Breaking Down the UFC Light Heavyweight Division

The Champion: Forrest Griffin

The Top Contender: Rashad Evans

The Next Tier:

·         Wanderlei Silva

·         Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

·         Lyoto Machida

·         Thiago Silva

·         Rich Franklin

·         Dan Henderson

·         Keith Jardine

·         Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

·         Chuck Liddell

·         Luis Arthur Cane

·         Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

 

On the Rise: 

·         Luis Arthur Cane

 

Other Notables:

·         Brandon Vera

·         Mat Hamill

·         Stephan Bonnar

·         Jon Jones

·         Tim Boetsch

·         Steve Cantwell

·         Brian Stann

·         James Irvin

·         Eric Schafer

 

Scheduled Fights:

·         Steve Cantwell vs. Razak Al-Hussan at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Forrest Griffin vs. Rashad Evans @ UFC 92 on December 28 (For Title)

·         Quinton Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva @ UFC 92 on December 28

·         Matt Hamill vs. Reese Andy @ UFC 92 on December 28

·         Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson @ UFC 93 on January

·         Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Mark Coleman @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Andre Gusmao vs. Antonio Mendes @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Ivan Serati vs. Tomasz Drwal @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Jon Jones vs. Stephan Bonnar @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva @ UFC 94 on January 31

 

Match Ups I’d Like to See:

·         Luis Cane vs. Keith Jardine

·         Brandon Vera vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

 

Other Thoughts:

·         There are rumors of a Anderson Silva vs. Chuck Liddell match up at UFC 95

·         There are a lot of light heavyweight contenders and the match ups are being set.  The winner of Wanderlei vs. Rampage should get the next title shot, although the winner of Lyoto Machida and Thiago Silva should be considered as well. 

·         We are waiting for the debut of rumored UFC signee Glover Teixeira who has been having visa troubles in Brazil. 

·         The UFC could sign former EliteXC light heavyweight Rafael Feijao, which would be a big time contender.

·         The UFC has a clear monopoly on the light heavyweight division.  There are only a few fighters worth a  dime in this division not in the UFC (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Vladimir Matyushenko, Ricardo Arona, Tito Ortiz, and Renato “Babalu” Sobral)

·         I looks like two solid light heavyweights have dropped to middleweight in Goran Reljic and Wilson Gouveia

·         The Ultimate Fighter 8 which featured light heavyweights is sure to place a few good fighters in the divison, but it will take time for them to climb the ladder.  Watch out for guys like Ryan Bader, Vinny Magalhes, Kryztof Soszynski, and Eliot Marshall.

·         It is somewhat possible to see Randy Couture take a few fights at light heavyweight and also to see Anderson Silva fight at 205 more often in 2009

 

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UFC 84: Ill Will Medical Suspensions

The medical suspensions for UFC 84 were released and there really isn’t anything too surprising.  I was a little surprised that Jardine wasn’t hurt worse than he was following being KO’s by Wanderlei Silva.  I also was shocked that Wilson Gouveia was beat up as bad as he was.  Apparently, Tito could have a broken hand or wrist as well.  I don’t know when he broke it, he certainly didn’t break it hitting Machida.  It is also possibe that Sean Sherk is healthy enough to fight on the UFC 87 card in Minnesota.  Could he be fighting Frankie Edgar on that card?

Sean Sherk — “The Muscle Shark” is suspended until July 9 and there is no contact until June 24 because of a right cheek laceration.

Keith Jardine — “The Dean of Mean” must clear a possible nasal fracture with a doctor or no contest until November 21. His minimum suspension and no contest will last until July 24 and there’s no contact until July 9.

Goran Reljic – The Croatian is suspended until June 24 and there is no contact allowed until June 15.

Wilson Gouveia — The American Top Team-trained fighter sustained nasal and maxillary sinus fractures that need to be cleared by an Ear Nose and Throat ENT specialist, as well as broken ribs that need to be cleared by a doctor, or no contest until November 21. His minimum suspension will last until July 24 and there is no contact allowed until July 9.

Tito Ortiz — “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” must have his left hand and wrist x-rayed and cleared by an orthopedic physician or no contest until November 21. His minimum suspension will last until July 9 and there is no contact allowed June 24 because of a right eyelid laceration.

Antonio Mendes — The Brazilian is suspended until June 24.

Kazuhiro Nakamura — The Japanese Judoka must clear a nasal fracture with a doctor there is no contest until November 21. There is a minimum no contest until July 9 and no contact until June 24.

Terry Etim — The British lightweight is suspend until June 24 and there is no contact allowed until June 15 because of a right cheek laceration.

Jason Tan — Tan must clear a nasal fracture with a doctor or no contest until November 21. There’s a minimum no contest until July 9 and no contact until June 24.

Christian Wellisch — “The Hungarian Nightmare is suspended until June 8 and there’s no contact allowed until June 1

New Talent in the UFC

One of the things that most excited me about UFC 84 was the display of new talent.  What a job by Dana White and the UFC finding new talent.  UFC 84 was a great display of hopefuls. I am stoked about it. Not only did 5 newcomers win their fights, but 2 guys who hadn’t won yet in the UFC won (Wanderlei and Sokoudjou). These newcomers won me over and I became fans of theirs.  The UFC has some top level new talent.  I liked rooting for these new guys and like seeing new talent coming in.  While we can be critical of the UFC losing some talent (Couture, Arlovski, Sylvia, and Ortiz), there are some new guys to replace them.  Let’s face it while the UFC has lost 4 or 5 stars in the past year, they have gained some future ones.  The guys they lost were past their prime anways.  Whata  job replacing lost talent.  The UFC needs to market these guys.  Put them on Spike’s UFC unleashed and put them on a fight night for people to see.  They all got good exposure at UFC 84 except Dong Hyun-Kim.  Let me say a word about the new guys in the UFC.

Shane Carwin: Out of the newcomers on the UFC 84 card Carwin was the most hyped.  I now know why.  He very well could hold a belt in the UFC one day.  I guess his back health is the one worry.  He is said to have great ground and pound and weaker striking.  He had one of the sickest KO’s I have seen with the mouthpiece flying out.  Shane Carwin is going to be super talented.  Can’t wait for his next fight.  Perhaps against the loser of the Vera vs. Werdum fight or a guy like Justin McCully or Collin Robinson.  Wuth an all around game like he has, the wrestling background, the athletic ability and the KO power he could be a glimmer of hope in a weak, weak divison.  The UFC has three bright stars up and coming in the heavyweight divison (Carwin, Lesnar and Velasquez) and somehow they have to delay them fighting each other and fighting top 3 talent as was learned in the Lesnar vs. Mir experiement. 

Yoshiyuki Yoshida: He very well could have killed Jon Koppenhaver in that fight.  That judo throw and the gator roll anaconda choke was awesome.  Usually your Japanese fighters have proven to be less than exciting and have not faired well in the UFC with the exception of Okami.  Yoshida will do fine and he is exciting.  I want to see him against slighly better competition because Koppenhaver was no match for him. Yoshida looked far superior in every way.  I wish he’s learn a little English though.  The post fight interview with Rogan was slightly awkward and a little English could help his marketability.  Perhpas he could fight a Burkman, Hazelett or maybe the Chonan vs. Carneiro winner is a good idea.  Yoshida will do fine in the UFC, great addidition and he and Kim could make UFC big bucks in the Asian market a la Bisping in England.

Dong Hyun-Kim:  Okay, so I watch Kim fight Jason Tan and all I can say is wow!  He is exciting, strong, and has vicious elbows.  He will be a serious force in the UFC.  He very well could be pitted against a guy like Karo next and I would consider picking Kim to win.  The UFC needs to decide if they think Kim can be something great in the welterweight divison, if they think he can they need to give him two more fights that he can win handily.  The flip side of that is beating a top 10 guy gives you instant credibility.  I know Jason Tan isn’t top level UFC talent, but man Kim looked amazing.  Why aren’t more people talking about that fight?  In my opinion, Kim could very well be the best of the newcomer bunch.  UFC 84 showcased some serious new talent and I am excited about Kim.  I liked him and am disappointed he wasn’t on the televised card.  I still hurt from watching his elbows.

Goran Reljic: Is the guy going to be mini-Cro Cop?  His kicks made me cringe.  Of course my knock on him would be all he showed was striking with the left side, but ouch those kids were hard.  Did you see how red Gouveia’s shoulder was?  I had Wilson Gouveia as ranked 12th in a stacked, stacked divison.  Reljic beat a top tier guy.  I don’t know how he would do against a guy like Thiago Silva or Machida, but he can strike with anyone.  He can take a hit too!!  Relijic has serious promise is this divison and does remind me of a slightly smaller and younger Cro Cop.  The Croatian can improve.  If I was him I would get with some different trainer for a bit to diversify.  I would think Xtreme Couture would be a great idea for him.  However, he is a contender right now!  My question will be how can he handle a aggresive striker or a wrestler like Matt Hammil?  Time will tell.  His future is bright.  I think a Sokoudjou match would be interesting, but I reckon he won’t get that highly ranked of a guy next.  Perhaps the Cane vs. Lambert winner. 

Rousimar Palhares: I know Ivan Salaverry isn’t what he once was, but that arm bar may well have been the best submission I have seen in a while.  He controlled Salaverry from start to finish.   He may be one of the best jiu jitsu guys in the UFC.  I wonder how he would do against another jiu jitsu guy like Demian Maia?  My question will be striking for Palhares.  I wondered why he didn’t soften Ivan up with strikes to the face while he was trying to sink in that choke.  He seemed pretty one-dimensional.  That dimension is top level and then some though.  He was a bright spot on the great card.  Can’t wait to see him in action again.

Antonio Mendes: He is the lone newcomer that lost at UFC 84.  Let me say just two things though.  First, he lost to in my opinion the most underrated light heavyweight and a guy that may well hold the title one day.  Second, he did very, very well.  He rocked Thiago.  His striking looks great.  I hope the UFC saw that and gives him another chance against a slighly less talented guy.  Give Mendes a chance to win against some poor sacrifical lamb in the light heavyweight divison.

Other New Talent:

Cain Velasquez: Many people say the UFC Hevayweight divison has collapsed.  I have said that.  The UFC has lost its champ in Couture and two of it’s top 5 talents in Tim Sylvia and probably Andrei Arlovski.  Mir isn’t what he used to be.  Cro Cop just didn’t work out well.  However, Carwin, Velasquez and Lesnar I believe are a step up in the long run.  Couture was great and I am a fan, but he in 44.  Sylvia is past his prime and Arlovski hadn’t shown consistency.  Cain Velasquez is going to be a star in this divison and it is prime for the taking.

Brock Lesnar: Lesnar is the one of those three new guys in the heavyweight divison to lose, but he lost to Mir and in that loss he showed he can fight.  He is the one of the three guys also that can draw a crowd more than anyone.  He could be UFC’s next biggest star.  We will see how he does against Herring. 

Chris Wilson: Wilson looked good in his loss to Fitch and I believe can do very well in the UFC.  I think he can be a top level guy.  Time will tell with Wilson.

UFC 84: Ill Will Thoughts

I have several thoughts about UFC 84: Ill Will.  Here they go…

  • I was stoked to see the UFC show so many cards on pay-per view.  I believe 9 fights were aired.  I liked it a lot.  Of course it was because there were notmany drawn out decision fights.  I was gald to see Sokoudjou and Carwin’s fights.  It helps the UFC and their careers to get the attention.
  • B.J. Penn looked amazing.  We didn’t even see his jiu-jit su.  He looked crisp in striking.  He was quick and he wore out Sherk with striking.  His cardio looked great too.  B.J. called for the G.S.P. fight and that could be interesting.  Could B.J. hold two belts at the same time?
  • I don’t know what Sherk was doing.  After the fight he said he stayed standing because he was doing well striking.  What fight was he watching?  He could’t reach B.J.  He should have used his wrestling more.
  • How about the show of class between Penn and Sherk.  After many heated words B.J. hugged Sherk and invited him to train in Hawaii
  • Wanderlei is back.  He rocked Jardine.  Jardine was out cold.  And what a classy individual is Wandy.  He is what makes MMA special.  You cannot help but to like him.  He was really concerned for his opponent.  He is humble.  I am a Wanderlei fan.  I will root for a Wanderlei vs. Rampage fight in UFC.  It could happen and the UFC could market it as Rampage’s revenge.  That opens up many scenarios.  If Wandy wins he could get Chuck again for the title.  Still possible he drops down for the Silva vs. Silva match.
  • Lyoto Machida was great against Tito.  Some accuse him of running, but he was elusive.  He was smart.  Tito couldn’t hit him.  He was fast.  He picked his shots well against Tito.  Lyoto is the real deal and will get a big fight next.  He beat Tito bad and I am glad.
  • Who knows what all realyl went on in the UFC after fight press conference with Tito.  Tito is a loud mouthed jerk. 
  • Thiago Silva has a tough chin.  Mendes may be for real, but Thiago is really for real.  He is a top 10 light heavyweight and is in the mix for a title.  He will get a top tier guy next. 
  • Goran Reljic looked great.  He can kick hard.  He has KO power.  If he can learn to vary his kicks more he is a contender.  I moved him into my top 15 from that fight.  I’d like to see him vs. Hammil.
  • Palhares is a force at middleweight.  What an amazing arm bar!  He better improve his striking though. He should have thrown some punches while trying to sink in that choke.  Nevertheless, oen of the best jiu-jitsu guys in the UFC
  • Shane Carwin’s KO of Wellish was sick.  His bread and butter is ground and pound and he didn’t even show it.  He will be a heavyweight force.
  • Yoshida looked great against Koppenhaver.  That choke was textbook.  We will see how he does against more serious competition.
  • Kim will also be a force at welterweight
  • Sokoudjou won…yay!  He didn’t look great, but he won, apparently with a hurt knee.  He called for Shogun, but I hope he doesn’t get him.  I want both those guys to do well in the UFC.  One of them losing would hurt their UFC careers bad.  I’d give Shogun someone like Wilson Gouveia or Stephan Bonnar to get a win under his belt.  And Shogun wants Liddell.
  • This may have helped the UFC roster cuts.  Look for Salaverry, Koppenhaver, and Tan to be canned.  Also, Nakamura may be done as could Etim. 

UFC 84 Predictions

Christian Wellish vs. Shane Carwin

Shane Carwin has never left the first round of a fight.  Nate Marquardt touts him highly.  He is rumored to be a great striker and a great grappler and jiu jitsu guy.  He is being hailed as the next big thing in the UFC heavyweight divison.  A win would ruin that for him.  I am not going to bet against Carwin in fact this is one of the fights I feel most comfortable with.  Don’t be shocked to see this one creep onto the pay-per view showing.  My final pick is Shane Carwin by TKO in round 1.

Terry Etim vs. Rich Clementi

Terry Etim is a great submission guy with 9 of his 10 wins coming by submissions. 5 of Rich Clementi’s 12 losses have come via submissions.  The experience would go to Clementi.  Terry Etim hasn’t fought since September.  Rich Clementi just fought in April at UFC 83 when he beat Sam Stout in a split decision.  This is a hard fight to pick because you have to assume that the fight will go on the ground and if it does Etim can submit Clementi quickly.  However, I am going to pick Clementi by ref stoppage in round 2. 

Ivan Salavarry vs. Rousimar Palhares

Ivan Salaverry is very talented, but for some reason hasn’t show all he can do.  He is very well rounded.  Palhares is a relative unkown, but apparently he can submit people because that is how he wins.  I struggled picking this fight because Salaverry may be done.  This is one of those win or go home fights.  I amy regret it but I am going to pick Palhares by submission is round 1. 

Dong Hyun Kim vs. Jason Tan

I have no idea what to say here.  The loser is going to be cut.  Japanese fighters seem to struggle over in the UFC with the exception of Okami.  Maybe Kim is Korean and he will win.  Jason Tan hasn’t beat quality people yet.  However, I am going to pick Jason Tan by unanimous decision.

Jon Koppenhaver vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida

It comes down to heart and Koppenhaver has heart, but his head is messed up.  I pick Yoshida to win by unanimous decision.

Thiago Silva vs. Antonio Mendes

Mendes has a good record, but Thiago Silva has looked amazing.  I think he is a guy to watch in the UFC.  Silva is 12-0 with 10 wins coming by TKO.  I think Silva is going to KO Mendes in round 2. 

Wilson Gouveia vs. Goran Reljic

Gouveia is 4-1 in the UFC, with his only loss coming in the TUF 3 Finale to Keith Jardine.  Now, Gouveia in his last fight was nearly KO’d by Jason Lambert, but he camback and won the fight.  Gouveia may want to keep the fight standing and may want to watch for Reljic’s armbar.  Reljic is a Croatian who has trained with Cro Cop.  I don’t know how good he will be, but we will see.  This may be a good fight.  I think Gouveia could easily win this fight, but I am going to pick Reljic by upset win and submission in round 1.

Kazuhiro Nakamura vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

Sokoujou is still a top ten talent most places.  He is doing some training with Extreme Couture and his guys tend to do very well.  Nakamura has an average record of 11-7, but to his credit his losses have come to Machida, Shogun, Barnett, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.  In other words he has some good wins and some good fights, but struggles against the top tier.  This may be a win or go home fight as well.  I look for Sokoudjou to win this fight by unanimous decison.

Tito Ortiz vs. Lyoto Machida

Perhpas this is the fight will all the drama.  Tito is most likely gone from the UFC win or lose.  We know of his bitterness with Dana White.  Tito wants nothing more than to go out with a win as a sign to the UFC that he is still a good fighter.  Dana wants nothing more than Tito to lose badly in this fight.  In fact he has probably given Machida all sorts of incentives if he wins.  Tito claims to be in tip top shape.  However, I have a feeling he has been distracted by talks of where he will fight next, the Apprentice, clothing lines, Jenna, other busisness ventures, did I mention Jenna?  I think in the end Machida is too good.  I wouldn’t want to go to decision against Tito, no fighter has been given more questionable decisions than Tito.  Machida is 12-0 and that against top notch guys.  He holds wins over B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin, Sokoudjou, Nakamura, and David Heath.  I am going to pick Lyoto Machida to win by TKO in round 2. 

Keith Jardine vs. Wanderlei Silva

This is set up to be a great fight.  Both these guys are good guys with great records.  The question for me is Wanderlei’s best days behind him?  Jardine in my opinion should be the one coaching TUF and should be the one getting the next title shot.  Jardine beat Liddell and Wanderlei lost to Chuck recently.  So I guess many people with figure that Jardine should easily beat Silva.  Not so fast.  I think Wanderlei’s training and hard word will pay off.  I like Keith Jardine, but I like Wanderlei Silva.  He is a class act and a MMA legend.  I am rooting for him all the way.  A win for Jardine ought to mean title shot.  A loss for Silva and some people are talking he is out of the UFC.  I doubt that yet.  With that said I will pick Wanderlei Silva to win by TKO in round 1.

B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk

If B.J. Penn looks like he did against Joe Stevenson it is good bye Sean Sherk.  I am rooting for B.J.  Sean Sherk is no puch over though.  Sherk has one many fights by ground and pound.  That may be dangerous against the jiu-jitsu of Penn.  Cardio will be a huge factor to me.  Sherk has an awesome record.  Sherk could win this one, but I am going to pick B.J. Penn by submission in round 2. 

Upsets to watch for: Terry Etim over Rich Clementi.  Keith Jardine over Wanderlei Silva.  Wilson Gouveia over Goran Reljic.