Every week it feels like we’re being bombarded by a endless succession of MMA news stories. Promotions are starting up (and all too often) folding. Fighters are vowing to vanquish their foes. Others are explaining away an ugly loss. All too often, someone is making an excuse for why they’ve failed a drug test, lost an important fight, or slathered themselves in Vaseline. It’s hard to follow it all, so every week I intend to pick out the five most important events, people, and stories.
“Baby Fedor” did little to make anyone remember his name after a lackluster performance against Paul Buentello at January’s Affliction PPV. Kirill seemed destined to slink back to Russia, never to be heard from again when suddenly, after failing a CSAC drug test, the pudgy Russian is suddenly the talk of the sport. Performance enhancing drug use never surprises me anymore. There’s so much money involved in professional sports, it seems intuitive that athletes will do whatever they can to get the smallest edge.
Seriously though: Kirill Sidelnikov? The guy looked like Fedor after about a thousand McDonald’s Apple Pies. Why is it that the heavyweight steroid failures have all been guys with less than stellar physiques? Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, Kirill Sidelnikov: all need to get their money back.
My favorite part of this whole scandal was the e-mail M-1 sent to try to diffuse the test failure, essentially using the Russian’s flab as an excuse.
“For those that are skeptical of this explanation, we believe Kirill’s account is true based in large part to his physique. If he had been using large amounts of Stanozol on a regular basis, we believe that the frame of his upper body would have contained leaner muscle that had more definition.”
Too many fans are treating the Quinton Jackson fight with Keith Jardine as a glorified tuneup. If Jackson is looking ahead to a title shot, it could be the biggest mistake of his career. Well, of anyone else’s career. Jardine is a tough matchup for Jackson, specializing in the kind of leg kicks that Rampage just can’t seem to defend.
Jardine’s career has been a series of ups and downs. He’s beaten Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell to propel himself into contention, but lost to nobodies like Houston Alexander to send his status crashing back to earth. Jardine can’t handle a fighter that comes at him hard and overwhelms him with punches early. Luckily for Team Greg Jackson, Rampage is a counter fighter just like Jardine. That will allow Keith to attack from range, cracking Quinton’s range while Jackson waits for his time to strike. I see Jardine in a three round decision-and Dana White pulling Joe Silva’s hair out when Jardine refuses to fight his teammate Rashad Evans.
3. Mike Brown…
Appropriately, the face of the WEC is as non-descript as your average investment banker. Brown is an amazing fighter, but when I’ve seen him at the UFC events in Las Vegas he’s gone entirely unrecognized. It’s a shame that the WEC reaches such a small audience. If some of Brown’s wins had happened on the main card of a PPV, or even better in the main event of an Ultimate Fight Night, he would be a rising star. It may be time for the UFC to do a better job of cross promotion, or risk throwing away the primes of potential superstars like Brown and Urijah Faber.
Or, maybe it is time to fold the WEC into the UFC and call it quits. The promotion got its spot on Versus as a way to prevent the IFL from getting a solid television deal. It has served its purpose, and the resources would be better off helping bolster some of the weaker UFC cards.
4. Jens Pulver back in the boot…
Pulver has long been a Zuffa favorite. Even when he left the company high and dry for a world tour, despite being the lightweight champion, there was never any bad blood. When he returned he was immediately given a prime spot as an Ultimate Fighter coach.
It’s strange in this hostile business, but the UFC brass really cares about Pulver. That’s why they asked Frank Mir to step back so they could insert Pulver in the WEC broadcast booth. No one wants to see Pulver fight again, but they recognize he needs money to get bye. If he is cut by Zuffa, he’ll find fights elsewhere. This is a nice way of keeping him busy and out of the cage for his own good.
Shane Carwin is an enigma, a fighter built by the UFC hype machine and billed as a potential world title contender. He’s a gargantuan wrestler, packed with muscle, the kind of fighter that Zuffa loves to get behind. But is he a real fighter? Will he be the next Mark Coleman, a dominating and powerful wrestler who can beat anyone on a good night? Or will he be the next Ron Waterman, an overly hyped journeyman who looks the part but can’t fight a lick? Because of the parade of nobodies he’s been carefully fed by Joe Silva and the Zuffa machine, no one knows for sure. He’s never been out of the first round and has never fought anyone approaching the WAMMA top 20, let alone the top 10. He’s a mystery, but a mystery that will soon be revealed to the world. We’ll all know after this weekend, because Gabriel Gonzaga is the real thing.
You remember Gonzaga right? He’s the vaguely Cro-Magnon looking Brazilian who catapulted to fame after knocking out the legendary Mirko Cro Cop with a high kick for the ages. Gonzaga is a monster, an all-round fighter with good standup and great jiu jitsu. It seems likely to me that Gonzaga will either submit Carwin after a big takedown, or knock him out after Shane gasses. If I’m wrong, and Carwin imposes his will on the mentally weak Gonzaga, we’ll know who Shane Carwin is: a title contender.