Did you ever start watching a great TV series just before it was canceled? That feeling of being late to a great party is the way I feel about the WEC, which will present its final card Thursday night on Versus.
My viewing habits for MMA were pretty basic at the start. If the letters UFC were in the title, I would watch. If not, then I would find something else to pass the time. Only after I became more than just a casual fan did I start to understand how many great fights I was missing on a regular basis.
The sad thing is, I’m pretty sure I am in the majority of people who missed out on then WEC’s salad days. The WEC seems to deliver great fight after great fight on every card and this week should be no different.
WEC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson takes on Anthony Pettis in the main event and Dominick Cruz battles Scott Jorgensen for the UFC Bantamweight Championship on the undercard. When I look at these two fights, I see four guys that go non-stop from bell to bell.
I spent an afternoon with Dominick Cruz last week, and was amazed at the power he has in his leg kicks. The constant “BANG, BANG, BANG” of leg hitting pad sounded like it was coming from a guy 20 pounds heavier than the 135-pound Cruz.
After watching this display, it’s easy to see how welts develop so quick on the legs of opposing fighters. Since I am required to make predictions, I will take Pettis and Cruz in two very tough fights.
(You can hear from Cruz this Thursday on the Clinch Gear Radio Podcast).
This weekend, Phil Baroni will be our guest on Clinch Gear Radio. Even with a 13-12 record, “The New York Badass” continues to be one of the most popular guys in MMA based on his personality. You can jump on YouTube and watch some classic interviews with Baroni. I don’t know how much longer Phil has in the sport, but I am happy to have one of the pioneers of MMA and the UFC on the radio show. Phil will be fighting Brad Tavares UFC 125 card on January 1, 2011.
Congratulations to Georges St. Pierre, who showed why he is still the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA with his five round shotout of Josh Koscheck on Saturday night in Montreal. Koscheck had no answer for GSP’s jabs, hooks and kicks throughout the 25-minute bout. Next for St Pierre will be a showdown with Jake Shields.
While my initial thought is that this should be another easy win for St. Pierre, it’s easy to forget that Shields has not lost in six years and has defeated Paul Daley, Carlos Condit, Mayhem Miller, Robbie Lawler and Dan Henderson in that time. There are rumors that the Shields – St. Pierre fight will headline UFC 131 in Toronto in April 2011.
If you are Dana White and the UFC, it makes perfect sense to put the Canadian fighting machine against Shields in front of a huge Toronto crowd in Ontario’s first major MMA event. St. Pierre did not seem to be banged up after the Koscheck fight, so it will be a major shock if isn’t the headliner in Toronto.
St. Pierre may not be the most vocal UFC fighter, but he definitely has the most mainstream appeal. GSP’s SportsCenter commercial on ESPN is hilarious, and Under Armour has made him a major focus of their advertising campaign. When friends find out I work in MMA the first guy they ask about is GSP. Due to the nature of the sport, it’s hard for promoters to make one guy the focal point, but with his skills, charisma and overall popularity, GSP is the exception to the rule.
Looking ahead, 2011 is going to be loaded with MMA shows. Just look at the first week of the year—UFC 125 kicks things off in Las Vegas on New Year’s Day, followed by Strikeforce Challengers 13 on January 7 live on Showtime from Nashville.
I’m curious to see if the UFC 125 card will draw many PPV buys, with a main event featuring Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard and a co-main event that pits Chris Leben against Brian Stann.
Edgar and Maynard are great fighters, but they aren’t always to most exciting guys to watch. Leben is riding a three-fight win streak and is always good for a brawl, so if Stann can stay on his feet, it should be a fun fight to watch while it lasts. However, the fight I’m really looking forward to on that card is Clay Guida versus Takanori Gomi—that should be a slugfest.
Six days later, two Clinch Gear-sponsored fighters will battle for the #1 welterweight contender spot when Tyron Woodley squares off against Tarec Saffiedine in the Strikeforce Challengers 13 main event. I don’t want to sound like a Clinch Gear homer, but I feel as though this matchup has the potential to be the most compelling fight of the first week of 2011. These are two extremely talented athletes who have both displayed the ability to finish fights in an exciting fashion.
The Strikeforce undercard features several other solid prospects, including Nathan Coy, Nate Moore, female sensation Julia Budd and two-time Olympian Daniel Cormier.
The MMA action continues throughout January, including the UFC Fight for the Troops 2 on January 22 and a Strikeforce card on January 29 featuring Herschel Walker and a rumored match-up between Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
Then, the huge UFC 126 card on Super Bowl weekend brings us the long-awaited clash between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort. Two of the UFC’s elite young light heavyweights will also square off that night when Jon Jones takes on Ryan Bader.
As you can see, 2011 looks to be one of the best years ever for MMA.