mma / Columns

The Five Finger Death Punch 06.12.09: High Stakes in Cologne

June 12, 2009 | Posted by Matt Welch

This Saturday, the next chapter in the UFC’s continuing global expansion will hold forth, as UFC 99 should provide fight fans with one of the better non-title fight cards in recent memory. There are at least three main card fights alone that warrant possible “Fight of the Night” consideration and we’ll see the Octagon return of two of the more beloved overseas-predominant fighters in MMA. But as is the case with any MMA card, there is just as much to be won as there is to be lost. Be it a future title shot, to divisional relevance, to just simply trying to keep a job, the stakes are sailing quite high for more than a few of Saturday’s combatants.

Wanderlei Silva

This question was posed on this week’s edition of Fact or Fiction, but in regards to who stands more to lose this weekend, I find myself siding with “The Axe Murderer” on this front. For Rich Franklin, this isn’t the same do-or-die situation that it is for Wanderlei Silva. Granted, Silva is dropping down to 185 pounds and while some are forecasting nothing but sunshine for Silva at middleweight, is there a more discouraging way to limp into the 185-pound scene than with a loss to the former perpetual No. 2 at middleweight? The facts are facts: Silva’s second go-around in the UFC has been a trainwreck. He’s the only fighter to not have their hand raised against Chuck Liddell since 2006 and if he were to fall to Franklin, it would the fifth loss in his last six fights.

While outings against Dan Henderson and Quinton Jackson that left Silva staring face up at the lights and a wall-to-wall 15-minute slugfest with Liddell have turned Silva’s chin into a ticking time bomb, he’s in luck in that the UFC middleweight picture isn’t littered with the same abundance of strikers as there were at light heavyweight. The problem is, the top striker of the bunch just happens to be the man Silva has been anything but shy about expressing his feelings towards. While a title fight with Anderson Silva would pique the interests of both men, I believe Silva needs some degree of momentum to keep a fight with Anderson fresh. Sure, you can say he’s a fight or two away from a title shot, but I’d hedge to bet they’re not going to hold Silva’s hand once he officially makes the drop to middleweight. They’re not paying him $200,000+ to fight the Alan Belchers of the world.

Rich Franklin

This point has been brought up numerous times throughout the week, but Franklin isn’t afforded the same luxury at light heavyweight that Silva is at middleweight. At 185 pounds, Silva becomes quite possibly the top draw in all the division and drawing power can go a long ways into leapfrogging your way into a title shot. Just ask Brock Lesnar. With Franklin, he just happens to be stuck in the UFC’s most star-heavy division and is on the verge of getting lost in the shuffle. A loss to Silva can only exacerbate this dilemma and not even taking the top-tier fighters like Jackson, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua into consideration, Franklin has to be concerned about the rising 205’ers like Luiz Cane and Jon Jones gaining steam. Saturday night is very much a “sink or swim” fight for “Ace.”

Cheick Kongo

For Cheick Kongo, this is his chance to show that the last 15 months haven’t been all for naught. Right around spring last year, Kongo seemed to be one win away from a title shot in an otherwise deadbeat heavyweight division. Enter Heath Herring, who despite entering the Kongo fight with a mere 1-2 UFC record, managed to out-wrassle his way to a split decision victory, shunting Kongo to the back of pecking order, while fighters like Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir came in and stole all the Frenchman’s fun. Well, with wins over Dan Evensen, Mustapha al Turk and Antoni Hardonk, Kongo finds himself right back in the same spot he was in last March at UFC 82. Opposing him just happens to be the proverbial “Next Big Thing” in Cain Velasquez, who is perceived to emerge as the top dog out of the Lesnar-Velasquez-Carwin heavyweight triumvirate.

It could be back to square one for Cheick Kongo after UFC 99
While Kongo is to Velasquez what Gabriel Gonzaga was to Carwin, Cain possesses very much the same blueprint to besting Kongo as Herring did, and should be able to ground the Muay Thai specialist whenever he sees fit. The unfortunate side for Kongo, should he lose, is that the waters at heavyweight are a bit murkier than they were back in March 2008. With guys like Velasquez, Carwin and Junior dos Santos on the uprise and with fighters like “Cro Cop” lurking in the background, Kongo can’t exactly afford to get shunted to the back of the line again. It took him over a year to get back into contention and it likely won’t be as easy this time around.

Mike Swick

Mike “Quick” Swick has the opportunity of a lifetime this Saturday. He really does. Given the current landscape at welterweight, is it out of the question that a win over Ben Saunders could make Swick the next top contender? Yeah, after his 170-pound debut against Josh Burkman, it seemed pretty hard to believe, but given the dearth of contenders if George St. Pierre defeats Thiago Alves, it isn’t so farfetched. Pending a St. Pierre victory, who’s out of the question? Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan and Matt Serra all seem out of the question, be it due to previous losses to GSP, suspensions, or just general career downward spiral. That leaves the next two likely candidates as Swick and maybe even Martin Kampmann, although I’d give the edge to Swick (bear in mind, they offered Kampmann T.J. Grant for his next fight…not exactly a shot up the contendership ladder after beating Carlos Condit). To beat Ben Saunders could do wonders in getting Swick an eventual title shot down the road, pending the right pieces fall into place.

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

This one is a no brainer. After a botched 2007 run through the Octagon that wielded only Eddie Sanchez has a victim, it’s take two for Mirko “Cro Cop” in the UFC. Just as was the case for his debut against Sanchez, Filipovic is being given another tune-up fight in Mustapha al Turk and by all means, if the “Cro Cop” we all know and love is in fact back, then he wins a fight like this. Al Turk is a very paint-by-numbers fight and despite being classified by some as a submission wrestler, holds only two submission wins to his credit and both of those were via strikes.

Can’t say we saw a whole lot of this during 2007
Since al Turk is a bigger fighter than Filipovic, it will be interesting see if decides to use his size to his advantage, especially in the clinch, where Filipovic has shown vulnerability against bigger fighters. “Cro Cop’s” lone “achievements” since parting ways with the UFC are wins over Tatsuya Mizuno and Hong Man Choi; hardly a resume worthy of re-entry into the UFC, but I repeat, if “Cro Cop” is in fact “Cro Cop,” he beats a fighter like Al Turk. From that point forward, who knows where he goes. Apparently Filipovic now holds the dubious honor of being the first fighter to ever sign a one-fight contract, which can only explain the degree of faith and confidence the UFC brass has in Filipovic. Needless to say, Filipovic has to impress this Saturday.

Paul Taylor

Yup, I know, which one of these names doesn’t belong? Still, I figure it’s only appropriate to pay some homage to the preliminary card. While there are several fighters on the UFC 99 preliminary card whose stakes are similar to Taylor, I find the scrappy Brit to be in a familiar predicament. Taylor is someone who has spent his entire UFC career flying under the radar and I don’t mean that in the sense that the guy is a diamond in the rough with an absolute wealth of unnoticed talent. Simply put: the kid is a shoe-in for an entertaining fight. Taylor has only competed five times in the UFC and has taken home “Fight of the Night” honors on three occasions. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, he was on the losing of all three fights, and as such, will enter Saturday having dropped three of his past four fights. Jason MacDonald showed us all that entertaining fighters have a limited shelf life and unfortunately for Taylor, flying under the radar won’t do him any favors in being granted some leeway should he lose Saturday night.

The MMA Highlight Reel

In other 411 MMA columns, I’ve seen writers add things like lists, rankings, title holders, etc. Well I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the year-end awards, such as Fight of the Year, Knockout of the Year, etc. So I’ve taken it upon myself to sort of keep a tab on the major in-cage/ring happenings, with what I call the 2009 Highlight Reel.

Below is my current slate of exciting fights, knockouts and submission thus far, with many more to be added in the coming months. I plan to keep track of fighters worthy of honors, such as Fighter of the Year or Breakout Fighter of the Year, but it’s too early to tell for those. Feel free to e-mail me any additions to the highlight reel that I may have missed, because I’m sure there is something.

Fight of the Year:
Chris Lytle vs. Marcus Davis (UFC 93)
Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson (UFC 93)
Donald Cerrone vs. Jamie Varner (WEC 38)
Mac Danzig vs. Josh Neer (UFN 17)
Jeremy Stephens vs. Joe Lauzon (UFN 17)
Chris Wilson vs. John Howard (UFC 94)
Abel Cullum vs. Akiyo Nishiura (DREAM.7)
Tetsuya Yamada vs. Ronnie Mann (Sengoku: Seventh Battle)
Martin Kampmann vs. Carlos Condit (UFC Fight Night 18)
Miguel Torres vs. Takeya Mizugaki (WEC 40)
Scott Smith vs. Benji Radach (Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz)
Masanori Kanehara vs. Chan Sung Jung (Sengoku: Eighth Battle)
Abel Cullum vs. Hideo Tokoro (DREAM.9)
Antonio Banuelos vs. Scott Jorgensen (WEC 41)
Mike Brown vs. Urijah Faber (WEC 41)

Knockout of the Year:
Fedor Emelianenko knocks out Andrei Arlovski in midair (Affliction: Day of Reckoning)
Jay Hieron vs. Jason High: The KTFO Moment Nobody Saw (Affliction: Day of Reckoning)
DA PHENOM IS BACK!!1!@1! (Affliction: Day of Reckoning)
Lyoto Machida’s buzzer beater vs. Thiago Silva (UFC 94)
Paulo Thiago(?) knocks out(?) Josh Koscheck(?)? (UFC 95)
Damacio Page beats Marcus Galvao to death (WEC 39)
Matt Hamill gives us the first awesome head kick KO of 2009 (UFC 96)
Shinya Aoki fares as well as I would against Hayato Sakurai (DREAM.8)
Anthony Njokuani decapitates Bart Palaszewksi (WEC 40)
Marcus Aurelio with a Capoeira Exposion! (North American Challenge #24)
Yahir Reyes gives people one more reason to check out Bellator (Bellator VI)
Karate is back, bitches (UFC 98)

Submission of the Year:
Satoru Kitaoka stuns Takanori Gomi with an Achilles lock (Sengoku no Ran 2009)
Joe Lauzon’s armbar on Jeremy Stephens (UFN 17)
Demian Maia makes it look all too easy against Chael Sonnen (UFC 95)
“Hello, Japan! Argh, my throat!” (Not really a Sub of the Year candidate, just paying homage to the comedic dumbassery of David Gardner) (DREAM.7)
Hatsu Hioki’s double submission on Chris Manuel (Sengoku: Seventh Battle)
Toby Imada’s inverted triangle choke on Jorge Masvidal (Bellator V)

Well, that about wraps ‘er up for this week. At this time next week, UFC 99 will be in the books and if you can contain yourselves until the 19th, I’ll be back to report on all the highlights and lowlights of the UFC 99 undercard. DREAM.9 got me off track and unable to recap the UFC 98 prelims, but for the sake of contributing something that you haven’t likely read everywhere else, it’ll be time to pay homage to the unaired fights in the next edition of The Five Finger Death Punch. In the meantime, if you like what you see at the site and want an easier to road to 411, find the Bookmarks tab near the button the top of your browser and book 411 this instant. If you have Firefox, click Bookmarks and then select to Bookmark This Page, or just press CTRL+D. If you have Internet Explorer, click the little star icon with the plus sign, or just press ALT+Z. Typing a web address can be a pain in the ass, so just save yourself the unneeded trouble. Later, playas.


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Matt Welch
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