Once again, necessity proved the mother of invention for UFC matchmakers.
With apologies to Anthony Johnson, the powers that be arguably improved the main event of this Sunday’s UFC Live show when they were forced to substitute Rick Story in against Nate Marquardt after Johnson’s untimely injury. As it turns out, viewers on Versus could potentially, maybe, possibly now be watching a welterweight title eliminator.
No promises, you understand, but as the MMA Hot List takes a look at this week’s trending topics in the world of mixed martial arts, we can’t help but notice the winner of Marquardt vs. Story will be in pretty good standing at 170-pounds.
Now, on to the list …
1. Only one can contend (at least right now). You want drama? We got drama. One of the many things that makes the Story-Marquardt matchup so compelling is that the winner becomes an immediate title contender at welterweight, while the loser faces a bit of an uncertain future. This is Marquardt’s first venture to 170, after all, and Story’s first test as a bonafide Top 10 fighter. The spoils for the victor will be significant, but so too the setback suffered by the guy who comes up short.
2. Eight Facebook fights scheduled. The UFC’s push into new media will continue this weekend, when all eight of the card’s scheduled prelim bouts will stream on Facebook, according to reports. In essence, it’ll be like a whole second show headlined by Tyson Griffin’s featherweight debut against former No. 1 contender Manny Gamburyan. Hard to argue with that.
3. Mitrione on the verge? Budding heavyweight superstar Matt Mitrione has the chance to move to 5-0 this weekend when he takes on Christian Morecraft at UFC Live. So far, Mitirione has been everything the UFC looks for in a potential promotional juggernaut: A hardnosed, strike-first scrapper who is quick with a joke and not afraid to stir things up outside the cage. To date the balancing act has been finding the unseasoned Mitrione credible, yet beatable opponents. In the shallow 265-pound class, you can’t help but wonder how long it will be before Mitrione gets a chance to prove himself against a frontline heavyweight.
4. Featherweight fracases. Griffin and Joe Stevenson become the latest 155-pounders to decamp for featherweight this weekend. For Stevenson – who takes on Javier Vazquez – it’s sort of a do-or-die situation. The former “Ultimate Fighter” winner has lost three in a row and five of his last seven. For Griffin, things are nearly as dire. He too has lost a trio, but two of them were split decisions. It’ll be interesting to see if either guy can revitalize himself at 145-pounds, or if they’ll both be hitting the unemployment line soon.
5. Surefire slugfest. Well, maybe. Pat Barry’s bout with Cheick Kongo has all the makings of a slobberknocker, except that Barry seems to always leave fans wanting more. After his last two lackluster bouts against Joey Beltran (a decision win) and Mirko Filipovic (a submission loss), it feels like Barry is running short on time to develop to the headhunting striker fans want him to be.
6. Oliveira, Johnson look to rebuild. Two lightweights hoping to get back into the left-hand column this weekend are Charles Oliveira and Michael Johnson. Oliveira was building hype as “the next big thing” at 155 before running into Jim Miller back at UFC 124. He gets his shot to reclaim his comer status against Nik Lentz. Meanwhile, Johnson built himself into one of the favorites to win season 12 before falling to Jonathan Brookins in the finale. He if he can’t defeat Edward Faaloloto here, his UFC career may end at two bouts.
7. Are the chips down for female fighters? There has been a lot of speculation what might befall the women’s division if/when the UFC opts to fully absorb Strikeforce, especially since Dana White has long said he doesn’t care to watch “girls” fight. Add to that the facts Strikeforce can’t seem to come to terms on a contract with middleweight champion “Cyborg” Santos and that Gina Carano’s return was scuttled by an as-yet undisclosed medical ailment recently and this Friday night’s welterweight title tilt between champ Marloes Coenen and challenger Miesha Tate seems to take on more weight. At least according to Tate, who confessed to MMA Fighting’s Ben Fowlkes this week that, yes, she does indeed feel some added pressure.
8. Strikeforce sleeper pick? With all the talk about Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett, I didn’t even consider until yesterday what an over-the-top achievement it would be if Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva were to advance to the finals of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament by defeating Fedor Emelianenko and Overeem in back-to-back fights. If somehow he were able to win it all? Well, that’d be mind-boggling.
9. Cormier closes in on the elite. Daniel Cormier showed off rapidly improving skills on his feet last weekend en route to a punch-friendly unanimous decision win over Jeff Monson. In fact, Cormier looked so good and Monson looked so bad the matchmaking almost came off as a professional wrestling-style bout designed to put one guy over in the eyes of fans. Still, If Cormier can continue to improve his all-around skills to supplement his Olympic caliber wrestling, this dude is going to be scary.
10. Leben vs. Silva already grabbing headlines. It might not mean much in the grand scheme of the middleweight division, but Wanderlei Silva’s upcoming bout against Chris Leben at UFC 132 has already captured the attention of fans. With good reason I suppose. No secret both these guys will come out of their corners looking to build a “fight of the year” candidate. This will be a fun one to watch.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
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