Five Quick Rounds 1.01.13: UFC 155, Bellator’s Spike Debut, UFC’s 20th Anniversary Plans, and More!
Welcome to another edition of Five Quick Rounds, 411’s fastest-finishing weekly opinion column. I’m your host, Wyatt Beougher, and I hope everyone’s enjoyed their 2012 (or, if they didn’t, at least put 2012 behind them). Welcome to the new year, and I hope that it’s already started off well for you all.
Round 1: UFC 155 Ends the Year With a Bang
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
On paper, UFC 155 continued the UFC’s tradition of putting on strong cards to finish out the year, and Saturday’s show was no exception. The main card started off with Derek Brunson taking a unanimous decision victory over Chris Leben, and Yushin Okami looked like Yushin Okami in picking up a win over Alan Belcher, also by unanimous decision. Tim Boetsch did his best Rocky impression, but that wasn’t enough, as Constaninos Philippou was able to pick up the TKO victory in 2:11 of round 3 of their middleweight bout. Jim Miller was able to take a unanimous decision victory over Joe Lauzon in an absolute war, and, in the main event, Cain Velasquez absolutely dominated Junior dos Santos en route to a unanimous decision win of his own.
The show started off slowly, as Brunson/Leben and Okami/Belcher were grinding fights that didn’t really do much to get the crowd hot (in fact, Leben/Brunson drew the ire of the UFC president, who said he regretted putting it on the main card – based on some of the prelims, he was right to second guess his decision). The Boetsch/Philippou fight really showed how much heart Tim Boetsch has, as he went into the third round with a broken hand, bleeding from an unintentional headbutt earlier in the fight, and unable to see out of one eye due to an unintentional eye poke. If that wasn’t enough, he was already down two rounds to none, so kudos to Philippou for not coasting to an easy decision win and actually continuing to try to finish the fight. The co-main event should be in Fight of the Year discussion, as it was pretty much everything you could ask for from a fight and certainly helps the UFC with their claims of having the most talent-rich lightweight division. And the main event? Well, I’d guess the people who wrote Cain Velasquez off after his loss to JDS are feeling pretty foolish right now. I knew Cain was a better fighter than he was able to demonstrate in that first fight, but I never thought he’d be able to dispatch dos Santos with such ease. Velasquez is scary good, and I don’t think I’d be too anxious to fight him if I were Alistair Overeem.
Round 2: Bellator Finalizes SpikeTV Debut Card
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
With their SpikeTV debut little more than two weeks away, Bellator has announced the final card for their January seventeenth show, and it will feature two title fights as well as well as the quarterfinal round of the season eight light heavyweight tournament. Michael Chandler will defend his lightweight title against season six lightweight tournament winner Rick Hawn, while Pat Curran will put his featherweight title on the line against season four tournament winner Patricio Freire. In light heavyweight tournament action, Atana Djambazov will face Emanuel Newton, Jacob Noe will take on Seth Petruzelli, Renato “Babalu” Sobral will square off against Mikhail Zayats, and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal will make his Bellator debut against Przemyslaw Mysiala.
Any time Chandler and Curran are in action, you can pretty much expect an exciting fight, and with Mo making his Bellator debut, this show should easily break Bellator’s previous ratings records (the fact that Spike is in 20 million more homes than MTV2 won’t hurt either). I haven’t actually seen the brackets for the light heavyweight tournament, but I’m guessing Bellator is hoping that Mo faces Sobral and Petruzelli over the course of his time in the tournament, as those three are the biggest names in the tournament and should provide the biggest buzz amongst MMA fans. As for Curran, it’s nice to see him defend his title, as he’s got another two challengers (Daniel Straus and the winner of the postponed Shahbulat Shamhalaev/Rad Martinez fight from the season seven featherweight tournament) waiting in the wings.
Round 3: Dana White Discusses Strikeforce Survivors
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
Following UFC 155, UFC President Dana White gave his thoughts on the futures of some of Strikeforce’s more prominent fighters, as well as his thoughts on Strikeforce’s final year. White said Daniel Cormier could fight at heavyweight or move to light heavyweight if he didn’t want to fight teammate (and heavyweight champion) Cain Velasquez, and that if Cormier did move to light heavyweight, he could be next in line to fight Jon Jones after Jones’ April title defense against Chael Sonnen. White also stated that it was essentially a done deal for lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez to join the UFC, but he was non-committal as to whether or not Melendez would bypass Anthony Pettis for a shot at Benson Henderson’s UFC lightweight title (assuming Pettis gets past Cowboy Cerrone later this month). As far as middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and welterweight champion Nate Marquardt, White wasn’t as clear, although he didn’t shut the door on either man coming to the UFC.
Nothing really groundbreaking here, although I thought it was interesting that White was so quick to put Cormier in the light heavyweight title picture without seeing how well he’d be able to make the weight cut. If Cormier is anything less than 100% when he steps into the cage with Jon Jones, it’s not going to be a good night for the AKA standout. I also thought it was cool that White admitted that he probably overreacted to Nate Marquardt’s testosterone ratio being too high when he was cut from the UFC for not being able to participate in the main event of UFC on Versus 4. With Marquardt having no subsequent issues with his TRT regiment, it seems counterproductive to keep him out of the UFC, so it was nice to see White actually doing what’s best for business instead of what’s best for his ego.
Round 4: UFC Has Big Plans for 20th Anniversary
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
Also on Saturday night, Dana White revealed that the UFC has big plans for their 20th anniversary show, which will take place in November of 2013. UFC 1 took place November 12, 1993, at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, and while current owner Zuffa didn’t take over the promotion until seven years and 29 events later, November will still mark twenty years that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been in existence, no matter how different it may be now from when it debuted. White said that they have reserved Madison Square Garden for their 20th anniversary show.
MSG is one of the most recognizable arenas in the United States and easily the most storied, so it makes sense that the UFC would want to run their 20th anniversary show there, but it still shows a great deal of moxy on the part of the UFC president to reserve the arena for an event that still isn’t legal in New York. White put the crux of the legalization issues on the Las Vegas Culinary Union, saying that its members oppose the UFC because UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Ferttita are also the owners of the largest non-union hotel group in Las Vegas. In spite of that, White maintains that the show will go off in the Garden, but it actually makes me wonder why they didn’t choose the Barclays Center, which would be more in line with the UFC’s younger fanbase. Living in New York City for the past few months has shown me that the perception of MSG is more establishmentarian and “old guard”, while Barclays, possibly because of the involvement of Jay-Z, is seen as the younger, “hipper” arena. With this being an historic event for the UFC, I can understand the use of MSG, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them frequenting the Barclays Center on future trips into NYC.
Round 5: UFC Again Awards “Octagon of Excellence”
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
The UFC announced last Friday that they had awarded Las Vegas-based attorney Tony Sgro and Boys Town Nevada their annual Octagon of Excellence award. The award was presented prior to fighter weigh-ins for UFC 155 and was awarded by Reed Harris, the UFC’s director of community relations. Harris mentioned that it is a mission of owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and president Dana White to work within the community, and Sgro came to the Fertittas ten years ago and asked them to come to Boys Town so that the kids there could meet UFC fighters.
This is the third time I’ve reported on the Octagon of Excellence Award, and this is the third time that I’ll state that I think it’s an excellent idea and a great way to recognize people in the fight community who are going above and beyond to reach out and help their community. There were a few possible stories I considered for this round, but I opted to go with the most positive one, in hopes of having a mostly positive year for the sport of MMA after 2012 was marred with deaths, arrests, and other assorted negative stories.
Thanks for joining me this week, and I hope to see you again next week. Remember, if you haven’t signed up for Disqus (411’s new comment system) yet, make sure you do so. We’re sincerely hoping to improve the overall level of discussion here at 411, and we’d love it if you were a part of that! If you have any feedback, leave it in the comments, email me at the link below, or let me know on Twitter: @webeougher or on Google+. I’ll see you back here for more Five Quick Rounds next Tuesday, so until then, remember 411 MMA for all of your mixed martial arts needs!