By: Mike Coughlin
WATCH SUNDAY'S UFC ON VERSUS SHOW
I understand why someone wouldn't go out of their way to watch this Sunday's UFC on Versus show, but please, allow me to make the case for why you should.
Before going further, I'll acknowledge what makes the show look so-so. The main-event features one guy coming off a rather embarrassing loss to a guy who had never fought before inside the Octagon and his opponent is a guy who has lost his last three. And while Chris Lytle and Dan Hardy are well known enough, they're hardly big names. The three fight undercard is much like the main-event: fighters you may have heard of but aren't necessarily headline grabbers. Charles Oliveira was dubbed the future of the lightweight division, and maybe that'll pan out some day down the road, but that time isn't now. Jim Miller may very well be the next man to challenge for the UFC Lightweight Championship but even though he has won approximately three hundred and twelve fights in a row, he hasn't been in high profile situations nor has his personality seemed to connect. Duane Ludwig, Amir Sadollah, Donald Cerrone - all good fighters, all fighters - again - you may have heard of - but none are headliners. There isn't that sexy main-event that makes you stand up and take notice.
But that is no reason not to watch. This show. Will be. Great.
Sometimes, shows don't deliver. That's the nature of the beast. You can get excited for Anderson Silva, believe in your heard he'll go out and smash a man, and then have to endure (and "endure" is the only apt word) him dancing around a cage for 25 minutes. These things happen. But this show almost has to be different. There aren't just good fighters, they aren't just entertaining fighters, the eight men that litter the slated telecast are a veritable who's who of excitement.
Cerrone v. Oliveira
"The Cowboy" has that perfect style for an action fight: he is an aggressive striker, and aggressive grappler, but his wrestling isn't good enough to really dictate where the fight takes place, so he's forced to always play someone else's game. He doesn't have the option of lay and pray; he must go all out, all the time.
"The Bronx" was hyped as being a future king and with the exception of a minor blip in his fight against Jim Miller (getting caught in a knee bar and seemingly not recognizing it - maybe the very definition of a rookie mistake) the Brazilian Wunderkid has been nothing short of impressive. Heck, even when his fights are ruled a No-Contest (as happened in his last fight) it's due to Oliveira being too aggressive. While no one wants to see a fighter breaking the rules to be aggressive, at least it gives insight into how he approaches the fight game.
Amir Sadollah v. Duane Ludwig
Amir is much like Cerrone: he can do everything but wrestle and he's always aggressive in his approach. What makes Amir particularly fun to watch is that he's very technical, so he doesn't seem to get caught in too many bad positions, and conversely that allows him to take advantage of his opponent being off guard. He has a classic Muay Thai approach to the fighting: walk forward and stalk your opponent until death occurs. He will throw punches when he's in punching range, kicks when he's at distance, and works knees and particularly elbows as well as most when inside the clinch. And on the ground? Ask CB Dollaway, who was twice submitted in the first round with an armbar how Amir approaches the mat. As an added bonus, Amir lacks true KO power. That may hinder his ability to win, but it makes for a more entertaining fight, as we get to sit back and watch him land one blow after another that almost finishes a fight but seems to just fall short.
When your nickname is "Bang" and you've long been recognized as one of the sport's premier strikers, you know you're gonna go out and throw leather. Ludwig isn't just a great striker by MMA standards, he's good enough to legitimately compete at the elite level of the K1 MAX division. Throw in years of training under the tutalage of some of the sport's best, including Bas Rutten, and Ludwig will fire off combinations of punches and kicks that are brushstrokes of violent beauty.
Ben Henderson v. Jim Miller
The man cannot be tapped out. He can't. Go ahead, grab his head or arm and squeeze and twist them in ways first imagined by Medieval sadists and he'll look at you with a calm reserved for babies sleeping on their mother's breast. So, he's free to charge forward with kicks and takedowns and a relentless ground and pound that sees him squat over his foe in just such a way as to permit him to rain hell while preventing any movement from the helpless friend on the bottom. It's a work of art that's carried him to victory and makes him the former WEC Lightweight Champion. He frequently finds himself in positions that are sure-fire death for anyone else; contortions that define the limits of human dexterity - and then he escapes them with ease.
He wrestles, he strikes, and he submits. If there's one man on the card who isn't known for having great fights, it's Miller. Instead, he brings to the table a pedigree of being maybe the UFC's third best lightweight, a man who has only lost to UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and UFC #1 Contender Gray Maynard - and neither fighter finished Miller. What makes Miller fun to watch is that he truly does fight. Ugly fights, pretty fights, whatever it is, Miller looks to hurt and finish people. His fights might actually be more exciting except that he's good enough to keep out of danger - no fancy Henderson-like escapes, but rather positional recognition that makes the escape a unneeded.
Dan Hardy v. Chris Lytle
Dan Hardy cannot wrestle. His submissions aren't great. But he can strike. And he knows he can strike and he likes doing it. He has a wicked left hook and a penchant for doing what everyone else on this card does: move forward, throw, let the chips fall where they may.
Chris Lytle could probably have a better record than he currently sports, but the man has deliberately eschewed a cautious win-first approach for the single-minded purpose of always giving the fans a memorable affair. More than anyone else in the UFC, Lytle is associated with Fight of the Night honors. He lets his boxing-trained hands fly, he dives on legs and arms with viciousness when going for submissions, and he never quits. Sure, a lot of fighters spout the "NEVER SAY DIE" attitude, but Lytle lives it. He throws haymakers until the final bell. He looks through waterfalls of blood as they drip past his eyes. He will hobble on legs that can barely support him. He does all this in an effort to make sure the fans go home happy.
Every fighter on the main-card tomorrow night has something special to offer. I want people to watch because it will entertain. And I offer the following as one last piece of evidence for why you will enjoy the show:
Donald Cerrone: During his Zuffa tenure, he has six Fight of the Night bonuses. (And had one fight voted Fight of the Year by Sherdog and another featured Round of the year according Sherdog.)
Charles Oliveira: In four UFC fights, every fight has seen either he or his opponent win Submission of the Night or Fight of the Night.
Jim Miller: Two Submissions of the Night and one Fight of the Night.
Ben Henderson: Two Fights of the Night and one Submission of the Night
Chris Lytle: FIVE Fights of the Night, two Submissions of the Night, and one Knock Out of the Night.
Between the eight fighters featured on tomorrow night's main card, there have been a grand total of TWENTY-FOUR Zuffa bonuses (and then the two from Sherdog). And many of the fights that didn't win an official bonus easily could have, depending on the night. Yes, anything can happen in a fight and shows that look like they can't miss often do, and maybe one or two of tomorrow night's fights will disappoint, but there's no way they all do. Tune in and you'll get at least one great fight and maybe even four.
What more can you ask for from a card than four fights that all have legitimate chances at being Fight of the Night?
Mike Coughlin is the host of Five Star Radio. It's generally Show of the Week here at the site.