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MMA Roundup: Fedor, UFC Cuts, GSP

By on January 10, 2011

Outside of a Strikeforce Challengers event and some Shooto action, there isn’t much going on for the rest of January until the UFC’s second “Fight for the Troops” event on January 22nd. However, that doesn’t stop the news from rolling in, whether it’s about Fedor Emelianenko finally settling his contract situation or the UFC cutting another group of fighters. Let’s get into what’s been happening the past week or so.

Fedor to stop negotiating and start fighting

Please forgive me if I can’t help but be a little bit skeptical when I hear things like Scott Coker saying that there will be “no more renegotiation” between Strikeforce and Fedor Emelianenko…or more accurately, Strikeforce and Fedor’s management team. After all, after signing a three fight contract, there has been a lengthy renegotiation after each of the first two fights, and Fedor has fought just four times in the last three years.

However, if I can suspend my disbelief for a minute, the prospect of Fedor fighting in a Strikeforce heavyweight tournament is pretty exciting, indeed. In the first round, Fedor will face Antonio Silva in a fight taking place on February 12. The strange thing is that this tournament is not seeded at all, at least not in a traditional way. Alistair Overeem will defend his heavyweight title in his first round matchup against Fabricio Werdum, and the winner of that will face the winner of Fedor’s fight…in a semifinal matchup.

Who’s in the, er, “loser-to-be” bracket? Josh Barnett will (hopefully) take on the once-hyped Brett Rogers, if Barnett can pass a drug screening, which is no small task. Meanwhile, Andrei Arlovski will take on Sergei Kharitonov.

Does it make sense? Absolutely not. However, I’m choosing to look at it as two separate tournaments, instead: one four-man tournament to decide the rightful champ, and another to decide the new champ’s first challenger. Now that makes it all seem much less crazy, doesn’t it? At least, less crazy than expecting Fedor to get through a four-fight contract without any renegotiations, or expecting Barnett to get through a three-round tournament without failing a piss test.

UFC cuts big names to start the new year

Since nobody seems to be capitalizing on the UFC cutting veterans with name recognition, they’re just continuing right on down that path, releasing Brandon Vera, Marcus Davis, Phil Baroni and Antonio McKee following UFC 125.

Baroni isn’t a big surprise, as he is as entertaining as any fighter out there but hasn’t been able to get a win in two UFC appearances or his last three bouts overall. McKee is a bit of a surprise, as he had only lost his debut in the company, though the bout was unsurprisingly dull. Still, did the UFC not see tape on him before they signed him? He fights a methodical style, for crying out loud. Don’t cut the guy for doing what he did to get to the UFC in the first place.

Then there’s Vera and Davis. I can’t say that I agree with either cut. Should fighters be cut after having x amount of losses in a row (x usually equaling 3), regardless of their opponents? I mean, Vera lost to Randy Couture, Jon Jones and Thiago Silva. Does that mean he’s washed up or doesn’t belong in the promotion? Hardly. You can’t tell me Vera isn’t better than several of the light heavyweights left on the roster. Same with Davis.

The only thing I can imagine is that this is the UFC’s way of cutting down roster expenses and keeping their roster stocked with fresh, young fighters. You cut Vera and Davis and sign a couple of younger fighters for a fraction of the cost, and if either of the released fighters put together a run, you re-sign them at a discount. Still, I can’t help but think that, losing streaks or not, those guys still belong in the UFC.

GSP will face Shields, Hughes isn’t impressed

St. Pierre has been in the news, too, for various reasons. For one, his long-suspected title defense against Jake Shields is now official, as it will take place at UFC 129 on April 30. And surprise! St. Pierre will again have a significant home-field advantage, as the event will be in Toronto, Canada. I’m just going out on a limb and guessing that Ontario residents will be able to set their rivalry with Quebec aside for this one.

Shields didn’t set the world on fire with his tougher-than-expected win over Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut, but then again, the guy has won 15 fights in a row, so it’s not like the title shot isn’t deserved. This is particularly true when you consider that St. Pierre has already beaten most of the other viable contenders.

The best part of this is probably that it indicates there is no GSP-Anderson Silva fight in the near future, which is good news. This isn’t boxing, and with 15 pounds separating weight classes, the two should simply continue etching their legacies at their best possible weights. Plus, I would have felt bad for Yushin Okami, had he been given another setback on his long run towards a title shot.

Not everybody is feeling the positive vibes, though. Matt Hughes, “the greatest welterweight of all times” (thanks, Dana White) has yet another editorial comment on St. Pierre’s recent performances. He says St. Pierre’s last fight was “boring” and that “GSP is on defense” when he fights. “I don’t know what’s going on in his mind, but he just doesn’t seem like he wants to finish anybody,” Hughes said. He elaborated, saying that he believes GSP is afraid to lose his title and the large income that he’s enjoyed since ascending to the top of the division.

Now, Hughes may very well be right, but that’s almost beside the point. Hughes never seems to criticize anyone else, and being that St. Pierre has beaten him twice and was the one to end Hughes’ era of dominance, it’s hard not to take it all as sour grapes. Sure, I criticize fighters too, but none of them have whooped my ass (yet, anyway), so I have at least some impartiality. Also, it’s a bit lame to be talking about other fighters in the media knowing full well that a) you won’t get the chance to face them in the cage and b) you wouldn’t want to, even if you did get the chance.

Quick Shots

–Some UFC fights have been signed for upcoming events, including UFC 128, which will feature the long-awaited first light heavyweight title defense of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who will face challenger Rashad Evans. In other bouts, Urijah Faber will take on Eddie Wineland, Jim Millar will face Kamal Shalorus, and Edson Barboza Jr. will fight Anthony Njokuani. Rounding out the announced fights will be Kurt Pellegrino vs. Gleison Tibau and Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian Loveland. Rumored, but not yet official is a fight between Nate Marquardt and Yoshihiro Akiyama, among other bouts.

–UFC 130 has a few rumored bouts in the works, including Quinton “Rampage” Jackson facing Thiago Silva, Frank Mir taking on Roy Nelson, and Thiago Alves fighting Rick Story, who called out Alves recently. The final rumored bout so far would pit Stefan Struve against Travis Browne.

–Dominick Cruz’s UFC debut may have to wait a little while, as the bantamweight champion will have a long-needed surgery on his left index finger soon. The surgery will keep him out of training for two to three months, which means we won’t be seeing Cruz until probably this upcoming summer.

–Bellator Fighting Championships has signed Joe “Diesel” Riggs, who will see action in the organization’s upcoming fourth season. It’s a good move for the company, as Riggs has a lot of miles on his odometer but is just 28 years old. Also, veterans with name value aren’t easy to come by, though the cut-happy UFC is making it easier. I actually think Bellator would be a good home for a number of UFC releases, including Todd Duffee, Efrain Escudero, and others that still need a little time to develop.

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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