Card By Card is Single Blog Takedown’s rundown of the major MMA events of the month.
After a tumultuous April, mixed martial arts settles down a bit in May. Grudge matches are the order of the day in UFC, while Strikeforce sees their prodigal heavyweight champion step back into the cage and defend his belt.
Little-known fact: while this picture was taken at UFC 96, these two men have done nothing but stare each other down for the last fourteen months, with only occasional breaks to drink orange juice and play Pac-Man.
UFC 113: Machida vs. Shogun 2 (May 8, 10 PM, PPV): Around this time last year, Lyoto Machida was picking apart Rashad Evans and starting talk that he might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Given that Machida is still the UFC’s light heavyweight champion and still undefeated, why has he become something of a forgotten man? The answer lies in his first title defense, against a rejuvenated (at the old age of 28!) Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, when Rua counterstruck the counterstriker for five rounds but found himself on the short end of one of 2009’s most controversial decisions. At UFC 113, it will be interesting to see if the two men alter their game plans, especially if Rua attempts to keep the fight off the judges’ cards.
The undercard is heavy on big punchers, with Paul Daley seeing action against Josh Koscheck in a possible welterweight eliminator and Sam Stout battling Jeremy Stephens at 155. And of course, everybody’s favorite bearded Miamian Kimbo Slice will be on the card, taking on TUF vet Matt Mitrione.
UFC 114: Rampage vs. Evans (May 29, 10 PM, PPV): Oh yes — 14 months after their staredown at UFC 96 and long since their TUF season as opposing coaches, Rampage Jackson has put his Hollywood dreams to bed for now and we’ll finally get to see some “black on black violence” (Jackson’s words, not mine). The heat between these two seems far from fabricated. There is going to be some intense dislike in that cage come May 29th and I’m glad the match is finally happening; the winner will likely be in line for the next crack at the title at 205.
The second fight up was supposed to be Forrest Griffin against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but Griffin pulled out this week with a bum shoulder and will be replaced by Jason Brilz. Brilz is solid, but this will definitely make for a less exciting undercard. Other fights on the docket include Michael Bisping against Dan Miller, and appearances from Todd Duffee and Diego Sanchez.
Strikeforce: St. Louis: Heavy Artillery (May 15, 10 PM, Showtime): Only in FedorWorld can the following line of logic make sense: lose a fight, have no injuries in the division to speak of, and be rewarded with a championship tilt in your next match out. But that’s what Brett Rogers has hopped into, as he’ll go against Alistair Overeem for the promotion’s heavyweight championship. While logically unconventional, the move makes some sense for Strikeforce. The organization is still promoting Fedor and Rogers definitely deserves a bump after gamely hanging in with the dominating Russian in his last bout. Overeem, a solid kickboxer, hasn’t defended the Strikeforce title since he won it in 2007. But he isn’t rusty, with six MMA wins since then to match with a 4-2 record in K-1. It’s nice to see Overeem finally defend the belt instead of just keeping it warm for Fedor, but if Rogers fights like he did last time out, we could be looking at an Emperor vs. Grim rematch for the strap next time out.
Plenty of name value underneath the headliner, as Andrei Arlovski looks to break a two fight losing streak against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. In addition, “Jacare” Souza will fight and 2-0 Roger Gracie will become the first Gracie, believe it or not, on 17-14 Kevin Randleman’s list of opponents.
Strikeforce Challengers: Portland (May 21, 11 PM, Showtime): The usual roundup of prospects in this one, with a sub-headliner of Tyron Woodley against Nathan Coy. The headliner, though, features a longtime UFC vet in Matt Lindland, going up against the untested Kevin Casey.
DREAM.14 (May 29th, HDNet): Should we start worrying about the future of Japanese MMA? It’s bad enough that Shinya Aoki, considered perhaps the top Japanese fighter, was soundly beaten over five rounds by Gilbert Melendez last month. Now DREAM has canceled its Light Heavyweight Grand Prix at DREAM.14, which according to Josh Gross is a result of a dispute between the federation and the Tokyo Broadcasting System.
Still, the show will go on, using the alternate hexagonal white cage as opposed to a more traditional (for DREAM) ring. Nick Diaz will take on Hayato Sakurai at the top of the card, and Marius Zaromskis will fight (and maybe – though unlikely – defend his welterweight championship) against an opponent to be determined. Beyond that, it’s a lot of featherweights, topped by a title defense by Joachim Hansen against Hiroyuki Takaya.
Bellator Season 2 (Thursday Nights, FSN): Season 2 rolls on with semifinal fights in all four weight classes over the course of the month. The fights have been solid so far and definitely worth a look as the brackets thin themselves out in May.
Inactive Promotions: In keeping with the above “whither Japan?” theme, World Victory Road (Sengoku) doesn’t have a card scheduled until June 20th, almost two months out. WEC, coming off a stellar PPV card that has to be considered a huge success for the federation, also won’t go again until June with a headliner of Jamie Varner against the undefeated Kamal Shalorus.
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