“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 Championship’s mixed martial artists will enter the MEN Arena in Manchester, England on Nov. 14 for UFC 105 Couture vs. Vera, make fists, and turn them against each other. Here are five points to watch for on Saturday night.
“The Natural” Shift?
Brandon Vera squandered his breakthrough opportunity when his management iced him for a year when he was considered the number one contender for the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight strap in 2006. In Couture, he gets a UFC Hall of Famer who has been competitive at the elite level despite back-to-back losses and the one-year layoff that preceded it. A win catapults Vera back into title talks, while Couture remains in the Octagon intent on “solving the equation,” as he puts it.
Both last competed at UFC 102 on Aug. 29 – Couture dropped a unanimous decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Vera took a plodding decision over Krzysztof Soszynski. Nogueira sent Couture to the mat multiple times with his strikes, but “Captain America” stayed tough. Meanwhile, Vera served up few meaningful strikes against “The Polish Experiment,” spending most of the bout clinch fighting.
Against Couture, “The Truth” will have to take advantage of his youth, speed, and striking against the grizzled ring general Couture, who will control a fight with his clinch if given the opportunity.
Soszynski found moderate success with clinching and dirty boxing against Vera, and nobody does that better than Couture. Vera must stay off his back and punish Couture when range changes to win. Otherwise, Couture will grind him into the mat. Win or lose, its up to Vera to thrill fans to up his stock since he has not had an emphatic finish in three years.
Welterweight Finish Line
Mike Swick believes Dan Hardy has plenty of potential but is not yet at his level. “The Outlaw” is one of the UFC’s top 170-pound prospects and has made his name as a skilled counter-striker. Stepping up against Swick, a “Quick” fighter originally slated to face Martin Kampmann in a title eliminator at UFC 103, Hardy has his chance to cut in line to face Georges St. Pierre.
The Brit will have the support of his home country against Swick. He’ll need all the infectious energy he can get in a bout that promises to be a stand-up war. Hardy must employ kicks as his main offensive arsenal to cut through Swick’s speed. His typical counterpunching style doesn’t suit him well against the American Kickboxing Academy representative’s combinations. Whoever gets off first takes the bout after an initial feeling out period.
Bisping Bounces Back?
Michael Bisping’s rude awakening at the hands of Dan Henderson this July has sent him back to familiar territory, where he meets Pride veteran Denis Kang center cage in Manchester.
Kang’s up-down career has followed him into the UFC. Technical advantages are often thrown by the wayside when the American Top Team fighter is put under pressure or tires. Bispsing’s specialty is a steady stream of attack, so Kang finally makes the break through of mental resilience or Bisping has another Union Jack performance.
UK TUF Winners Fly Their Flag
“The Ultimate Fighter” season nine winners lightweight Ross Pearson and welterweight James Wilks meet Aaron Riley and Matt Brown respectively. Both Brits are seemingly being matched with their American counterparts. Perason stands in against a rough-and-tumble fighter from the sound of the bell and Wilks takes on a veteran finding his in-ring identity later in his career.
For Pearson, a clinch game is key to avoid a slugfest with one of the division’s specialists en route to a successful post-reality show debut. Wilks must challenge Brown on the mat with a tenacious, technical game to force the game fighter into a muscle memory black hole. Riley and Brown have the same objective: strike with the refined aggression that’s revived their careers.
Young Lightweights To Steal Show?
The rangy Terry Etim has developed a fan base with his aggressive stand-up and sleek submissions in preliminary bouts on UK cards. The Brit welcomes top American lightweight prospect Shannon Gugerty into Manchester with a stern style clash. While Etim has a nice selection of submissions in his repetoir, Gugerty’s a new generation grappler under Dean Lister that doesn’t allow a second to think and even less time to flinch.
Gugerty doesn’t have the option to stay standing. Etim does. Victory in the wrestling department means victory in the fight as the young lightweights thrill.