There’s no massive celebratory kegger of matches for any league in the month of December, but perhaps that’s somewhat fitting. After all, during this decade MMA has gone from “struggling to survive” to “business as usual”, and that’s a good thing. For many in the MMA world, the end of this decade is not a time to look how far we’ve come, but to gaze ahead at how many huge opportunities are just on the horizon in 2010 and beyond.
There will be more navel-gazing here at SBT as the month goes on. For now, let’s take a look ahead to the cards that will provide a great excuse to get away from family get-togethers and copious amounts of egg nog.
Because egg nog is disgusting.
YES I love it when YES there’s another excuse to YES show the psychotic entrance brilliance that YES is Diego Sanchez.
UFC: Like last month, the UFC has a night of free action and a pay-per-view as well. Got money? Don’t got money? No matter! You’ll get to see fights.
December 5th on Spike is the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 10, headlining with Matt Hamill against Jason Jones. It’s already been widely publicized that Kimbo Slice will return at the finale to fight Houston Alexander. The semifinals of the tournament will air Wednesday night, but I won’t spoil the results for you; if you’d like to see what the finals matchup will be you can click here to get to the Wiki page which has it. Frankly, it’s been a tremendously disappointing season of TUF and I’m happy for it to be over. As far as Slice goes, Alexander will be more than happy to stand and trade with him (and has no desire to go to the ground either) so maybe Kimbo will show us something; who knows. Jones/Hamill should be an interesting watch. Jones is young, can keep up with Hamill wrestling, and has the sort of weird standup game that can give people fits, especially if he can stuff Hamill. Keep an eye on him.
A week later is UFC 107, headlined by BJ Penn against Diego Sanchez, and on paper the card is stronger than last month’s twin offerings. The main event is obviously intriguing, with two very talented and somewhat mental lightweights going at it. Penn should take it, but if Sanchez can stay on his feet he can definitely give the Prodigy a run. On the undercard, Kenny Florian against Clay Guida should be an good shootout given Florian’s talent and Guida’s proclivity for 15 minutes of action. Frank Mir will look to rebound from his Lesnar whumping against Cheick Kongo and give a little clarity to the heavyweight division, and Jon Fitch and Mike Pierce give the wrestling fans something to watch.
Strikeforce: Strikeforce looks to build momentum for their first card since Fedor-Rogers on the 19th with Strikeforce: Evolution on Showtime. The main event is a possible middleweight eliminator as Cung Le tries to take a step back towards the championship he recently forfeited. He’ll go against Scott Smith. “Jacare” Souza will go against Matt Lindland at 185 in the Strikeforce debuts for both men (coming from DREAM and Affliction respectively). I’m most looking forward to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal’s Strikeforce debut against Mike Whitehead. Lawal has tough opposition at either 205 or 245, wherever he lands, but here against Whitehead he should be able to show off not only his talent but also his Japan-acquired taste for hilariously over-the-top ring entrances.
WEC: WEC counters against Strikeforce by airing Donald Cerrone vs. Ed Ratcliff on Versus on the 19th. I like this card from WEC; it has the feel of a tournament atmosphere with four top lightweights and four solid bantamweights on the televised card. Of the main event and the top undercard (Anthony Njokuani against Chris Horodecki), I’d expect the winners to go against each other at a later date for a shot at the winner of January’s title unification match between Jamie Varner and Ben Henderson. Meanwhile, Joe Benavidez and Takeya Mizugaki each have matches near the top of the bantamweight division, Benavidez against submission specialist Rani Yahya. 135 is a tremendously crowded field in WEC right now: champion Brian Bowles likely has a match against Dominick Cruz and a rematch against Miguel Angel Torres in line, but WEC 45 should help to shake out the queue.
DREAM and World Victory Road (Sengoku): I didn’t consolidate the Japanese promotions just to save space. Rather, they’ll be ending the year with a bang. Japanese MMA fans are used to big New Year’s Eve events, with Pride Shockwave generally closing the year. This year, on December 31st, it’ll be a massive co-promotion between DREAM and Sengoku at “Dynamite!! 2009.” They’re not the only ones involved, as K-1 (the “mixed standup” promotion) will be holding 5 fights on the card and crowning their 2009 K-1 KOSHIEN World Champion.
On the MMA side, details are still very spotty. There will be (thank God) an end to the Super Hulk tournament with Ikuhisa Minowa against Sokoudjou (and if CBS is going to one-name him from here on out I will happily come aboard – could Sozzy Bear be next?). Judoka Satoshi Ishii will make his MMA debut against Hidehiko Yoshida. Beyond that, no matches have been set, although officials intimated that Shinya Aoki, Alistair Overeem, and Kazushi Sakuraba could all be involved, among others.
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