15 November 2011

UFC 139

Sadly, this might be a show that I don't see, but it's got some far-reaching implications for the light-heavyweight and bantamweight divisions, so I'd feel remiss if I just ignored it since my opinion alone is the sole one available on the vast Internets about the sport of mixed-martial arts. Besides all that, it's a card that, while lost in the shuffle of the recent glut of shows, is deep on potentially awesome fights. If Miguel Angel Torres fights on the undercard, then you're looking at a really packed night.

Stephan Bonnar vs. Kyle Kingsbury - Both guys are riding win streaks, Bonnar at two and Kingsbury at four, but it's Kingsbury who has looked the most impressive of late with two fight of the night bonuses under his belt and a wider array of skills to accompany his impressive new physique. Bonnar has languished for quite some time and is getting older as a fighter. Kingsbury is the younger guy who appears to finally be putting all of the pieces together to take his game to the next level while Bonnar starts to settle into a newer position as a broadcaster. By no means am I suggesting that Bonnar hang it up, but I don't like his odds in this contest. Kingsbury will get the decision in what will probably be a slobberknocker of a fight.

Martin Kampmann vs. Rick Story - Kampann lost a pick-em fight against Diego Sanchez that easily could have gone his way and came out the losing end in Jake Shields' UFC debut. Meanwhile, Story, a guy who comes across as the meatiest of meatheads in every interview he ever does, was riding a six fight win streak and probably in line for a title shot until he took a fight against Charlie Brenneman on short notice less than a month after the biggest win of his career against Thiago Alves. In a convoluted set of circumstances that can only happen in MMA, he was set to fill in for an injured Anthony Johnson against Nate Marquardt when Marquardt tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and subsequently got himself fired the day before the show. Instead of headlining against a big name dude in Marquardt, Story wound up facing a dude in Brenneman who had thought his fight was cancelled earlier in the week. IT IS CONFUSING, THIS FIGHTING THING.

Anyway, it wasn't a smart decision on Story's part since his body was exhausted from overtraining and attempting to peak it for a second time so soon after his last fight, resulting in a loss to the much fresher Brenneman. I explain all of this mostly to remind myself who Rick Story is since, besides this story and the aforementioned meathead comment, I always get him confused with Jake Ellenberger. They look alike (with Ellenberger being a little bit more notable for resembling a mini version of Rich Franklin) and are so nondescript and forgettable despite being decent fighters that I can never be bothered to care about their fights. Meanwhile, I like Kampmann enough to remember who he is but only if he's facing a guy that I think can make his fights memorable and exciting. Technically, Story can do that, but I am not in the mood to care. Plus, Story just rubs me the wrong way, if it wasn't already obvious. Story will get the decision, but I'm hoping for a Kampann win.

Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles - Here's the first in our triple main event: a number one contender's match for the UFC Bantamweight Championship. It's been well-established that mine is a household squarely in the California Kid's camp, as he is my wife's second favorite fighter. That being said, Brian Bowles is long overdue for a rematch for the championship he lost to Cruz. Bowles' biggest enemy has been time since his year on the shelf after losing the belt hurt his visibility.

It doesn't help that Bowles, despite being an exciting fighter won his last fight in a boring match against Takeya Mizugaki and has a personality that's akin to watching paint dry. There's no doubt in my mind that Brian Bowles is a perfectly pleasant fellow, but, man, he's boring. Whatever excitement he generates in the Octagon pales in comparison to the disinterest he creates in every other possible situation. He is the prototypical MMA fighter in that he trains hard and does his utmost to respect every other fighter he's up against. Ask him who he wants to fight next and he'll say, "Whoever the UFC puts in front of me." That's a fine attitude for some fighters to have, but a variety of personalities creates stars, and what many of these young fighters don't realize is that calling people out and being more than the respectful, hard-working athlete allows them to make a name for themselves off the established name of others.

Urijah Faber is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. He's outgoing, clever and a crowd pleaser outside of his fights as much as he is during them. That's where the lack of personality hurts Bowles. Despite winning two in a row and his sole loss being a literal and figurative bad break to the current champ, Bowles is here in a number one contender's match-up against Faber, a guy who has lost four championship bouts. Because he's a draw that has a large fanbase, and even though his last fight was a loss to Dominick Cruz, Faber is again vying for a title shot that should theoretically already belong to Bowles.

All of this means little in terms of the winner, though. And Faber is going to win because he's the superior wrestler and grappler. Bowles has a tight guillotine choke and dynamite in his hands, but Faber is too fast and too powerful to get caught. Faber will get the win with a submission in the second.

Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le - Originally pitting the San Jose native against the much larger and much more dangerous Vitor Belfort, Cung Le instead makes his UFC debut against the former Pride Middleweight Champion. Le is a passable enough wrestler who uses it defensively to employ his devastating and dynamic striking. Without question, Cung Le has the best kicks in MMA. Everyone knows it and everyone he faces plans for them, yet he's still able to employ them every single time, which just goes to show how great he is. Unfortunately, he came into MMA fairly late in life and is getting on in years. Plus, he fights so rarely that rust has to be considered going into this fight.

Meanwhile, Wanderlei Silva is technically younger than Le, but in fighting years, this guy is ancient. For most of his career, he earned his nickname "the Axe Murderer" by plowing through opponents utilizing the windmill strategy. He moved forward non-stop, eating punches in an effort to land more than his opponent and eventually knock the guy out. A guy's chin can only take so many punches, especially from folks who have more technical striking, and now Silva is bearing the brunt of all of those years of abuse. He's 2-4 in his UFC career and his jaw has turned to glass, but a fighter is always the last one to know when to retire. That's just sad. Cung Le wins this by knockout in the first round.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Dan Henderson - This five round fight appears to have implications for two different weight classes.

Rua is coming off a decisive victory over Forrest Griffin. He appears healthy, which is always a concern with Shogun, and his main weapons are his forward motion and technical striking combined with a great submission game. He's attempting to get back into the light heavyweight championship picture and a win over the current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champ can go a long way towards making that dream a reality, despite how convincingly he lost the title to Jon Jones back in March.

Then there's 40 year old Dan Henderson, he of the granite chin, caveman face and right hand forged from the power of a thousand volcanoes. Additionally, he's world renowned Greco-Roman wrestler. He's riding a three fight win streak, with the biggest victory coming earlier this year against the vaunted (or overhyped...take your pick) Fedor Emelianenko. With his return to the UFC, Henderson hopes to make a statement that defies what most folks his age should be able to do. He's mentioned that with a win here, he'd like to challenge Anderson Silva to a rematch at middleweight, since Hendo is a small light heavyweight who has fluctuated between 205 and 185 over the course of his career. Can he do it?

Eh, I don't think so. This is a fight that favors Rua and I see Shogun winning with a submission in the third or fourth round.

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