We can all be thankful that February has already brought us plenty to talk about after a fairly uneventful January. Not only did we get a great night of fights from UFC 126 last weekend (my Parting Shots are coming later on), but we have a Fedor Emelianenko fight this weekend to look forward to. Of course, for most MMA fans, checking out what’s going on in the sport via the internet is nearly as entertaining as watching the sport itself. If you’ve been slacking on your MMA news reading, here’s what you need to know in the latest edition of MMA Roundup.
Rampage turns down Shogun fight, continues Rashad feud
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson always gives us something to talk about, and he’s been on a hot streak lately in that regard. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua uncharacteristically mentioned that Rampage had been given the first option to face him once Rashad Evans suffered a knee injury in training, but that the “A-Team” star turned it down.
As expected, Rampage was not very happy to hear about this disclosure. He quickly addressed the issue, stating that “I’m not taking a fight on four weeks’ notice.” He’d actually have had six weeks, but we’re not going to split hairs, here.
He went on to say, “It’s not enough time to get ready for a five-round fight. Dana knows that. And Shogun, he’s a fighter, and he should know that. He shouldn’t even go and say shit like that with him being a fighter. He saw me at the fight this weekend. Everybody saw how big I am.”
Rampage said that he currently weighs 250 pounds, which would indeed leave him with a lot of work to do for a five-round title fight that would have been just a month and a half away. And thus, Jon Jones’ title opportunity was born (more on that later).
Rampage was not reluctant to fight former opponent and longtime rival Rashad Evans, however. Evans revealed in an interview with MMA:30 that Rampage actually slapped him at a Las Vegas nightclub recently. Evans explained that he congratulated Rampage for his win over Lyoto Machida, but also pointed out that Rampage used the same wrestling-heavy style to garner the win that he had criticized Evans for using in their fight. (There’s a lot of that going on; Thiago Silva was openly frustrated with Evans’ strategy when they fought but had no problems using it against Brandon Vera)
Things got heated, as they tend to do with these two, and Rampage crossed the line with the first slap. Evans says he responded with one of his own, but the bouncers were there to make sure that nothing else happened.
Florian to drop to featherweight
It’s hardly a surprise, but it will make for some great fights: Kenny Florian is dropping to featherweight. Florian recently revealed to ESPN.com that he was going to drop to 145 pounds, though he would not be facing Jose Aldo right away.
The move makes sense, since he has had trouble at the top of the logjam that is the lightweight division, while featherweight has opened up quite a bit with Mike Brown and Josh Grispi recently losing. Fellow former lightweight standout Tyson Griffin will also be dropping to featherweight, apparently.
On a side note, this makes it even more impressive that Florian was able to reach the finals of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” while competing at middleweight. He’ll now be fighting at 40 pounds less (!) than he did on the show.
Fedor gets a jab in on Overeem
It’s easy to blame Fedor Emelianenko’s management for a lot of things: the long renegotiation periods between fights, their criticism of organizations and other fighters, and so on. However, the usually soft-spoken Fedor occasionally gives us a little look into what he’s really thinking, and in this case, he’s echoing the thoughts of his management regarding Alistair Overeem’s physique.
Fedor said to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that his only question in regard to the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion is “how he managed to gain 20 kilos of weight in such a short period of time. But frankly speaking I don’t care, if he passes drug tests successfully.”
This came after a string of praise where Fedor referred to Overeem as a great fighter. However, even the slightest of accusations regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs can sting pretty good, especially when concerning a fighter like Overeem, who has faced such accusations for years now.
Sonnen returns to what he does best
Now, let’s get to a more natural trash talker, shall we? Chael Sonnen has recently returned to what he does best. No, not fighting, silly…though he is a pretty good fighter. I’m referring to talking trash, which Sonnen did during his appraisal of Anderson Silva’s win over Vitor Belfort:
“Thank you, Anderson, for revealing yet another weakness for me to exploit in our rematch. Beating that poor punching bag doesn’t impress Uncle Chael, guy.” He then went on to ramble about how Silva had apparently shown him “the last page of [his] playbook”, which is confusing as Sonnen didn’t have trouble with front kicks in their first fight, but rather defending a triangle choke/armbar. Let me remind you that the Silva/Belfort fight didn’t hit the ground, so Sonnen couldn’t have learned much in that regard, though one would assume he’s been frantically ordering and reviewing instructional jiu-jitsu DVDs from “Black Belt” magazine since their last matchup.
This is nothing new from Sonnen, but seeing as he’s been out of action and will continue to be for awhile due to both his suspension from the California State Athletic Commission and a guilty plea in a real estate fraud case, he may be wise to wait until he’s actually ready to fight to speak his mind. Also, his statements contradict earlier quotes that showed a great deal of respect for Vitor Belfort, but by now we know that we look to Sonnen for entertainment, not coherent thoughts.
–Okay, so I underestimated Jon Jones. However, am I crazy to think that BetUS.com making Jones a -230 favorite against UFC light heavyweight champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a little insane? Jones has looked extremely impressive thus far in his career, but he’s also beaten exactly one top-ten fighter: Ryan Bader. Should we just make Jones the consensus number one light heavyweight in the world, while we’re at it? How about ascending him to top pound-for-pound fighter status? He’s been extremely impressive and has virtually no ceiling in terms of potential, but let’s allow him to earn his lofty status instead of just handing it over. In the meantime, I won’t hold it against any of you who take advantage of Jones-mania to make a little money.
Side note on the Jones title fight: if he wins, Rashad Evans is reportedly willing to move to either middleweight or heavyweight to avoid fighting him. Evans is apparently not into competing in matchups without title implications and wants to fight for a belt somewhere, instead. So if Jones does pull off what I personally think would be an upset, we will likely see Evans moving up or down in weight.
–UFC president Dana White has been predictably vocal when it comes to fighters who don’t come to, well, fight. However, it was refreshing to hear that he is supportive of fighters using a sound strategy rather than swinging for the fences for no reason other than to quiet the boo birds. He defended Miguel Torres’ performance at UFC 126, rightfully pointing out that it would be senseless for Torres to not use his reach advantage, particularly when he’s already winning the fight. Instead, he noted that he would rather have seen Antonio Banuelos, who was being picked apart at range and losing the fight, use a different strategy or show some urgency before the last ten seconds of the fight.
Tags: Alistair Overeem, Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, Dana White, Fedor Emelianenko, Jon Jones, Kenny Florian, Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, Miguel Torres, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Rashad Evans, Strikeforce, Tyson Griffin, UFC, UFC 126, Vitor Belfort