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10 December Tussles Worth Watching
10 December Tussles Worth Watching
After holding back the past few months, promoters in Europe, Japan and the United States plan to fire on all cylinders in an effort to put together the kind of superfights certain to end a remarkable year in mixed martial arts with a bang.
As always, Sherdog.com’s monthly rundown does not rely on the biggest names or egos. It’s a collection of fights that reflects on the state of MMA worldwide and features athletes whose stories may not be pushed by six-figure marketing budgets. In other words, this list won't remind you of only UFC fights you already know to watch but instead aims to inform you of matches from all over the planet that are worth seeing.
Without further adieu, here are the 10 December tussles fans should not miss.
10. Bobby Lashley vs. Joshua Franklin
Mixed Fighting Alliance “There Will Be Blood,” Dec. 13 -- Miami, Fla.
On one hand, fans could view this as two novices trying to earn their first merits in the fight game. On the other, you have Lashley, a former World Wrestling Entertainment star with a physique and amateur wrestling record not unlike those wielded by Brock Lesnar. The current UFC heavyweight champion also made his first steps in MMA outside the Octagon but was quickly signed by Zuffa LLC when it realized the potential and desire were there. If Lashley follows in Lesnar’s footsteps, we could see the two behemoths duke it out for UFC gold someday, provided Franklin does not play Seth Petruzelli to Lashley’s Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson.
9. Jan Blachowicz vs. Maro Perak
KSW “Dekalog,” Dec. 12 -- Warsaw, Poland
Polish promotion KSW has spoiled European fight fans by putting on consistently fantastic matchups this year. The hard-working men from the country’s capital have already put together two European dream fights -- Grzegorz Jakubowski v. Jordan Radev and Mamed Khalidov v. Daniel Tabera -- at their last two shows and plan to carry on that tradition with the Blachowicz-Perak bout. While both men have proven to be tough and durable competitors, it would not be surprising to see this fight end in a knockout, as they are among the best muay Thai practitioners competing on the European MMA stage.
8. Akiyo Nishiura vs. Yuji Hoshino
GCM “Cage Force 09,” Dec. 6 -- Tokyo
Stakes are extremely highly in the final of the Cage Force featherweight grand prix. The winner will walk away as tournament champion and could break into the top 10 rankings for 145-pound fighters. In addition, the victor could punch his ticket to the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion next year, should parent company Zuffa continue to honor its cooperation with Greatest Common Multiple, as it did in 2008 when the UFC welcomed Yoshiyuki Yoshida into its welterweight ranks. Nishiura and Hoshino also have featherweight tournaments in the Japan-based Dream and Sengoku promotions from which to choose in 2009.
7. Josh Koscheck vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida
UFC Fight Night 16, Dec. 10 -- Fayetteville, N.C.
Yoshida, the 34-year-old member of Engrish’s Tokyo Yellow Mans, faces a stern test in powerful wrestler Koscheck. Despite taking an ultra-tough bout against future title challenger Thiago Alves only six weeks ago, Koscheck insisted on remaining on the “Fight for the Troops” card to face the seasoned Japanese Judoka. One of the sticking points in this showdown concerns whether the elusive Yoshida can find a way to negate the irresistible wrestling prowess of New York’s toughest curly-headed blonde.
6. John Alessio vs. Paul Daley
MFC 19 “Long Time Coming,” Dec. 5 -- Enoch, Alberta, Canada
Can Alessio be knocked out? Thirty-five pro MMA bouts without a single loss by knockout or technical knockout -- even against aggressive strikers like Jay R. Palmer, Ronald Jhun and Thiago Alves -- speak for themselves. Much the same can be said for Daley, the explosive British striker whose lone TKO defeat came as the result of a dislocated thumb. This fight boils down to how well the 25-year-old Brit can perform during exchanges of submission chess likely to ensue against the well-rounded Xtreme Couture welterweight.
5. Vinicius Magalhaes/Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Ryan Bader/Eliot Marshall
“The Ultimate Fighter 8” Finale, Dec. 13 -- Las Vegas
For the first time since season five, “The Ultimate Fighter” has produced four semi-finals in which all eight survivors have legitimate potential to become above-average UFC competitors. The final four light heavyweights are particularly strong and feature a striker-versus-grappler confrontation between Soszynski and Magalhaes and a wrestler-versus-grappler bout pairing Bader with Marshall. Odds seem to favor Soszynksi, a charismatic Team Quest member who probably has the most complete game of the four. He has not lost a fight since August 2007.
4. James McSweeney vs. Neil Grove
Ultimate Challenge UK “Bad Breed,” -- London
The Cage Rage brand may be dead and buried, but Dave O’Donnell, the guarantor for success of what was once Britain’s biggest and best fight show, is still alive and kicking and has launched his new promotion, Ultimate Challenge UK, with new partner Tony Colasanto. To headline their first show under the new name, they have put together quite a formidable heavyweight matchup between K-1 veteran and FX3 champion McSweeney and the massive 6-foot-7, 280-pound Grove.
3. Miguel Torres vs. Manny Tapia
WEC 37 “Torres vs. Tapia,” Dec. 3 -- Las Vegas
Zuffa’s sister promotion, WEC, gives the bantamweights a chance to shine in December. Reigning champion Torres comes in off a “Fight of the Year” worthy war with former King of Pancrase Yoshiro Maeda in June. It will be interesting to see if his next challenger, undefeated BJJ player Tapia, can offer a similarly entertaining fight with dogged exchanges on the feet and technically demanding grappling on the ground.
2. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Kiyoshi Tamura
K-1 “Premium 2008 Dynamite” Dec. 31 -- Saitama, Japan
In a classic confrontation between two of Japan’s most beloved fighters, former Pride star Sakuraba will take on archrival Tamura in the main event at K-1’s traditional year-end show. This bout has been three years in the making and arrives a decade too late for Sakuraba and Tamura, who will both be 39 come fight time. Still, fight fans will flock to the Saitama Super Arena in great numbers to see a long-awaited battle between these two legendary Japanese warriors.
1. Quinton Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva
UFC 92 “The Ultimate 2008,” Dec. 27 -- Las Vegas
Whenever you have a fight between two of the best light heavyweights of all time on the lower end of your main card, you know you have a very strong show on your hands. Behind two title fights at UFC’s “The Ultimate 2008,” Jackson will hope the third time’s a charm, as he tries to answer two devastating knockout defeats at the hands of Silva and get back on track for another title shot. Has “Rampage” finally learned how to defend the Thai clinch, or will the “Axe Murderer” get one more highlight-reel KO to sweep the trilogy?