Five Quick Rounds 01.15.13: Strikeforce Says Good-bye, Alvarez in Contract Dispute, Bendo Re-Signed, and More!
Welcome to another edition of Five Quick Rounds, 411’s fastest-finishing weekly opinion column. I’m your host, Wyatt Beougher, and we’re coming off of one of the most exciting NFL weekends in the 28 seasons that I’ve been a fan, and as an admirer of none of the teams in action this past weekend, that’s saying something! It was something of a bittersweet weekend for MMA fans, though, as Saturday night marked the final Strikeforce event.
Round 1: RIP, Strikeforce
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
As I mentioned in the intro, Strikeforce ran their final event Saturday night, and while the card changed a handful of times including the loss of two championship fights, it was not cancelled due to injury like two previous Strikeforce events had been. In the opener, Jacare Souza made short work of UFC middleweight Ed Herman via a kimura that came at 3:10 of the first round. Gegard Mousasi took some shots from Mike Kyle, but gave back plenty of his own, eventually securing a rear naked choke for the win at 4:09 of the first round. Josh Barnett continued the submission streak, using an arm triangle choke to dispatch of the severely overmatched Nandor Guelmino in just 2:11. In the co-main event, Daniel Cormier demolished Dion Staring, punishing him on the feet and on the ground for the majority of the nine minutes their fight lasted. And in the main event, Tarec Saffiedine won a unanimous decision to defeat Nate Marquardt and become the final Strikeforce welterweight champion.
I honestly think the writing was pretty much on the way for the San Jose-based promotion after their purchase by Zuffa, and while there is a certain amount of solemnity for the passing of a very solid MMA promotion, there was also the promise of the cream of Strikeforce’s roster making their way to the UFC and, in many cases, bringing a whole slew of new match-ups. And, as far as the action on the main card, Strikeforce couldn’t have really asked for things to go much better – there were no outright bad fights (although they all ended up being pretty one-sided), and the winners, all of whom are supposed to be moving on to the UFC, all looked very strong as they look to make that transition. I was especially impressed with Saffiedine, as I figured Marquardt would defend his title, but the Team Quest member just absolutely brutalized Marquardt’s legs with leg kicks, and it was pretty evident as the fight wore on that they were taking their toll. Congratulations to all of the winners, and welcome to the UFC!
Round 2: Eddie Alvarez’s Contract Quagmire
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
Last week, it was revealed that Bellator was filing suit against Eddie Alvarez for failing to sign a new deal with the company, in spite of their belief that they matched the UFC’s offer to Alvarez word-for-word. Alvarez feels that the deal he was offered by the UFC, which reportedly includes an immediate title shot, a percentage of every PPV sold that he appears on or headlines, as well as a fight on an upcoming FOX show, is a better deal, but that he wouldn’t rule out re-signing with Bellator if they changed the terms of their offer.
And while our own Dan Plunkett has assured me that by simply offering Alvarez PPV points, something that Bellator, which currently does not have a PPV distribution deal in place, seemingly could not do, it’s my opinion that offering Alvarez a sham deal (non-existent PPV points and no network television appearances) isn’t something that’s going to hold up in court. Of course, the fact that Bellator, with a dedicated legal team of its own, has brought suit against Alvarez and not the other way around, leads me to believe that perhaps Mr. Plunkett is correct. And while I think this situation was probably even less surprising than Strikeforce’s eventual closure, and while I can certain empathize with Bellator not wanting to lose a guy who was the face of their company, this is the kind of situation that sucks for MMA fans, because as long as this mess is going on, it means Alvarez is sidelined. I honestly don’t care if he’s going up against Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis or Michael Chandler and Richard Hawn, I just want to see him in action again.
Round 3: UFC Pulls in Over 100 Fighters for Tryouts
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
Last week, the UFC held an informal scouting session in Mexico City, Mexico, which drew 115 fighters, primarily from Mexico, but there were also fighters from South America and other parts of Central America. While nothing official came out of the session, it’s believed that it was used to get an early feel for talent to stock The Ultimate Fighter: Mexico. The UFC also had heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez scheduled to speak nearby about reclaiming his title from Junior dos Santos. The UFC has announced their schedule for TUF: Mexico but they are still working on securing a broadcast partner.
It’s no secret that the UFC would love to tap the Hispanic market, as they’ve been trying as far back as 2007 with Roger Huerta to do so. When Huerta’s heart proved not to be in the fight game but in Hollywood, it left the UFC without a strong, marketable talent that appealed to Hispanics. Cain, with his “Brown Pride” tattoo across his chest and his title belt now back around his waist, certainly fits the bill, as does up-and-comer Erik Perez, who is now allowed to wear his luchador mask to the cage during walk-outs. Still though, progressing with The Ultimate Fighter: Mexico could be a huge next step for the UFC, and seeing that they got 115 fighters for an informal tryout should definitely bode well for that show.
Round 4: Two More Test Positive
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
The UFC released a statement that both Joey Beltran and Rousimar Palhares tested positive for banned substances after their fights in Australia at UFC on FX 6. Because there was no regulatory body in place, the UFC oversaw the testing program and also meted out suspensions. Both men received 9 month suspensions retroactive to the date of their fights, and they will both have to pass a drug test in order to be cleared to return to competition. Because Palhares was knocked out by Hector Lombard in the first round of his fight, the result will obviously not be changed; however, Beltran’s unanimous decision win over Igor Pokrajac will be ruled a no contest.
Beltran tested positive for nandrolone, and he has denied knowingly using it, but both he and Palhares, who tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, have submitted to their suspensions. I had originally tabbed this for Round 5, but as part of my New Year’s Resolution, I don’t want to end this column on bad news, so it got bumped. Still, though, this sucks for both Palhares and Beltran, and while I asked this week’s Fact or Fiction contestants if they thought Palhares would get released based on his history of flaking out, but if the UFC is administering these suspensions rather than simply releasing either man immediately in the wake of finding out the results, I have to believe that both he and Beltran will remain on the UFC roster. Hopefully this will be the last black mark on either man’s career.
Round 5: UFC Locks Up Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
The UFC re-signed lightweight champion Benson Henderson to a new 8-fight deal, ensuring that the champion remains with the UFC for roughly two more years. Henderson is undefeated in the Octagon, and with his new deal in place, it’s likely that his next fight will be a unification fight with Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez. Henderson’s manager, Malki Kawa (former Douche of the Week in this very column), pointed out that his client would benefit greatly from a fight with Melendez to determine who truly is the best lightweight in the world. Also in the wings for Henderson will be the winner of the Anthony Pettis/Donald Cerrone fight later this month.
This is definitely good news for the UFC and for Henderson. While it’s highly unlikely that they would’ve let their lightweight champion walk (see: Couture, Randy), Henderson is one of the stars of the lightweight division (as evidenced by the viewership of the last FOX show going up for his fight against Nathan Diaz, a one-sided decision in Henderson’s favor) and it’s just good business for the UFC to keep things running smoothly. Henderson/Melendez is a fight that sells itself, not only because of the title unification aspect, but also because Melendez and Nathan Diaz are training partners and friends. This could be a real renaissance period for the lightweight division, and with the champion locked down for two more years, it’s good to know that he’ll be a part of it.
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