Although the NFL playoffs deterred the major promotions from holding an event this weekend, there were still a considerable number of large announcements made throughout the week to keep fans excited—a few of which were truly unexpected and interesting.
Let’s take a look at what this week brought MMA fans!
UFC 197 Gets Bolstered With Two Title Fights
It looks as though, at least on paper, UFC 197 may be one of the best fight cards of the year.
It’s a daring thing to say when only two of the card’s fights have been finalized, but these aren’t typical fights (especially McGregor vs. dos Anjos!). Miesha Tate will battle Holly Holm for the bantamweight belt (the UFC undoubtedly is frustrated that it cannot get Rousey to meet immediate rematch obligations), in what is a very interesting contest—especially when the limited title shot options of the division are considered. As was mentioned, UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor will meet lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in the main event—an explosive and undeniably awesome fight that is amplified in intrigue when the fact that McGregor will hold his featherweight belt as well is reflected upon.
Perhaps this battle of champions isn’t quite so “undeniably awesome”, though; some individuals are definitely not fans. The fight makes outstanding business sense (or not so much, depending upon how good one believes dos Anjos is), but a lot of people have been affected by the decision. Former champion Jose Aldo obviously cannot receive an immediate rematch, and Frankie Edgar, who was promised a title shot, will simply have to wait yet again (and at thirty-four years of age, this is an especially big deal).
But by and large, the reception to the announcement has been positive—and given the scale and stylistic implications of each fight, there’s good reason for this. Then again, many will be able to understand the anger and frustration of Aldo (perhaps), and Edgar—the latter of whom will once again need to spend the six months (give or take) on the shelf if he wants to receive his promised title shot next. Perhaps a rematch between Aldo and Edgar will be arranged, but given the position of each, it would make little sense.
Bellator 148 Takes a Serious Blow, Other Solid Bouts Announced
Bellator’s year is off to a far-from-perfect start.
Although the news isn’t quite devastating, it certainly wasn’t a good thing for the promotion when Josh Koscheck announced that he’d suffered from an injury, and would be forced to withdraw from Bellator 148 on January 29th. As was said in previous posts, and as is clear to most fans, the main purpose of the card was to set up a rematch between Koscheck and Daley (who first fought in the UFC, in a contest that ended with Daley punching Koscheck after the bell). Now that the promotion side of things has been eliminated from the card, it appears to be a relatively lackluster way to kick-off the year for Bellator. And while it’s certainly worth tuning in for, and features some interesting contests, the point remains that the loss of Koscheck was a big blow for Bellator 148.
But the promotion also had some better news to announce to fans.
David “The Caveman” Rickels—one of the promotion’s most talented and entertaining homegrown talents—will battle the up-and-coming Bobby Cooper at Bellator 150, in a fight that should please Kansas fans and broadcast viewers alike. Bellator 150 is scheduled for February 26th.
Bellator 149 was improved with a solid rematch between two of the promotion’s top light heavyweights, as former champion Emanuel Newton will battle Linton Vassell once again. In their first encounter, a thrilling five-round title fight, Newton picked-up a fifth-round submission triumph after overcoming multiple submission attempts and a ton of adversity. Bellator 149 is scheduled for February 19th.
Also worth mentioning is that Bellator 150 received a respectable replacement opponent in Vinicius Queiroz, who will meet Cheick Kongo in place of Augusto Sakai. Much better than a last-minute, weak opponent for Kongo, Queiroz is a skilled competitor that has the ability to make the fight interesting and competitive.
USADA Botches Cro Cop’s Drug Test in a Bizarre Situation
The USADA—one of the world’s leading drug-testing facilities—announced that their “positive” tests of Cro Cop, which showed him testing positive for HGH, were actually negative.
The situation becomes even weirder than a multi-million dollar company failing at successfully performing its sole task when the fact that Cro Cop himself admitted to taking HGH to help an injury is considered. In doing so, he inadvertently outed himself—and according to the USADA, that’s reason enough for his suspension to stand.
The frank truth of the situation, with honor and integrity aside, is that it sometimes pays to delay telling the truth until all of the cards fall into play—although, realistically, who saw this one coming?
UFC Announces 2016 Shows in the Netherlands and Croatia
In a move that is likely some parts smart business expansion and many parts a response to Bellator’s announced international shows, the UFC has revealed that it will hold events in the Netherlands and Croatia in 2016.
One show will be held on April 10th in Zagreb, Croatia while the other will be held on May 8th in Rotterdam. The cards should be exciting, especially for fans from each of the countries.
Martin “The Hitman” Kampmann Makes his Retirement Official
Longtime UFC talent Martin Kampmann has called it a career at thirty-three years of age (and an Octagon career dating back to 2006).
The skilled Dane has fought some of the most elite athletes in the promotion, and holds notable victories over Thales Leites, Carlos Condit, Rick Story, and Jake Ellenberger, to name just some.
Kampmann appears to have more than enough to occupy his time outside of MMA competition, but his high-level and ultra-exciting style will be missed by many fans.
UFC Announces a Number of Various Fights
The UFC announced a multitude of fights for a number of events throughout the week, including:
- A March 20th Brisbane card featuring a heavyweight clash between Frank Mir and Mark Hunt in the main event (it goes without saying that this is an interesting fight!)
- Maximo Blanco versus undefeated RFA champion and the UFC-debuting Luke Sanders at UFN Boston (this is a surprisingly difficult debut fight for Sanders)
- —Dennis Bermudez versus Tatsuya Kawajiri at UFN Pittsburg (a solid contest between the young up-and-comer and the seasoned veteran)
- —Oluwale Bamgbose replacing Sam Alvey against Daniel Sarafian at UFN Pittsburg (the second late-replacement fight for Bamgbose, and what could be his last in the UFC — if history is any indication, the promotion doesn’t truly protect those who step-up and do them a favor for very long, should they come up short in a contest)
- —Misha Cirkunov versus promotional-newcomer Alex Nicholson at UFC 196
- Joseph Benavidez versus Zach Makovsky in an important and high-level flyweight match, also at UFC 196
This week in MMA wasn’t the most exciting, but without any fights, this can definitely be expected. Next week stands to be a big improvement, as T.J. Dillashaw will put his belt on the line against Dominick Cruz, live and free on Fox Sports 1. The card is stacked with plenty of other awesome fights as well and is most definitely worth watching.
Enjoy the fights!