The Undefeated Part 5: Middleweights

(Aaron Simpson lands a left on Tom Lawlor – photo Hedges/Zuffa)’s seven-part series on Mixed Martial Arts’ undefeated fighters is winding down with only three divisions remaining. Our series profiles the top fighters in each of MMA’s major divisions who have yet to suffer defeat. Fighters from each of the major organizations will be considered, including the UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, DREAM, Sengoku, and Shooto. Tournament participants in the upcoming Bellator season will not be included in this series, as a special profile is in the works for the organization’s second season of action.

Our series’ schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, 2/23 –Bantamweights
Wednesday, 2/24 –Featherweights
Thursday, 2/25 –Lightweights
Friday, 2/26 –Welterweights
Monday, 3/1 – Middleweights
Tuesday, 3/2 – Light Heavyweights
Wednesday, 3/3 – Heavyweights
Part five of the series features the Middleweight division – weight limit: 185lbs.

Fighter’s Name: Mario Miranda
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 1979
Camp:AMC Kickboxing & Pankration
Fighting Style: Wrestling, Kickboxing.
Record: 9-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Lorenzo Hood (Alliance Fights: Counterstrike, 8/22/2009)

Mario Miranda will make his UFC debut on March 31, 2010. Two years prior to his UFC debut, Miranda fought UFC veteran Joe Vedepo. Vedepo has lost just three times in his career: to Miranda, and twice in the UFC.

Despite his 2008 TKO victory over Vedepo, Miranda did not look great in the fight. On the feet, Miranda’s kickboxing left much to be desired. On the ground, Miranda did not maintain his positions well and allowed Vedepo to escape his submission attempts, including an armbar that should have finished the fight.

Of course, two years is a long time for any fighter. Miranda, a former Olympic wrestling hopeful for Brazil in the 2000 games, continues to showcase his ground and pound, but it’s his improvement to his submissions that catch the eye. In his last three fights, Miranda has sandwiched a TKO in between two submission victories.

Miranda has previously fought at Light Heavyweight, but in the UFC he will compete at Middleweight. The ability to compliment his striking with his grappling will mean the difference between success and failure in the UFC. He will make his UFC debut against Gerald Harris at UFC Fight Night 21 in Charlotte, NC. Harris’ wrestling may play right into Miranda’s ground game, but the fighters should be evenly matched on the feet to the point where the fight may stagnate.

Fighter’s Name: Aaron Simpson
Nickname: A-Train
Date of Birth: 7/20/1974
Camp: Arizona Combat Sports
Fighting Style: Wrestling, Boxing
Record: 7-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Tom Lawlor (UFC Fight Night 20, 1/11/2010)

In many ways, Aaron Simpson is similar to Randy Couture.

The foundation for Simpson’s fighting style is rooted in wrestling. While competing in freestyle wrestling for Arizona State University, Simpson earned All-American honors in 1996 and 1998. After his collegiate wrestling career had come to an end, Simpson returned as an assistant coach. Among the wrestlers he coached are current UFC fighters Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, and CB Dollaway.

At 33 years old, Simpson made his Mixed Martial Arts debut. 13 months later, Simpson had earned a spot on WEC 36. When the WEC’s Middleweight division was rolled into the UFC’s, Simpson was moved to the big show. It was a smart move to retain his services, as in seven career fights, Simpson has won six by some form of knockout.

Simpson’s wrestling background, boxing ability, proclivity for and success in coaching, and age at which he made his MMA debut match characteristics of Couture, the five-time UFC champion and Hall of Famer. The difference, of course, is that despite their similarities, there is no guarantee that Simpson will enjoy similar success to that of Couture. It is important to note that at least some of Couture’s success must be attributed to the less evolved states of MMA when Couture was early in his career. Seven fights into his career, Simpson has a more refined fighting style than Couture did at the same point in his career, but Simpson’s opposition are similarly more refine than was Couture’s.

That doesn’t mean that Simpson has no chance of enjoying at least some of Couture’s success. In order to do so, Simpson will need to disprove the old adage about teaching old dogs new tricks. Simpson’s boxing shows promise, but he was bested by Tom Lawlor while the fight was standing until Lawlor’s conditioning began to wane. If Simpson can improve his head movement and footwork a bit, then he may be able to defy father time similarly to the way Couture has. Simpson’s wrestling and conditioning are already at a high level compared to even the elite of the Middleweight division.

Fighter’s Name: Yancy Medeiros
Nickname: Frisson
Date of Birth: 9/7/1987
Camp: Team Hakuilua
Fighting Style: Kickboxing
Record: 4-0-0
Organization: Strikeforce
Last Opponent: Raul Castillo (Strikeforce Challengers 6, 2/26/2010)

Yancy Medeiros has been a practitioner of the martial arts for nearly his entire life. As a young boy, he began taking karate lessons. At age 18, Medeiros earned his first degree black belt. In high school, Medeiros was on the wrestling team, competing at 189lbs.Against Castillo, Medeiros’ training in both disciplines became apparent.

Before the fight against Castillo, Pat Miletich characterized Medeiros as wild, but Medeiros was poised and channeled his aggression into short, effective bursts. It was a formula that allowed Medeiros to stay fresh in order to continue to prevent Castillo’s takedowns while winning each standing exchange handily.

Despite Medeiros’ great work against Castillo, plenty of questions remain. Medeiros was able to pick Castillo apart on the feet, but Castillo is among the worst strikers in Strikeforce’s Middleweight division. Melvin Manhoef, Robbie Lawler, or Scott Smith would eat Medeiros’ lunch. Medeiros’ defended the takedown well against Castillo, but what about against a dominant wrestler? How will Medeiros fare when he finds himself on his back? How is Medeiros’ jiu jitsu game?

Fortunately for Medeiros, at just 22 years old, he’ll have plenty of time to improve his game in order to best answer all of those questions. Medeiros is at least a year away from competing against the best of the Strikeforce Middleweights.

Medeiros has also fought at Light Heavyweight, counting EliteXC and K-1 HERO’s veteran Poai Suganuma among his vanquished foes.

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