Later on we will have coverage of UFC 126, including my preview and picks for the bouts on the much-awaited card. In the meantime, let’s discuss some of the recent happenings in MMA, including UFC 130’s outstanding lineup, Vitor Belfort’s thoughts on fighting current and former training partners, and some changes to upcoming Strikeforce bouts.
UFC 130 looking to be a huge card
Five fights were officially announced for UFC 130, and it may end up being the most stacked card of the year when it’s all said and done. First, you have the third bout between UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard, who fought to an exciting draw in one of the best title fights in recent memory. That’s backed up by a bout between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Thiago Silva, two of the more explosive fighters in the light heavyweight division. Both are looking to get into title contention, and this could end up being the type of brawl we haven’t seen from either man in recent bouts.
Frank Mir will return to action against Roy Nelson at UFC 130 as well, and despite Mir’s snoozefest with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, this is a compelling matchup where just about anything could happen. Then there are two of the more aggressive fighters in the sport, Wanderlei Silva and Thiago Alves. Wandy will face Brian Stann in what could end up being a fight of the year contender, and Thiago will take on the game Rick “The Horror” Story.
Five outstanding fights right off the bat. I’ll be the first to admit that last year had a few watered-down UFC cards (some of which turned out to be great even without name appeal), but this one should have everyone drooling.
Belfort believes fighters should face all comers
Vitor Belfort has an interesting perspective on the “friends fighting friends” controversy that is always present in MMA. As someone who was the recipient of some comments from Anderson Silva alluding to “loyalty” (or lack thereof, supposedly?) after initially taking the opportunity to fight Silva last year, he thinks that since MMA is a sport, fighters must be willing to face just about anyone.
“People want to see the best fighters fighting the best fighters. It’s hard. I know a lot of people take it personal, but what’s personal? People don’t recognize that. What’s loyalty? Loyalty is you taking care of your family. You being the guy that you preach that you are. Living the words that you say.”
It’s hard not to agree with Belfort, and if MMA is truly a sport, friends should be willing to compete against one another, right? But then again, it is a fight. I know that you could say that in many gyms, the type of sparring that takes place is about as intense as a fight, anyway, but the added presence of fans, the cameras, and all of the other intangibles does change things. Wanting to clock your training partner after he lands a solid leg kick in sparring is a bit different than wanting to beat him up in front of a pay-per-view audience and possibly get him cut from the UFC, right?
Then, there’s the issue that “friends” is a term that means different things to different people. Some fighters just won’t fight their closest friends, while others won’t fight anyone that’s in their entire gym, or even managed by the same agent. Still others don’t want to fight people that they trained with years ago, even if they aren’t exactly “BFF”s anymore (Tito, anyone?). Belfort makes a compelling argument, though: if MMA is a sport and you don’t have to be mad at someone or hate them in order to fight them, why can’t you compete against training partners or friends from the past or present?
Changes made to upcoming Strikeforce events
One of the most interesting upcoming Strikeforce bouts is not going to happen, unfortunately, as middleweight prospect Luke Rockhold won’t be able to face Tim Kennedy due to injury. Rockhold severely bruised his leg and foot in training and will need to take two to three weeks off to heal, according to sources verified by Sherdog.com. Also according to Sherdog, Strikeforce is trying to get slugger Melvin Manhoef to take Rockhold’s place.
Meanwhile, our friends at Sherdog also reported that Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos would probably not be facing Tarec Saffeidine on March 5’s Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson card. No reason was given, but I’m surprised that Cyborg was even thinking of fighting a month after facing Nick Diaz in what wasn’t the longest fight, but was quite a war while it lasted.
–Bellator has signed former UFC welterweight Ben Saunders, who will debut in the upcoming fourth season of the promotion, though not in the welterweight tournament. Saunders won three fights in a row to begin his UFC career, but was bounced after losing three out of four (including one to Jon Fitch on short notice).
–In other Bellator news, Zoila Frausto has confirmed that she will fight on the season’s debut episode on MTV2, which takes place March 5. What Frausto did not mention on her Twitter account is whether she will defend her title or move up to a more comfortable weight, as she had a lot of trouble making 115 pounds last season.
–Patrick Cote has a big fight coming up against a fellow UFC veteran Kalib Starnes that could help him pave his way back to the big show. Starnes wears the scarlet letter thanks to his non-performance against Nate Quarry that saw him scamper away for much of the fight, but is a tough opponent nonetheless. Cote is confident that he will win and be back in the UFC within the current year.
–Speaking of confidence, Paul Daley believes that Nick Diaz has it all wrong regarding their possible title matchup, which Diaz spoke about, saying he doesn’t respect Daley’s MMA skills. He points out that Nick “doesn’t have great takedowns” and says he believes he moves “three or four times as fast as anybody [Diaz has] fought in the past”. Hey, I like the confidence, and if Diaz doesn’t play a smart game standing up and work his way to the mat without taking a lot of shots, I can definitely see Daley cleaning his clock. He certainly can’t let Daley land the kind of shots he was content to absorb from Cyborg the other night. Of course, the fight is dependent upon Daley winning his next bout outside of Strikeforce, too.
Tags: Bellator, Ben Saunders, Brian Stann, Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, Frank Mir, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Luke Rockhold, Melvin Manhoef, Nick Diaz, Paul Daley, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Rick Story, Roy Nelson, Strikeforce, Thiago Alves, Thiago Silva, Tim Kennedy, UFC, UFC 130, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Zoila Frausto