Card By Card is Single Blog Takedown’s rundown of the major MMA events of the month.
February, for MMA fans, looks to be a good time to catch up on your Lost viewing and other television. (Like The Legend of Zelda – I’m talking gold-cartridge grumble-grumble-grumble original Zelda here – I’m convinced that one can only understand Lost if they keep a map and notebook handy.)
UFC mounts two cards and Strikeforce one, with the rest of the major promotions refusing to wake up until the weather is a little more, you know, spring-ier. None of the three cards is sporting a roster that’s going to make you sit up and beg (although Strikeforce’s is on Showtime so Dexter fans have already sunk their costs) but there are some interesting fights out there. The UFC is hoping that Hall of Famers and heavyweights will get you to drop your cash while Strikeforce coughs up the only title fight of the month: a tilt for their vacant women’s featherweight championship. Me, I’m saving up for what should be a very strong March. (Anybody want to sell me UFC 111 tickets on the cheap?)
The headgear comes off for Cain Velasquez in February.
It’s a pair of pay-per-views this month for UFC. No title fights to hang a hat on, but a few popular fighters will step back into the cage.
UFC 109 (10 PM ET, PPV) kicks off the month on February 6. The headliner pits two UFC Hall of Famers for the first time, with Randy Couture taking on Mark Coleman. Couture last fought a spotty decision victory over Brandon Vera, while Coleman’s return to the UFC has been mixed, with a loss against “Shogun” Rua coupled with a win versus Stephan Bonnar. That’s a pretty wide range for Coleman’s skill set to fall into. It’s also one of the oldest fights in UFC history – a combined age of 91 years between the two competitors. I’m through doubting Couture’s ability to put on an entertaining fight, but let’s see if Old Man Coleman can keep up in the cage.
The undercard, with two middleweight fights and two at welterweight, might give some clarity towards the next vict… er, contenders for Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre. Nate Marquardt vs. Chael Sonnen looks like a classic striker-grappler battle until you consider that Marquardt’s pretty damn good on the ground too. Mike Swick will try to bounce back from ceding a title shot to Dan Hardy; he’ll go against a hungry Paulo Thiago, who’s looking to add another quality win to his resume to couple with his knockout of Josh Koscheck a year ago. Former SBT Favorite Demian Maia – who tried to stay on his feet with Marquardt and failed spectacularly – is fed a submissions specialist (although up against Maia? merely a novice) in Dan Miller. Finally, former welterweight champ Matt Serra takes on veteran Frank Trigg. Could we skip the cage with those two and just get them in a Lincoln-Douglas debate instead?
On February 20, UFC 110 (10 PM ET, PPV) goes heavy. With four or five serious contenders in the heavyweight division, the main event battle between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez is a necessary eliminator. Expect a ground war, with Big Nog’s BJJ attempting to counter Velasquez’s big, burly ground ‘n pound. These two have something to play for as well; Dana White has already said that the winner will be the one to battle Brock Lesnar for the belt this summer if the winner of the Shane Carwin/Frank Mir match at UFC 111 is injured.
The rest of the card should have a few good brawls, if not a lot of talent, but expect a rabid Australian crowd to provide most of the excitement anyway. Wanderlei Silva will attempt to knock Michael Bisping silly for the second time in Bisping’s last three fights. He’ll be matched for striking power and PRIDE pedigree by Mirko Cro Cop, who will attempt to prove he isn’t finished versus a game Ben Rothwell. Other maincard fights include Keith Jardine’s funky striking against undefeated Ryan Bader’s wrestling, and Joe “Daddy” Stevenson getting the piss booed out of him against Aussie George Sotiropoulous. Undercard attractions include Bonnar, Sozzy Bear, Elvis Sinosic, and C.B. Dollaway.
The Strikeforce Challengers (11 PM ET – Showtime) series continues on Friday night, February 26. 24-year-old Karl Amoussou will get a test against veteran Trevor Prangley in the main event, but the real attraction here is the fight for the vacant women’s featherweight championship. That will mark the second belt for Strikeforce’s women’s division – and provide female fight fans with an alternative that is the acid-coated chainsaw that is Cris Cyborg.
That one will pit Sarah Kaufman against Takayo Hashi for the title. Kaufman is undefeated and known for her knockout power, while Hashi, who has fought extensively for Japan’s SmackGirl promotion and is riding an eight-match winning streak. Kaufman is a great story – a 24-year-old former ballet dancer turned striker – but Hashi will likely attempt to test her ground game. On their feet or on the ground, expect a good fight either way.
Inactive Promotions WEC is still in planning mode for February and will return with Brian Bowles and Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title in March. DREAM does not return until March 22 – and a battle between Bibiano Fernandes and Joachim Hansen is in the works. World Victory Road (Sengoku) will come back on March 7 but has yet to announce fights. According to MMAFighting.com, however, Maximo Blanco and Jorge Santiago will both be on the card. Bellator is in the process of finalizing the rosters for their April tournament.
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