This Saturday marks the return of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the United Kingdom, as UFC 105: Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera hits Manchester, England, at the M.E.N. Arena.
Although this past Saturday saw the network debut of heavyweight and pound-for-pound great Fedor Emelianenko on Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers, it is time for the big boys to step back into the spotlight and show everyone how its done. (Emelianenko knocked out Brett Rogers with a viscious right overhand nearly halfway through the second round in a fight that more than lived up to its billing.)
Former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Couture returns to the Octagon to take on another young gun, as Vera looks to get one step closer to a shot at the title.
At 46 years old, one might think that Couture’s best years are well behind him, but this ageless wonder continues to impress and surprisingly improve with each and every opponent he tangles with.
After losing his title nearly a year ago at UFC 98 to current champion Brock Lesnar, Couture returned in August to tangle with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in a battle of legends and a fight which had fans salivating.
The fight may well end up being the fight of the year in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts for 2009. It was that good. Couture and Nogueira put on 15 brilliant minutes of back and forth action, and although Couture lost a unanimous decision, he did not walk out a loser.
When Couture meets Vera on Saturday night, U.K. fans should expect fireworks.
With Vera’s Muy Thai striking, and Couture’s boxing, it should be an excellent clash of style but one that will deliver excitement for anyone tuned in.
Vera possesses a very dangerous array of striking with not just his hands and feet, but he also is extremely devastating with his elbows and knees, which will no doubt give Couture problems.
But the thing to realize about Couture is that he isn’t called “The Natural” for no reason. This guy has an uncanny ability to figure out his opponent and come up with a game plan time-in and timeout.
Couture has been fighting since 1997, and although his age plays against him, the guy for some reason seems to be improving with each and every fight. And this fight should be no exception.
Don’t expect Couture to allow Vera to get comfortable and pick him apart. Couture will close the distance and use his effective dirty boxing, and eventually use his wrestling, to ground-and-pound the Muy Thai practitioner.
But don’t expect a lopsided fight; Vera will come ready to put up a fight and will tag the 1992 NCAA Division I wrestling runner-up.
Couture will edge Vera by decision after three rounds with use of his strategic stand-up and ground-and-pound and will make a case to challenge once again for the light heavyweight title â€“ maybe as early as 2010.
The main even isn’t the only fight worth watching though.
Englishmen Dan Hardy will take on American Mike Swick in a welterweight battle to determine the next challenger to current 170-pound kingpin Georges St. Pierre.
Both fighters possess a dangerous stand-up game, so this one should also provide fireworks. While Swick may be the quicker fighter â€“ his nickname after all is “Quick” â€“ Hardy can pack some power in his punches, and since he has been training with world-renowned boxing trainer Freddie Roach, word is that his hands and footwork have improved tremendously.
With a title shot on the line, both men might come out tentative early on, but the history of their fights shows us that they aren’t afraid to bang and are capable of delivering a knockout.
Although Swick is yet to lose at welterweight in his career since moving down from 185-pounds, Hardy might be too much for the American Kickboxing Academy fighter. Hardy, and his trademark Mohawk, wins via TKO in the second round to earn a shot at St. Pierre â€“ possibly in early February.
U.K. fans will also see fan favorite and former Ultimate Fighter season-two winner Michael Bisping take on MMA veteran Denis Kang in a middleweight bout.
Bisping, as all fight fans already know, is coming off a jaw-dropping second-round knockout loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 100.
The knockout to Bisping was the talk coming out of the UFC’s July card.
It will be interesting to see how the Wolfslair Academy member returns from that devastating loss.
Kang on the other hand is coming off a win over Xavier Foupa-Pokam at UFC 97. Not much is known of Kang inside the U.S., but he is well followed internationally from his days in the now defunct PRIDE Fighting Championship.
The Canadian can take the fight anywhere, as he holds 15 wins by submission and 12 by knockout, so Bisping better come in ready to fight not just standing, as he usually prefers, but also on the ground.
This fight is somewhat tough to call. Kang hasn’t looked great in his two fights inside the Octagon but has a world of potential. With Bisping coming off that gruesome loss, expect him to be a bit timid. Kang wins by decision.
One other fight worth talking about is Ultimate Fighter season nine winner James Wilks taking on season seven veteran Matt Brown.
While Brown presses the action and comes in with a never die attitude, Wilks has nasty Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background.
Although Brown is a fan favorite and has delivered in his UFC fights, Wilks might prove too much on the ground when it goes there. Wilks wins via submission in the third round.
Overall, expect UFC 105 to be one of the best cards of the year, and for a number of fighters to come out contenders within their respective weight classes.