As we approach UFC 76: Knockout on September 22, 2007, one question lingers on the minds of mixed martial arts fans:  Will MAURICIO “Shogun” RUA’s game be as effective inside the octagon cage as it has been in PRIDE’s boxing ring?  He has not fought inside the cage in almost 5 years when he was choked out by RENATO SOBRAL.  This question is more valid to RUA’s game more than any fighter coming over to the UFC from PRIDE.  Following the previous two MIRKO CRO COP matches in the UFC – both losses – the question of transitioning a fighting style from the open boxing ring into a cage is becoming an important one.  Case by case appears to be the best way to analyze this question.  While QUINTON JACKSON and DAN HENDERSON have proven that the transition has not drastically altered their methods, in CRO COP’s case the transition has obviously been disastrous. 

RUA is an interesting case.  He’s a very tough competitor and inside the PRIDE ring, he’s defeated some great opposition such as QUINTON JACKSON, ANTONIO ROGERIO NOGUEIRA, RICARDO ARONA, KEVIN RANDLEMAN, KAZUHIRO NAKAMURA and ALISTAIR OVEREEM (twice).  His patented stomps and soccer kicks have been devastating tools he has developed while moving up the ranks in PRIDE FC.  A potential problem is that the UFC does not allow kicks to an opponent’s head while the opponent is on the ground.  Another question will be his handling of strikes the UFC does allow such as elbow strikes – something CRO COP admittedly was not ready to deal with.  His cage experience is comprised of just a few matches.  He has earned the reputation of being one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts.  So as he debuts at UFC 76, will he be the next QUINTON JACKSON or MIRKO CRO COP?  He should continue in the steps of JACKSON and it will be answered on September 22nd.

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September 8, 2007 – London, UK.  Leading up to the first ever unification of the UFC and PRIDE light heavyweight belts at Saturday night’s UFC 75:  Champion vs. Champion, UFC fans were treated to 3 other fantastic fights.  Arguably the fight of the night belonged to “The Irish Hand Grenade” MARCUS DAVIS (13-3) and “Relentless” PAUL TAYLOR (8-2-1), two up and comers that weren’t part of the list of stars headlining the event.  They both lived up to their nicknames!  The fight lasted almost one round but was one of the most exciting fights you will witness in mixed martial arts, ending with DAVIS as the victor by armbar submission.  DAVIS had to overcome a devastating kick to the head that dropped him and almost ended the fight but “The Irish Hand Grenade” was able to reverse momentum several times to finally end the fight with a masterful armbar. 

Also on the card, emerging star, CHEICK KONGO (11-3-1)overcame a slow first round to dominate PRIDE FC legend MIRKO CRO COP (22-6-2).  After the first round, CRO COP seemed as if he’s back in the thick of things as his previous fight resulted in a  KO loss via a GABRIEL GONZALEZ head kick.  But as the second round went on, KONGO picked up confidence and started to slow CRO COP down with repeated knees to CRO COP’s gigantic thighs which showed leg fatigue for the Croatian the rest of the fight.  As CRO COP couldn’t get things going, KONGO showed he could do no wrong.  KONGO’s ground game appeared much improved, quickly making him a top contender for the UFC heavyweight belt.  Look out RANDY COUTURE!

England’s own MICHAEL BISPING (15-0) also overcame a terrible first round, where he almost lost the fight, to pull out a decision over nemsis MATT HAMILL (5-1).  With cuts under each eye, BISPING was able to box the rest of the way and keep it a standup fight.  As the fight wore on, HAMILL seemed to wear out as he was unable to take BISPING down to the mat, where he is most effective.  Eventhough it was a close fight, at the end of the fight, HAMILL said that BISPING “won fair and square”.  One judge scored all 3 rounds in favor of HAMILL.  Hopefully their beef is now over. 

The last fight of the night was a 5 round, all out war between two of the greatest in the business.  QUINTON “Rampage” JACKSON (28-6) and DAN “Hollywood” HENDERSON (22-6) went the distance in a back and forth matchup of with JACKSON pulling out a win.  Each fighter showed the tremendous level of fitness as they tried to force their will on the other.  Neither fighter was truly in any danger at any point in the fight and at the end, JACKSON did just enough to pull out the win.  Now crowned the undisputed greatest light heavyweight in the world.

The biggest question now is WHO will go after RAMPAGE’s belt?  Maybe the winner of the UFC 76:  KNOCKOUT between MAURICIO “Shogun” RUA and FORREST GRIFFIN will reveal the answer.  That result is coming up September 22, 2007!

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DAN HENDERSON’s big gamble

September 5, 2007

At UFC 75 this Saturday in London, England, “Dangerous” DAN HENDERSON will enter the octagon cage taking a huge gamble.  HENDERSON is the third high profile superstar to make the transition from PRIDE FC’s boxing-style ring into the UFC’s octagon cage.  HENDERSON’s debut fight this Saturday in the UFC octagon is for the UFC light heavyweight championship against a very confident champion and close buddy, QUINTON “RAMPAGE” JACKSON.  The previous two superstars to join the UFC from PRIDE were JACKSON and MIRKO “CRO COP” FILIPOVIC.  Both fighters’ UFC debuts were a bit uneasy, suggesting some discomfort and unfamiliarity with a cage as opposed to the boxing-style ring that made them the mega-stars they are today.

JACKSON’s debut inside the octagon vs. MARVIN EASTMAN, a hard nosed fighter who had defeated JACKSON in in 2000, was far from Rampage-ish.  Very tentative and nervous, JACKSON wound up knocking out EASTMAN in the 2nd round but not before UFC president DANA WHITE sweat out a ton of bullets.  JACKSON later admitted to being “the most nervous” he has ever been.  MIRKO CRO COP’s debut went far better against an over matched EDDIE SANCHEZ.  SANCHEZ, though, is a far less proven fighter than EASTMAN.  CRO COP’s 2nd fight didn’t go well at all, as he was KO’ed in devastating fashion by GABRIEL GONZAGA.  Again, some questions linger about his lack of experience inside a cage as opposed to a ring.

See where I’m going with this?   HENDERSON is a tremendous talent and his aggressive style is very difficult to handle for most fighters.  Is he ready for his first fight in the octagon cage in 9 years?  Is it smart to take on a high caliber champion like JACKSON as your debut fight inside the octagon cage – a forum unfamiliar to HENDERSON since 1998?  Why take on a fight for a championship as your very first fight inside the UFC cage in a long time?  Will there be cage rust?

A warm up fight would have been the safer choice, but then again when it comes to HENDERSON’s vocabulary, the word “SAFE” does not exist.

 

C-A-S-H.  Period.  FEDOR EMELIANENKO, inarguably the best mixed martial arts fighter in the world at any weight class, has been the sport’s highest paid fighter for years.  Since the UFC’s purchase of PRIDE FC, top PRIDE fighters have been hand picked and brought into the UFC to fight in the octagon cage.  Most UFC fighters don’t have much say in their pay and are, justly, happy to be there for the opportunity of a lifetime.  FEDOR is not just happy to be there.  He has proven to be the most feared and proven fighter in the sport.  His only fight in the U.S – PRIDE FC:  Shockwave – led to a  $2,000,000 payout , which poses a financial dilemma for the UFC.  How can the UFC pay FEDOR huge sums of money while present Champions, such as superstar ANDERSON SILVA, are being paid $45,000 for defending their title?  If FEDOR commands $2million per fight, what will happen the next time SILVA fights … what will he want to be paid?  In a sport where you can fall from grace with one kick to the head, established fighters may start asking for a big pay raise.  FEDOR needs the UFC as much as the UFC needs FEDOR.  Can you imagine the top mixed martial arts organization in the world without the ability to showcase the top fighter in the sport?  Both sides have to make this happen – both for their respective sides and more imporantly for the fans.  It would have been a shame to go through the 1970’s and to never have watched Muhammad Ali do what he did in the sport of boxing.  The best way to describe FEDOR would be to think of MIKE TYSON in his heydays … turbo charged!  The day FEDOR enters the octagon will be a wonderful treat for all mixed martial arts fans.  Just find a weakness in his game … we double dare you!

This is not a picture of UFC President Dana White on his back:

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MIRKO CRO COP training

August 29, 2007

Here’s some dated footage of Mirko’s training regimen.  He will beef up the sessions as his fight with CHEICK KONGO on September 8, 2007 arrives.  His past opponents are some of the best in mixed martial arts world but his fight against KONGO is undoubtedly one the most important in his career.

don’t ever get kicked by Mirko: