Friday, April 19, 2013

It's a great weekend to be a combat sports fan

Whether your taste is mixed martial arts or boxing, this Saturday you have a couple of exciting fights featuring four very young dynamic evenly matched fighters. If you are a fan of both sports that just makes it twice as good and the best part about the whole thing is that both fights are featured on television, one free and one on a premium channel; thus, you can set your DVR to record one while you watch the other. It's a great weekend to be a combat sports fan!

Oh wait, there's even more; both of these fights in their respective sports are a virtual tossup as all the combatants are champions at the top of their game. In MMA, the UFC is holding their seventh card on the FOX network and the main event for UFC on FOX 7 is the lightweight championship between UFC titleholder Benson 'Smooth' Henderson (pictured above left) and former Strikeforce champion Gilbert 'El Nino' Melendez.

Melendez (21-2, 11 KO's 1 sub) is the old man of this group at the ripe old age of 31. He's probably also the one fighter of this group that may be considered the least known of the four; however, that's not because of any fault of his own. He's been competing in this sport for nearly 11 years; problem is part of that time was spent fighting overseas in Japan and the other part was in the now defunct Strikeforce.

Regardless, wherever he's fought, Melendez has won; and in the last couple of years he's always been universally regarded as a top three lightweight (155 lbs.) in the world. In most circumstances I would like Melendez in this fight; but not in this one. That is solely because of Henderson (18-2, 2 KO's 8 subs).

At 29, the UFC champion is just hitting his stride, especially since he's only been competing since '06 versus Melendez's '02. A former champion in the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting), Henderson is a rising star in an organization filled with star champions. Though his style and Melendez's almost mirror each other, especially with wrestling pedigrees, I just think this is Henderson's time while I believe Melendez's time may have passed.

I totally believe this because had this fight taken place two years ago, I probably would have given the nod to Melendez; but while Melendez was toiling away in Strikeforce fighting sporadically because of lack of competition, Henderson has been flourishing fighting the very best in the division. His overall game seems to be peaking at this moment and for that reason I am picking Henderson in a unanimous decision victory over Melendez.

Moving on to boxing, it doesn't happen often, but this weekend Showtime got it right. They've put together a fight between two champions in their weight class, in this case light-middleweight (154 lbs.), which are both undefeated and truthfully haven't even reached their prime a/o yet. WBA champion Austin 'No Doubt' Trout (pictured above right) and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, the WBC champion; will do their part in unifying the title of world's best light-middleweight.

The 26 year old Trout (26-0, 14 KO's) is coming off his biggest victory to date as he dismantled the talented multi-division champion Miguel Cotto over 12 rounds in December 2012 en route to a unanimous decision victory. Meanwhile, Alvarez last fought in September where he knocked out former light-welterweight (140 lbs.) Josesito Lopez. Yes, I think it's important to point out that he knocked out a talented fighter that came up two weight classes to oppose him.

The reason I make this point is because I am going against the masses here and picking Trout to defeat the favored Alvarez. I expect Trout to pick Alvarez apart and outpoint the young 22 year old Mexican over 12 rounds; if not finish him before. I know I'll get many doubters on this pick and they may very well be right.

Alvarez (41-0, 30 KO's) is a great young talent who hits like a mule; there's no doubting that. The question here is who has he hit? The hit list before the lighter Lopez was an over the hill Shane Mosley, a shot and heartless Kermit Cintron and another fighter out of his weight class in welterweight (147 lbs.) Alfonso Gomez, whose claim to fame was coming in third on the first season of 'The Contender'.

Sure Trout's professional resume isn't necessarily a who's who as the biggest name prior to Cotto is Delvin Rodriguez. However, it's in the amateur record where I see the difference. Though Alvarez has had 15 more pro fights than Trout, he had only 20 amateur fights; Trout meanwhile had over 200. I've been telling people I don't think Alvarez is quite ready to run with the big boys and I think this fight against a seasoned, primed and ready Trout will prove my point.

Regardless of the outcomes, both of these fights have the promise to be barn-burners between four young fighters who are part of the next generation of great names in their respective sports. Whether you love boxing, MMA or both, it's a great weekend to be a combat sports fan. Enjoy the fights!

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