With the current state of the U.S. economy not doing so well these days, MMA fans will feel some relief withthree major MMA shows scheduled this week on free (well, free if you have cable) television.
On Wednesday, the UFC will be presenting the 16th installment of their UFC Fight Night series with a special “UFC Fight for the Troops” event. The event will air live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET and will emanate from Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The following night will mark the second-ever event of Monte Cox’s Adrenaline MMA. Adrenaline II will be televised on HDNet starting at 10 p.m. ET and will feature legendary welterweight Pat Miletich taking on King of the Cage and EliteXC veteran Thomas Denny in what will mark Miletich’s first fight in close to two years.
And then on Saturday, the UFC will return to Spike TV for the live finale of the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” In addition to matches featuring Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns and Wilson Gouveia vs. Jason MacDonald, we’ll also see the light heavyweight and lightweight finals of TUF along with the infamous Junie Browning taking on fellow TUF 8 alum Dave Kaplan.
With three shows scheduled to take place over the course of four days, there will be a lot of MMA for fans to digest. In anticipation of the busy week ahead, FiveOuncesOfPain.com has a look at the most intriguing story lines to watch.
1. How much money will “UFC Fight for the Troops” raise and can it become an annual event - I can’t tell you how many members of the U.S. Armed Forces we hear from on a regular basis. The military loves MMA and now MMA is showing some love to the military. “UFC Fight for the Troops” on Wednesday is a great event that will do a lot of good for the Armed Forces. The troops at Fort Bragg will not only get to see live MMA in their own backyard, but more importantly, the UFC and Spike TV will be raising money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The question, just how much will be raised and if it’s a significant amount, will “UFC Fight for the Troops” become an annual event?
2. Can Phillipe Nover become the lightweight version of Anderson Silva - Dana White said during interviews over the summer that he was excited about a fighter involved with the taping of TUF 8 who resembled a “lightweight version of Anderson Silva.” Naturally, we all got pretty excited and most of us speculated that the fighter in question was Joe Duarte. Well, Duarte didn’t even make it past the qualifying round after he was stopped by an unknown fighter by the name of Phillipe Nover. Nover overcame a fainting incident and destroyed his competition en route to the TUF 8 finals. White has yet to formally state that Nover was the fighter he was talking about, but is there any doubt? Efrain Escudero is a strong wrestler with a lot of upside but he’s the underdog against Nover. A probable win for Nover creates a situation where an unknown will have won TUF for two consecutive seasons. After Nover wins, the question will need to be asked: just how good can this kid be? Will he be a solid middle-of-the-road fighter in the UFC’s lightweight division, or will he blossom into a future champion?
3. Will UFC Fight Night 16 be Josh Koscheck’s last fight in the UFC - ESPN.com’s Franklin McNeil reported during this past week’s edition of “MMA Live” that Koscheck has no intention of signing the infamous lifetime video game licensing agreement that played a role in Jon Fitch’s 24-hour release from the UFC. If McNeil is correct and Koscheck loses, will the UFC exercise their right to cut his contract? The question becomes a moot point if Koscheck wins, because the UFC will not be able to drop him at that point. However, against a fighter as talented as Yoshiyuki Yoshida, a win is hardly a guarantee.
4. Is Pat Miletich going to return to an active schedule after Thursday’s fight vs. Thomas Denny - Pat Miletich, one of my all-time favorite fighters, is set to return to the ring following a two year layoff. Miletich will be headlining Monte Cox’s second-ever Adrenaline MMA show this Thursday during a live broadcast on HDNet against Thomas Denny. Denny is a journeyman but it’s still an ambitious test for Miletich to accept in his return. “The Wildman” might not be the most skilled opponent in the world, but the 38-year old is dangerous because he loves to keep moving forward. Sure, it means the 42-year old Miletich won’t have to chase Denny around, but he won’t be given any rest opportunities either. This is not a slam dunk win for Miletich and it’s a fight he could lose. However, the question I have is: what happens if he wins? Does a victory mean we’ll see Miletich compete on a regular basis in ’09? I’d love to see it.
5. Will Junie Browning’s UFC career extend past Saturday - Despite his best efforts, Junie Browning was unsuccessful in trying to get himself kicked off TUF 8. Now, Browning finds himself scheduled to compete in a televised bout this Saturday against Dave Kaplan even though he didn’t make it to the finals. But will Browning make it into the UFC? A win leaves no doubt that he will be retained by the UFC. And while he received so much screen time this past season that there’s a good chance he’ll be kept around even if he loses, the UFC may have some doubts if Browning loses in unimpressive fashion.
6. Can Vinicius Magalhaes win a standup war - A lot of people are claiming that Vinny has no standup. I don’t know which version of TUF 8 they watched this year, but I felt the jiu-jitsu black belt showed some solid striking skills. Sure, Magalhaes’ standup lacks polish and he’s far from a world class striker, but I believe he has enough to hang with Ryan Bader in a standup war during the light heavywweight finals for TUF 8 this Saturday. And a standup war is exactly what I expect to see because I don’t see Bader wanting to end up in Magalhaes’ guard and I don’t see Magalhaes’ jiu-jitsu takedowns being all that effective against a former NCAA D1 wrestler.
7. Is Mike Swick a welterweight contender or pretender - Dana White was asked about Mike Swick during a fan Q&A session several months back and responded by saying that Swick’s stock has been hurt by frequent injuries. Well, Swick recently had surgery on his elbow and has indicated in interviews that he’s feeling the best he has in a while. Before losing to Yushin Okami, Swick had a lot of momentum behind him and seemed destined for greatness. However, despite winning his last two fights, Swick’s stock has dropped along with his choice of weight classes. It’s hard to figure out just exactly where he rates within the UFC’s stacked welterweight division. An impressive finish over Jonathan Goulet could allow Swick to start moving towards a shot at the UFC welterweight title. However, if Swick vs. Goulet at UFN 16 resembles Swick vs. Burkman then Swick could be stuck in second-tier purgatory.
8. Can Jim Miller pull of a storybook ending victory - Frankie Edger had been slated to face Matt Wiman at UFN 16 but pulled off the card last week due to injury. In his place will be another talented East Coast lightweight competitor, Jim Miller. Incidentally, the only loss sustained by Miller in his 13 bout pro career was against Edgar. Now, Miller gets to step up as his replacement on exactly one week’s notice. Not only that, he is also just one week removed from his honeymoon. Stamina is definitely going to be a factor but a win for Miller in this spot would be huge and it would bring him some much-needed exposure.