The sport of Mixed Martial Arts reaches in a landmark on a number of levels this Saturday in Las Vegas with the pay-per-view broadcast of UFC 100. In many ways the hoopla surrounding the UFC's one hundredth televised event is one of both a birthday party celebration and in many ways even a vindication of sorts. Not only has the sport survived years of struggle but it has grown feverishly while securing respectable and lucrative sponsorships from corporations including Harley Davidson Motorcycles and Budweiser beer for starts.
UFC 100 finds the once struggling combat sport of MMA (previously categorized as "human cockfighting" by mainstream sports media and politicians alike) and its number one brand name in that of the UFC suddenly in a position of monumental hype. And the hype is working well. It's growing increasingly difficult all these years later to find even non-fans who have not at least heard of some the heavily marketed names within the sport.
This was not the case just a year ago. But with the transition of former WWE wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar now holding the UFC heavyweight belt, in many ways the UFC has benefited from the controversy of a novice but physically massive MMA fighter with only four professional fights to his credit suddenly standing on top of MMA's biggest MMA brand. And of course one must consider that the UFC benefitted from previous years of marketing momentum for Lesnar at the hands of Vince McMahon and the WWE organization.
Beginning in 1993 to small underground audiences and later criticized for its barbarism, the UFC looks again towards laughter to the bank with what is rumored as the organizations biggest fight cards in years. Of course the UFC is famous for citing all of its cards as big and important. But UFC 100 really is a potentially historic event when considering that two major title fights are stacked at the top of the bill.
In the number one spot, current Heavyweight UFC champion Brock Lesnar (3-1-0) faces off in a revenge match with former UFC Heavyweight champion and Interim UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (12-3-0) in what is potentially one of the most anticipated rematches of the year. It was Mir who handed Lesnar his first loss during his debut UFC bout at UFC 81 on February 2, 2008 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Following a barrage of brutal hammer fists by Lesnar upon Mir's head and a controversial restart at the hands of the referee, Mir landed a classic Brazilian Jiu-jitsu knee lock causing Lesnar to submit and tap out.
In the year that has passed, Lesnar has steamrolled through seasoned MMA veterans including Heath Herring (28-14-0) and one of the most popular UFC champions in history, Randy Couture (16-9-0) where Lesnar secured the his current Heavyweight Title on November 15, 2008 at UFC 91. These recent wins have silenced much of the criticism towards Lesnar as a celebrity name receiving an easy ride to the top ranks of MMA but the question still remains as to whether the former wrestler has further developed his Jiu-Jitsu defense skills enough to face a rematch with one of the world's greatest heavyweight grapplers in that of Frank Mir.
On the flip side of the heavyweight championship coin, Frank Mir approaches Saturday's bout with a chip on his shoulder. Set to prove that his submission victory over Lesnar was not a fluke, the former UFC Heavyweight champion just might bring an equal threat into the cage from the boxing category. Training the past year with seasoned boxing coaches and sparring partners, Mir's abilities in the stand-up department looked impressive in his recent defeat over MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (31-5-1) at UFC 92 on December 27, 2008.
One thing's for certain. When Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir collide at UFC 100, it shall be a clash of two extremely large and powerful MMA stars set to the backdrop of centennial fan enthusiasm that's almost sure to make for history.
Another notable and highly anticipated title fight at UFC 100 brings the return of Canadian superstar and current UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre (18-2-0) as he faces off against a very strong, talented and potential dark horse in that of American Top Team's Thiago Alves (16-3-0). St. Pierre, considered by many in the MMA media as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, does not necessarily have a sure win on his hands in this bout. Alves has proven to be incredibly strong for his size and severely tenacious in his fighting style.
Both fighters are on a rip in the division recently with St. Pierre's destruction of B.J. Penn (13-5-1) on January 31, 2009 at UFC 94 and Alves' equal dismantling of UFC legend and former champion Matt Hughes (43-7-0) at UFC 85 on June 7, 2008. Stylistically, this fight should prove to be a collision of two military battle tanks. Both fighters have incredible speed and strength for the 170 lb. division and both have hearts of lions.
But as in previous losses, St Pierre's only weakness at times is his personal psychology. Shall St. Pierre enter the octagon with the same determination of his previous two fights, Alves is going to have to earn every single second of the five round battle. However, Alves should not be counted out by any means. The young fighter is determined and talented. This championship bout should bring the fireworks. Therefore it would be advisable not to blink or take a restroom break during this bout.
Rounding out the top three fights on the UFC 100 card is the grudge match between the coaches of SPIKE TV's most recent season of "The Ultimate FIghter," where mixed martial artists from the United States faced off in competition against fighters from the United Kingdom. Seasoned veteran, former Olympian and former unified Middleweight and Light Heavyweight PRIDE FC Champion Dan Henderson (24-7-0) is poised to settle "The Ultimate Fighter" season finale score when he faces wildly popular British MMA superstar and previous "Ultimate Fighter" contestant, Michael Bisping (17-1-0).
The bout between Henderson and Bisping is not without reasonable criticism and controversy. Bisping, although voted one of England's most popular sports figures in recent years, has received much criticism from American fans as yet another fighter pushed up through the ranks of the UFC in order to build foreign fanbases overseas in developing markets. Add to such controversial Bisping's at times cocky disposition and a largely disputed decision victory win over Matt Hamill (7-2-0) on September, 8, 2007 at UFC 75 and chances are that the mostly American UFC 100 fans on hand this Saturday will be pulling for the elder and far more experienced Henderson to win the fight.
From a technical viewpoint, Bisping does not really bring an arsenal of weapons into the octagon against Henderson other than possibly being a younger and potentially better conditioned athlete. Henderson is twice the wrestler of the young English fighter and always has his famous and brutally powerful overhand right punch that has put to sleep some of the best in MMA. Including Wanderlei SIlva (32-10-0) at PRIDE 33 on February, 24, 2007.
The UFC FIght Card at a glance:
Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar - UFC Heavyweight Championship
Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves - UFC Welterweight Championship
Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping
Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alan Belcher
Jon Jones vs. Jake O'Brien
Mac Danzig vs. Jim Miller
Dong-Hyun Kim vs. TJ Grant
Mark Coleman vs. Stephan Bonnar
Matt Grice vs. Shannon Gugerty
C.B. Dollaway vs. Tom Lawlor
Jason F. Hatcher's Main Card Picks:
I am going for controversy and upset this time round. I have no way to explain it other than the old trusted gut feelings I get from time to time before big fight cards.
Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar - I am picking Frank Mir ironically by TKO in second round. Thus would be an upset.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves - I am going again for an upset here. Thiago Alves by TKO in the third round.
Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping - I am picking Dan Henderson by KO in the first round.
Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago - I am picking Jon Fitch by unanimous decision.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alan Belcher - Alan Belcher by submission in the second round.
UFC 100, scheduled for July 11th, 2009 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada is available on pay-per-view through various cable and satellite providers as well as Yahoo Sports online. The prefight countdown begins at 9:30 eastern time with the first fight starting at 10:00 p.m. Check local bars and restaurants as well for broadcast of UFC 100 under a base admission fee.
(Photography by Josh Hedges. All photos Copyright Zuffa, LLC. For editorial use only.)
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