 contender.

Should a rematch or injury hold the title shot off, the winner of Bisping-Kennedy should be well placed to step in for a further place-holding eliminator.

As ever, attempting to book into the future or second guess the intentions of Joe Silva and company is a fruitless and vain task which makes fools of us all… but sometimes it’s fun to try.

UFC 162 Undercard Preview

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Sat, 06 Jul 2013
Las Vegas, Nevada

It’s been a few weeks but the UFC are back with another pay per view and while most of the attention goes on the world title main event, were gonna stick to form and give the undercard it’s due attention before we look at Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman tomorrow.

Heading up the supporting cast is former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (15-4-1) looking to bounce back from three gallingly close decision losses in World title matches when he faces Charles Oliveira (16-3) who rides into the biggest fight of his career off the back of a first round knockout loss to Cub Swanson.

Edgar is a solid favourite for this fight and there is a sense that Oliveira has been selected as a fun opponent for the big name to beat, seeing as he’s shown he can be finished and has only gone to a decision once in nineteen fights.

However, that’s maybe a disservice to Oliveira who has finish victories over the likes of Darren Elkins and it’s not as if being subbed by Jim Miller or KO’d by Donald Cerrone or Cub Swanson is anything to be ashamed of.

Of course, Edgar has never been finished, and given he’s contested seven world title matches, including a total of 75 minutes in the cage with BJ Penn and Jose Aldo that is a pretty imposing statistic.

Edgar’s movement, wrestling and boxing are top drawer but he’s not won a fight since 2011 and winning is a habit…

Next down the bill is BJJ legend Roger Gracie (6-1) making his UFC debut against mouthy fellow Strikeforce import Tim Kennedy (15-4).

Gracie has the advantage of size and submission ability, but Kennedy has never been subbed in a pro MMA boot and has a well rounded skillset, with the wrestling and boxing to trouble the Brazilian.

Hell, who am I kidding, I like Gracie and Kennedy had always come across as an unlikeable poor-man’s-Brian-Stann. Gracie by sub in the first…

At one time in the not too distant past, Mark Munoz (12-3) and Tim Boetsch (16-5) were on the edge of title contention, riding four fight win streaks.

Knockout losses to Chris Weidman and Costa Phillipou respectively derailed those ambitions, and it’s taken some time for either man to get back in the saddle.

Munoz in particular has had a well documented struggle with depression and weight gain during his year on the shelf but looks to be coming into this fight in incredible shape.

It’s an interesting prospect between these two as the contest between their grappling disciplines (wrestling vs. judo) is made more interesting by the fact that they both possess knockout power.

If he’s back on form, I can’t look past Munoz but Boestch is a known spoiler.

Opening the main card is my pick for the fight of the night as Cub Swanson (19-5) looks to continue his push for a shot at the Featherweight belt against Dennis Siver (21-8) who has been in great form since his drop to 145lbs.

Both well rounded, experienced fighters with a tendency towards some awesome striking displays and seemingly allergic to being dull, whoever wins will be right in line for a title shot – assuming logical booking prevails, of course.

The pick of the preliminary card bouts are veteran Chris Leben (22-9) facing off with fast rising Andrew Craig (8-1) with both guys looking to recover from losses and TUF: the Smashes winner Norman Parke (17-2) taking on Kazuki Tokudome (12-3-1) in what promises to be a very interesting lightweight battle.

Despite losing the very compelling featherweight contest between Ricardo Lamas and Chang Sung Jung this is still a very worthy undercard and after all, it’s always the fights you don’t expect anything of that pay off biggest.

MAIN (10 p.m. ET)
• Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman – for middleweight title
• Frankie Edgar vs. Charles Oliveira
• Roger Gracie vs. Tim Kennedy
• Tim Boetsch vs. Mark Munoz
• Dennis Siver vs. Cub Swanson

PRELIMINARY (8 p.m. ET)
• Andrew Craig vs. Chris Leben
• Norman Parke vs. Kazuki Tokudome
• Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Dave Herman
• Edson Barboza vs. Rafaello Oliveira

PRELIMINARY (7 p.m. ET)
• Seth Baczynski vs. Brian Melancon
• David Mitchell vs. Mike Pierce

10 on Black – 10 Strikeforce Fighters Who Could Make It in the UFC

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With Strikeforce’s final event imminent, we thought we’d put ourselves in the shoes of the Strikeforce contracted talent, not to mention Joe Silva and Sean Shelby by considering which of the roster are likely to be offered a (second in some cases) crack at the big time in the UFC after tomorrow.

As these fighters are looking to ‘go to Vegas’ so to speak, I’ve split my selection into two lists of ten fighters, with my outsider picks on Black and my sure fire picks on Red.

This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it just represents the list of fighters I think have the highest chance of making it in the Octagon – there are a few guys unlisted who could well perform their way into UFC deals on Saturday…

Lets get on with my less certain picks for Octagon success, and we’ll come

20 – Pat “Bam Bam” Healy (28-16) – Lightweight

Healy was supposed to fight for the Strikeforce Lightweight title on Saturday, and as such he should get a UFC shot anyway, but will likely seal the deal with a win over Kurt Holobaugh. A former Weltweight, Healy had amassed a 5-0 streak based on dominating his usually smaller opponents with a stifling ground game en route to a decision or submission victory.

It’s unfair to label him a grinder though and it’s worth remembering that recent submission wins over the likes of Maximo Blanco and Caros Fodor show up alongside older wins over the likes of Carlos Condit, Paul Daley and Dan Hardy.

Heading into his 45th pro fight at the age of 29, Pat has earned a second crack at the UFC. How well he fares in the über-competitive 155lb division remains to be seen.

19 – Roger Gracie (5-1) – Middleweight

The leading light of the Gracie clan has yet to show his true mettle as a mixed martial artist. His jiujitsu skills are beyond reproach, but following four almost perfunctory submission wins, his lack of a more developed game was cruelly exposed by Muhammed Lawal in 2011 with a first round KO loss.

Rallying to an uninspiring decision win over veteran Keith Jardine in July, Gracie still has a lot to prove to create an MMA mythos of his own to go alongside his esteemed relatives. A win over Anthony Smith on Saturday should rubber stamp a UFC call up, indeed the Gracie name and his BJJ acumen may get him a shot even if he should lose.

18 – Sarah Kaufman (15-2) – Bantamweight

Without doubt, Sarah is one of the top 135lb female fighters on the planet and that fact alone puts her on the UFC’s radar. However, with the UFC’s focus on challengers for Ronda Rousey and not a whole lot else, the fact that she’s already fallen to Rousey within a minute and BOTH of her career losses are by armbar might make her signature less of a priority to the UFC.

Already slated to appear at Invicta 5 in April, Kaufman is unlikely to be picked up by the UFC before getting a win elsewhere, so were going to need to wait till summer at least to see where he future pans out.

17 – KJ Noons (11-5) – Lightweight

Noons has the advantage of being a popular and entertaining fighter and the UFC is always looking for guys who are as much likely to provide cheers as wins. However, a loss to Ryan Couture on Saturday would drop Noons to 1-4 in his last five bouts and his six fight win streak between 2007 and 2010 seems like a distant memory. That is not UFC call up form…

As a sometime welterweight pushing six feet tall, Noons is unlikely to have the option of dropping to Featherweight to increase his chances. It really is win or start looking elsewhere for “King”.

16 – Tarec Saffiedine (13-3) – Welterweight

“Sponge” is in the main event of the last Strikeforce card and could well end up being the last ever Strikeforce champion. That’s pretty cool and an accolade to be proud of, but…

…well, he’s not the most compelling fighter. Despite being primarily a striker, he’s won most of his fights by decision and for all that he’s 6-1 since 2010, defeating the likes of Scott Smith along the way, he’s still ‘that guy Nate Marquardt is fighting on Saturday.’

A big win over Marquardt could be everything Saffiedine needs, but I remain unconvinced of his credentials for challenging for gold in the very deep waters of the UFC Welterweight division.

15 – Mike Kyle (19-8) – Light Heavyweight

It would be a disservice to call Mike Kyle a journeyman, but he’s been around a bit in the course of his fight career. That’s nothing to be ashamed of in a sport as fractured as MMA and as a knockout artist who’s last two defeats (in a 6-2, 2NC run going back to 2009) have come to top ten ranked Heavyweights, Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva and as such he’s a compelling prospect for any promoter.

At 32 and bearing the scars of more than a few wars, time isn’t on Kyle’s side and I’d like to see him get the chance to improve on his existing 2-1 record in the UFC.

14 – Sara McMann (6-0) – Bantamweight

Undefeated, female Olympic medallist fighting at 135lbs. I’ve heard that before somewhere? Despite never actually fighting for Strikeforce, Sara McMann did sign with the promotion (and thus, Zuffa) in autumn 2012 and for many she was the obvious choice to face Ronda Rousey in her UFC debut, but for reasons unknown she was never offered/refused the fight (depending who’s side of the story you believe.)

Her record and accolades make her one of the most compelling prospects in WMMA and I simply can’t see why the UFC wouldn’t snap her up. Unless they’re worried that an Olympic level wrestler might beat their golden haired Judoka?

13 – Tim Kennedy (14-4) – Middleweight

Decorated US Marine, fighting MMA at Middleweight, no not that one, this one. On the surface, Tim Kennedy bears a great resemblance to UFC star Brian Stann and that’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because he has a history of finishing fights, and a legitimate service record is always a good marketing tool.

However, there is the possibility of the two being ostensibly too similar and Stann held a higher rank, had more medals, is a better interview and is a more consistently entertaining fighter.

That said, this isn’t WWE and gimmick infringement shouldn’t be a concern, so the fact that Kennedy has the skills should at least earn him a shot.

12 – Ryan Couture (5-1) – Lightweight

A 5-1 pro record, entirely earned in Strikeforce and with two of the wins by wafer thin decision is perhaps not the most compelling case for a UFC call up. With an already stacked Lightweight division and guys with far more impressive resumes knocking on the door from all around the world, the UFC might not be in a hell of a rush to sign up this Ryan kid. What was his last name again?

Oh. Right.

Suddenly, an unremarkable record becomes a compelling one as the inevitable marketing advantages to being a second generation fighter, son of a multi division champion and Hall of Famer become apparent. It’s perhaps unfair to tie Ryan’s career so tightly to his father’s but lets be realistic… it matters.

Of course Ryan has a positive record, seems to have his head screwed on straight and could well end up carving a memorable career all on his own.

11 – Josh “the Warmaster” Barnett (31-6) – Heavyweight

On competitive record alone, Josh Barnett is a lock for a UFC contract and a good bet to do well once in the Octagon. After all, he’s won the UFC belt before, and technically never lost it.

Therein lies the rub. After being stripped of the UFC title for failing a drug test, Barnett repeated the trick when set to headline an Affliction event. That second misdemeanour, exacerbated by the fact that it sank Affliction put him past redemption in the eyes of many.

UFC president Dana White has often held forth about how guys that fail steroid tests, especially in title/main event scenarios are beyond reproach and its been clear that he views Barnett as an unrepentant sinner.

However, it’s not like guys who have transgressed similarly in the UFC haven’t been given a second chance before – the likes of Tim Sylvia, Vitor Belfort, Sean Sherk and Chael Sonnen have previously failed drugs tests and been accepted back into the UFC fold, even to the point of being given title shots.

For my part, Barnett has tested clean throughout his 2-1 run in Strikeforce, is a clear top ten talent at heavyweight and is a GREAT interview, even if his penchant for pro wrestling style promos annoys some MMA purists.

He’s also a big advocate of heavy metal and I think we need more of that in MMA.

The bottom line is that I think Josh would be an asset to the UFC in terms of personality and in-cage skills. While the heavyweight division is more stacked than ever, it’s still not what you would call deep and I think the UFC would be foolish to hand another marketable star to the increasingly uppity Bellator.

That’s my ten fighters that could well make it in the UFC. Tomorrow, we’ll have ten fighters who SHOULD make it in the UFC.