Every week I post the MMA on TV schedule and every Sunday when I’m putting it together, I’m always a little shocked at how many live events are taking place during the week. Most of the time I know when there is a major event taking place, but this was an eye-opening week as I learned that there are five live events taking place this weekend.
Two shows on Friday night, one on Saturday morning, and two more on Saturday night. And that’s just MMA. That doesn’t count all the football and baseball you’re likely to watch as well. Gentlemen, from the moment you get off work on Friday to the moment Bob Costas wraps up the Sunday Night Football game on NBC, you have my permission to sit on the couch and not move an inch unless it’s to get a beer, grab a slice of pizza, or go to the bathroom.
We all know about the big UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage event on Saturday night, but what about the other four events? Who should we be keeping our eye on starting Friday night at 10PM with Titan FC 20? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Brett Rogers: Once considered a top 10 heavyweight in sport after knocking out Andrei Arlovski, Brett Rogers was brought back down to earth when he was matched up against skilled fighters who didn’t end up concussed following a stiff breeze. After an incident with his wife that got him cut from Strikeforce but didn’t put him in jail, Rogers tries to battle his way back to the big show, starting with UFC veteran Eddie Sanchez.
Even though Rogers is best known for getting his head knocked off against Fedor Emelianenko, or maybe doing cartwheels across the cage against Alistair Overeem, or possibly having no idea how to get off his back against Josh Barnett, and Sanchez is best known for running backwards against Mirko Cro Cop, this is a pretty decent fight. Both guys like to trade punches and for the two minutes where they’re both at full strength and not dead tired from throwing punches, it’ll probably be a fun little brawl.
Jamie Varner: Once on top of the WEC world, Jamie Varner fell on hard times near the end of the promotions run, going winless in four straight fights against Ben Henderson, Kamal Shalorus, Donald Cerrone, and Shane Roller and not being brought over when UFC and WEC merged.
With one win already under his post-WEC belt, Varner looks to pick up another victory this weekend against Alonzo Martinez. I’m not really a fan of Varner, because he wears sunglasses inside, but I do think he was given a raw detail when he was released. He should have been given at least one fight in the UFC because he, along with Cerrone and Henderson, really carried that WEC lightweight division and it would have been a nice gesture for UFC to give him another chance in the octagon.
Ryan Couture: Coming off a loss and only having a record of 2-1, most fighters wouldn’t be in the position that Ryan Couture is in. But when your last name is Couture and you’re the son of one of the most respected fighters in the sports history, you get chances that other fighters don’t get.
At Strikeforce Challengers 19, Couture faces Maka Watson, who, like Couture’s last opponent, Matt Ricehouse, is a pretty unknown guy but is also looking to make a name for himself at the expense of Couture. I like what Strikeforce is doing with Couture, and that’s bringing him up slowly before he eventually ends up on The Ultimate Fighter when Strikeforce becomes extinct next year. Couture has to prove it in the cage though. He’s obviously not going to be his father, and it’s unfair to expect otherwise, but if he’s going to make it in MMA, he has to beat the guys Strikeforce is pairing him up against.
Jason High: After being cut from the UFC after one fight, a loss to Charlie Brenneman, the often-overlooked Jason High is currently riding a five fight win streak, and in a very shallow Strikeforce welterweight division, he has the potential to really stand out before he heads back to the UFC early next year.
High faces Todd Moore on Friday night, in a pretty tough fight for High, because Moore is an unknown guy, who has fought some good fighters, but is also a guy that “The KC Bandit” should defeat. Really I don’t care about the fight all that much. I care more about High’s walk-out music and possible pre-fight antics. Strikeforce loves to show fighters hitting pads and warming up before their bouts, and High has promised to spoof Floyd Mayweather ala Kevin Hart, should he get the opportunity. Also, Jason is a fighter who puts thought into his walk-out music, which is something I appreciate.
Joe Warren: The baddest man on the planet officially makes his bantamweight debut in the Bellator season 5 bantamweight tournament. Undefeated in Bellator and the current featherweight champion of the company, Joe Warren tries to live up to his self-proclaimed titled.
Even though he’s been given more gift decisions than Leonard Garcia, Warren is still a highly-talented fighter who can out-wrestle most fighters on any given night. He’s been given a pretty favorable first-round fight against Alexis Vila, who, despite being a Olympic level wrestler himself, is 40-years old. My concern with Warren is that he wants to do about 500 things in his life and I’m not sure he’s fully focused on Vila or the tournament. In fact, with everything he wants to do, I’m pretty sure he’s not fully focused on anything, he’s just split his focus in one hundred different directions and hope that he’s devoted enough attention to each.
Kazushi Sakuraba: The last time we saw Kazushi Sakuraba, he was struggling to keep his ear on against Marius Zaromskis. At the age of 42, having lost his last three fights, and having taken a beating throughout his career, this could be the last time we see Sakuraba compete in the ring.
In fact, I hope this is the last time we see Sakuraba compete. Everyone wanted him to retire when Ricardo Arona turned his face into hamburger. That was in 2005. He faces Yan Cabral on Saturday morning in America, and seeing as Cabral is mainly a jiu-jitsu fighter, hopefully it’ll mean that Sakuraba won’t take too much punishment. Win or lose though, someone needs to tell “The Gracie Hunter” that he has nothing left to prove and that no one wants to see him go out like he’s been going out.
Shinya Aoki: Following his loss to Gilbert Melendez in April 2010, Shinya Aoki has come back strong to win five straight fights, trapping four of those opponents in a submission. One of the best submission grapplers in the world, Aoki faces veteran striker Rob McCullough at DREAM.
Love or hate Aoki, he’s one of the more entertaining fighters in MMA, just because you know that if the fight hits the grab, he’s seconds away from ending the contest, “Razor” Rob is a beatable opponent, because he lacks a real ground game, but given Aoki’s chin and McCullough’s striking ability and power, it’s possible that the former WEC champ pulls off the upset. Of course, it’s also possible that Aoki busts out a jumping inverted armbar for the victory.
Joachim Hansen vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri: Even though Joachim Hansen is 3-3 in his last six fights and Tatsuya Kawajiri is 2-2 and this fight is taking place in the featherweight division for some strange reason, I can’t help but to get excited for this fight.
If Kawajiri doesn’t decide to take the fight to the ground and control Hansen, this has the potential to be an absolute scrap, with both men just trading punches until someone finally falls down. Maybe their chins aren’t what they used to be and maybe they’re kind of irrelevant because they’re fighting in Japan, but damnit I’m pumped for this fight and I hope it goes longer than 30 seconds.