UFC 113 preview
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Montreal's Bell Centre this Saturday night for the most hotly anticipated rematch of the year — Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
When Machida won a unanimous decision against Rua at UFC 104, the mixed martial arts world was furious with the decision. This time around, neither man wants to leave the fight in the hands of judges. Fans can expect a war between two of the most skilled pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
With three straight UFC shows selling out at the Bell Centre, Canadian fans have eaten up every second of action — including last April's UFC 97.
Here's a breakdown of Machida vs. Shogun II and Saturday's other big fights:
Lyoto Machida (16-0) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (18-4)
Prior to their first meeting, the 31-year-old Brazilian southpaw Machida was considered unstoppable at 205 pounds.
After beating some of the sport's elite fighters including B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans, Machida was rightfully regarded as the most feared man in the UFC light heavyweight division.
Despite an impressive knockout of Chuck Liddell last April in Montreal, few observers gave Shogun a chance against Machida UFC 104. After all, an injury-plagued Rua suffered a submission loss to Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut.
Rua boasts one of the sport's most impressive resumes, having defeated the likes of Alistair Overeem, Kevin Randleman, Ricardo Arona, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Quinton Jackson in Pride.
When the Brazilians clashed in October, Rua dictated the pace with methodical leg kicks. He was a more disciplined fighter and implemented a perfect game plan, uncharacteristic of what the free-swinging former Pride middleweight grand prix champion had done to past opponents. Rua kept his distance while scoring with kicks to the legs and body, though Machida was able to hold his own with several flurries. Those flurries were apparently enough to garner the unanimous decision. But UFC President Dana White, Royce Gracie, Randy Couture, Quinton Jackson, Wanderlei Silva and countless others all had "Shogun" winning the fight.
Both fighters have vowed to finish the rematch by knockout or submission, although another five-round battle could be inevitable if both are on top of their games.
Machida has myriad tools in his arsenal, including power, precision, elusiveness and tactical gameplanning. With months of training, Machida will be better prepared for Shogun's leg kicks this time around.
The X-factor in this fight will be the ground game as both Brazilian jiujitsu black belts have proven takedown ability and submission skills. Machida has never truly been tested on the canvas and Shogun opts to keep most fights standing. However, Machida was able to throw Ortiz to the mat in their 2008 encounter and Shogun secured a victory against Nogueira in Pride by implementing effective takedowns over the course of three rounds. If this fight becomes a grappling match, fans will be treated to a compelling clinic and a different side of both fighters.
Considering how close their first fight was, it is difficult to pick a clear-cut favourite.
Josh Koscheck (14-4) vs. Paul Daley (23-8-2)
In a possible welterweight title eliminator, former NCAA Division I wrestling champion Koscheck meets the heavy-handed slugger Daley, a product of Britain's Team Rough House.
Since his stint on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Koscheck has improved in every facet of the game. Initially thought to be a one-dimensional wrestler, Koscheck has developed his striking, though he might be better suited reverting to his roots against a dangerous striker like Daley.
In interviews leading up to this welterweight match-up, the 32-year-old Koscheck has hinted that he might stand and bang with the Muay Thai specialist, who is five years Koscheck's junior. However, the BJJ brown belt knows better than to engage Daley where he presents the biggest threat.
The last reigning Cage Rage champion Daley has been on a tear since joining the UFC last September. With back-to-back knockouts of worthy contenders Dustin Hazelett and Martin Kampmann, Daley put the entire division on notice. However, Daley forfeited 10 per cent of his purse to Hazelett for failing to make weight when they faced off in January.
With losses to Jake Shields, Nick Thompson and Satoru Kitaoka, Daley's Achilles' heel throughout his career has clearly been his ground game, and, most notably, his submission defense.
If Koscheck forces Daley into a grappling contest, the Brit won't have an answer. Conversely, if the confident collegiate wrestling standout decides to test his chin by trading punches with Daley, he will taste some heavy leather.
Jeremy Stephens (16-5) vs. Sam Stout (15-5-1)
This lightweight battle has all the makings of a "Fight of the Night" candidate.
Stout, a native of Ontario, will be making his third-straight appearance on a UFC card in Montreal.
The dynamic 26-year-old kickboxer has been working diligently with Shawn Tompkins at Tapout Gym in Las Vegas to refine his wrestling and submission skills.
Stout was the underdog against Joe Lauzon at UFC 108 in January. However, Stout put on a career-defining performance to win a unanimous decision.
With four "Fight of the Night" bonuses during his UFC tenure, fans are accustomed to Stout putting on some of the most exciting fights in the lightweight division.
Stephens, a solid wrestler with legitimate knockout power, is coming off a first-round win over Justin Buchholz last September.
He has had several past opponents in common with Stout, including Lauzon and Spencer Fisher. Stout won both, while Stephens lost both.
If their records are any indication, Stout should be favoured in a fight that will likely stay standing. Being the more precise and technical striker, Stout should be able to pick Stephens apart. However, Stephens, who owns a knockout win over Rafael dos Anjos, has one-punch power.
Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson (4-1) vs. Matt Mitrione (1-0)
Only a few weeks away from Quinton Jackson's anticipated showdown with Rashad Evans, two contestants from the last season of "The Ultimate Fighter" will look to make their coaches proud.
A member of Team Rampage, Slice was the most popular fighter on the show. With a YouTube streetfighting background and two appearances on CBS for the now-defunct EliteXC promotion, Slice won over fans with his star power and down-to-earth personality in the "TUF" house.
Despite getting eliminated from the show by eventual winner Roy Nelson, Slice displayed his evolution as a fighter when he defeated Houston Alexander by decision last December. Slice used an assortment of suplexes to beat a fighter who held wins over Keith Jardine and Alessio Sakara.
Now training at American Top Team with the likes of Thiago Alves and Antonio Silva, Slice is improving every day in the gym.
Mitrione, who was known as "Meathead" on Team Rashad, became the most hated personality in the "TUF" house. After seemingly making excuses to avoid fighting and rubbing all his teammates the wrong way, Mitrione was eventually eliminated by James McSweeney in the quarterfinals.
However, Mitrione showcased impressive power on the show by punishing journeyman Scott Junk and going on to knock out fan favourite Marcus Jones in his first professional bout last December.
A pupil of world-renowned kickboxer Duke Roufus, Mitrione has been training alongside Eric Schafer and Pat Barry to prepare for a fight that could propel him to stardom.
Slice's chin has been questioned ever since his 14-second knockout loss to Seth Petruzelli in October 2008. Meanwhile, Mitrione has proven power, as well as improved technique. After all, Mitrione is training under one of the best striking coaches on the planet.
Though Mitrione is hardly a threat in the UFC heavyweight landscape, he should have the game plan and tools in place to handle Slice.
Alan Belcher (15-6) vs. Patrick Cote (13-5)
In a tough comeback fight for the French-Canadian superstar Cote, he will have his hands full against Belcher, a fast-rising contender in the middleweight division.
The 26-year-old Arkansas-native Belcher has won bonuses in his last three fights, including a "Submission of the Night" for his win over Denis Kang, "Fight of the Night" in a razor-thin loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama and "Fight of the Night" for his first-round knockout of Wilson Gouveia last December.
The BJJ purple belt has come a long way as a striker since his TKO loss to Canadian Jason Day at UFC 83 in April 2008.
Cote, meanwhile, has not seen action since injuring his knee when he challenged Anderson Silva for the 185-pound title in the same year.
A heavy-handed former King of the Cage, MFC and TKO champion, the 30-year-old Cote is hoping to make an impact in his return to Canadian soil.
With a strong training camp behind him at Team Sityodtong in Boston, in addition to BTT Canada and Tristar Gym in Montreal, Cote is a tough customer anywhere the fight goes.
Cote's punching power is among the most feared in the division. Moreover, his wrestling and submission bases are often overlooked. Cote has been working closely with former Commonwealth world boxing champion Howard Grant to sharpen his speed, footwork and precision in the octagon.
Cote, who is expected to receive a thunderous ovation in his home province, is hell-bent on victory in his first fight in over a year.
With more explosive power and a world-class camp behind him, "The Predator," who was riding a five-fight winning streak prior to fighting Silva, should have the edge over Belcher in a three-round fight.