(Courtesy of Wikimedia.com)
“Each of the Five Points is a finger,” said Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in the film Gangs of New York. “When I close my hand it becomes a fist. And, if I wish, I can turn it against you.”
Twenty-two of the Ultimate Fighting Championships’ mixed martial artists will enter the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon on August 29, make fists, and turn them against each other.
Here are five points to watch for on Saturday night.
Until Fedor Emelianenko falls, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Randy Couture are vying for the title of second-greatest heavyweight ever. “The Natural” has a chance to defy age once more against Nogueira, a fighter 13-years younger, paradoxically considered more shopworn.
Just a year ago, this bout would have been a title clash. However, Couture dropped his belt to Lesnar at UFC 91 and Nogueira lost his to Frank Mir at UFC 92. But the fact that both fighters are coming off losses doesn’t diminish the magnitude of the bout.
For Couture will fight smart and rough-and-tumble on the feet while avoiding submissions on the ground. Nogueira has to leave behind his passive approach and box aggressively, employing speed, angles and distance against the elder fighter. If he avoids playing guard and fends off Couture’s Greco-Roman takedowns, the fight should be his.
Ground Vs. Pound
(Marquardt beats up Martin Kampmann.)
When Renzo Gracie recently called Demian Maia “a golden boy” on graciemag.com, it was some of the highest praise available for a jiu-jitsu fighter turned fighter. Maia faces former middleweight title challenger Nate Marquardt in a contender elimination bout.
Maia, 5-0 in the UFC and 10-0 overall, hopes to pick up his sixth consecutive UFC submission. Marquardt is his toughest opponent to date: a black belt emerging with patiently powerful stand-up. “The Great” has physicality to spare, but Maia surprised in his last bout by besting a typically imposing Chael Sonnen in that department. If Maia can continue his progression, specifically his cardio, he can avoid being “big brothered” like Dean Lister was by Marquardt and chain submission his way to (an unlikely) finish, or a decision.
New found confidence from blasting strikers Martin Kampmann and Wilson Gouveia, Marquardt will keep the bout standing and push the pace against an untested striker like Maia.
Reaching for Respect
(Keith “TechnoViking” Jardine jabs at Quinton Jackson.)
Keith Jardine is a perpetual light heavyweight contender, losing when he’s supposed to win and winning when he’s supposed to lose. Brazilian cutthroat Thiago Silva is an even matchup for Jardine, losing in his last appearance to current champion Lyoto Machida. Jardine’s power striking, leg kicks and wrestling will make it a rough night for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, who must hang tough to maintain contender status that may have been bestowed on him too soon.
Another 205-pound clash sees on-call fighter Krzysztof Soszynski take on Brandon Vera. Soszynski has finished three opponents since coming up short on season nine of “The Ultimate Fighter,” while Brandon Vera returned to form against an outmatched Mike Patt at UFC 96. Soszynski is Team Quest Temecula bred, which could provide him with the clinch, dirty boxing and ground-and-pound formula to upset Vera, a range fighter who hasn’t handled adversity well or finished a fight since 2006.
(Chris Leben just bleeds.)
Middleweight Chris Leben returns to action for the first time since losing a decision to Michael Bisping at UFC 89, where he was subsequently pinched and admitted to steroids use. In his hometown, he takes on NCAA champion wrestler Jake Rosholt, who lost his UFC debut to Dan Miller via standard wrestler’s Achilles heel—the guillotine choke. Leben’s punching power versus Rosholt’s takedowns determines who gets to erase the ugly memory of their last loss.
Ed Herman, another middleweight Oregon native based out of Team Quest, worked with former training partner Leben in Hawaii for his upcoming tilt with Arizona Combat Sports’ Aaron Simpson. Herman must employ veteran gamesmanship to drag a bat-out-hell Simpson, 5-0, into complete fight, forcing him to make a mistake.
Mark Munoz moves to 185-pounds from 205-pounds to challenge fellow NCAA wrestler Nick Catone. Munoz’s Oklahoma State University wrestling pedigree and Urijah Faber endorsement tabbed him as a major prospect prior to being knocked unconscious by Matt Hamill at UFC 96. A win over Catone in a new division would reestablish him as a fighter to watch.
In lightweight action, Marcus Aurelio was cut by the UFC only to return as a late replacement for Matt Veach against undefeated Evan Dunham. It’s a must-win for Aurelio, while Dunham can make waves by defeating a formerly elite 155-pound fighter.
The UFC knows legends like Couture and Noguiera can’t fight forever, so they look for the next big—literally—thing. Large UFC newcomers take on veterans as Brock Lesnar training partner Chris Tuchsherer, who was deemed too promising for “The Ultimate Fighter,” battles former UFC title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga and Todd Duffee and Mike Russo face Tim Hague and Justin McCully respectively.