Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Madness, MMA Style

As I sit here typing, I am literally engulfed in the hype of March Madness. Yes, I've been watching all the excitement of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, but right now I am enjoying March Madness MMA style. I am checking out the light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) tournament quarterfinals of Bellator 38 on MTV2, while at the same time watching the preliminary fights of UFC Fight Night 24 on Facebook. Yes, I am watching both events live, one on TV and the other on my computer. Can you tell I love MMA?

With the main card for the UFC still a couple of hours away, I'll start with Bellator and for those that did not bother to tune in, you missed a good one. A couple of upsets, a slick submission and a come from behind KO victory were all part of the first ever 205 lbs. tournament in Bellator's history. In the main event, Tim Carpenter (7-0, 3 subs) surprised everyone, but himself, as he won a split decision victory over celebrated jiu-jitsu world champion Daniel Gracie (5-3-1, 4 subs). In a very close fight throughout, it was Carpenter, not Gracie, who was the aggressor on the ground attempting numerous submissions.

The biggest upset of the night came in the third fight, where a back and forth battle saw relative unknown D.J. 'Da Protege' Linderman (9-1, 3 KO's 3 subs) take out the early favorite in this tourney Raphael 'Noodle' Davis (10-2, 2 KO's 7 subs). Early on, it looked like Davis was going to have it easy as he was drilling Linderman with knees from a Muay Thai clinch in the first round. However, Linderman had other ideas as his own vicious stand up attack finally took its toll in the third round. There, after an inadvertent low blow against Davis that caused a pause in the action, Linderman pummeled Davis with punches that eventually forced the referee to jump in and stop it.

The submission of the night, and early candidate for submission of the year, goes to Rich 'Rare Breed' Hale (16-3-1, 6 KO's 8 subs) for his inverted triangle choke on Nik 'The Machine' Fekete (4-1, 2 KO's) in less than two minutes of the first round. Fekete, shot in for the takedown and got it, but in a scramble, Hale landed on Fekete's back upside down and pulled off the move that made Toby Imada a household name in Bellator's first season. Ironically, in my preview of tonight's fights I posted a photo of Imada's inverted triangle against Jorge Masvidal.

In the first fight of the night, Christian 'Tonton' M'Pumbu (16-3-1, 5 KO's, 8 subs) won the battle of the Chris's with a come form behind third round TKO over Chris 'The Professional' Davis (10-3, 5 KO's, 5 subs). Although he held his own and attempted a couple of submissions in the first two rounds, he was clearly behind going into the third. Knowing that and seeing Davis all but riding on gas fumes, he turned up the intensity and finished Davis with punches in bunches forcing the ref to step in and stop the onslaught. Bellator continues to show strong with young up and coming talent and excellent matchmaking.

Light-heavyweights were also the feature in the main event of the UFC as once again it was a young lion pitted against a crafty veteran. This time the lion, Nittany Lion that is, 'Mr. Wonderful' Phil Davis (9-0, 2 KO's, 3 subs) won a lackluster unanimous decision over Antonio Rogerio 'Minotauro' Nogueira (19-5, 5 KO's 6 subs). Davis, a 2008 national champion from Penn State, used his wrestling to control the fight, but surprisingly it took a while. He was unsuccessful at numerous takedown attempts in the first round, but found his range in the second and third.

Muhammad Ali once quipped, "Rumble young man rumble" and that's just what welterweight (170lbs.) Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (9-3, 6 KO's, 2 subs) did as he used his superior size and wrestling to outlast 'The Outlaw' Dan Hardy (23-9, 11 KO's, 4 subs). Johnson, coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for 16 months, dominated all three rounds with a ground and pound attack for a unanimous decision victory. Hardy, who fought for the title almost a year ago to the day, has now lost his last three in a row.

Finally, picking up where they left off a year ago, featherweights (145 lbs.) Leonard 'Bad Boy' Garcia (15-7-1, 3 KO's 9 subs) and 'The Korean Zombie' Chang Sung Jung (11-3, 2 KO's 4 subs) put on another exciting fight with a different outcome. After losing a disputed split decision last year, Jung (pictured above) left no doubt this time around pulling off a rare Eddie Bravo 'Twister' submission with one second left in the second round. Incredible, two 'submission of the year' candidates in one night; that's March Madness, MMA style.

Friday, March 25, 2011

UFC vs. Bellator, which are you watching?

Now that Strikeforce has been bought out by Zuffa Entertainment and is under UFC ownership that leaves only Bellator Fighting Championships as the only major promotion not under Dana White's control. In only its fourth season, Bellator may not be on UFC's level quite yet as far as finances and fighters, but it has made great strides and developed some young stars. So the question is which are you watching this weekend when they go head to head on free cable television?

Bellator, which gave us the memorable inverted triangle submission by Toby Imada on Jorge Masvidal (pictured above), continues it's fourth season, first on MTV2, this Saturday night. On tap (no pun intended) is their first ever light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) tournament quarterfinals. The UFC counters with 'Fight Night 24', which features a light-heavyweight main event between Antonio Rogerio 'Minotoro' Nogueira (19-4, 5 KO's, 6 subs) and 'Mr. Wonderful' Phil Davis (8-0, 2 KO's 3 subs).

The UFC Fight Night card, which will be live on Spike TV, has some other very attractive match-ups as the co-main event is a welterweight (170 lbs.) clash between contenders Dan 'The Outlaw' Hardy (23-8, 11 KO's 4 subs) and Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (8-3, 6 KO's, 2 subs). Also, to start out the main card, it is a rematch of what I and many considered to be the 2010 Fight of the Year, when featherweight (145 lbs.) Leonard 'Bad Boy' Garcia (15-6-1, 3 KO's 9 subs) faces off against the 'Korean Zombie' Chang Sung Jung (10-3, 2 KO's, 3 subs).

All very evenly matched fights with some intriguing twists, I'm going to go with the following; in the main event I'm picking Phil Davis to overcome Nogueira's obvious experience and utilize his superior wrestling to get a unanimous decision. Because of his superior size, strength and athleticism, I'm taking 'Rumble' Johnson to knockout Dan Hardy, especially after Carlos Condit showed it was possible in Hardy's last fight. Finally, in a narrow split decision, I'm going with the 'Korean Zombie', mainly because I think he got robbed out of the same in last year's fight.

As for Bellator, their four quarterfinal fights include a bevy of young up and comers, which they are known for cultivating and creating. One fight that does interests me though is one that features two of the best prospects on this card as Tim Carpenter (6-0, 3 subs) takes on MMA Royalty of sorts. His opponent Daniel Gracie (5-2-1, 4 subs) is a member of the first family of Mixed Martial Arts. I'm going out on a limb here and picking Carpenter to finish Gracie via strikes. That's a light limb considering he has no KO's on his record, but the Gracies are notorious for being average at best with their stand-up game.

One other name to be on the lookout for in this light-heavyweight tournament is Raphael 'Noodle' Davis (10-1, 2 KO's 7 subs). Davis had two fights in Bellator last year winning both convincingly. However his opponent D.J. 'Da Protege' Linderman (8-1, 2 KO's, 3 subs) is a former heavyweight who use to fight around 250 lbs. The winner of this fight could be the dark horse in this tourney. I'm picking Davis based on the quality of past opponents. Who are you picking in these fights? Better yet, which are you watching?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

UFC 128: The Beginning of the 'Bones' Era

At UFC 128 Saturday night, the Tri-State area came out in droves and they were not disappointed. After representing strong last month at the Strikeforce event in East Rutherford, NJ, the Hudson River crowd invaded the Prudential Center in Newark. There, they witnessed history as Endicott, NY's own Jon 'Bones' Jones (13-1, 8 KO's 3 subs) became the youngest champion in UFC history.

Jones, in only his 14th pro fight and after just three years of training, completely dominated and decimated former light heavyweight (205 lbs.) champ Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (19-5, 16 KO's 1 sub). Using all of his 6'4" frame, the man they call 'Bones' used everything in his arsenal including kicks, punches, elbows and wrestling to crush, kill and destroy Rua over two and half rounds. Rua had no answer for Jones's reach and his wrestling being put on the defensive the whole time. Even when he had Jones in his guard on the ground, Jones, unlike anyone else with his length, was able to throw punches and elbows to Rua face with impact.

Easily the next big thing in MMA, Jones showed why as he showed flash in his offense, throwing a beautiful spinning elbow to Rua's head in the second round when he had him up against the cage. In the third round it was an accumulation of punishment on the ground, followed by a punch to the mid-section and a follow-up knee while they were standing that ultimately ended the night and reign for 'Shogun'.

In August last year, I wrote a column entitled 'The Next Generation of UFC Superstars'. The piece was accompanied by the above photo of none other than Jon 'Bones' Jones. I said at the time that Jones was the next superstar in the 205 lbs. division. After Saturday night's performance I feel comfortable in saying he is the next superstar in all of Mixed Martial Arts. We may very well be seeing the second coming of Anderson Silva at only 23 years of age.

He didn't have the belt five minutes before the UFC brought in Jones first challenger for his title into the cage. Strangely, it was Jones's teammate 'Sugar' Rashad Evans, who ironically Jones had replaced in this fight when Evans got injured. When Joe Rogan asked Jones how he felt about having to defend against his own teammate and good friend, Jones said, "I've been working for this belt and I know God wouldn't bring me this far if he didn't have a reason."

The co-main event of the night didn't necessarily finish as I predicted, but it did see bantamweight (135 lbs.) Urijah 'The California Kid' Faber (25-4, 7 KO's, 13 subs) get a unanimous decision over former WEC champion Eddie Wineland (18-7-1, 9 KO's 3 subs). I had predicted Faber would take down Wineland and inevitably get a submission win. He may not have gotten the submission, but he did take down Wineland in the second and third rounds. However, he could not do much other than smother Wineland's offense. After the fight Faber told champion Dominic Cruz, "hide your kids, hide your wife and hide that belt because I'm coming for it."

The swing bout of the night saw New Jersey's own Jim Miller (20-2, 3 KO's 11 subs) staking his claim for a shot at the lightweight (155 lbs.) title as he finished Kamal 'The Prince of Persia' Shalorus (7-1-2, 4 KO's, 1 sub) via TKO in the third round. Miller, the only New Jersey fighter of four on the card to win, has now extended his win streak to seven in a row. When asked in his post fight interview by Joe Rogan if he's looking for a title shot, Miller's response was simply, "I'm ready." I wonder if fellow New Jersey native, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar feels the same way.

Meanwhile, Miller's brother Dan wasn't so lucky. In middleweight (185 lbs.) action, Nate 'The Great' Marquardt (31-10-2, 8 KO's 15 subs) outlasted a game Dan Miller (13-5, 1 KO 8 subs) to win a unanimous decision. Using a combination of crisp strikes and a vicious ground & pound attack, Marquardt nullified any attempt Miller had at mustering offense. Miller, a wrestler and jiu-jitsu player, tried desperately to take this fight to the ground, but it was Marquardt who continuously ended up on top delivering punishment when they were on the mat.

Finally, in the heavyweight showdown between the legend Mirko 'Cro-Cop' Filipovic (27-9-2, 20 KO's, 4 subs) and the young up and comer Brendan 'The Hybrid' Schaub (8-1, 7 KO's), sadly it ended just as I predicted. Schaub ended up knocking out 'Cro Cop' in the third round, but it wasn't as easy as I or Schaub thought it would be. 'Cro-Cop', while methodical in his approach, looked inspired at times, but it wasn't enough as he eventually got caught with an overhand right that knocked him silly. Schaub continues to impress, winning his fourth in a row; three by KO. On the other hand, 'Cro-Cop', who has lost multiple times now in the UFC via devastating KO's, may need to consider retirement.

Friday, March 18, 2011

UFC 128 Preview: Is 'Bones' Ready?

It is the age old question for a young promising fighter that is destined for greatness, when is it the right time to throw him in with the King of the Jungle? For UFC light heavyweight (205 lbs.) Jon 'Bones' Jones (12-1, 7 KO's 3 subs), that time is now. Jones (pictured @ left) will challenge current champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (19-4, 16 KO's 1 sub) for his title Saturday @ UFC 128 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Thus, the question now becomes, is 'Bones' ready?

Jones, who's only been fighting professionally for three years, will be taking on a veteran with over nine years experience fighting all over the world. Rua, a native of Brazil, the former Pride 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament winner, has fought the best of the best in his home country, Japan and now here in the United States. That type of experience is hard to overcome in any sport, let alone mixed martial arts. That said, although still young, I believe Jones's time is now and he will defeat Rua at his own game.

Rua, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who is also known for devastating Muay Thai kicks, is facing a different breed of fighter in Jones. A 6' 4" superb athlete that is skilled both on the ground and standing. He's a former NY State wrestling champion, with fast hands, quick feet and lethal elbows; just ask former contender Brandon Vera who had his facial bones smashed by one of Jones's elbows. However, what sets Jones apart from Rua and everyone else is his unorthodox fighting style, which has proven successful thus far.

The only blemish on his record is a disqualification loss against Matt Hamill for throwing what was deemed an illegal elbow while Hamill was down. Had that strike not been thrown, Jones was well on his way to finishing Hamill convincingly in less than a round and maintaining a perfect record. Therefore, although he is facing the toughest test of his young career, I am picking Jones to do what a young Cassius Clay did to Sonny Liston back in 1964 and "shock the world."

In the co-feature of the card, it is a bantamweight (135 lbs.) fight between former WEC champion Eddie Wineland (18-6-1, 9 KO's 3 subs) and the long awaited UFC debut of 'The California Kid' Urijah Faber (24-4, 7 KO's 13 subs). Faber, the former WEC featherweight (145 lbs.) champion, is fighting for only his second time @ 135 lbs. The winner of this fight will most likely be considered the number one contender for a crack at current champion Dominick Cruz.

Not only is a title shot possibly at stake, but there have been rumors that the coaches for the next season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' may be Cruz and the winner of this bout. If that should be Faber, I would consider that a done deal seeing that he is one of the most popular and well know fighters in the world. The former poster boy for World Extreme Cagefighting, Faber would be a ratings draw with his surfer boy good looks and Justin Bieber type appeal with the younger female audience; but don't let that fool you, because in the cage, Faber is the real deal.

Lightning quick and surprisingly strong for his size, Faber is an accomplished grappler with fast hands to match. However, if he chooses to stand with Wineland, that can prove to be a mistake as Wineland loves to brawl and can take a punch. That's why I expect Faber to take down his opponent quickly and wrap him up like an early Christmas gift winning by submission. Whether this outcome happens or not, don't blink because these two will be fighting a mile a minute, which will make for an entertaining fight.

The other intriguing bout on the main card takes us from the little guys to the big boys. Heavyweights (225-265 lbs.) Brendan 'The Hybrid' Schaub (7-1, 6 KO's) and Mirko 'Cro-Cop' Filipovic (27-8-2, 20 KO's 4 subs) will square off in yet another young lion takes on grizzled veteran affair. The difference here, unlike the Jones/Rua bout, is that Rua is still in his prime; while 'Cro-Cop' appears to be living off his fame from the 'Pride' days over five years ago.

Only (4-4) since coming to the UFC, 'Cro-Cop' appears to be gun shy and afraid to pull the trigger anymore on his lethal left round kick, since suffering a crushing knockout four years ago against Gabriel Gonzaga. Since then, he has not been the same fighter and that will be a problem against the young former football player Schaub who has KO power in both hands and boxing skills to match. Sadly, I see Schaub not only finishing Filipovic by KO, but quite possibly ending a Hall of Fame career in the process. Like 'Bones' Jones, is Schaub ready? We'll find out Saturday night.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

Dana White not only resembles Lex Luther, Superman's number one arch villain, but he also possesses the smarts of the brain savvy criminal mastermind as well. In a stunning move yesterday that shook the mixed martial arts world, White, President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, announced that the UFC ownership group Zuffa, Inc. had purchased the Strikeforce promotion. Apparently, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker figured if he couldn't beat them, he may as well join them.

While no specific details of the buyout have been released a/o yet, White did reiterate one point over and over. That is, for the time being Strikeforce will continue to operate as its own entity; in other words it's business as usual for Strikeforce. He noted that a television contract with Showtime still has to be honored along with all current fighter contracts as well. Thus, it appears the only change for now is the ownership banner. However, what does this all mean for MMA in the long term?

As with any business move of this magnitude, there are pros and cons that come with it. One thing is for sure though, over the last decade, White, along with his Zuffa partners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, have always seemed to make the right move in terms of the UFC and the sport. One only needs to take a look at how both have grown in the last ten years to know that as far as business goes, these guys know what they're doing. However, this particular move in having Strikeforce remain its own entity reminds of a similar move that took place around ten years ago.

The World Wrestling Entertainment after years of "Monday Night Wars" with its chief rival World Championship Wrestling, shocked the pro wrestling world one Monday night by announcing that they too had purchased the rights to their chief counterpart. At the time, the storyline was that Shane McMahon, son of WWE CEO Vince McMahon, had bought the company to compete against his father. They played out that storyline and determined that WCW would similarly remain as its own entity.

The "Invasion" angle, as it was called, eventually didn't work and inevitably the WWE absorbed all WCW operations, including their wrestlers, under one banner. Dana White has publicly stated on more than one occasion that he's always respected Vince McMahon and loosely followed his business model over the years in building the UFC promotion. Is this another case of that? If so, are we headed toward the same results? The WWE and pro wrestling have suffered immensely in its popularity since that move, albeit some may argue that the growth of MMA has had something to do with that.

However, most people argue that it was the lack of competition that ruined the WWE product. That it was the monopoly of talent by McMahon that eventually saturated and watered down his product. In the last few years the UFC has bought and taken over all their chief rivals including Pride, WEC and now Strikeforce. To this point they've been able to handle the mergers well and prosper; but in this case they have taken over their number one North American rival. Other than the Bellator Fighting Championships, who are still in their infancy, but making great strides, there are no other national counterparts to deal with.

Personally, I think this is a good move, not so much for the UFC, but for MMA. One of the biggest issues with boxing over the last few years is the number of different organizations involved and the alphabet list of "world" champions. A question that consistently surfaces in boxing these days is who is the heavyweight champion? There are so many, it's hard to tell. While not immediately, ultimately that question will be answered as far as MMA is concerned. Especially if the Strikeforce heavyweight tourney continues as planned. Though the name Fedor Emelianenko may not be among them.

M-1 Global, Emelianenko's management company, who was in partnership with Strikeforce, or so we thought, has said their deal is with Showtime. Thus, they state this buyout would not affect any deal they have with the cable television network. White and M-1 have always been at odds with one another and this situation should prove no different; although the cards are definitely in White's favor considering Emelianenko, M-1's number one commodity, has lost his last two fights.

There are other lingering questions as well. Women's MMA for instance, what happens now? White who has steadfastly always been opposed to women's MMA, now inherits a women's division that possesses the best and most exciting female fighter in the world in Cristiana 'Cyborg' Santos. It also features the impending return of the most well known female fighter in the sport Gina Carano. Also, Paul Daley, who the UFC parted ways with last year and who White has stated will never fight for the organization again is scheduled to fight for the Strikeforce welterweight championship next month. What if he wins? If there's one thing we have learned this weekend is "never say never."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

There is no substitute for experience

After a weekend chock full of world class MMA action from the UFC to Bellator and Strikeforce, there's one thing we know for sure. When it comes to Mixed Martial Arts, there is no substitute for experience. That truly came to fruition on Saturday night in both the Bellator welterweight (170 lbs.) tournament and also at Strikeforce. There the oldest fighter of the weekend, 40 year old Dan 'Hendo' Henderson, now (27-2, 12 KO's 2 subs), garnered his fifth world championship by finishing former light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champ Rafael 'Feijao' Calvacante (10-3, 9 KO's 1 sub).

After a back and forth first round that saw both fighters wobble each other, Henderson used his vast experience and superiority in wrestling to take control of the bout and slow down the champ's onslaught. The second round proved more of the same where Henderson worked from the clinch, then the top, as he was able to take Calvacante down to the ground and maul him. However, it was in the third round that his patented right hand ended the day.

The "rocket" right hand as I described it in my preview, appeared to just graze the champs chin, but it was enough to send him to the canvas where Henderson quickly pounced on him unleashing no less than six more right hands before the referee jumped in to stop it. This sport and its legend's never cease to amaze me. Just when you think their best days are behind them they find a way to keep you guessing. Such is the case with Henderson who continues to defy the odds and still doesn't rule out a run at middleweight (185 lbs.). Much respect to the new champ.

Experience was also a factor in the Strikeforce women's (135 lbs.) championship as last minute challenger Liz 'Girl-Rilla' Carmouche, only (5-1, 3 KO's 1 sub), gave champion Marloes 'Rumina' Coenen (19-4, 3 KO's 14 subs) all she could handle before losing via fourth round submission. Carmouche appeared to be winning by taking the fight to Coenen and overwhelming the Dutch fighter before her inexperience gave way and Coenen caught her in a Triangle Choke that ended her night. Up next for Coenen, she wants Meisha Tate, her original opponent, who had to pull out due to injury.

Meanwhile, Bellator Fighting Championship kicked off their fourth season with the quarterfinals of their welterweight tourney. In all but one of the four fights everything went according to plan, if you consider the favorites going in. The one fight that didn't was the first of the night where tourney finalist from last year Dan 'The Handler' Hornbuckle (22-4, 9 KO's 11 subs) lost a unanimous decision to Brent Weedman (18-5-1, 10 KO's 7 subs). A very close fight throughout, Weedman surprised Hornbuckle with his prowess on the ground, nullifying all submission attempts and aggressively pursing his own.

In the next fight, a match-up of two Judo players, we got a surprising stand up affair that went all three rounds as former Olympian Rick Hawn (10-0, 7 KO's) outgunned 'Judo' Jim Wallhead (21-6, 6 KO's 9 subs) to win a lackluster unanimous decision. We got pretty much what is to be expected when two grapplers decide to stand and trade, not much of anything; although to his credit, Hawn did show an improving stand-up game of which he had none when he started in the sport. For him to advance in this tournament, he's going to have to get back to his roots if he's to have any chance against the other three semifinalists who are experienced and proficient strikers.

That brings us to the third fight of the night, which had the most convincing win, yet the most controversial. Jay 'The Thoroughbred' Hieron (20-4, 6 KO's 6 subs), an early favorite in this tourney, won his eighth fight in a row by technically submitting his opponent Anthony 'The Recipe' Lapsley (19-5, 3 KO's 13 subs) via rear naked choke; or did he? This is where the controversy steps in as the ref did just that and stopped the fight claiming he got no response when he grabbed Lapsley's arm. Only problem is Lapsley was not out as he immediately jumped up and questioned the ref when he pulled Hieron off him.

This is a shame because it was obvious the referee made a mistake, but as Jay Hieron (pictured above) said in his post-fight interview, "it was going to happen nevertheless." I truly believe that would've been the case, as Hieron looked very sharp in his three plus minutes of work. As for Lapsley, he can only hope that someone has to drop out of this tournament due to injury and that Bellator does the right thing and brings him back as the first alternate as he pretty much was unscathed outside of his loss. This precedent was set in a previous season tournament in Bellator, so only time will tell what happens.

In the last quarterfinal fight, an expected stand-up war between former champion Lymon 'Cyborg' Good (11-1, 5 KO's 1 sub) and heavy hitting up and comer Chris 'The Cleveland Assassin' Lozano (6-1, 6 KO's) turned out to be pretty one-sided. Once again, experience set the two apart as Good worked a nice combination of both boxing and wrestling to completely outclass Lozano, damaging his left eye in the process. Good's stiff left jab and straight right hand throughout can be blamed for Lozano's eye.

The former champ looks like he's on a mission to regain his belt and, depending on how Bellator matches up these final four, a potential final between Hieron and Good would be pure dynamite. Let's hope Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney sees it that way and that the stars align properly as either one of those two would be a great match-up for the champion Ben Askren. While Askren's the champ, he's still only had seven pro fights and as we've seen above, there is no substitute for experience.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Can't get enough MMA, this is your weekend

If last night's free UFC on Versus 3 card wasn't enough to satisfy your MMA hunger, don't worry there's more in store for you. Whether you are a hardcore fan for the sport of mixed martial arts or just a casual fan wanting to know more, this is the weekend you've been waiting for.

Besides the UFC card last night, tomorrow night, Saturday, there are two major fight cards being put on by rival promotions Strikeforce and Bellator. The Strikeforce card, live from Columbus, OH, will be televised on Showtime, while Bellator will be kicking off their fourth season from Lemoore, CA for the first time on MTV2. However, before we look at tomorrow, let's take a look back at last night.

On the heels of UFC 127, which seemed to leave more questions than answers, UFC on Versus 3 provided an entertaining night of free fights both on the Versus network and Facebook. Between the live prelims aired on UFC's Facebook page and the main card on TV, the UFC gave us no less then eight free entertaining fights. So much for those that say Dana White and the UFC brass doesn't look out for their fans.

The main event also ended being 'Fight of the Night' as welterweight (170 lbs.) Diego 'call me Dream, not Nightmare' Sanchez (23-4, 6 KO's 9 subs) won a unanimous, but highly disputed, decision over Martin 'Hitman' Kampmann (17-5, 7 KO's 6 subs). While it was a close fight, all three judges scored it 29-28 for Sanchez; I on the other hand had the same score albeit for Kampmann. Apparently, I wasn't the only one that saw it my way as a chorus of boos rang out throughout the arena when the decision was rendered.

Long story short, while Sanchez was the obvious aggressor, attempting no less than 15 takedowns in three rounds while chasing down Kampmann, one look at his face will tell you the 'Hitman' was actually living up to his name. Kampmann, was precise with his punches as he turned Sanchez's face into ground beef while making him look like a zombie from an old George Romero 'Night of the Living Dead' movie by the end of the fight. Also, for those that appreciate the aggressor versus the counter puncher type of fighter, I'll just say that of the 15 takedowns Sanchez attempted, he was only able to score one in the last round, in which Kampmann was able to get up and escape.

To his credit, Sanchez did inflict some damage on Kampmann while they were standing, opening a cut on his opponent, but I didn't feel it was as much as what he received. He could barely speak clearly in his post fight interview, which leads me to another issue surrounding Sanchez. Always an eccentric in his training and lifestyle, he came into this fight looking extremely soft physically. Truthfully, not just soft, but actually out of shape. He's never looked this way his entire career. Also, he came in with a clean shaven skinhead look, which isn't against the law, but it makes you wonder if there are issues outside of fighting that Sanchez is dealing with. Things that make you go hmmmmm?

Onto Strikeforce tomorrow night and the main event between reigning light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante (10-2, 9 KO's 1 sub) and former Pride champion & UFC veteran Dan 'Hendo' Henderson (26-8, 11 KO's 2 subs). Cavalcante, who's coming off his championship winning TKO victory over former champ Muhammad 'King Mo' Lawal last August, appears to have everything on his side, including age, as the product of the renowned 'Blackhouse' team is riding a three-fight win streak.

Meanwhile Henderson (pictured above), a 40 year old former Olympic wrestler and pioneer of this sport, who fought back @ UFC 17 in just his third pro fight, is coming off a knockout decimation of Renato 'Babalu' Sobral back in December. Winner of four out of his last five, Henderson the wrestler is known for a his rocket right hand that can put people to sleep with one punch; just ask UFC contender Michael Bisping. However, I don't think it will be enough to surpass the multi-talented Cavalcante who is hitting his peak and has multi-purpose skills, along with KO power of his own, to deal with Henderson. I expect Father Time to finally catch up with 'Hendo' and 'Feijao' to win via a fourth or fifth round TKO.

As for Bellator, they start their fourth season with a dynamite card featuring four quarterfinal fights in the welterweight division. Always using the tournament format to crown champions, which I like, they have stacked the field this year in this division that has created some intriguing match-ups. Some of the names featured include former champion Lyman 'Cyborg' Good, perennial contender Dan 'The Handler' Hornbuckle, former Judo Olympian Rick Hawn and former UFC & Strikeforce veteran Jay 'The Thoroughbred' Hieron.

Also sprinkled into the mix are some very promising up and comers, which Bellator is known for promoting and turning into household names. As previously stated, Bellator also signed a new TV contract in the off-season with MTV, to feature all shows exclusively on MTV2, every Saturday throughout the season. With their telecast starting at 9PM eastern time and Strikeforce beginning an hour later on Showtime, I suggest you get new batteries for the remote control, so you can click back and forth and enjoy all the action. For a MMA fan, it really doesn't get much better than this.

Junkie Gathering 2017... this time it was personal

Wow! I feel the only way to properly start this summary of what I just experienced is summed up in that one word. Although there is anothe...