The last time the UFC held a card in Columbus, Ohio, it turned out to be one of the most memorable events in the company's history.
Randy Couture, who had essentially been forced into retirement after back-to-back knockout losses at light heavyweight to Chuck Liddell, came back to dominate Tim Sylvia to win the heavyweight title.
The crowd at UFC 68 was raucous from start to finish but seemed to save most of its love for Couture, who created one of the most remarkable turnarounds in MMA history by chopping down the 6-foot-8, 260-pound giant and winning the heavyweight title for a third time.
But UFC 82, which will be Saturday at Nationwide Arena, may be able to top that moment. It is a solid card from top to bottom, but the middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and challenger Dan Henderson promises to be explosive.
Silva is a dominant striker with great ground skills. Henderson is also a good striker and is a world-class wrestler who twice represented the U.S. in the Olympics.
Silva has blown through the competition in the UFC, easily defeating Rich Franklin (twice), Nate Marquardt, Travis Lutter and Chris Leben. But in Henderson, Silva may be facing a guy not only his peer in terms of overall skill but one who has faced even better competition.
Just since 2006, Henderson has faced Kazuo Misaki twice, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
It's a difficult fight to call and after much flip flopping, I've decided to go with Silva by submission. Henderson has a great chin, so I suspect he'll be able to withstand Silva's strikes, but somehow, I figure Silva will find a way to slap on an arm bar or a choke to retain his title.
In the other bouts on the pay-per-view card, I like Cheick Kongo over Heath Herring, Leben over Alessio Sakara, Yushin Okami over Evan Tanner and Jon Fitch over Chris Wilson.
With that, it's on to a busy and varied mailbag. Please remember to include your first and last name and your hometown if you want me to consider your question for publication.
The UFC has two seriously stacked divisions right now: Lightweight and light heavyweight. After the scheduled title fights (Rampage vs. Forrest Griffin at light heavyweight and B.J. Penn vs. Sherk at lightweight), who gets the next shot? Obviously it's going to depend on who wins, but in both divisions, there are several guys just knocking on the door. In your opinion, who is most deserving and most likely to get that shot? Also, who do you think will be Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria's first title defense?
Mike, I agree with your point that the UFC is loaded at lightweight and light heavyweight. I believe the next lightweight title shot will go to Kenny Florian, assuming he wins his bout against Joe Lauzon on April 2. The light heavyweight picture is more difficult to assess. The winner of the June 14 fight between Shogun Rua and Chuck Liddell would seem to be the front-runner, but you can also make an argument for Keith Jardine if he defeats Wanderlei Silva in May. If he beats Silva, the "Dean" would have wins over Liddell, Silva and Griffin in his last four fights. As for Nogueira, I'm guessing, but I'll say Fabricio Werdum is first in line with Frank Mir an outside possibility.
What do you think about a fight between Brock Lesnar and Kimbo Slice? Is there a chance this fight would ever take place?
A Lesnar-Slice fight would be a fun event, matching two of the most popular men in the sport. At this stage, I think Lesnar is a more complete fighter and I'd favor him to win. Having said that, I don't anticipate it happening. The UFC has Lesnar under an exclusive contract and wouldn't release him to fight Slice, who is under contract to Elite XC.
LOVE FOR FABER
Why isn't Urijah Faber getting any love from the MMA writers? He is clearly the best fighter in his division. The man can strike, submit, and defend. Not to mention, he is one of the most (if not the most) well-conditioned fighters in the world. He is not listed as No. 1 at featherweight on any MMA Web site and he fell a spot in the Yahoo! Sports poll. He has pretty much disposed of all the competition placed in front of him and he is always looking for the hardest fights. What do you think?
I think the world of Faber as a fighter. He's ranked ninth in the Yahoo! Sports Top 10 poll. To be considered one of the 10 best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class, is a significant accomplishment, so I think Faber is getting plenty of love. He's not only one of the best fighters in the world, he's also one of the most exciting. A big fight down the line will be between Faber and Miguel Torres, the WEC bantamweight champion, who is so good it's scary. That fight would be a mega-match if and when it occurs.
WEC AND UFC
What is the relationship between the WEC and the UFC as it relates to talent? Is it the same ownership and no distinction between the talent? Why are the top 10 fighters you refer to from WEC not joining the UFC?
The UFC and WEC are each owned by Zuffa, the Nevada corporation headed by brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White. Zuffa purchased the WEC in late 2006 and announced it planned to run it as a separate company. The UFC conducts fights at lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. The WEC concentrates on the lighter weights. It promotes fights at bantamweight (135 pounds), featherweight (145), lightweight (155), welterweight (170), middleweight (185) and light heavyweight (205). I don't anticipate much crossover between the organizations.
I read your column about Kimbo and I fully agree with you. I normally would watch an Elite XC fight if I happened to flip the channel and saw it on, but if I missed it, it would be no big deal. I put the Kimbo-Tank Abbott fight on my calendar a month out and I was very impressed. Who do you feel Kimbo's next opponent might be and who would you like to see him fight next?
Virginia Beach, Va.
The public has a fascination with Slice that is going to keep Elite XC in the limelight for a while. Slice has barely fought a minute as a pro, but he's already a main eventer. He's not currently scheduled, but it wouldn't be surprising if he were to fight on the April Elite XC card in Hawaii. His trainer, Bas Rutten, insists that Slice is the real deal, so the trick is to match him correctly. Elite XC needs to find opponents that Slice can beat but who also will help him to learn. He's 34, so he doesn't have the benefit of time to develop like a fighter in his 20s would.
Is the UFC doing a bit of spring cleaning? It seems they have been releasing quite a few fighters from their contracts.
It's the normal part of the UFC doing business. They have more than 200 fighters under contract and in order to keep the pool fresh, they'll release guys who no longer fit into their short-term plans.
MORE UFC CONTRACTS
With the recent announcement that Eric Schafer is getting a chance to fight outside of the UFC even though he is still under contract to the UFC, does this mean that the UFC is going to start allowing more of its fighters to compete in non-UFC events? And how does this affect, if at all, the case they have against Randy Couture?
Oak Park, Calif.
This has no impact on the Couture case. The UFC has frequently encouraged its young and mid-level fighters to work on smaller shows to gain experience. The UFC includes an exclusivity clause in its contracts, but it's at its discretion whether or not to enforce it. It benefits the UFC to let some of its developing fighters compete in the smaller organizations and it helps the fighters earn additional income.
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