If you’re still recovering from New Year’s Eve, you’re not the only one. Mixed martial arts is taking it a little slow this month, easing into 2010 after a monster year in 2009.
There are no earthshaking schedules (like the one coming together for UFC in Newark in March), but some good fights to be found here and there. WEC puts on the biggest show, with major bouts in two divisions, while Strikeforce has a celebrity-heavy card and UFC gives its fans a little free lovin’ from Virginia. Which is for lovers. See what I did there?
I’d rather watch her with her gloves on than with… well, let’s hope not.
UFC: The UFC’s major offering for January has come and gone already; catch my review here.
However, there is a little more from Dana’s crew this month, with a Fight Night out of Fairfax, VA on Monday, January 11th (live on Spike TV). (But for work that night, I’d be there in person at the Patriot Center. Alas.) Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz headline the 20th edition of UFC’s “little show”. In a strange quirk, Maynard is looking to extend an undefeated record against a man who’s already made him submit once; however, since the fight came on the way to Diaz’s victory on The Ultimate Fighter 5 it did not count on Maynard’s record. Diaz will try to make this one stick while throwing a wrench into “The Bully”‘s designs on the lightweight title.
In the co-main event, another TUF winner is featured as Efrain Escudero and Evan Dunham come into the cage with a combined 22 wins and zero losses. Amir Sadollah completes the trifecta of six-figure contract winners with a bout on the undercard.
WEC: World Extreme Cagefighting finally settles their lightweight title situation with a unification match between Jamie Varner and Ben Henderson on January 10th (live on Versus).
Both men defeated Donald Cerrone in their last fight: Henderson in October during one of the best fights of 2009, and Varner last January on a technical stoppage when Cerrone unintentionally fouled him and the fight could not continue. Will Henderson show the unsubmittable grit that made him the interim champion? Can Varner regain the talent he had after almost a year away from the cage? Am I too reliant on hypothetical questions for my own good? Two of these three question marks will be answered on Sunday night.
In addition to the title tilt, there’s a big clash of featherweights as Urijah Faber makes his much-hyped return to the cage against Rafael Assuncao. Assuncao (apologies for the lack of ASCII love) sports a 14-1 record with his only loss a decision to Jeff Curran. Faber’s first fight in seven months comes after he was injured in the second of two losses to Mike Brown. The winner here will likely get a chance to try and stop the buzzsaw that is Jose Aldo in Aldo’s first title defense.
Speaking of Brown, you have to feel sorry for Anthony Morrison, who will be making his WEC debut against MTB. Brown will attempt to start a new winning streak after having his ten-match run broken against Aldo in November. Other fights feature a battle of unbeaten lightweights as Dave Jansen takes on Kamal Shalorus, and Mackens Semerzier versus Deividas Taurosevicius (also ASCII-deficient) in the most unspellable matchup of the year.
Strikeforce: It’s a very Diaz month for MMA; it’s Nick Diaz headlining right now for Strikeforce: Miami on January 30th (live on Showtime). He’ll be on a card that’s relatively light on talent, but high on intrigue. Diaz is up against Marius Zaromskis for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title; that is, assuming he shows up for the pre-fight routine. I wrote about Diaz’s prior flakiness back in August. Let’s hope he’s pulled it together in the time in between.
Most of the talent is provided from the distaff side, as Cris “Cyborg” Santos will be defending her Women’s Title against a very game Marloes Coenen. Cyborg is of course coming off a dominant showing against Gina Carano, but Coenen also looked good in her last fight against tough opposition in Roxanne Modafferi. The intrigue comes from the big but untested names on the card. Heisman Trophy winner and NFL standout Herschel Walker will make his MMA debut (at the frisky age of 47) against an opponent to be named later. In addition, former ECW champion (that’s pro wrestling, people) Bobby Lashley will try to improve on a 4-0 record in MMA with his Strikeforce debut against 9-0 Shane Del Rosario.
Inactive Promotions: DREAM and World Victory Road (Sengoku), following their New Year’s Eve joint show, have nothing announced for January. (That should give Shinya Aoki time to develop a little class.) Bellator returns in April.