After virtually 8 months of fairly lackluster UFC fight cards, a blockbuster of a show has finally arrived to kick things back into high gear. Since UFC 100 last July, the organization has been plagued with injuries to almost all of their champions. Outside of lightweight champ, B.J. Penn, all of the other title holders have been out of commission for one reason or another.
To make matters worse, the highly anticipated bout between Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans that was supposed to take place at the end of TUF 10, was cancelled after Jackson decided to start an acting career by playing BA Baracus in the upcoming A Team remake. Reportedly fed up with the politics involved in working for the UFC, Rampage indicated that he was going to retire from MMA altogether. It is very unfortunate that this fight didn’t happen as scheduled at UFC 107. This event (along with UFC 108) was supposed to be a stacked card that was to sustain the UFC (and their fans) until the champs were able to lick their wounds and heal up properly.
Instead, fans have had to endure through some pretty lean times over the last several months. As I’ve said many times before, if the UFC and WEC merged, the UFC would have two, maybe three more divisions (including a flyweight) that would allow them to host more title fights throughout the year. Uriah vs. Aldo under the UFC umbrella for the featherweight belt would be phenomenal ... but I digress.
At least for now we can see some light at the end of the injury tunnel. Brock Lesnar seems to be recovered from his case of diverticulitis. Georges St. Pierre has healed from his groin injury suffered at UFC 100. Anderson Silva has completed his elbow surgery and is rehabbing nicely. And Lyoto Machida’s hand, which was injured in his original fight with Rua, has fully mended. And guess what? Rampage Jackson, al la Brett Favre, un-retired from MMA and Jackson vs. Evans will finally happen later this spring at UFC 113.
To kick off this resurgence into top notch fight cards by the UFC, fans will get the chance to see two title fights up for grabs at UFC 111 this weekend. St. Pierre faces heavy-handed Dan Hardy for the welterweight title and Shane Carwin and Frank Mir battle for the interim heavyweight championship.
The GSP-Hardy bout is very intriguing to me. The last time St. Pierre lost a fight was at UFC 69 by another fighter (Matt Serra) with heavy hands. Hardy is going to want to stay on his feet to utilize his superior striking, whereas GSP will look to implement Ground N’ Pound 101. The fighter wearing the belt at the end of this fight will be the one that gets the better end of the takedown battles.
As for Carwin and Mir, it’s obviously not the mega-event that could have been if either of them was to face Brock Lesnar, but I truly believe that this fight is the bigger challenge for both Carwin and Mir. I wouldn’t have said that a year ago when Mir was weighing in at around 245 lbs. Now that he has bulked up (264.5 lbs in his last fight), he’s got Brock-like size on top of an already established jiu-jitsu game. His boxing isn’t bad either. Both Carwin and Mir will likely tip the scales close to the 265 lb max. This is a departure from the last 2 title fights where Lesnar held significant weight advantages – 60 lbs heavier than Couture and 40 lbs heavier than Mir. With size not a factor on Saturday, we’ll get to see a heavyweight title fight determined purely by MMA abilities. Quite refreshing, indeed!
Carwin creates similar challenges to Mir that Brock Lesnar did at UFC 100. He’s a stronger wrestler than Mir and will try to use that advantage to bring the fight to the canvas where he’ll then attempt to finish Mir off with strikes. Since they are similar in weight, I feel that Mir will have more success (than what he experienced at UFC 100) in determining when the fight goes to the ground. Look for Mir to stuff multiple takedowns enabling him to dust off the boxing technique that had him run through Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92.
Champ Georges St-Pierre vs. Dan Hardy (for welterweight title): GSP wins via decision.
Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir (for interim heavyweight title): Mir wins by TKO in the second round.
Preliminary Card (Spike TV)
Preliminary Card (Un-aired)