No UFC doesn’t mean a lack of intriguing fights
For the first time in five weeks, there isn’t a Zuffa show holding an event on Saturday.
Admittedly, it has made this week feel kind of weird. I had found a good rhythm, and now I’m back to being rhythmically challenged.
Despite the lack of a UFC or Strikeforce event this weekend, don’t take that to mean there isn’t quality mixed martial arts on display.
Here’s a look at some of the intriguing fights taking place over the next two days.
Vinny Magalhaes (9-5) vs. Mikhail Zayats (14-5) – M-1 Challenge XXVII
UFC fans will remember Magalhaes as the cocky submission wizard who said he had better jiu-jitsu than Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter before losing to Ryan Bader in the finale.
Well, he’s 6-1 since departing the Octagon, won the M-1 Global light heavyweight title by mounted gogoplata last time out, and just took home the gold medal in the +99kg (read: heavyweight) division at the ADCCs in Nottingham, England by defeating Fabricio Werdum. I might not be better than Nogueira’s, but Magalhaes’ jiu-jitsu is very, very legit.
Zayats is a tough 29-year-old veteran of the M-1 circuit, with 16 of his 19 fights coming under the company’s banner. It will be interesting to see how this fight plays out, as Zayats has primarily finished opponents on the ground over his career, but will be entering the danger zone if he tries to play that game with Magalhaes in this one.
Marius Zaromskis (15-6) vs. Dan Hornbuckle (22-5) – Score Fighting Series 2
While their stars have dimmed considerably over the last couple years, Zaromskis and Hornbuckle are still two exciting fighters who could combined for an explosive bout in the co-main event of this card in Hamilton, Ontario.
Zaromskis is 3-3 with a no contest in his seven fights since winning the Dream Welterweight Grand Prix and championship. Similarly, Hornbuckle has gone just 1-3 since advancing to the finals of Bellator’s Season 2 welterweight tournament.
Both fighters garnered attention with impressive finishes over solid competition, and need a return to form if they hope to return to the bigger stages in 2012.
Joe Doerksen (47-15) vs. Brett Cooper (14-7) – Score Fighting Series 2
Both these guys have been kind of nomadic over their careers, fighting anywhere and everywhere while racking up a combined 83 trips inside the cage.
Cooper has been stationed in Bellator for four of his last five fights, finding mixed results. He was bounced from last year’s middleweight tournament by the eventual winner, Alexander Shlemenko, but rebounded with a solid performance last month against Valdir Araujo.
Doerksen is as veteran as they come, clocking in at 34-years-old with more than 60 fights under his belt. He’s had several cups of coffee with the UFC, his most recent win inside the Octagon coming over Tom Lawlor at UFC 113. He had dropped three straight before dominating Luigi Fioravanti in his last appearance, and should pair with Cooper to put forth an entertaining match-up in the SFS 2 main event.
Marcus Davis (20-8) vs. Chuck O’Neil (8-4) – W-1 MMA: Reloaded
“The Irish Hand Grenade” is unbeaten since exiting the UFC following his knockout loss to Jeremy Stephens at UFC 125.
He looks to extend his winning streak to four Saturday night in a meeting with TUF 12’s “Cold Steel” Chuck O’Neil. While he was one of the few remotely entertaining members of last season’s TUF cast, he dropped a unanimous decision to Chris Cope at the finale and was shown the door.
A good win over a tough veteran like Davis would be a positive first step in getting back to the big leagues. A return to the UFC is most likely not in the cards for Davis at this point in his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of stringing together a handful of good wins and solid performances.
Zach Makovsky (13-2) vs. Ryan Roberts (16-9-1) – Bellator 54
“Fun Size” has put together a seven-fight winning streak and is eagerly awaiting the winner of this year’s bantamweight tournament. He dominated Chad Robichaux in his first non-title bout back in April, and should do the same to Roberts here.
Fighting with Bellator has Makovsky flying well below the radar, but the Philadelphia Fight Factory product is a legit bantamweight talent you should definitely keep an eye on.
Alexander Shlemenko (41-7) vs. Brian Rogers (8-2) – Bellator 54
Rogers has earned seven consecutive first round finishes, including his quarterfinal victory over Victor O’Donnell last month. Explosiveness like that can’t be overlooked.
Shlemenko is the favorite to win this year’s Bellator middleweight tournament, having already accomplished the feat in Season 2. His first round, standing guillotine choke finish of Zelg Galesic only served to heighten his standing as the one to beat.
Both these guys have one-punch knockout power and throw everything with maximum force, so don’t be surprised if this one produces a finish that you see on SportsCenter on Saturday night.
Bryan Baker (16-2) vs. Vitor Vianna (11-1-1) – Bellator 54
Vianna is a Wand Fight Team member whose lone loss cam five years ago to UFC light heavyweight Thiago Silva. He’s 3-0 since returning from a two-year hiatus from fighting, most recently edging out Sam Alvey by split decision last month to earn his place in the semifinals.
Baker is a tremendous story and one of the best middleweights competing outside of the UFC right now. Yes, that includes the guys in Strikeforce.
Baker has chronic myelogenous leukaemia (currently in remission) and has won all three of his bouts since being diagnosed, including back-to-back wins over Jeremy Horn and Joe Riggs. He lost to Shlemenko in the finals of Season 2’s middleweight tournament, and his only other loss came three-plus years ago to Chael Sonnen.
You can be sure he’s hungry to get a rematch with Shlemenko, and then get a chance to take on Bellator middleweight champ Hector Lombard next year.