UFC: Will the torch be passed in Seattle?
As the UFC and FOX mark one year since their high profile marriage, Seattle is primed for a genuinely bumper-packed night of fights. UFC on Fox 5 will be a defining crossroads for many of its participants. But will it prove to be a tombstone for two highly touted prospects or the final nail in the MMA coffin of a couple of the sport’s most respected veterans?
Mixed martial arts fans of a certain age and indeed era will remember fight cards from years gone by with a bittersweet, perhaps even wistful reflection. UFC fight nights were characterised by a peppering of big names and seismic duels where the results defined careers and the battles themselves became etched in folklore. The downside of course was that you had to wring your hands for another two, three or even four months until the next action unfolded such was the underground, almost cultish status of a sport which lived largely on cable and if you lived on this side of the Atlantic, imported VHS (you know who you are!).
Recent times of course have seen an explosion in the popularity and indeed revenue immersing the sport and so fight fans no longer need to endlessly debate potential future match-ups when the real thing comes at them in quick succession. Some analysts have argued that the inexorable increase in the number of events (often encompassing different time zones and continents) has led to an inevitable decline in the quality of bouts placed before the paying public for their perusal. The old quantity versus quality chestnut is a subject that seemingly every MMA fan has an opinion on. That withstanding the fayre on offer in Seattle this weekend is beyond reproach and has genuine implications in the welterweight and light-heavyweight divisions with of course Ben Henderson’s 155lb strap also on the line.
Is “Ares” overlooking the prodigy?
If Rory Macdonald is concerned about the dangers and tools which BJ Penn will bring to the table this Saturday night he isn’t showing it. MacDonald faces one of the sport’s most iconic trailblazers and is showing utter disregard for both Penn’s reputation and skills. In what is perhaps the night’s most intriguing battle Penn will attempt to go to the well one last time against a formidable new age martial artist who has shown frightening potential in a mere five appearances in the Octagon. The fact that the odds-makers’ have made MacDonald the raging hot favourite in what has become the evenings most anticipated joust speaks volumes of just how far Firas Zahabi’s latest protégé has come in a little under three years.
MacDonald may look (dare I say it) a tad nerdish but as soon as you witness this guy in action it dawns on you immediately that he is decidedly different. Athletic, intelligent and most of all supremely well rounded MacDonald fuses together all of the various facets of mixed martial arts seamlessly. MacDonald’s skill-set reads verbatim as a description of Zahabi’s other star turn, who also happens to campaign at 170lbs. Could the pair eventually share the canvas in an all Tri-Star, all Canadian (kind of) title fight? Such permutations are for another day.
The here and now is that “Ares” has a more than precarious meeting with perhaps the greatest lightweight to ever lace on the gloves. Whether he is complacent about locking horns with the original “Hilo Boy”, only time will tell but Penn will have his moments in this one. MacDonald has used words such as “annihilating”, ”hurting” and “destroying” this week to describe the type of punishment he is going to dish out to Penn this weekend. His stark, detached and strained demeanor contrasts noticeably with his upcoming opponent.
Through GSP and Zahabi’s prior experience of pitting their fighting minds against Penn, MacDonald will indeed have a marked advantage. He will attempt to replicate St-Pierre’s blueprint of tiring the Hawaiian up against the cage with relentless grappling and energy sapping ground and pound. MacDonald would be wise to remain vigilant early doors as Penn will prove especially dangerous in the opening stanza. A motivated Penn is a dangerous challenge for anyone. MacDonald however will drag “The Prodigy” into deep water in the latter rounds en route to a ground and pound stoppage win in what may prove to be the last time we see Baby Jay grace the cage.
Gustafsson to make leap to the top tier
Alexander Gustafsson will be making a big step up in competition in the evening’s co-main event and he knows it. The likeable Swede was frank this week about his thoughts about sharing a cage with Pride legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua :
“Its a huge honour and I always looked up to him, so it’s going to be a helluva fight”
Gustafsson did look slick against Thiago Silva at UFC Sweden in April but Rua will test his reserves of stamina and heart in a way in which Silva never could (just ask Dan Henderson). Rua of course isn’t the fighter he once was. Battered and damaged (perhaps irreparably) from countless wars of attrition he may not be able to implement his usual take one to give one strategy against the light heavyweight divisions next big thing. Gustafsson’s feet are a little too nimble for the (prematurely) aging Brazilian and he will find the movement and pinpoint striking of the Arboga native too hot to handle. Gustafsson appeared quietly confident of success in perhaps his biggest career bout to date:
“Its going to be a fight that I control from the first minute to the last minute”
It will not go down just that smoothly for “The Mauler” but I do expect him to have too much for Rua with the judges’ decision going his way after three clear cut rounds of action.
Join us here at The Independent when we review UFC on Fox 5Tagged in: Alexander Gustafsson, bj penn, Rory Macdonald, Thiago Silva, ufc
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter