Card By Card is Single Blog Takedown’s rundown of the major MMA events of the month.
No breathers heading into April, folks. There was plenty to enjoy in March for MMA fans, but almost all the major promotions are bringing out their big guns for April to compete with championship college basketball, the return of baseball to the sports calendar… and each other. UFC goes abroad with two of their top three fighters defending belts, Strikeforce premieres its newest big name, WEC launches its first pay-per-view and Bellator returns to light up the YouTubes. Break out your Outlook – it’s going to be a busy month. Seven title fights in April!
WEC is betting big on the California Kid to lead them to the PPV promised land.
Keep in mind that tonight (the 31st) is UFC Fight Night at 8 PM on Spike, with Kenny Florian headlining against Takanori Gomi. Roy Nelson, Stefan Struve, Nate Quarry, and Ross Pearson also compete. Following that will be the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter, which hopefully this time out will feature fighters with actual, honest-to-God conditioning.
UFC 112: Invincible (April 10, 10 PM ET, PPV): Abu Dhabi! It’s not just a place to mail Nermal anymore. Rather, it’s home to what should be a spectacular card to watch, with an outdoor venue being specially constructed in a place called Ferrari World. Abu Dhabi already has an MMA reputation with an elite grappling championship held there every year. The UFC connection results from the sale earlier this year of a 10% stake in the company to UAE-based Flash Entertainment.
The card is stacked with big names, headlined by a pair of title fights. While Anderson Silva was originally scheduled to defend his middleweight crown against Vitor Belfort, a training injury forces former SBT favorite Demian Maia to step in and see if he can get the world-class striker to the ground so Maia can work his stellar jiu-jitsu. In addition, B.J. Penn looks to add to a winning streak at lightweight with five rounds against Frankie Edgar. Edgar, 11-1, will look to derail Penn with wrestling skills. The other big fight on the card is a matchup of very familiar names to UFC fans. Matt Hughes will step into the cage for the first time in eleven months when he takes on Renzo Gracie. Gracie, who will be making his UFC debut, will of course be trying to avenge the family name – those Gracies, what aren’t they avenging? – after Hughes’ dominant TKO of Royce Gracie way back at UFC 60. Renzo is coming off an even longer layoff, having not fought since 2007.
Strikeforce – Nashville (April 17, 10 PM ET, CBS): A week after UFC 112, Strikeforce heads to Nashvegas with three title fights and one of UFC’s bigger names freshly inked to a contract.
Dan Henderson, last seen obliterating Michael Bisping, will make his Strikeforce debut by immediately stepping in for a title shot. He’ll face Jake Shields, who won a dominant – if tremendously boring – bout against Jason Miller in November for the belt at 185. Henderson can finish fights in a number of ways, giving him an edge over elite grappler but so-so striker Shields. Henderson is a championship wrestler as well, which means that if the fight goes to the ground it should be one heck of a technical exhibition and not the one-sided lay-on that Shields put on Miller.
Don’t sleep on the undercard, either. Gegard Mousasi against “King Mo” Lawal for Mousasi’s light heavyweight championship is one of the most anticipated fights of the year to date. Both men possess awesome striking power; Mousasi backs his with BJJ while Lawal has a wrestling background to help him out. On paper, it should be a top-notch fight, with the added bonus of Lawal’s hilarious showmanship for the CBS fans. In the third title fight, champion Gilbert Melendez will be the underdog against Japanese submissions powerhouse, DREAM champion and consensus #2 lightweight (behind Penn) Shinya Aoki. Aoki is noted for his creative tapout work; look for him to try and show the US fans something special in this one.