by UnderGround Columnist Ralph Welch
Follow Ralph on Twitter.
Welch talks UFC matchmaking, Joe Lauzon’s health, Cain Velasquez taking on heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury and Bob Sapp beating Alistair Overeem…
Silva and Shelby make up for lost time
If 2012 was a frustrating year for UFC fans, it was a logistical nightmare for Joe Silva and Sean Shelby. The UFC matchmakers extraordinaire had put together on paper some truly stellar cards in an attempt to build on the massive success of 2011, which culminated in the historic deal with TV superpower FOX.
Both men then watched in horror as injuries and suspension tore those well-laid plans to shreds. The criticism that both endured after the ignominious cancellation of UFC 151 – where some fans cited an over-reliance on the main event as the catalyst - was as unwarranted as it was unexpected. The catastrophic catalogue of injuries had long since taken its toll.
Whilst the vociferous UFC President Dana White makes most noise in the media, behind the scenes at UFC parent company Zuffa there is widespread recognition of the contribution of Silva and Shelby to the on-going UFC success story. The corporation’s quiet men have been the cornerstone of a matchmaking policy that has given us so many highlight reel moments.
Both are desperate to make up for the disappointments of last year and the first few months of 2013 promise great entertainment. With no less than five title fights and a host of stacked cards on offer, the immediate future may render the disappointments of last year a distant memory.
Lauzon sees risk in financial rewards
After pocketing an astonishing twelfth of-the-night bonus in his bloody defeat to Jim Miller at UFC 155, Joe Lauzon earned plenty of plaudits as well as a substantial bounce to his paycheck.
The lightweights saved a card that was meandering in mediocrity after three drab middleweight contests opened up the pay-per-view. Within five minutes that had all been forgotten as the Las Vegas crowd had their bloodlust satisfied by a horrific cut to Lauzon’s forehead in the opening stanza, a cut which only worsened under Miller’s relentless barrage of elbows and punches.
The sea of crimson engulfed both men as the violence continued for two more mesmerising rounds. To his credit, Lauzon’s loss of fluids did not reduce his ambition - and the final seconds may have brought an unlikely victory had a sublime attempt at a heel hook been successful.
Once again, it was a fight where Lauzon’s stock was raised even if his hand wasn’t. The $65k bonus check will, at least, provide some financial consolation for the ugly collection of physical scars.
However, despite another bumper payday, it was intriguing to hear Lauzon reflect on the potential perils of his fan-friendly style in a revealing interview with MMA Junkie this week. The physical scars may be healing but it seems the mental abrasions may have left a permanent mark.
"I don't feel I've taken any real abuse or punishment. But the thing is I don't want to. I don't want to have wars if that means I'm going to forget my own name. If it got to that point, I would reassess everything and take a step back.”
Those who feel an initial pang of disappointment at Lauzon’s comments should recall the story of Gary Goodridge. The former K-1 and Pride warhorse waged war too many times and paid a hefty price for it as he battles with the neurodegenerative disease dementia pugilistica.
If Joe Lauzon wants to adapt his fighting style to preserve his long-term health then that’s a decision we should all respect.
After all, he’s earned it.
Velasquez win provokes Tyson’s Fury
As newly-crowned heavyweight king Cain Velasquez basked in the glory of a dominant win over Junior Dos Santos, one man remained thoroughly unimpressed. UK heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury took time off from campaigning for a shot at the Klitschko brothers to lambast Velasquez on Twitter this week.
"Cain Velasquez is a little midget on steds bring it on I'll fight. Not a man born from his mother can beat me! I challenge u to fight all in in a cage or ring! It could be billed as the man vs midget lets get it on! U small stiff idiot. I'm the new baddest man on the planet I'll smash @cainmma.!"
These outbursts provoked an incredulous response in the MMA community, who have fond memories of James Toney’s brief, unsuccessful foray into the Octagon back in 2010. The former middleweight, super-middleweight and cruiserweight star brought a big reputation and a big waistline, but little MMA experience. His three-minute capitulation to Randy Couture proved the folly of mixing disciplines.
So what should we read into Fury’s barbs? Not a great deal, in truth. Those fans familiar with Tyson Fury know that he has a penchant for the unpredictable both inside and outside the ropes. At 6ft 9in the man born of travelling stock has all the attributes to potentially trouble the best in the division, but his love of a good, old-fashioned slugfest contrasts starkly with the balletic caution of Team Klitschko.
Where Fury excels is his capacity for self-promotion, gold dust in a division bereft of genuine characters. By his own admission, Fury could talk a glass eye to sleep. And he’s not shy of breaking into song either, as demonstrated by his bizarre post-fight rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings” after defeating Kevin Johnson.
So don’t expect Tyson Fury to step into a cage with Cain Velasquez anytime soon. But do expect more people to tune in the next time he fights. Which is exactly what he wanted.
And finally… Sapp beats Overeem
Regular readers of this column will know that I like to feature the latest adventures of former Pride superstar Bob “The Beast” Sapp. Last year saw the cartoonish colossus embark on a highly lucrative world tour, littered with first round losses and suitcases stuffed with dollars.
Tapping at the first sign of danger, Sapp has long since given up the ghost on a legitimate MMA career. Rather he travels the globe to whichever MMA outpost offers him the requisite amount of currency in exchange for a meek 60-second surrender.
So it was refreshing to see 2013 start with a big win for Sapp as rebounded from his losing streak by defeating UFC heavyweight title contender Alistair Overeem. Admittedly, it was an arm-wrestling context but don’t let that spoil your enjoyment of another marvellous moment courtesy of Japanese television.
Watch the Sapp v Overeem arm-wrestling contest here.
Fury slugfest http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMJmf2x5cLY
Fury v Johnson http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/boxing/watch-tyson-fury-sing-bette-1470729
Sapp v Overeem http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/mma/celebrity-arm-wrestling-watch-mma-stars-1514431