Is it just me or are UFC fights starting to occur with more frequency than news-flashes involving Lindsay Lohan and drugs? There once was a time where not only could you not find these things on pay-per-view but you could also count the amount of tournaments occurring each year on one three-fingered hand. Back then you could spend weeks tracking down the latest bootlegged copy of mullet-festooned Tae Kwon Do green-belts and Sumo wrestlers wearing weight-lifting pants fighting in a backyard in Arkansas (or as some refer to it, UFC 1-5).
Gone are those days of backyard brawls, of a sport that was only legal in Canadian towns whose names contained an adjective followed by a noun, like Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Yellow Knife. Nowadays UFC fighters are recognized on the streets by everyday people, not just hard-core MMA geeks and fight fans. With this increase in visibility and marketability comes and increased demand and, to that end, a sharp increase in the amount of fights per year.
This brings us to our current problem: affordability. I can barely afford the duct-tape that I seal my broken windows with (don’t ask), much less 10 $55 pay-per-view fights per year. I’m no math whiz, but that comes out to like $8,000 dollars or something. No? $20? Whatever. Needless to say, it’s more than I can afford on my shoestring budget of Ramen breakfasts and popcorn dinners, so ordering them from Comcast is out of the question. Not that this would ever really be an issue –I don’t think my 1977 Zenith 20” has a cable outlet anyways. So, needless to say, I’ll be ensconced in my local watering hole for several hours during this coming weekend in order to watch UFC 112 for minimal personal cost. Between taking up an entire table for 3 hours and the forty-two diet-coke refills I’m going to pester the waitress for, I should be able to get out of there for about $2.50 AND the title of “Most Popular Customer EVER!!!”
Undercard Hilarity: Mostapha Al Turk vs. Jon Madsen
There are many things that Mostapha Al Turk is, but a great fighter he is not. He is the most likely person --not just fighter, mind you, but person-- to get strip-searched while on his way through customs prior to pretty much any flight that he happens to be on. He is not a fighter with a decent showing against anyone in the UFC up to this point. He is the instigator of one of the funniest exchanges that I’ve ever heard in my entire life between one of my friends and his significant other. It occurred during Al Turk’s UFC debut –an absolute pummeling at the hands of Cheik Kongo—and was one for the record books as far as instantly regrettable statements go. My buddy McDowell, who will be featured here frequently because of the sheer volume of ridiculousness that he is continuously involved in, was busy watching the fight when his girlfriend, Kim, asked “why doesn’t [Al Turk] just run away?” McDowell’s response was: “Honey, an Octagon’s not very big; it’s only got, like, five sides…” While you pause to check your slide rule on how wrong that previous statement is, I’ll busy myself with a fight prediction: Al Turk will continue to invite strip-searches at every port of call and Jon Madsen will win via something more exciting than an eye-poke. No, I did not spend very much time dissecting this bout; what I did do was spend most of the morning mistaking Jon Madsen for John Madden and getting really confused.
Madsen by 7pts via Quarterback-sneak
Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie
Now here is a fight that we all are clamoring to see. By ‘we’ of course I mean ‘the MMA viewing public at large circa 1999’. This would’ve been a good fight about 10 years ago but now is veering dangerously close to a Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock level of hyped-up ‘who gives a damn’. So what if Renzo Gracie feels like he has a score to settle with Matt Hughes because of the beating that Hughes threw his cousin, Royce Gracie, a few years back. So what if the feeling is mutual from Hughes’ side because of the submission victory that Renzo had over Hughes’ coach Pat Milletich back in 2006. Oooooh, background story –these guys must really hate each other. It’s Jets vs. Sharks; it’s Miyagi-do Karate vs. The Cobra-Kai. No, no it isn’t; it’s two middle-aged ground specialists who are going to spend 3 rounds laying on each other and making every homophobe (read: anyone in a foil-embossed t-shirt with ‘Affliction’ written anywhere on it) in attendance uncomfortable.
Matt Hughes TKO via The Shocker
BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar for the Lightweight Championship
You can always tell how amped-up BJ Penn is before a fight by the amount of crap he is talking about his opponent. Before his second fight with George St. Pierre you could have asked Penn what his favorite type of Hawaiian bbq was and his answer would be an Ultimate Warrior-style rant about beating GSP to death with his own leg. Before his fight with Sean Sherk you couldn’t get him to shut up about how Sherk was a roided-out cheater. For both of those fights Penn, who has been known to slack off in training, dedicated himself to full and intensive training camps. On the flip-side, leading up to his fight with Frankie Edgar Penn has done nothing but read aloud from the UFC’s “how to give the most boring vanilla interview” handbook.
An excerpt: Stare at camera. Call opponent a “worthy fighter”. Talk about your training camp. End with a wonderful cagey veteran quote: “I’m not looking past [insert fighter who you don’t respect’s name here].”
That’s all we’ve heard from Penn when it comes to Frankie Edgar. Is Edgar a “worthy fighter”? Well, against almost anyone else, yes, yes he is. He has a serviceable ground game that serves to set up his true strength, stand-up fighting. This plays well against Penn who’s standup is predicated on counter-punching and merely serves the exclamation point to his freakish ground skills. If Edgar can keep the fight standing up, then he has a chance. Not because his game matches up that well with Penn’s though, but for another reason entirely: a lack of expletive-filled rants from BJ Penn before a fight generally means that he has spent more time surfing and eating Poi during his training camp than he has in his gym, making him ripe for an upset. Do I think that it will happen this time? Definitely probably not.
BJ Penn by lazy-assed submission while eating a spam sandwich
Anderson Silva vs. Damien Maia
This bout was originally slated to pit Silva against who many consider to be the #1 contender at middleweight, Vitor Belfort. As happens so often in MMA, a fighter (Belfort) was injured during the lead up to the fight and the UFC was forced to scramble to find a serviceable replacement. Now what we have here is your quintessential short-term memory UFC fight: Anderson Silva vs. Damien Maia. I call this a ‘short-term memory fight’ for two reasons:
First, Damien Maia is one fight removed from his first UFC loss, an absolute mauling at the hands of Nate Marquardt, who has already lost to Silva, that ended 21 seconds in to the bout with Maia crumpled on the canvas from a punch that very likely caused him to empty his bowels and travel back in time. Now, one fight later, he’s getting a title-shot against a guy that, by the transitive property, has already kicked the crap out of him. MMA is still a growing sport and the UFC is going to continue to suffer these types of situations until the sport itself has been around long enough to have a larger pool from which to draw top-tier talent. That does not, however, mean that I am not going to draw attention to the ridiculousness of this matchup.
Second, Maia sports similar credentials to another (former) UFC fighter who Silva has already faced, Thales Leites. Leites was considered by many to be one of the best submission fighters in the middleweight division right up until he fought Silva at UFC 97. During his first, and likely only, shot at the UFC middleweight title MMA fans were treated to 5 rounds of Leites running away from Silva as if he were trapped in the cage with a roided-out machete-wielding polar bear. Not that Anderson Silva helped make much of a fight out of it either. Silva simply stalked Leites and waited for him to engage, never pressed the action and was content to let the fight go to a decision. This has been Silva’s modus-operandi in his last few title defenses and will probably continue versus Maia, a ground specialist with minimal stand-up skills. Look for lots of booing, though that might be illegal in Abu-Dhabi and punishable by stoning.
Silva via TKO (hey, I CAN make a semi-serious prediction!)
Whew, I’m tired from all of that typing and wikipedi--*ahem*--researching. Hey, internettin’ is hard work when you’re stuck indoors and festooned in adult-sized footie pajamas; these things breathe less than Heath Ledger. What, too soon?