With UFC 156 just days away, the MMA world waits with baited breath as one of the year’s finest fight cards comes to fruition.
In the main event UFC Featherweight Jose Aldo squares off against former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar in the first true superfight of 2013. Also on the card is a heavyweight showdown between Alistair Overeem and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, in what will surely be a fan-favorite slugfest, as both Overeem and Silva are knocking on the door of the heavyweight title. To make this card even more impressive, the UFC booked a third marquee fight, as light heavyweight’s Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira meet in the cage.
All of these fights are spectacular in their own right but this Saturday the fighting world has some storylines you may be missing. This is where we at snaptwig.come in; we’re bringing you some of the neglected narratives coming into UFC 156 to help you get ready for all the ‘fistic fireworks.’
Can Overeem overcome?
From May 2006 – February 2007, Alistair Overeem fought five times.
In those five fights, Overeem won once. Over that nine-month stretch, Overeem fell to Ricardo Arona, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Fabricio Werdum, and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, respectively.
It’s unfair to think the Alistair Overeem stepping in the cage on Saturday night at UFC 156 from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is the same fighter we saw six years ago – that would not only be unfair, it would be plain silly. Questions remain, however, as to Overeem’s ability to overcome top-tier level fighters.
Sure, Overeem is riding a current 10-fight win streak, but what have those wins shown us; that he can beat James Thompson, Kazuyuki Fajita, Gary Goodridge, and Paul Buentello? The two best wins Overeem has procured in the last six years are a rematch win against Fabricio Werdum at the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals in 2011, and a first round destruction of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 in Dec. 2011. Without those wins, Overeem’s record reads like a who’s-who list of “who cares?”
Despite the recent aura “Ubereem” holds on the MMA world, what we can learn from the aforementioned, is this:
Alistair Overeem is beatable.
On Saturday, Overeem comes off a year-long suspension for steroids and faces an opponent who was once penalized for the same infraction, Brazil’s Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
With “Bigfoot,” Overeem is coming face to face with a 6’4” backwoods behemoth.
A behemoth, who unlike Overeem, has faced stellar competition in his last few outings. In fact, two of Silva’s most recent wins have come against MMA demigod Fedor Emelianenko and UFC heavyweight prospect Travis Browne. In Silva’s two recent defeats, he was conquered by two of the best heavyweights on the planet, in American Kickboxing Academy’s Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez, respectively.
When presented with well rounded opponents in years prior, Overeem has failed, quite frequently, to perform up to par. It’s fair to say that in Overeem’s previous 11 losses, that inexperience played an integral part in the defeats.
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But one has to ask, how much of that is inexperience and how much of that comes down to pure and simple skill?
With a showdown looming with Antonio Silva, Overeem will finally get to answer some of those questions. Outside of the UFC’s “big two,” in Velasquez and Dos Santos, Silva falls in a category with Overeem, as a possible “next big thing.”
The thing with Overeem is, he’s never done that well against “next big things.” He lost twice to a young “Shogun” Rua. He lost twice to a young Antonio “Rogerio” Nogueira. He lost to a young Chuck Liddell, a young Ricardo Arona, and a young Sergei Kharitonov. If he can manage a win on Saturday, Overeem will put to rest many of the critics who still doubt the K-1 Grand Prix Champion. And if they’re still talking after the win, that’ll be okay, because a victory over Silva almost assuredly grants him a crack at the UFC Heavyweight Championship, and it’s current holder, Cain Velasquez.
Through the Wood(ley)
Prior to losing to Nate Marquardt via vicious knockout back in June, Tyron Woodley was one of the most promising welterweights in the MMA landscape. Woodley, a former two-time Division I All-American wrestling standout from the University of Missouri started his career in MMA undefeated going 10-0. Signing with the Strikeforce promotion in only his third professional fight, Woodley was groomed from the outset to be a fighter to watch in the coming years.
With the loss to Marquardt, many questioned if Woodley got a case of “too much, too soon.” That’s an understandable assumption, as Woodley was sent to the YouTube-highlight-reel-heaven when Marquardt dispatched of him in the fourth round of their one-sided scrap with a barrage of hooks and elbows.
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But it’s important to remember, Woodley also has a win over the man who recently dismantled Nate Marquardt — Tarec Saffiedine.
Saffiedine defeated Marquardt at the final Strikeforce show and in the process earned the company’s welterweight c championship. Not only does Woodley hold a win over the current, and final welterweight champ of Strikeforce, but he also has an impressive win over former UFC stalwart, Paul Daley.
Saturday, Woodley meets the dangerous Jay Hieron. With Hieron (23-6), Woodley faces a man with an interesting story of his own. Prior to making his debut in Oct. 2012 – a losing effort to Jake Ellenberger – Jay Hieron made his name toiling in the minor leagues, amassing an impressive 23-5 record, and subsequently being one of the most respected fighters in the game to not fight for the world’s biggest fight promotion.
However, this fight isn’t about Jay Hieron – it’s about Tyron Woodley – and if this Missouri native can dispatch of the crafty Xtreme Couture product, then consider Woodley soundly back on track as one of MMA’s surefire fighters to watch in 2013.
“Titles? We don’t need no stinkin’ titles”
Before Jon Fitch fought Georges St – Pierre for the UFC welterweight title at UFC 87 in 2008, the former Purdue wrestling captain had to amass eight wins inside the Octagon. Yes, you heard that correctly; eight wins.
Suffice to say, Jon Fitch would make Rodney Dangerfield blush when it comes to the blatant disregard of “r-e-s-p-e-c-t.”
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To give you an idea of what I speak about when I bring up “respect,” allow me; Brock Lesnar earned a UFC title shot after going 1-1 in the company (2-1 overall). Despite having seven less wins than Fitch, and 100% more defeats, Lesnar got a shot at UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, and subsequently won the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
In Urijah Faber’s last 10 fights, he has gone a meager 5-5. Those five losses, however, were all in title bouts. That would be rather impressive if it weren’t for the fact that he was given title shots, almost seemingly on a whim, despite the fact he was losing regularly over that time span.
Or how about this for respect; the man who is currently scheduled to face UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre — Nick Diaz – is getting a title shot despite suffering a loss in his last outing.
Meanwhile there’s Jon Fitch; a man who went 5-0 after losing to St-Pierre at UFC 87. Surely with those five wins after his loss to GSP, Fitch would have earned another crack at a man who credited him with giving him the toughest fight of his current title run. But nope. No title shot for you, Jon Fitch.
With those five wins, Fitch‘s UFC record stood at 13-1 before he was forced to forgo any possible rematch with GSP, and instead meet UFC legend BJ Penn at UFC 127 in Feb. 2011. With that utterly pointless fight, Fitch earned a draw – a draw in which many think Penn was favorably scored, this writer included.
After the Penn fight, Fitch got knocked out by the surging John Hendricks at UFC 141, and managed a “Fight of the Night” win against Erick Silva at UFC 153. Despite the win against Silva, recently things have been changing with Fitch. He seems to care less about his place in the company. He seems to be even more outspoken about his perceived (and justifiable) lack of promotion. He’s beginning to address the critics who call him a boring fighter – and he is making no apologies.
The funny thing is, the less he cares, the more momentum he seems to gain. Recently UFC President Dana White has mentioned Fitch as a potential fight for St-Pierre if he can string together one or two (more) wins. And trust me, that’s an improvement — until recently, the frequentness of White mentioning Fitch’s name was about as regular as me competing in a marathon.
Hey, don’t hate. I could run a marathon. Not.
It’s not entirely obvious as to where Jon Fitch’s place in the UFC welterweight division lies, especially if we’re going on prior history. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Fitch remains one of the longest tenure, most respected, and most decorated fighters the UFC has ever had. In an era where familiar faces are becoming less and less common, a fighter like Jon Fitch is someone we can all respect, whether he wants it or not