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The Week in Review: Mir at a crossroads; Hendo’s H-Bomb on hold; Diaz-Silva; Invicta FC shines
Mir at a Crossroads
It’s been a surprising week for the ailing Strikeforce heavyweight division. With only one more fight of note scheduled before the roster dissolves and merges with the UFC, the question remained as to who would face Heavyweight GP winner Daniel Cormier.
Cormier has seen his stock rise dramatically after impressive wins over Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett. The choice for the final fight of his Strikeforce obligations was always going to be intriguing: would the matchmakers merely keep Cormier ticking over - or risk damaging his value by putting him in with a dangerous foe?
When Twitter was ablaze last week with rumors that ex-UFC champ Tim Sylvia would be filling the void, it seemed they had perhaps opted for the cautious approach.
Sylvia, whose championship tenure was considered somewhat underwhelming by the UFC brass, was last in the Octagon in February 2008 on the wrong end of a guillotine choke from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Since then he’s been persona non grata and Dana White has made no secret of his relief that the sport’s big men have since evolved both athletically and aesthetically.
When the Twitter rumor was subsequently quashed by White, it left Cormier, 33, in limbo, unsure of his direction of travel. However, his route to the UFC was confirmed within 24 hours when it was announced that the man standing in his path would be none other than Frank Mir.
For Mir, you can file this one under “crossroads fight”. After his three-round demolition at the dangerous hands of Junior Dos Santos, there is no obvious path back to title contention. Realistically, he’ll have to wait for the gold to change hands before his name is mentioned in championship terms again. Put simply, this is his chance to stay relevant.
Some are lazily dismissing Mir as a yardstick for the measurement of Cormier’s blossoming talents. True, the Lafayette native will have momentum on his side but it’s worth remembering that the man across the cage has unparalleled UFC history. Mir’s got more rounds and more UFC fights in the bank than any past or present heavyweight fighter. In Octagon currency, that is gold.
He’s also a two time titlist who has never lost two fights in succession. That’s no yardstick. That’s a future Hall of Famer. Daniel Cormier best be ready.
Hendo won’t drop the bomb…yet
Is anyone ready to beat Jon Jones? The riddle of how to beat the young phenom still perplexes those who ponder it.
Witnessing Jones dismantle the rest of the light-heavyweight division has been like watching a youngster pull wings off a butterfly. Calm and clinical, Jones has barely lost a round, let alone a contest, in a career that has seen him rocket to the summit of his sport at the tender age of 25. Indeed, such has been his dominance that there are already whispers of him moving up to heavyweight in search of a genuine challenge.
“Bones” has dismissed that as a short-term option, preferring instead to focus on eclipsing Tito Ortiz’s record of five-straight successful light heavyweight title defenses.
Next up will be one of the sport’s true elder statesmen, Dan Henderson, last seen waging Octagon warfare with Mauricio Rua in a bloody battle that will grace the sport’s history books for years to come.
Henderson, 41, will be giving up a significant age and reach advantage. In that sense, he’ll be no different to Jones’ recent victims Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans. Both entered the cage as non-believers in the Jones hype, but left painfully aware his true abilities and their own limitations.
Most observers believe that Henderson’s best hope of victory lies in the destructive properties of his right hand. The patented “H-Bomb”, a genuine Weapon of Mass Destruction, has been responsible for the damaging the careers of a long list of MMA’s household names. So it was intriguing to hear Henderson talk tactics this week ahead of what may well be the biggest challenge of his entire career.
“My focus is to win every round, not to land the H-Bomb but just to make sure I win every round. If I hit him pretty good along the way, hopefully it knocks him out. But I do need to make sure I get inside of his length, stay in his face and make him fight me."
Having seen recent Jackson and Evans flail their arms to little effect, it seems that Henderson will be more selective when releasing his own incendiary devices. If he does get within range to detonate that H-Bomb on Jones’s chin, then the explosion will surely be heard around the world.
Diaz wants to trap the Spider
Just when you think the middleweight picture is starting to clear, another name comes up to muddy the waters. This week it wasn’t Mr. Weidman, Bisping, or Stann talking up their own claims, but a man whose controversial style has electrified the welterweight division.
Nick Diaz, currently serving a drug-related suspension until February 2013, broke his recent silence via his manager Cesar Gracie and called out middleweight king Anderson Silva, despite his lack of experience at 185.
Silva, enjoying a long vacation after another successful day at the office versus Chael Sonnen, has made it clear that only big bucks and big names will tempt him from the Brazilian beaches.
He’s apparently dismissed the claims of Weidman and co, citing their lack of drawing power for a man who’s accustomed to hefty pay-per-view paychecks. Ideally, he would rather focus on a superfight with the returning Georges St-Pierre, whose box office appeal would make the numbers work. However, the Canadian superstar has to prove his repaired knee hasn’t hindered his abilities by defeating Carlos Condit for the true welterweight crown.
Silva’s manager, Ed Soares, offered a more positive response to the Diaz suggestion. Crazy though it sounds, the Stockton slugger brings a fan following that makes him an attractive proposition, despite the difference in weight class.
Ironically, GSP has also expressed a serious interest in fighting Diaz should he vanquish Condit. The anger at Diaz’s antics ahead of their postponed fight in 2011 has yet to subside.
Nick Diaz: always outspoken, always in demand. How we’ve missed him.
Those who thought this weekend offered an unwelcome break from MMA were very much mistaken.
Women’s promotion Invicta Fighting Championships, brainchild of the inspirational Shannon Knapp, continued their exciting evolution on Saturday in Kansas City. Invicta FC 2 was headlined by Sara McMann v Shayna Baszler in a match that was expected to be a technical grappling battle.
Incredibly, despite their undoubted acumen on the mat – McMann is an Olympic silver medallist in judo and Baszler a renowned submission specialist – the two fighters opted to duke it out in a compelling first round that had the crowd on their feet. Ultimately, McMann’s takedowns prevailed in the final two frames, but not before a crunching hook left her rubber-legged in the final seconds.
With a strong undercard, it was another big step forward for Knapp, who was once best-known for being Bas Rutten’s manager. Her bold decision to launch an all-female promotion is proving a wise one. These are important times. Slowly but surely these athletes are being judged on their abilities rather than their gender. With Knapp at the helm, the future is bright.
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