UFC: The Rio crucible awaits

Brian Mallon
fitch 300x225 UFC: The Rio crucible awaits


Following a troubled few weeks where the world of MMA appeared more akin to a second rate soap opera, the fights are coming thick and fast. UFC Nottingham was a resounding success and UFC 153 this weekend promises to be a raucous celebration of all that is good about South American MMA. A bevy of Brazilian stars are poised to illustrate once again why the country’s mixed martial artists are often perceived as a cut above when it comes to illuminating the famous octagon.

Saturday night’s card is peppered with UFC staples such as Fitch, Maia, Nogueira and of course one Anderson “The Spider” Silva. The star of the show however could be none of the above. It could prove to be the big stage breakthrough performance for Erick Silva, Glover Teixeira or quite possibly both.

Teixeira is being tipped in some quarters as one of the imminent challengers to Jon Jones’ run of dominance at 205lbs and it’s easy to see why. A hardened powerhouse with solid striking and a more than passable ground game, Teixeira has been honing his skills at “The Pit” for many years in advance of entering the world’s top promotion.

Whilst there is the very real risk that the current dearth of genuine challengers for Jones’ strap may lead to an over-hyping of the title prospects of both Teixeira and Swedish talent Alexander Gustaffson, both men have given indications in recent outings that they will share the cage with the much maligned New Yorker sometime in 2013.

But let’s get back to the here and now and Teixeira’s chances in the HSBC Arena. Fabio Maldonado is no pushover. He showed enough gut check toughness in his outings against Kyle Kingsbury and Igor Pokrajac to suggest that Teixeira won’t have it all his own way. There is however, a reason why the seasoned Brazilian is being widely shunned by many of the world’s top light heavyweights right now and Maldonado is about to find out why… the hard way. I expect Teixeira to reign supreme in the second stanza of what will be a stirring reminder of his future title credentials.

Erick Silva likewise has his work cut out against wily vet Jon Fitch. Fitch will enter the proverbial “lion’s den”, knowing that his popularity rating amongst fans will plummet to new depths in front of a ravenous home crowd, who want to see one of their newest bright young things springboard onto the next rung of the 170lb ladder.

Fitch as we know is no-one’s stepping stone. As highly touted and explosive as Silva is, he will employ much of the same strategy that brought him a welterweight title shot in 2008. If Fitch can avoid Silva’s power striking early doors he may be able to drag his younger foe into a clinch battle from which there really is only one winner.

I do sometimes wonder why Jon Fitch’s performances generate such resentment from fans of the sport. He may not be spectacular when he wins, but win he usually does. He simply is good at what he does, though time is not on his side. A loss to Silva would bring his stretch in the past two years to 0-3 and render him an also-ran in one of the promotion’s toughest divisions. A no-nonsense grinder with cardio for days, Fitch should however prove a step too far for Silva at this stage in his UFC career. I believe that Fitch will get the judges’ nod following three rounds of ire-inducing grappling.

The other main event: Nogueira ’s Rio Return

Co-main event of the evening will be “Big Nog’s” Rio return against entertaining American Dave Herman. Frankly, I don’t know what a victory over Herman does for Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira except remind the world of how much he is idolised by his compatriots. It’s not that Herman isn’t a plausible challenger, he is. It’s simply difficult to envision him coming away with the “W” in what will be an absolute bear-pit at that stage of the card. Brendan Schaub attempted a similar type of John Rambo mission into hostile territory and we all know how that ended up. I believe the grappling legend will submit Herman late in the first stanza.

As the weeks have passed and we have all been able to digest the curious matching of pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva with the game but ultimately limited Stephan Bonnar, I must admit that the term “fun fight” just about sums up the main event. Sure we think that this could and in all probability will end up being ugly. Bonnar could indeed be immortalised for all the wrong reasons as part of Silva’s ever expanding highlight reel.

Somewhere deep in the recesses of one’s mind however, lurks the “what-if” premise that Bonnar could actually stride in there and ask serious questions of perhaps the most gifted striker ever to lace on the small gloves. One man places doubt on just such a scenario unfolding… one Forrest Griffin.

Comparisons between Forrest Griffin and “The American Psycho”

Griffin is similar to “The American Psycho” in oh so many ways, not just their equally affable personalities. They are both lanky gamers with solid cardio, who are prepared to take one to give one. They both have passable if not spectacular ground games and they both force the pace in the hope that they can “out-heart” their opponent. As their eventful careers have proven, such qualities can get you far in the fight game.

When you share the canvas with Silva however the aforementioned approach constitutes a recipe for disaster. Bonnar will no doubt enjoy what is a deserved starring role in one of the biggest cards of the year, but I simply cannot see the night ending happily for him. This one may be over quick. It is however a “win-win” for one of the original Ultimate Fighters at this stage of his career. This conversation with old adversary Griffin aptly sums up what’s in store. Good luck Stephan, you are going to need it.

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  • Azmir sharif
  • Azmir sharif
  • sonofsouth

    Fitch is overrated and lucky he was granted draw vs Penn.
    Bonnar vs Silva seems like setup for Silva to move in for LHW title match.

  • BenSix

    I love Jon Fitch! You know you have those moments when you fear that the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is a big con? Jon Fitch is the best evidence we have that it isn’t. Who’d book a successful fighter to wrestle like he does?

    And, besides, I’m sympathetic to sportsmen who get by on patience and dedication. Fitch is like the Geoffrey Boycott of the UFC.

  • sonofsouth

    Well done Fitch, he proved me wrong. Good card – good fights.

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