The UFC Gate Keepers

Last night at UFC Fight Night 28, Ronaldo Souza was able to pick up an impressive win over Yushin Okami in the middleweight division. That victory established Souza as a legit contender in the division, as he was able to beat the “gate keeper” of the division in Okami.

The “gate keeper” is a fighter that is good enough to be one of the top fighters in the division, but not good enough to beat the elite few on top. They will likely never be a champion, but they will never be without an important fight or spot within the UFC. Here are who I see as the gate keepers in the UFC.

Flyweight – Ian McCall: McCall is a great flyweight, but already has proven that he can’t compete with the likes of Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. He just doesn’t have the skills to break into the top.

Bantamweight – Urijah Faber: Faber is a tremendous talent, but he was clearly outclassed by Renan Barao and lost his last fight with Dominick Cruz. Faber is just a step to slow to earn the title.

Featherweight – Dustin Poirier: “The Diamond” is a great fighter, but he hasn’t been able to get the job done in his toughest fights. He will always be in discussion as a top-5 featherweight, but not able to get any higher.

Lightweight – Jim Miller: Miller has tremendous heart and wrestling ability, but he can’t quite get to the mountain top. If a contender isn’t cut for the elite status, Miller will prove it.

Welterweight – Jake Ellenberger: Ellenberger seemed primed for a title shot with a win over Rory MacDonald, but he failed to take his talents to that next level. He can beat most of the division, but not the very best.

Middleweight – Yushin Okami: As said previously, Okami is a tough guy to get past, but if you can, it puts you in the 185-pound title picture.

Light Heavyweight – Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Lil Nog is a talented fighter, but doesn’t really show anything to make you feel like he could actually be the 205-pound champion. He has some big wins, but some bad losses. If someone is going to be a champ in this division, they have to get through him.

Heavyweight – Antonio Silva: Silva proved he can’t be the champion of this division, getting hammered by Cain Velasquez on two occasions now. However, he owns wins over guys like Fedor and Alistair Overeem. Silva is no easy victory, but he doesn’t have the total package to be champ.

Velasquez vs. Dos Santos: The trilogy the UFC needed

Image ALT text goes here.There was a time when two men ruled the UFC heavyweight division.

Those men were Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski.

The two had established themselves as the best heavyweights in the UFC at the time, and had a trilogy of fights for the UFC to capitalize on.

At that time, it was also clear that there were better heavyweight fighters out there, mainly in PRIDE, thus the trilogy didn’t have that feel of greatness.

Now, years later, the UFC finds itself with the heavyweight trilogy that it always longed for.

There is no question that heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and top contender Junior dos Santos are the top two heavyweight fighters in the world. They verified as much on Saturday with their knockout wins over Antonio Silva and Mark Hunt, respectively.

Now, the UFC is able to market a rubber match between the two after each one has decisively beat the other.

Velasquez and dos Santos have provided a legitimacy to the heavyweight division that has been lacking for a long time.

Sure, there have been some impressive fighters over the last decade, but none that were as technically skilled as Velasquez and dos Santos.

Brock Lesnar was a draw, and a physical freak, but he proved he wasn’t a fighter when he cowered in a ball at the first body kick he took.

Velasquez and dos Santos would have dominated the UFC in the early 2000s and the winner of this upcoming trilogy fight could rule the roost for quite some time.

The UFC finally has its mega heavyweight fight, and it is Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III.

Ranking Fedor Emelianenko among the MMA greats

nullLast week, “The Last Emporer” Fedor Emelianenko decided to call it a career following his first round KO win over Pedro Rizzo at a M-1 Global event.

It wasn’t the way many envisioned Fedor stepping away from MMA.

For a man that went undefeated for a 10-year span, Fedor should have been someone that ended his career in a blaze of glory.

Instead, he ended his career on a three-fight win streak over fighters that had passed their prime long before he did.

The lasting images of Fedor seem to be a tapout to Fabricio Werdum, a bloody face at the hands of Antonio Silva, and face-down body thanks to a big hand from Dan Henderson.

There is no shame in Fedor’s losses, as time makes cowards of us all, but we all hoped for greater things from Fedor. Perhaps greater than he could really achieve.

Fedor is following in the footsteps of many MMA legends before him.

There was a time that Tito Ortiz seemed unbeatable in the UFC. Now, he is not even top 10 in the light heavyweight division.

Chuck Liddell was untouchable when he finally won the UFC title, but he soon developed a glass jaw and simply couldn’t beat anyone.

Matt Hughes is still referenced as the greatest welterweight champion in UFC history, but he has not been a title contender for five years.

All of these men should have no shame. Nobody can sustain a level of performance that they achieved for very long.

Even today, the likes of Jon Jones and Anderson Silva appear to be flawless. But, there will be a day when they too must accept the fate of time.

Looking back, it is hard to imagine anyone will have the kind of run Fedor did during the first 10 years of the new millennium. He won 28 fights in that time without a single loss and fought the majority of the top fighters in the heavyweight division at that time. He also did so as an undersized heavyweight.

Anderson Silva has been unbeaten since 2006 and has done so very impressively, but in today’s age of MMA, with fighters evolving so quickly, you have to imagine someone will have his number sooner rather than later.

The same can be said for Jon Jones. A better, younger, and stronger Jon Jones is being built right now in gyms around the world.

Fedor did what few have. He managed to stay ahead of the game for 10 years. It is a feat that may never be repeated. For that reason, it is fair to call him the greatest heavyweight in MMA history and maybe even the greatest fighter in all of MMA history.

UFC 146 Results & Recap – Junior Dos Santos Keeps Rolling

nullJunior Dos Santos verified himself as the top heavyweight in the UFC as he knocked out Frank Mir in the second round of the main event of UFC 146 on Saturday from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Coming into his bout with the former UFC champion, Mir, Dos Santos was expected to win with his crisp striking, and that is exactly what led to the win.

After somewhat of an eventful first round that saw Dos Santos win thanks to his striking, the champion managed to finish off the fight in the second thanks to a big right hand that caught Mir flush on the cheek. JDS then followed up with a flurry on the ground to earn the TKO stoppage.

The win for JDS was as big for him as it was a big loss for Mir. The former champion likely won’t see another title shot anytime soon after losing his last three matches where a belt was on the line by devastating knockout.

Mir has had quite the career, but it is clear he doesn’t have the ability to contend with explosive strikers that have the ability to keep the fight standing. He has been brutally beaten by the likes of Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, and now Dos Santos.

In the co-main event, Cain Velasquez destroyed Antonio Silva in Silva’s UFC debut. The former heavyweight champ bloodied Silva thanks to a big elbow across the nose and he followed up with a number of strikes thereafter.

The win for Velasquez probably pushes him right back up to the No. 1 contender spot, as Dos Santos knocked him out in their meeting last November.

For complete results from UFC 146, check out the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Results: Barnett, Cormier roll

nullWell, I was wrong.

Sometimes things just don’t go your way when picking MMA fights and Saturday was that example.

I was 1-3 in my Strikeforce picks, with my lone win being Josh Barnett choking out Sergei Kharitonov.

It was a great win for Barnett, who now advances to the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Finals against the surprise contender, Daniel Cormier.

Cormier, the Olympic wrestler, used his striking to topple Antonio Silva and advance to the finals. He landed a pair of big punches early in the fight, with the second one sending Silva to the ground. From there, Cormier finished the fight with a pair of big hammer fists.

Cormier has now propelled himself into the heavyweight spotlight and a battle with fellow wrestler, Josh Barnett, should make for an interesting championship.

Cormier may have the edge with his striking and wrestling ability. That could help him stay off his back against Barnett, who should have a submission edge on the relatively new fighter.

In the other two featured bouts, Luke Rockhold upset Ronaldo Souza to win the Strikeforce Middleweight title. I didn’t give Rockhold much respect entering the bout, but he grinded a nice win over Souza, using his striking and submission defense to keep the fight in his favor. Question is, does this give Rockhold a chance to move to the UFC for a unification bout? Or does he still not catch the eye of the UFC brass?

Muhammed Lawal returned to action by KO’ing unbeaten Roger Gracie. King Mo’s big right hands ended the fight in the first round and gave him one of his most impressive wins to date.

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Picks & Predictions

nullThe semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix take place on Saturday night and also a pair of intriguing side bouts.

Here are my picks for the four bouts that will be featured on tonight’s Showtime card.

Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals – Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov – I think Barnett will be smart and handle Kharitonov similar to how he did Brett Rogers. Look for Barnett’s wrestling to eventually lead to a submission finish in the second or third round.

Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals – Antonio Silva vs. Daniel Cormier – Silva vs. Overeem would have been a bigger draw for Strikeforce, but now their champ is with the UFC. Still, Silva has shown some improving skills and I think he will be able to handle Cormier, who is still developing his skills. Cormier can wrestle, but Silva is stronger and should have better conditioning. I look for Silva to out-strike and out-grapple Cormier to earn a decision victory.

Strikeforce Middleweight Championship – Ronaldo Souza vs. Luke Rockhold – Rockhold is a nice little fighter, but Souza should have no trouble with him. The submission wizard should find a way to work his magic in this fight and force a tap. Rockhold hasn’t faced a lot of tough talent and is just proof that Strikeforce doesn’t have much of a middleweight division.

Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Bout – Muhammed Lawal vs. Roger Gracie – King Mo hasn’t fought in over a year and young Roger Gracie is off to an impressive start to his career, submitting the likes of Trevor Prangley and Kevin Randleman. Lawal is going to want to keep this fight standing, but he has a strong wrestling background that may ultimately lead to his demise. I see the better-conditioned Gracie using his skills to get the fight to the ground and choking out the former Strikeforce champ.

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Odds: Barnett, Silva Favored

nullThe semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix takes place this upcoming Saturday night and we have the latest odds on the big matchups.

Bullz-Eye.com has the odds for the two semifinal contests, which features Josh Barnett and Segei Kharitonov and Daniel Cormier taking on Antonio Silva.

Barnett walks into his bout as the favorite with a betting line of -280 against Kharitonov, who has odds of +220. Barnett (30-5) is coming off a second-round submission win over Brett Rogers while Kharitonov (18-4) knocked out Andrei Arlovski in less than three minutes of his quarterfinal match.

In this semifinal, Barnett has the grappling edge while Kharitonov appears to have the KO power in his striking. Whoever can dictate the location of the fight will likely get the victory.

In the other semifinal, Silva (16-2) is the favorite to win with odds of -175 while his opponent Cormier (8-0), has odds of +145 to win. Silva defeated Fedor Emelinanenko by second round TKO to reach the semifinals while Cormier is filling in for Alistair Overeem, who was removed from the tournament due to his unwillingness to fight in September because of an injury.

Cormier is a strong wrestler with some good submission skills while Silva has started to put together a complete fight game. Silva has big punches and a smother grappling style. He looked the most impressive of any fighter in the quarterfinals, but now fights somewhat of an unknown in Cormier, who has just eight pro fights.

The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix will take place from the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati on Saturday. The show will air live on Showtime at 10PM ET.

Strikeforce, Zuffa done with Fedor Emelianenko

nullFedor Emelianenko may not be ready to retire, but Zuffa thinks he probably should.

While the company didn’t specifically say that, it was made pretty clear that they have no more interest in Fedor when they decided they will not pursue a new contract with him.

According to MMAFighting.com, Dana White made his feelings about Fedor pretty clear.

Fedor Emelianenko will be cut from the promotion following his loss to Dan Henderson at last Saturday’s Strikeforce/M-1 Fedor vs. Henderson event.

UFC president Dana White — a co-owner of Strikeforce parent company Zuffa LLC — confirmed the news following the UFC 133 press conference on Thursday.

“He’s being cut, yeah,” White told the media. “Why? Do you think we should keep him?”

“You guys thought he was the pound-for-pound best in the world, but I thought he was overrated for years.”

After being unbeaten for 10 years, Fedor has now lost three straight, all by stoppage.

While he still seems competitive, it is clear the mystique behind “The Last Emperor,” has clearly dissolved. His drawing power is not what it was, and Zuffa is no longer interested.

You can’t blame Zuffa from a business stand point, as dealing with Fedor’s extra management of M-1 Global was hard enough when he was on top of the MMA world, it could be even more ridiculous now that he doesn’t have the same credibility.

Fedor Emelianenko: The Fall of the Last Emperor

nullWith every great moment in sports history, there is typically one that is just as sad a little further down the road.

No matter how invincible we think people like Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre are, time will make a coward of them all.

Such is the case with Fedor Emelianenko.

From 2000-2010 Fedor was considered a god in MMA. He went 10 years without losing a fight. It seemed impossible, but he kept finding ways to win. Through PRIDE to Affliction to Strikeforce, he kept finding himself on top.

But, as time moved on, fighters kept improving, while Fedor has hit a standstill with his evolving in the sport.

Now, a loser of three straight after being stopped by Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, and now Dan Henderson, “The Last Emperor” looks like someone that has been dethroned.

Is Fedor still a top-level fighter? Yes.

He is still someone that can compete with the best.

But, he is far from the legend that he created over the last 10 years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Strikeforce releases Alistair Overeem

nullThe interesting career of Alistair Overeem has taken another turn.

On Friday night, MMAFighting.com reported that the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion was released from his contract by the promotion.

The organization has released its heavyweight champion, MMA Fighting confirmed with multiple sources close to the fighter, including his trainer Martijn de Jong. HDNet first reported the news on its Inside MMA program Friday night.

Overeem had one fight left on his current contract. He was not immediately available for comment. When contacted by MMA Fighting, Strikeforce officials would not confirm or deny Overeem’s departure from the organization.

The news comes on the heels of the announcement that Overeem was removed from the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix last week after he told Zuffa he wouldn’t be ready to fight Antonio Silva in the semi-finals on Sept. 10 due to scheduling and multiple injuries.

You can look at this one of two ways: 1. Zuffa wants nothing to do with Overeem or 2. Zuffa wants to sign Overeem into the UFC.

Hopefully option two is the case because he is too talented a striker to not be prominent in American MMA.