Around the octagon: What to watch at UFC 75

Dave Doyle

The Ultimate Fighting Championship keeps on truckin’. Just two weeks after Randy Couture stopped Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74, the company returns for UFC 75 on Saturday in London.

UFC is putting one of the biggest matches in company history on basic cable television instead of pay-per-view, as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson puts his UFC light heavyweight title on the line against Pride light heavyweight and middleweight double champion Dan Henderson. The card airs on taped delay basis in the United States on Spike TV.

Per usual, there are lots of questions that will likely be answered by the event. Here are eight items of interest:

1. Which Rampage will show up? The second Quinton “Rampage” Jackson strapped UFC gold around his waist, he magically transformed from “underrated” to “overrated” in the minds of many hardcore MMA fans. Funny how that works.

Regardless, the question remains: Did Rampage simply catch Chuck Liddell with a lucky punch and make the most of the opportunity in his title-winning effort at UFC 71?

Before fighting Liddell, Jackson didn’t blow people away in his previous two fights. Rampage looked tentative in his UFC 67 win over Marvin Eastman and there has been much debate about his split-decision win over middleweight Matt Lindland on a World Fighting Alliance show in July 2006. Which “Rampage” will show up in London?

2. Can Dan Henderson hang at light heavyweight? The Southern California native has traditionally fought at middleweight (welterweight, under Pride classifications). But after fighting up in class and beating Wanderlei Silva for the Pride light heavyweight title in Las Vegas in February, Henderson has committed to staying in the 205-pound weight class. Can Henderson hang with the big boys on a consistent basis?

3. Strike three for Mirko? Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic was supposed to enter the UFC and dominate the heavyweight division. Instead, he’s one lackluster performance away from becoming the poster boy for the notion that maybe Pride Fighting wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

In Cheick Kongo, Cro Cop is being served his third consecutive opportunity to display his knockout skills. The first time, Mirko was less than impressive in a win over Eddie Sanchez, at UFC 67. The second ended up launching Gabriel Gonzaga into stardom. In Kongo, Cro Cop faces a standup-oriented opponent, which could lead to that elusive highlight clip UFC wants. Or it could end up lights out for Cro Cop again.

4. Speaking of which … Can Cheick Kongo find a ground game to match his striking skills? The entry on the soft-spoken Parisian won’t be wiki’d until someone can prove otherwise. Kongo can be lethal with his strikes … and look helpless when taken to the ground. As awesome as Kongo looked in his wins over Christian Wellisch and the late Gilbert Aldana, he was just as bad in his loss to Carmelo Marrero and unimpressive in a win over Asseurio Silva. Against Mirko, at least, he figures to have a chance to show just how strong his strengths really are.

5. So is Houston Alexander for real? The Omaha native made his mark with his brutal 48-second TKO of super-tough Keith Jardine in May. Now he follows with a matchup against Alessio Sakara, who is reputed to be a boxing specialist, but has rarely showed off these skills in the octagon. If Alexander beats Sakara in as impressive a fashion as he disposed of Jardine, then it is time to elevate him against consistent top competition.

6. Can Michael Bisping remain unbeaten? Make no mistake about it. UFC has some guys they make earn their keep at every turn, and then those who get every opportunity in the world to succeed. For evidence, look at the lightweight division, and see the opponents Clay Guida has had to tangle with, as opposed to Roger Huerta’s new job as a full-time can crusher.

Michael Bisping sure seems to be getting the Huerta Treatment. After having to rally to beat Eric Schafer at UFC 66, he nearly got caught in a match he otherwise dominated against Elvis Sinosic at UFC 70. Now he’s fighting Matt Hamill. If Bisping passes this test, it is time for him to step up in caliber of competition, no matter how popular he might be in his homeland of the United Kingdom.

7. Will “The Hammer” step up? On the other hand, this is the opportunity of a lifetime for Hamill, the former Ultimate Fighter contestant. He has impressed with his courage simply in pursuing an MMA career in spite of his deafness, a condition he’s had since birth. Knocking off a UFC-groomed golden boy would serve notice that he’s here to stay.

8. Note for our readers: On Saturday, Kevin Iole will be blogging live from the show in London. We won’t give away spoilers on the main MMA/Boxing page, but know that if you click on the links, you’re going to find out what happened. If you want to know who wins, then come click on our site during the show, which begins at 3 p.m. Eastern/noon Pacific. If you don’t, then come back at night after the show is over, we’ll still be here for you.

That's our take. Now go to our MMA/Boxing blog and tell us your thoughts on UFC 75.