By John Carlin, 11th November 2014
On Saturday night the UFC makes it’s inaugural appearance in Mexico, bringing with it some of the best fighters on the planet with the usual mix of exciting prospects, up and comers, and contenders, culminating in a heavyweight showdown to determine the next pretender for Cain Velasquez’s heavyweight crown, and a nice piece of gold to go with it.
After Cain Velasquez was forced to withdraw from his scheduled bout with Brazilian title challenger Fabricio Werdum, disappointing a nation in the process, the UFC quickly moved to replace the champion with fan favorite and fellow heavyweight contender Mark Hunt.
They meet in the quintessential striker vs grappler match up that see’s both fighters hold advantages over their opponent. Fabricio Werdum a multiple time Jiu Jitsu world champion, and 2x ADCC champion is widely regarded as one of the very best Jiu Jitsu practitioners in the world, holding highly impressive submission victories in his mixed martial arts career over the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and is also the only man to ever submit MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko. Recentley showcasing a much improved Muay Thai game under the tutelage of Master Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum has evolved into a much more well-rounded mixed martial artist, now capable of competing anywhere the fight takes place despite his much improved stand up game he will be well served to still be cautious of the striking game of his opponent, former K1 world grand prix champion Mark Hunt, one of the most devastating strikers in the UFC’s heavyweight division, boasting the kind of power and technique to conceivably knock out any man alive with the right connection.
The fact that Mark Hunt is even in this position right now is an incredible turn of events, it’s been well documented that after the UFC’s acquisition of the now defunct pride organization that they offered to pay up the rest of Hunt’s contract to relieve him of any obligations to fight in the UFC. After adamantly declining and wanting to prove to the UFC and the rest of the world what he already believed, that he was the best heavyweight in the world, 5 wins and a draw, in what many people consider to be the greatest heavyweight fight of all time later, and Hunt finds himself fighting for the interim heavyweight championship with a guaranteed shot at the current heavyweight world champion Cain Velasquez should he be victorious.
The big question in this fight is does Werdum elect to stand and engage in a striking battle with Hunt, does he believe in his new found striking skill set enough to try and best Hunt in the one area that he can compete with Werdum in? because if this fight goes to the mat there is a giant chasm in the two fighters grappling ability, and Werdum, so close to a shot at the champion Cain Velasquez would surely be wise to try to exploit that disparity, conversely Hunt will be hoping that Werdum’s new found confidence leads him to stay in range long enough for him to land one of his well patented knock out blows, one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be interesting to find out.
Main Card (PPV)
Aside from the main event, UFC 180 has a number of intriguing bouts set to feature on the pay-per-view portion of the broadcast, Jake Ellenberger (29-8) faces Kelvin Gastelum (10-0) in the co-main event, as Gastelum looks to continue his march towards to the top 10 of the welterweight division and Ellenberger looks to rebound from a 2-fight losing streak and halt the momentum of TUF 17 winner Gastelum. Stylistically it promises to be an exciting match up, as both fighters prefer to keep the fight standing and look to finish their opponent on the feet, also both fighters posses the level of wrestling to be able to keep the fight standing or take their opponent down. It’s a big step up in competition for Gastelum but should he get the win on Saturday night it will propel him into the top 10 of the division.
Dennis Bermudez (15-3) takes on Ricardo Lamas (14-3) in an exciting looking contest between two of the best featherweights in the world. After putting up a valiant effort in his title shot against the featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Lamas has since rebounded with a decision victory over Hacren Diaz, and will be looking to take out a fellow top ten opponent when he faces off against Denis Bermudez who has been on an impressive run since losing to Diego Brandao in the TUF 14 finale Bermudez has reeled off a 7 fight win streak most recently submitting the always durable Clay Guida last time out. The winner of this top ten featherweight clash could possibly find themselves in a number 1 contender bout next, so a lot will be on the line come Saturday night.
The highlights of the prelims all take place in the televised portion of the preliminary card, as both the bantamweight and the featherweight winners of TUF Latin America will be crowned.
Yair Rodriguez (4-1) takes on Leonardo Morales (5-0) to crown the first ever TUF Latin America featherweight winner.
Alenjandro Perez (15-5) takes on Jose Quinonez (4-1) to crown the first ever TUF Latin America bantamweight winner.
Jessica Eye (10-2) faces Leslie Smith (7-5) in the stand out fight of the prelims. Eye is coming off of a split decision loss to Canadian Alexis Davies in her last appearance inside of the Octagon, While Leslie Smith had a very impressive victory over Jessamyn Duke stopping her in the first round with a violent barrage of punches.
Eye is currently ranked number 6 in the women’s bantamweight division while Smith is currently sitting at number 13, a win for Smith though on Saturday night would surely see her break into the top ten of the division, An exciting looking match up between two talented fighters, the fans that get into the arena before the main card are in for a treat.