Perhaps “cluttered” is the best word to describe this weekend’s action. After all, that’s the same word that you would also use for your bedroom floor: There’s a lot of stuff on it, but there’s not much there that you couldn’t live without. This weekend, we have a lot of MMA available to us, such as UFC on FX 4, UFC 147 and Bellator 71. But despite the quantity of the fights available to us, there seems to be very little in terms of fights with immediate significance. It’s one thing when ratings are slipping, it’s another thing when your promotion has to offer full refunds for an injury plagued card, and it’s yet another thing when the only attention your promotion gets for an upcoming card revolves around the wife beater you recently inked a deal with.
But have no fear; this floor isn’t entirely covered in dirty socks, empty bottles and condom wrappers. There are some interesting tussles worth watching (notice we didn’t say pay for), which we’ll make the argument for after the jump. Or you can just join us later for our liveblogs of UFC on FX 4 and UFC 147. That works, too.
#1: Let’s See How Gray Maynard’s Cardio Has Improved:
It seems odd to question the conditioning of a guy who has eight out of ten career victories coming by decision, but we can’t ignore Gray Maynard‘s last outings. When we last saw Gray, he was getting knocked out by then-lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 136. It was the first official loss of his career, coming in a rematch from a controversial draw from their earlier meeting at UFC 125. In both fights, Maynard started out strong, yet gassed out early, costing him what appeared to be a sure victory throughout the first two rounds of both fights.
Now, Maynard finds himself across the cage from Clay Guida, who is coming off of a loss himself. On paper, this is Maynard’s fight to lose. “The Bully” is the more powerful striker, a much better wrestler and should be able to outclass “The Carpenter” no matter where this fight ends up.
Yet if Gray Maynard’s conditioning is not up to par, he’ll be no match for Guida’s energetic attack. And before anyone mentions that Maynard’s last two efforts were five round fights, three rounds with Guida is comparable to five rounds with anyone, hair be damned. The bottom line here is simple: If we watch another dominant first round from Maynard followed by two rounds of wheezing, expect Clay Guida to walk away victorious and expect Maynard to return to the middle of the pack until his conditioning improves.
#2: Can Matt Brown Consistently Win The Fights He’s Supposed To?
As anyone who has ever placed a bet on a Matt Brown fight can tell you, “The Immortal” isn’t exactly the most consistent fighter out there. It seems like the fights that he’s supposed to win, he loses. After losing four out of five fights from 2010-2011, Brown has put together two straight victories in 2012; the most recent one being a very entertaining brawl with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson that he took by unanimous decision at UFC 145.
Brown now finds himself in familiar territory: A fight that he should win. Sure, he hasn’t won three straight fights since 2009, but Luis Ramos didn’t exactly look unbeatable during the forty second thrashing he took from Erick Silva in his UFC debut. If Brown wins tonight, perhaps we can finally stop questioning whether or not he can execute his game plan on a consistent basis. At least until his next fight.
#3: Is It Enough For Werdum To Just Win To Be A Contender Again?
When Fabricio Werdum made his return to the UFC, he did so in devastating fashion with a victory over Roy Nelson. He looked extremely impressive, as “Big Country” was unable to mount any significant offense. Werdum looked better than he had seemingly in ages, and some fans felt that his name should be in the mix for a title shot in the near future.
In other groundbreaking news, it’s hot in Louisiana today.
Of course Werdum looked good against Roy Nelson: “Big Country” is a good test for an unproven prospect or an aging legend, but he’s also about as hand-picked of an opponent as it gets for top-tier heavyweights. Nelson is pretty much the Aldo Montoya of the UFC heavyweight division.
Now Fabricio Werdum finds himself across the cage from Mike Russow, a fighter who has quietly won four straight fights in the UFC against mid-to-lower tier opposition. As the gambling lines indicate, Werdum is expected to crush Russow and earn a fight against a contender by the year’s end. But what happens if this fight actually goes to the judges? Does Werdum’s hype train get derailed if he doesn’t turn in another near-perfect performance, or will it just be a testament to how game Mike Russow actually is?
#4: Can Travis Wiuff Take The First Step Towards Claiming What Is Rightfully His?
Things got pretty awkward for Bellator back at Bellator 55. The promotion booked a “non-title superfight” with their newly-crowned light-heavyweight champion, Christian M’Pumbu, against veteran journeyman (and YAMMA Pit champion) Travis Wiuff. The fight was supposed to be another devastating knockout on the résumé of M’Pumbu, yet Wiuff managed to defeat the champion by unanimous decision.
Tonight, Wiuff takes the first step towards claiming the belt that we feel should already be his. Entering the Summer Series Light-Heavyweight Tournament, he has a pretty favorable matchup tonight in Chris Davis. If Wiuff is going to take the tournament and earn a rematch with M’Pumbu, it’ll start tonight in West Virginia.
#5: How does Tim Carpenter fair as a late replacement for Richard Hale?
In other Bellator tournament news, light-heavyweight standout Richard Hale has been forced out of the tournament at the last minute due to an illness. Replacing him against Beau Tribolet will be Philadelphia’s Tim Carpenter, who was originally scheduled to fight on the undercard of tonight’s event.
Carpenter is no slouch, having made a decent run in the Season Four Light-Heavyweight tournament before being knocked out by the eventual tournament winner Christian M’Pumbu. Since then, he has put together a first round TKO over Ryan Contaldi at Bellator 54. But will Beau Tribolet be too much for Carpenter, who came to yesterday’s weigh-ins expecting a much easier fight on the undercard?
#6: Babalu and Huerta return at ONE FC 4
The good thing about ONE FC is that even when their cards are light on recognizable names, the action is always good. Hell, even when they’re shamelessly plugging freak show fights or providing fans with graphic injuries, the rest of their cards more than make up for that.
The good news though is that there actually are some names you’ll recognize on their fourth installment tomorrow night: Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Roger Huerta. When we last saw Babalu, he was a consensus top ten light-heavyweight until Dan Henderson shut out his lights in December of 2010. The Brazilian submission specialist makes his return to the cage tonight against Tatsuya Mizuno, who enters the bout sporting an 11-7 record. On paper, it’s a PRIDE-era mismatch. But perhaps the Babalu’s time away from the sport will level the playing field a bit.
Likewise, in 2007, Roger Huerta was one of the baddest guys on the planet, having won six straight in the UFC and sporting a 20-1-1 (1 NC) record. Since that time, Huerta has been released by the UFC and lost five of his last six outings. His most recent loss was an all around tragic affair that ended in a TKO at the hands of the newly-released War Machine. If he loses to the 6-1 prospect Zorobabel Moreira, he may want to consider walking away for good from MMA.