November is the best month; I will accept no debate on it. My birthday and Thanksgiving, the two greatest holidays on Earth, both fall in these 30 days. The trees look great but it’s not yet too cold to tolerate. Football is in the heart of the season, hockey is just getting rolling, and this year we even got a little World Series AND an extra hour of sleep (or Halloween partying, if that was your thing). Gorgeous. This year, November also has a TON (or if you’re at UFC 105 it may be “tonne” – or is it in stones? Stupid Queen and her stupid measurements) of MMA action.
While November is light on blockbuster fights – owing to injuries in UFC and strange title situations in Strikeforce – there’s plenty of competition for your MMA dollar this month, including a number of free cards that are definitely worth your time. Free, I say! Another reason November is awesome.
Fedor says “it’s sweater weather”. WHO ARE WE TO ARGUE
UFC: UFC is packing them in with two cards in eight days: UFC 105 on Nov. 14th and then 106 on the 21st.
UFC 105, across the pond in Manchester, England, is a mostly underwhelming affair – but the upside is that it won’t cost U.S. viewers a thing, as it will air free on tape delay on Spike. The card will begin airing at 8 PM, which means even without a DVR you should be able to squeeze it in even if you want to see the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto boxing match also scheduled for that evening. The main event is Randy Couture against Brandon Vera, and if the Natural can’t get an exciting fight out of Vera then the cause may be lost. Dan Hardy should have the British crowd behind him as he takes on Mike Swick in a match that should decide Georges St.-Pierre’s next opponent when Rush returns from injury. The rest of the undercard is heavy on the locals, with three British TUF winners (Michael Bisping, James Wilks, Ross Pearson) each getting a fight. Would I buy this card if I was just a fan and not a hack MMA writer? Probably not. But it should be a fun night live with an amped up UK crowd and you can’t argue with the price.
That said, I’m not sure I’d be thrilled paying for UFC 106 a week later, and that one is on PPV. In the UFC’s defense, the card has been plagued by misfortune. Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin were supposed to headline, but Lesnar caught the pig plague. Mark Coleman and Ricardo Almeida left the card due to injury and Thiago Alves, Kenny Florian, and Clay Guida were all pushed to UFC 107. We’re left with a headliner between Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin, which may not be a stellar fight but should answer a number of questions about both men’s ability to regain the form they showed in their primes.
The undercard features six welterweight bouts, the most notable of which includes Amir Sadollah’s attempt to bounce back from a quick stoppage at UFC 101 and Anthony Johnson’s second attempt to make weight in a month against Josh Koscheck. Karo Parisyan also returns from suspension and “Minotauro” Nogueira’s twin brother Antonio Rogerio makes his UFC debut. Johnson’s previous fight barely made the televised portion of UFC 104; here, he’s a step below the headliner. That has less to do with Johnson’s KO than the overall weakness of this card.
By the end of the month, we’ll also know who will be facing each other in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 10 which, given the fitness on display this season, may have to be shortened to a one-rounder. A better watch is UFC’s counter-programming on November 7th, which will be showing the main events from UFCs 101-103 on Spike. It’s a good one to tape, especially if you haven’t seen Anderson Silva toying with Griffin, Vitor Belfort’s return, or the instant classic between Couture and Big Nog.
Why the sudden generosity from UFC? Well…
Strikeforce: …that’s because it’s showtime for Strikeforce. But not on Showtime. Wait, that was confusing; I’ll start again.
MMA will be back on CBS in November with Strikeforce stepping into the (hopefully not cursed!) primetime slot EliteXC used to occupy. And they’ve brought in the big gun to kick things off: The Last Emperor himself, Fedor Emilianenko, in his first major public exposure in the US (although he’s fought once in Vegas for PRIDE and twice in Anaheim for Affliction). While he doesn’t have the primetime name recognition that Kimbo Slice did, Fedor benefits from being maybe the best MMA fighter in the world as opposed to being maybe the best MMA fighter in the backyards of Miami. Strikeforce is attempting to win MMA converts over with credibility, and that’s a smart move. The opposition’s not bad either, with Brett Rogers sporting a 10-0 record and one of the best mohawks in sports. Fresh off a 22-second knockout of Andrei Arlovski, Rogers would love to play spoiler on national TV. Rogers has a bright future, but there won’t be any Strikeforce execs cheering for him in this one.
Despite what the advertising may lead you to believe, the championship fight on the card is actually in the middleweight division, as Strikeforce’s heavyweight champ is – though he hasn’t fought in a Strikeforce ring in almost two years – Alistair Overeem. Cung Le’s given up his Strikeforce middleweight title and Jake Shields and Jason “Mayhem” Miller will scrap for it. The card rounds out with a non-title tilt for rising star Gegard Mousasi against Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and an interesting heavyweight matchup between Fabricio Verdum and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
Even if you’re a UFC die-hard, I suggest you tape the main event reruns on Spike (you’ve seen ’em anyway) and watch Strikeforce for a night. It’s not going to bankrupt Zuffa. Support for MMA on national television is big for the sport. Plus the card’s pretty damn good, too.
Strikeforce also airs Challengers events on the 6th and 20th on Showtime. Prospects abound. If you can squeeze those into your schedule too, you’re a good person.
World Victory Road (Sengoku): What is shaping up to be a major night of MMA in the US means a ho-hum one for Japan, as WVR’s Sengoku 11 will take place without a major headliner to carry the card. Their middleweight champion Jorge Santiago is probably the reason to watch, but strangely, he won’t be defending his title in a bout against Mamed Khalidov. Submission specialist Satoru Kitaoka will look to rebound after losing the lightweight title, and there will be lightweight and featherweight eliminators on the card. If you’re mining for prospects, it’s worth keeping an eye on featherweight King of Pancrase Marlon Sandro and undefeated Bulgarian light-heavy Stanislav Nedkov, the latter of whom will take on former (very former) UFC champ Kevin Randleman.
WEC: WEC dodges the weekend glut of events by presenting Mike Brown vs. Jose Aldo on Wednesday Nov. 18th. While a mid-week spot is not great for exposure, it does mean that there will be less competition for people to see what should be an excellent headlining fight. Aldo’s made a lot of noise with three consecutive first-round stoppages, including an eight second demolition of Cub Swanson in his last fight. But he hasn’t been tested hard yet in WEC and stepping in against Mike Brown – a consensus top 10 pound for pound fighter – should let us know if he’s legit or not. The rest of the card is the usual enjoyable light-classes affair, with Manny Gamburyan vs. Leonard Garcia being the most notable fight.
Inactive Promotions: DREAM has the month off after a busy two-card October. Bellator announced an April start for season two.
Image from mmamania.com. Sweater from Old Navy.Powered by Sidelines