Monday, 24 May 2010

Barbeques and beatdowns

With it being hotter than a mid-day nogi encounter with Gina Carano at the minute I thought I'd take the time to preview what will surely be an amazing few weeks in the world of mma. I could have easily previewed 20 or 30 fights that I'd recommend but if you only get chance to check out a few in the next coming months here are my picks to keep you entertained over the summer.

29th May 2010
UFC 114
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. "Sugar" Rashad Evans

It's been a while since I've been this excited about a grudge match. They're usually all about the animosity in the build up which has a tendency to mask how the styles will make the fight or how imbalanced the match up is. I was a huge fan of the "beaten into a living death” line, but it didn't translate into the best match up on the second and third encounters.

This fight, however, has both an amazing story to it and the potential to be an awesome fight stylistically. It's clear that Rashad Evans has come a long way since outslugging Brad Imes in the finale of TUF2 back in 2005 but critics have been quick to label him 'gun-shy' after his title loss to Lyoto Machida. This approach was backed up by his approach to Thiago Silva as he used a cautious game plan to repeatedly score takedowns to outpoint his foe.

In this fight, how long Evans goes without shooting in for a takedown will be a good barometer of how confident he truly is. The key to a Rampage victory is what kind of shape he is in. Rashad's chin is in exponentially more danger than it has been in his previous fights as, lb for lb, there may not be a more powerful puncher at 205 than Quinton. If Rampage comes in off the back of a good camp then he has a good chance of putting Rashad to sleep and booking a rematch with Shogun Rua.

May 29th 2010
Dream 14
Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen vs. Hiroyuki "Streetfight Bancho" Takaya

Takaya's performance at the Dream Featherweight Grand Prix back in October was nothing short of epic and his fearless attitude to fighting gives his upcoming bout with Hansen the potential of being a classic. Both fighters are coming off losses and will be eager to get themselves back to title contention and rematches with Bibiano Fernandes.

This will be Hansen's second bout down at Featherweight since his close loss to Fernandes. This has all the makings of a fight that could end in a split second as both fighters make no secret of the fact that they love to trade shots. Hansen brings a meticulous approach to fighting but has struggled in recent contests to avoid the takedown and needs to keep the fight standing or be more aggressive with his own takedowns to be victorious.

I'd have to give the edge to Hansen as he presents slightly more of a well rounded threat but in a bout like this, where both fighters love to bang and aren't afraid to stay in the pocket, it could easily go either way.

June 10th 2010
Bellator Fighting Championships 22
Pat Curran vs. Toby Imada

Once again Bellator continue to prove that the tournament format is alive and well as they provide us with an intriguing match up in the conclusion of their lightweight event.

Pat Curran is coming off the biggest win in his career as he upset former UFC poster boy Roger Huerta at Bellator 17. Toby Imada is hoping it will prove to be second time lucky for him as he looks to avenge last year's finale loss to Eddie Alvarez.

This one promises to be interesting as both fighters have a lot to prove coming into this bout. Curran wants to back up his claim as one of the best up and coming lightweights following on from defeating Huerta and Imada is looking to claim the gold and prove that he is much more than a guy who landed a highlight reel submission over 12 months ago.

I'd have to give the edge striking to Curran but Imada has proven that he can submit just about anyone and always shows phenomenal heart. It will surely be a fight worthy of a tournament finale and one that everyone should try and see if they have the opportunity.

June 12th 2010
UFC 115
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Patrick Barry

I try and keep these articles as neutral as possible but sometimes it just isn't possible. I have always been a huge Mirko fan from his early days in Pride and it has been upsetting to see his slow deterioration in the UFC. His days are surely numbered in the sport but if he is looking for a fitting send off then a war with fellow kickboxer Patrick Barry has the potential to be a fight of the night contender.

In bouts where the two fighters have similar strengths it is sometimes the weaker areas that make the difference. Filipovic brings with him a wealth of experience against a selection of the best fighters in the world, has submitted fighters and Barry's ground game is clearly his Achilles heel.

However, it is hard to see this turning out to be anything other than a K1 style kickboxing bout. Both fighters will want to exchange strikes and it simply remains to see who lands first. Whatever happens, it has all the makings of an entertaining bout.

June 16th 2010
Strikeforce - Los Angeles
Marius Zaromskis vs. Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos

I could simply write the word "war" here and move on realistically. On a serious level, what's not to love about this match making?

Zaromskis is coming back from his loss to Nick Diaz but previous to that he was decapitating more people than Sub-Zero with a series of head kick knock-outs. Santos always comes to fight and finished his last foe off with a brutal looking head kick knock-out of his own at Samurai Fight Combat 2. Zaromskis has the more technical stand up but Santos is relentless and has retained a lot of his power in cutting down to welterweight.

I wouldn't blink, get food, answer the phone or contemplate doing anything else once this fight starts as you could miss one of the knockouts of the year. Make sure you don't miss this one. I feel less inclined to write a prediction for this one and more inclined to sound an air raid siren.

June 26th 2010
Strikeforce - Fedor vs. Werdum
Scott Smith vs. Cung Le

On a pay-per-view headlined by Fedor it might make me seem a bit of a heretic to preview any other fight than the main event but ever since I watched the first Smith vs. Le fight I've been waiting for their paths to cross again.

Their first encounter at Strikeforce Evolution back in December was a back and forth slugfest that reminded me a little of Rocky vs. Drago minus the cold war backdrop. It was the first blemish on Cung Le's record but Scott Smith had to earn every single part of that victory. Le landed several of his trademark spinning kicks including a textbook spinning back kick that had the crowd erupt, Smith spiral to the canvas and me wake up a house full of people in Oxford.

Both fighters have a similar ethos in their approach to the fight but it’s clear that Smith is guts over technique and Le is clearly the other way around. I'd lean towards Cung Le in this one as I think he'll make the most of the opportunities that he's given now that he has seen just how dangerous Smith is.

July 3rd 2010
UFC 116
Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin

It's quite feasibly the biggest fight of the summer and I can't put into words how incredible a spectacle this is going to be. Put all those pre-conceived notions about big heavyweight fights all turning out like Giant Silva vs. Gan McGee live from Atlantis as there can't be many more explosive and agile heavyweights walking the face of the planet than Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin.

Lesnar's destruction of Mir felt like watching a bear attack a tourist but it still remains the last time we saw him in the Octagon since his health issues. The one question mark that people have about Brock is his chin as he seemed visibly affected by the shots he sustained at the hands of Randy Couture. There is arguably nobody in the world who hits harder than Shane Carwin, there's simply no equation that pits Carwin's biscuit barrel sized fists with anyone's chin that doesn't end in disaster.

The key to this fight, however, could also be the takedowns. We've seen nothing of either man on their backs so far and both possess the potential to take the other down with the edge going to Lesnar on wrestling pedigree. It's hard to pick a winner in this one as there are so many unanswered variables between the two. If I had to choose I'd shade it towards Lesnar but if anyone's going to derail him it'll be Carwin.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this and please drop me a line with questions, comments or anything of the sort.

I'll also be starting a gym of the month feature over the next few weeks; I'm hopefully going to profile Spartan MMA ahead of their first mixed martial arts event Cage Control that takes place on 19th June at The Warehouse Nightclub in Shrewsbury. If you have a gym and want some free publicity then please drop me a line and we'll sort it out.

Until next time this is Ben Cartlidge reminding you that if Lyoto Machida is Ryu then Gabriel Gonzaga is surely Blanka.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog, enjoyed reading and some insightful comments.
I'd probably have to agree with you on all of the above and it's gonna be a great couple of months for mma.

Anonymous said...

Great article champ, what are your thoughts on Rampage's condition? Surely he must be splitting his time between promoting the A-Team movie and training at the moment?

Ben Cartlidge said...

The only people who will really know are Rampage's camp. You can't really tell from the Primetime shows, they're just part of the UFC hype machine. The job they did on building up Dan Hardy was some of the best journalism I've ever seen. When you look at how one sided the fight was and how obvious the result seemed they did an amazing job to make people believe. It's like watching a Coca Cola commercial and then a Pepsi commercial and trying to make an informed and neutral decision.

I think a 100% Rampage beats a 100% Rashad but we'll see who turns up on Saturday.

Dean said...

Rampage has been telling everyone that he's in the best shape of his life and if that's to be believed then I too agree that he'll come out on top against Rashad.

Evans has been talking big of how he thinks he's going to be able to play Rampage at his own game and knock him the f out - I think he'd be silly to actually attempt this and in my opinion his only way of winning is by winning a decision based on his wrestling ability.

With that being said I still see Rampage winning this one by either KO or TKO. Too much power in both those hands for Rashad to handle.

Chicken said...

I think rampage is taking this one seriously and if anyone thinks rashad is going to beat rampage then they are mad, just watch the rampage vs henderson fight and look how good rampage's wrestling is, i can see rashad getting ko'ed

Ben Cartlidge said...

When I look at Rampage vs Henderson I'm reminded of the fact that Rampage looked a LOT bigger as well he would do. I can't see him making 185 unless he was involved in a train wreck. I agree though Rob that he's got the tools to stuff anything that Rashad throws at him. Evans was rocked by Thiago Silva late in their fight and looked incredibly nervy for the whole fight.

I'm probably more excited about Lesnar vs Carwin. I really can't imagine anything more cataclysmic than seeing Lesnar knocked out by something.