Could A New Year Bring New Faces Into the UFC?

A new year brings new possibilities.  Not to mention the fact that the UFC is being intentional in its global international expansion which could mean going hard after some of these very marketable guys.  Could we see these guys in the UFC in 2009?  Their names have been linked to the UFC recently.  Check out the possibilities.

  • Mirko Cro Cop – says he wants a farewell fight in the UFC, probably would be late in 2009.  Click here for more
  • Satoshi Ishii – is in exclusive negotiations with the UFC.  He won’t debut in the UFC, but the UFC will help with his training and development.  The 2008 Olympic Judo gold medalist will be in the UFC in some way barring a failure in his debut.  It is likely that he would be on TUF 10 which may featue heavyweights.
  • Alistair Overeem – Has been linked to negotionations with the UFC and will be at UFC 93 in Dublin, Ireland. Check it out here.
  • Jeff Monson – He may fight once more in Japan or he may come straight over to the UFC.  I know there was talk about a Monson vs. Kongo match.  He is a great grappler which would be a good add to the heavyweight division and a tough fight for Kongo.
  • Mike Russow – He is rough around the edges but he could be a good prospect
  • Bobby Lashley – His only 1-0 in MMA, but he looked impressive a la Brock Lesnar.  He just signed a 2 fight deal with PFC and if all goes well there we could see Lashley in the UFC by late 2009.  He could have a big impact and be a big crowd draw.  Knock him all you want, but he has potential and he really thinks he could hang with guys like Lesnar already.

Keep an eye on: Dave Herman and Brett Rogers

Light Heavyweights:

  • Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante – He has made it no secret that his ultimate goal is the UFC.  How soon he gets there will depend on the future of ProElite.  It could be 2009.
  • Antwain Britt – I do not know how much thought there is to signing Britt, but he looked good in his TUF 8 fight-on fight.  He was forced off due to injury and has looked good sense.  It may be wise to lock him up.

Keep an eye on: Muhammad Lawal and Robert Drysdale

Middeliweights

  • Robbie Lawler – He is the EliteXC champ.  I would say since he is widely viewed as the number 2 middleweight in the world that he may be offered a good contract in the UFC provided EliteXC dies.
  • Joey Villasenor –  Following the collapse of EliteXC, Villasenor was one who mentioned his desire to fight in the UFC.  The status of ProElite is the barrier here.  He could end up in the UFC, but watch for Bellator and Affliction to make runs at Smokin’ Joe.
  • Yoshihiro Akiyama – Many think he is a top 10 middleweight in the world.  He could come over to the UFC since it was reported he was in negotionations with Sengoku and UFC.  Then is came out that negotionations with Sengoku broke down.  That may be a clue…or it may not
  • David Louiseau – A couple of wins since leaving the UFC and Louiseau finds himself knocking on the UFC door again.  He may be signed for the next Canada card, but he may need one more win.  Nevertheless, look for the former number 1 contender to be given another chance. 

Welterweights

  • Jake Shields – He has made no bones about it that he wants in the UFC and that he wants a fight with Georges St. Pierre.  Right now the UFC is the only place for a welterweight to go to really test themselves.  One more time ProElite is an issue here, but I am confident that eventually Shields will fight in the UFC.
  • Paul Daley – Daley said in a recent interview that he expects to be in the UFC in 2009.  He must clear his contract with ProElite first.  He is a tough English fighter who could be a good add as the UFC looks to expand worldwide.
  • Phil Baroni – He is re-invented at 170 lbs.  In a recent interview with FiveOuncesofPain Baroni said he would like to be in the UFC in 2009.  I think he could get a chance.  He may need one or two more wins though.  Baroni has said he is tired of being a “journeyman” which means he may want to fight for a US based organization.
  • T.J. Grant – He has been called the best Canadian not in a major organization.  I look for the UFC to snatch him up.  The UFc wants to push in Canada and Grant is a good prospect.  He may be signed sooner than later as the UFC will be in Canada several times in 2009.

Lightweight

  • Gilbert Melendez- He has one more fight left with Strikeforce, which should come by March.  Then I look for him to hit the free agent market.  His next fight could determine his value.  A win could make him worthwhile.  He has mentioned the UFC in several interviews as a possible home.

The UFC addes several prospects in 2008.  Look for more guys to burst onto the scene in 2009.  Some have already been signed and will make their debut in 2009 such as Denis Kang, Ronnys Torrys, Stefan Struve, Neil Grove, John Howard, etc. 

I look for about half these guys to sign in the UFC and I expect some surprises which could be dictated by the futures of Affliction and ProElite as well as the quality of TUF competitors.

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Where Will the EliteXC Fighters Land?

Here is a prioritized list (somewhat) of EliteXC prospects and where they may land…

1. Jake Shields – I believe Shields is EliteXC’s best martial artist.  I guess he is their highest ranked fighter.  Shields has said that he wants better competition and this is his way out.  I am sure places like Affliction, DREAM and World Victory Road will come calling.  Perhaps they will offer lucrative deals.  Perhaps they can make one or two exciting fights, but the reality is the best welterweights are in the UFC.  If Shields wants to fight the best he needs to be in the UFC.  I expect him to land in the UFC.  He is the top prospect from EliteXC and whoever signs them picks up a great fighter and a instant contender for the belt.  There are countless exciting fights in the UFC for Shields.  This from GracieFighter.com

We are confirming that EliteXC has folded. What this means for our fans and supporters is that there will not be a Nick Diaz vs. Eddie Alvarez fight on November 8th. However Jake Shields in the UFC has now become a real possibility. We will be updating our site for future developments.<!– –>

2. Gina Carano – She may hurt the most from this as women’s MMA hasn’t taken off yet.  Dana White has said many times he has no plans to start a women’s divison.  The only other organization that has a solid women’s divison is AFL.  They could contend for Carano’s services.  Gina is a huge draw, probably the top women’s draw out there and I still want to see Carano v. Cyborg happen.  Perhaps Proelite’s collapse may motivate someone like Affliction to start women’s MMA.  I lean towards Carano at AFL.

3. Rafael Feijao – I believe he is a top prospect.  He is rapidly climbing the rankings.  He is a great light heavyweight who trains under the Nogueiras and Anderson Silva.  I think he could be the best some day.  A report came last week that Feijao would be in the UFC in a year, and it looks like it couldbe sooner.  I do not know if he wants to geta  few more fights first, but the UFC is his goal.  I expect he will land in the UFC.  I just hope Dana and others do not sleep on this guy’s potential. 

4. Eddie Alvarez – Alvarez made a huge impression at the DREAM lightweight tournament.  He still feels that belt is rightly his.  He became a sort of star in that tournament.  Alvarez is young and super talented.  Any promoter would be dumb not to bring big offers for Alvarez.  In the end I think Alvarez ends up somewhere like DREAM or Affliction.  I say Affliction because they would allow him to fight in DREAM as well.  I’d love to see him in the UFC, but I doubt it will happen.

5. Antonio Silva – He is serving a steroids suspension which may hurt him, however my gut tells me he is innocent in this one.  He may really have some type of hormonal problem.  I do not know where he will land, but he is a top tier heavyweight and I believe can compete with most heavyweights in the world.  Affliction and UFC have the best heavyweight divisons.  If he wants to fight and win he may go somewhere like DREAM where there is limited competition.  If he wants to really compete with the best it will be Affliction or the UFC.

6. Robbie Lawler – Robbie Lawler is tough guy to figure out.  He is a consensus top ten middleweight in the world.  Surely the UFC would give him a chance, but he struggled in the UFC.  I still think the UFC should try to sign him, but I wouldn’t be shocked to shocked to see Lawler in Affliction or even Strikeforce. 

7. Dave Herman – Dave Herman is a solid prospect at heavyweight.  I’d like to see him get some attention from this.  He should be one of the top names out there.  He isn’t a top 15 heavyweight right now, but he is doing very good.  He would be a solid add for someone like the UFC, who has a weakend heavyweight divison.

8. Wilson Reis – Where can he got but to the WEC?   He is a solid fighter, but the lighter guys don’t have many options.  The WEC is quickly putting togetehr the best featehrweight and bantamweight divisons in the world.  For Reis the WEC provides a chance to fight the best guys in the world in his weight class.

9. Brett Rogers – I think he is very good.  Perhaps one dimensional, but he can knock someone out.  If I was the UFC I would worry about personality here.  He is very WWE.  He comes into fights with an entourage.  He talks smack.  He is talented and perhaps a guy on the rise, but he is a gamble.  Someone will sign him.  However, Rogers will go where the money is.  I don’t blame him for that.  I doubt it will be the UFC.

10. Joey Villasenor –Villasenor has fought nearly everywhere, except the UFC.  He has a solid record and impressive resume.  He is for sure a top ten EliteXC fighter.  Promoters will come hard after Villasenor.  He is better than some the UFC has under contract at 185 lbs, but will they offer Villasenor?  I think they will offer him, but I don’t know that is where he will land.  For some reason my gut tells me he ends up at Affliction.

11. Nick Diaz – I cannot imagine the UFC wanting Nick Diaz back, but I think I remember Dana saying he would give Nick another chance.  I don’t see him back in the UFC.  His antics are too crazy.  I think he ends up in Japan at either World Victory Road or DREAM.

12. Benji Radach – Rumor has it that when the IFL closed Radach called the UFC and talked to them about coming back to the UFC.  Apparently, the UFC told him he needed to get another fight first.  Then Radach signed with EliteXC and won huge over Murilo Rua on CBS.  The question is, does Radach still want the UFC or is he angry with them?  I do not know that answer, but I am pretty sure the UFC would want him now.  regardless, Affliction will be the number one contender.

13. Murilo “Ninja” Rua – Rua is talented, but he has struggled.  He has been an on and off fighter.  I think he is a solid pick up for anyone and he is worth a contract.  He could join his brother in the UFC, but he is not a top ten guy right now at his weight class or even in the UFC.  If he wants a title he betetr find somewhere else to go.  He could be another Affliction add.  I think Affliction boosts their middleweight divison through this.

14. Frank Shamrock- He is not like his brother, he can still fight.  I think he ends up at Strikeforce, but Affliction will come calling.  One thing is for sure, he will not be in the UFC  he and Dana White hate each other’s guts.

15. Scott Smith – As good as Smith looked against Lawler, I do not see him being a hot commodity, but he will land somewhere.  He has tried his hand in the UFC.  I doubt that will happen, although that bridge probably isn’t burned.  I would say Smith will be around and maybe fight in some smaller shows or go to Strikeforce.

16. K.J. Noons – I don’t know what to make of K.J.  He is a decent fighter, but not the best lightweight.  He has expressed intrest in boxing, so maybe that is where he will go.  However, I have a feeling he will try his hand at MMA still.  I think the WEC would be a good fit for Noons, but Affliction is another real option.  They may be more willing to allow him to box and do other things.

17. Paul Daley – He is a good welterweight, and maybe the UFC would like to consider going hard after another U.K. fighter.  He is no Bisping in terms of skills, but he isn’t bad either.  That may be a very real possibility to see Daley in the UFC.  Put him on the Ultimate Fighter 8! Not really, but UFC is very possible.

18. Phil Baroni – He isn’t going to the UFC.  He looks better at 170 though.  I don’t know what Baroni will do.  I have a feeling he will be a wanderer.

19. Ricco Rodriquez – Does he still fight?  He is perfect for Affliction.  He is a former UFC champ, who is past his prime. 

20. Kimbo Slice – I considered putting Kimbo near the top of my list.  Like it or not he is the face of EliteXC.  He is a big draw.  I decided to put him where he belongs talent wise.  With all the Kimbo bashing, I still think he is a good investment.  I still think he can fight good fighters and compete to some degree.  I think he is way overrated and overhyped, but some organization would love to have him.  I think the AFL would be a good choice.  Also, Affliction could get into the mix.  One more thing, do not be surprised to see a Japanese promotion making an effort to pick up Kimbo.  Bas Rutten, his trainer, loved Japanese venues and could influence him here.

I say that Dana and the UFC will go after 10-12 of these guys, but will come away with about 5 or 6.

EliteXC Rankings

Came up with some EliteXc rankings.  This is a work in progress for me.  I will post it in the MMA Rankings page, as I intend to develop my rankings for all MMA, UFC, DREAM, EliteXC, and Affliction. 

Heavyweight

1. Antonio Silva

2. Brett Rogers

3. Dave Herman

4. Kimbo Slice

5.  Jon Murphy

Light Heavyweight:

1. Rafael Feijao

Middleweight

1. Robbie Lawler

2. Scott Smith

3. Joey Villasenor

4. Murilio “Ninja” Rua

5. Frank Shamrock

6. Kala Hose

7. Giva Santana

8. Kyle Noke

9. Phil Baroni

Welterweight

1. Jake Shields

2. Drew Fickett

Lightweight

1. K.J. Noons

2. Eddie Alvarez

3. Nick Diaz

4. Yves Edwards

5. Paul Daley

6. James Edson Berto

7. Mike Aina

The Good, Bad and Ugly of EliteXC on CBS I

The Good:

·         Brett Rogers was impressive with his striking and quick KO of Jon Murphy and I think Kimbo will be up next for him.  I’d like to see that fight. 

·         Joey Villasenor looked far superior than Phil Baroni and could be a serious contender

·         Gina Carano unfocused and under trained is still one of the best women fighters in the world

·         Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith had an exciting fight going on

·         Kimbo Slice proved he can be a MMA fighter.  I don’t think he was great, but he showed some ground game, he had a good reversal or two.  Most of all I liked that he said afterwards that he knew he had a lot to learn.  He is a work in progress, but showed he is a serious MMA fighter.  I don’t have a problem with that stoppage as I think Thompson was on his way out. 

·         I thought the commentators did a pretty good job, and I liked the way Frank Shamrock covered the MMA basics for potential new viewers

The Bad:

·         I thought the show was tasteless.  From the nasty dancers who I have no idea why they were there, to the Busta Rhymes performance.  Phil Baroni led the way in tastelessness with his entrance.  He showed exactly what mixed martial arts is not about.  I was sickened by him coming in dancing with women dancing all around hum while they rubbed him down.  And could someone please tell me what was with all the fat guys in red after Rogers’ win.  It was way showier than I would have liked.  Joey Villasenor said in his post fight interview that Baroni was a good entertainer and I think he is right.  What a difference in how the two took the fight in their own minds, and look who won.  I would have liked more focus on the fights and less talk and less show. 

·         I thought the stoppage of the Laweler/Smith fight was sad.  Yes, I think Smith was doomed to be KO’d as Lawler was starting to pick him apart, but that stoppage nearly ruined the night.  I wanted to see it finish.  I think the stoppage was premature and Smith could have continued. 

·         Gina Carano, although she looked good needs to decide what she wants to do with her life.  She spent a lot of time videoing American Gladiators and too little time training.  If she trains more she will be dominant.

·         I didn’t like that Gary Shaw seemed to have his thumb on everything.  He stood over every fighter’s shoulder during every interview

·         Did anyone else notice that the former UFC sponsor “Mickeys” was a sponsor at this EliteXC event. 

The Ugly:

·         James Thompson’s ear.  That thing was nasty before the fight can you imagine it now?  I would have to get that thing fixed somehow. 

·         When the fans were booing the Lawler/Smith fight I was frustrated.  What a sorry bunch of fans!  They must not know anything about MMA, that was shaping up to be a great fight.  There was great action and good striking. 

·         The bottom line is that this show came nowhere near a UFC show and proved to me that UFC is far superior to EliteXC.  I argued constantly that EliteXC could compete with the UFC and now I am proven wrong and I will go eat crow.  They emphasized the show to the loss of the fights; they could have gone quicker and showed an undercard fight.  They could have pulled Phil Baroni aside and taught him that this is Mixed Martial Arts and now a Wrestling league. 

·         Overall, I think the show was only so-so.  I thought there were a few good fights and some good KO’s.  There was some good stand up fights, but I would have liked to see some technical ground fighting and jiu jitsu on display for America and MMA newcomers to see.  I thought the lack of class of the dancers, Baroni, and Rogers’ big boy posse proved that point and I am sure left a bad taste in some people’s mouths.  People will now think of WWE when they think of MMA.  I would like to see different guys next time like Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Antonio Silva, or Paul Daley.  In other words, EliteXC on CBS I made it, but not as grand as it could have been. 

 

EliteXC and Their Future

We have seen many fight promotions come and go.  Dana White has stated that he isn’t worried about EliteXC, but Satuday is a big day for the EliteXC and for all MMA.  So, how will EliteXC on CBS do?  There are a lot of questions about Mixed Martial Arts on primetime television.  This deal is obviously big.  There are many Kimbo haters who don’t think he is right for the main even, but I disagree.  The main event isn’t necessarily about the best or most experienced fighter or even what will be the best fight, but about what will sell the most tickets and that is Kimbo.  Kimbo Slice is a gold mine.  This fight may determine a lot about hsi MMA future.  I’d like to see him fight a bigger name guy and if he wins Saturday he will.  EliteXC, Affliction, and DREAM seem to be the biggest competition for the UFC, so how will they do?  There are a few ways to determine that.  The UFC has been a model of success in MMA, let’s see what EliteXC needs to do.

FIGHTERS IN THE ORGANIZATION

This does not just mean having a host of fighters, but it means having good fighters and more importantly marketable fighters.  The UFC has that. Does EliteXC.  Here are their top fighters…

  • Kimbo Slice
  • Gina Carano
  • Jake Shields
  • Robbie Lawler
  • Eddie Alvarez
  • Frank Shamrock
  • KJ Noons
  • Nick Diaz
  • Kala Hose
  • Antonio Silva
  • Joey Villasenor
  • Phil Baroni
  • Murilio Rua
  • Paul Daley
  • Jon Murphy
  • Brett Rogers
  • Rafael Feijao
  • Ricco Rodriguez

In that group they have some recognizable names (Sheilds, Diaz, Carano, Slice, Lawler, Baroni, Rodriguez).  They have a few good prospects (Rogers, Feijao, and Murphy).  They have a couple of true stars (Slice and Carano).  Carano is a babe, a good fighter, an American Gladiator star, and one of the most searched for names on the internet.  Kimbo Slice is a You Tube sensation and perhaps will evolve into a decent MMA fighter. However, they only have a couple of legit top level fighters (Lawler. Alvarez and Shields).  Don’t get me wrong their all around talent can draw a crowd and is better than most.

REVENUE

They are still operating in the red, but that will change.  I don’t expect money to be an issue right now for EliteXC

EVENTS

Here is where EliteXC will struggle.  They hav a great card set up for Saturday, but can they consistently do that?  With about 20 guys that are main card worthy can they put on more than two or three cards?  The answer is…no.  They need to sign more talent.  I don’t know how often they plan to be on CBS Primetime, but they need better events and Kimbo and Carano can’t be on every big card they have.

MANAGMENT

Gary Shaw knows what he is doing, but the question is, does he have the savvy that Dana White has?  Time will tell if he makes good busisness moves and this CBS deal is key.  We will see how it does on CBS.

EliteXC is not going to dissolve any time soon, however, they need more talent and not just marketability. I think EliteXC on CBS this Saturday will fair very well.  They will get large audiences and new fans.  It will help all MMA. 

My EliteXC on CBS I Predictions

Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson

Gary Shaw had to set this match knowing that James Thompson may be the perfect guy for Kimbo to beat.  Thompson has lost three of his last four fights via knockout in round 1.  Kimbo hits hard and will come at him.  I don’t expect this to be much of a fight, but I expect it to be exciting and I expect Kimbo to win.  EliteXC needs Kimbo to win.  A Kimbo loss on their CBS debut would hurt them.  He needs to win and win by TKO and in doing so win the fans over.  Kimbo is the hope of EliteXC.  He has star power.  Dana White of the UFC has asserted thta Kimbo is overrated and that even lightweight champ B.J. Penn could beta Kimbo.  I don’t know about that, but B.J. boxing did look good.  I still think Kimbo wins by TKO in round 1. 

Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith

I like Robbie Lawler.  He is a good fighter and can hang with the best middleweights in the world.  His only losses are to quality guys.  He lost to Jason Miller, Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner.  He does have one loss to Pete Spratt.  Lawler wins via TKO most of the time and I doubt this will be any different.  Scott Smith is not bad, but he isn’t Robbie Lawler.  Lawler has beaten much better guys.  Of course that doesn’t mena anything when they get into the ring. Smith struggled in the UFC going 1-3.  I don’t expect Smith to be able to hang with Lawler.  This is a title fight and Lawler is a champ.  I predict Lawler by TKO in round 3. 

Joey Villasenor vs. Phil Baroni

Phil Baroni is overrated.  He struggled in the UFC and did fair in PRIDE.  Not much to this fight.  It will be intense, but I predict Villasenor by unanimous decision.
Gina Carano vs. Kaitlin Young

I don’t know much about women fighters.  I do know Carano is good.  She could be a star of women’s fighters.  My worry is she could be too concentrated on American Gladiators to train much.  I still think Carano will win by submission in round 2.

Brett Rogers vs. Jon Murphy

Gary Shaw said that EliteXC will have a heavyweight title in 2008.  It very well could be the winner of this fight vs. the winner of the Kimbo vs. Thompson fight will get the chance to square off for the first EliteXC heavyweight title.  Brett Rogers is a sort of brawler who wins most fights by KO.  I think this will be the same and it would be a good match to see Rogers vs. Kimbo.  I pick Rogers to beat Murphy by KO early in round 1.

Who Benefited Most From PRIDE’s Collapse?

When PRIDE fell they were clearly the biggest competitors with the UFC, having many of MMA’s top guys.  They had some big time stars. Then PRIDE got into trouble and was bought by Zuffa.  So who benefited the most from PRIDE’s deminse?  There was a mad scramble to sign those guys who were now unemployed. I have been critical of the UFC’s ability to sign top PRIDE guys like Fedor, Gomi, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Arona, Kang, Mousasi, Melendez, etc. However, it looks like the UFC has done great due to PRIDE’s fall.  I ranked the PRIDE guys at the time of their collapse in order of who I would want to sign and the UFC benefited from it.  Now, the guys they have signed haven;t had huge success, but they are popular and will win eventually.  Can you imagine the UFC heavyweight divison without the influx of Nogueira, Werdum, and Herring???  The light heavyweight divison also was greatly boosted with the signings of Shogun, Wanderlei, Dan Henderson, Nakamura, and Sokoudjou.  UFC just struggles to get the lightweights. UFC signed 13 of those guys I listed and they have faired well, this doesn’t even include other guys who came in before the fall of PRIDE like “Rampage” Jackson.  Out of those guys you have some stars now in the UFC, some guys that can draw a crowd and one of them owns the belt (Nogueira).  DREAM and Affliction seemed to clean up what UFC couldn’t sign.  DREAM picked up the ligtweights, signing 8 of those PRIDE guys.  Affliction has a few signings.  So while I am critical of the UFC, let us give Dana and the UFC brass some credit for signing many of the top PRIDE guys.  I still would like to see the best of the best in one place, but it won’t happen, so this puts things into perspective and the UFC did good and benefited the most from PRIDE’s fall.

 

Name

Fight Organization Signed With

Fedor Emelianenko

Affliction

Wanderlei Silva

UFC

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

UFC

Mirko Cro Cop

UFC (DREAM)

Takanori Gomi

World Victory Road

Dan Henderson

UFC

Josh Barnett

Affliction

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

UFC

Paulo Filho

WEC

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

HCF

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

UFC

Ricardo Arona

 

Gilbert Melendez

Strikeforce

Fabricio Werdum

UFC

Gegard Mousasi

DREAM

Denis Kang

DREAM

Aleksander Emelianenko

Affliction

Marcus Aurelio

UFC

Akihiro Gono

UFC

Kauo Misaki

DREAM

Ricardo Almeida

UFC

Heath Herring

UFC

Joachim Hansen

DREAM

Ryo Chonan

UFC

Kazuhiro Nakamura

UFC

Tatsuya Kawajiri

DREAM

Mitsuhiro Ishida

DREAM

Alistair Overeem

Strikeforce

Kevin Randleman

 

Phil Baroni

EliteXC

Hayato “Mach” Sakurai

DREAM

Murilio Bustamante

 

Murilo “Ninja” Rua

EliteXC