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A Week in MMA: Gloves off for Rampage; Bisping-Weidman; Beauty of Beltran; Nelson still TUF
Gloves off for Rampage
The rollercoaster relationship between the UFC and Rampage Jackson took another twist when it was announced this week that Jackson would square off against Glover Teixera in the final bout of his UFC contract.
Jackson, a former Pride and UFC light-heavyweight titlist, has been particularly vocal in his criticisms of his employer, citing a lack of respect and some poor matchmaking. Sceptics questioned whether Jackson was genuinely upset or these public outbursts were aimed at creating leverage for an improved contract offer from the UFC purseholders.
After all, he has a history as a soldier of fortune. In 2009 Dana White angrily poured scorn on Jackson’s hiatus from MMA to star as BA Baracus in the movie version of The A Team. The UFC supremo felt Jackson should have been concentrating on putting gold around his waist rather than his neck.
With title shots a thing of the past following his September 2011 defeat to Jon Jones, Jackson has insisted that he wants to end his UFC tenure in a blaze of glory. He was frustrated in defeat to Ryan Bader in February, stymied by the wrestling pedigree of his younger opponent. For his final fight he asked for someone who wouldn’t be afraid to trade leather in the centre of the cage.
Be careful what you wish for.
Pairing Jackson with Glover Teixera is no parting gesture. The Brazilian, sporting a sixteen-fight win streak of which only one has troubled the judges, would have been in the UFC far sooner were it not for ongoing visa issues.
It demonstrates how highly he’s rated in the corridors of power that after a mere 113 seconds of action (having despatched Kyle Kingsbury with relative ease), he is now mixing with the likes of Quinton Jackson.
It may not be a fond farewell for “Rampage” at UFC 153, but it will almost certainly be memorable.
Bisping talk Weid of the mark
This week gave us one of the most impressive moments of 2012, as young middleweight Chris Weidman brutalised Mark Munoz to thrust himself into title contention.
Just twelve months ago Weidman was living with his wife and baby in his parents’ basement. Now he’s a whisker away from a shot at the legendary Anderson Silva.
Post-fight there was an almost ceremonial passing of the torch as Chael Sonnen, Silva’s latest victim, furthered Weidman’s credentials. Sonnen knows a grappler and in purely wrestling terms, Weidman does seem the most dangerous opponent Silva could face. In oratory terms though, Michael Bisping continues to dominate column inches:
He told Fighters Only:
“And now Chris Weidman is calling me out. I don’t think a win over a fat Mark Munoz makes you a contender. We were on the same card in January and I had to switch his fight with Maia off. I was trying to warm up backstage and the fight was putting me to sleep. It was like watching paint dry.”
Realistically, Bisping is coming off a loss and needs a win to get the nod from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. However, with Sonnen in limbo there’s a vocal vacuum for a pantomime villain, which the Englishmen seems determined to fill.
The Beauty of Beltran
All the talk on the undercard was about the impressive performance of Australia’s resident ox James Te-Huna, whose winning streak continued despite injuries sustained to both hand and foot.
Te-Huna, who improved to 15-5, fights with nothing less than murderous intent. His victim this time was veteran slugger Joey Beltran, who had trimmed down to 205lb for the dubious privilege of facing the rising star.
Beltran, 30, has plied his trade across promotions in North America and is renowned for being an immovable object inside the cage. He’s been in with heavyweight names such as Pat Barry, Matt Mitrione, Stipe Miocic and Lavar Johnson. While all dictated proceedings, only the latter penetrated Beltran’s blast-proof beard.
He’s been subject to some criticism on social media from those who claim he has no place on the UFC roster, pointing at his statistically unimpressive 3-5 record in the sport’s marquee brand.
Yet Beltran offers something different to the Zuffa landscape. Yes, there are few finer sights in the Octagon than that of Anderson Silva effortlessly showcasing all the elements of contemporary mixed martial arts. One of the sport’s main attractions is the technique required to master so many skillsets, and perform them with the poise of the Greatest Of All Time.
However, in its purest form, MMA isn’t just about techniques. It’s also about self-development; taking the discipline and dedication required to study each art form and using it to improve you both as a combatant and an individual.
Joey Beltran may never be a genuine title contender. But his determination and courage have made him exceed his own limitations.
There is beauty in that too.
Nelson still a TUF guy
Speaking of tough guys, there are few with more of a heavyweight following than Roy “Big Country” Nelson.
This week it was announced that the TUF alumnus would be returning to the reality format that launched his career - as a coach on season 16. Nelson has drawn scorn and admiration in equal measure throughout his UFC tenure. The naysayers, Dana White among them, decry his poor aesthetics and claim his poor conditioning has squandered opportunities to move him up the food chain.
His supporters insist that in a sport dominated by cookie-cutter physiques and identikit ink, Nelson’s refusal to conform is a victory for the Average Joe. Certainly his connection with the audience can be in no doubt. Walking out to the strains of “Born in the USA” Nelson rarely receives anything other than a rapturous reception.
Nelson has also garnered support for his outspoken stance against Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). Whilst he has stopped short of naming the miscreants, he claims that he has faced several fighters with a pharmaceutical edge. It’s an argument that doesn’t lack credibility given the sports ongoing issue with drug cheats. He remains convinced that it is the falsely-acquired physiques of others, as opposed to his own wandering waistline, that have hampered his career progression.
With fellow big-puncher Shane Carwin in the opposite corner, this season of The Ultimate Fighter offers a fascinating finale.
PEDs were one of the many topics on the agenda at the annual UFC Fighter Summit.
The UFC spares little expense, flying over 300 of their fighters from across the globe to Vegas for a series of talks on the major issues affecting the sport. This could be anything from medical insurance, professional management, to using social media to benefit your career.
It is noteworthy that the UFC also took the opportunity to address their employees on the potential perils of PEDs.
Whether they were listening is another matter. For professionals fuelled by the adrenalin of close-quarters combat, a day of lectures can be a long day at the office.
Though the event is closed to media and fans, the fighters kept us informed of proceedings through a series of pictures on their Twitter accounts. This mainly consisted of the attendees taking any opportunity to rest their weary eyes.
Notable mentions in the slumber stakes go to Michael Johnson, Clay Guida and Gray Maynard, whilst Junior Dos Santos’ formidable mint consumption led to a pile of sweet wrappers of truly heavyweight proportions.
One thing’s for sure: when the champion does step into the Octagon next he’ll certainly be fresh.
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