When the final UFC 130 card came to fruition, fight fans readied themselves for an explosive main event between UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar and number one contender Gray “The Bully” Maynard. History beckoned for this final meeting between the two as their previous meetings were nothing short of epic. The first two went to the judges’ desk, resulting in a Maynard win, followed a draw. Memorial Day Weekend was the designated moment when the world would learn who the best Lightweight Mixed Martial Artist was. On April 9th, ESPN broke news that would force MMA Nation to wait longer for that answer. MMA Insider Brett Okamoto broke the news, specifying Edgar had a broken rib, while Maynard suffered with knees issues, along with a facial cut while sparring.
As a result, the Light Heavyweight bout between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Matt “The Hammer” Hamill were elevated to the main event slot, thus moving four other fights up the latter of importance for the Memorial Day Weekend card.
When I caught wind of these unfortunate mishaps, my assumption was that this card would not live up to the standard that Maynard and Edgar would’ve set. Then I had to think about it. Such cards as UFC 129 and UFC 119 weren’t as compelling as I anticipated them to be. With that said, who am I to suggest this card won’t live up to expectations? Can this blow to the Lightweight division actually serve as a blessing to the other combatants on the main card?
Brian “The All American” Stann vs. Jorge “The Sandman” Santiago- Middleweight Division Bout
Is it a coincidence that Stann, a Marine Captain, is set to fight on Memorial Day Weekend? Maybe! What wasn’t a coincidence is how he rattled the granite chin of Chris Leben at UFC 125 on New Year’s night 2011. “The last guy I’d want to fight on Memorial Day Weekend is a servant in the Armed Forces”, Stann heeded. Yes, there is something to that notion, but standing across the octagon is a veteran fighter who has a motive of his own. Santiago had a earlier stint with UFC, but a two fight losing streak led to his exile. Santiago went on to win two Middleweight Titles, along with Strikeforce’s Middleweight Grand Prix (Tournament) Championship in that absence. In his first fight of his UFC return, I’ll go with The Sandman putting The All American to sleep.
Thiago “The Pitbull” Alves vs. Rick “The Horror” Story- Welterweight Division Bout
Since his loss to John Hathaway back at UFC 99, Story rides the wave of a five-fight win streak. His scrambling ability and punching power has horrified his opponents. Now he has a chance to see if he belongs in upper brass of the Welterweight class. His first test, Thiago Alves. In response to a two fight skid to Georges St. Pierre and Jon Fitch, Alves began revising the story of his MMA career with a unanimous decision over John Howard. UFC analyst Joe Rogan marveled at Alves’ performance. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen him perform”, Rogan declared. I have The Pitbull making May 28th a horror of a night for Rick Story.
Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve vs. Travis “Hapa” Browne- Heavyweight Division Bout
If you want a heavyweight whose submissions can rival those of former Heavyweight champion Frank Mir, look no further than Struve. His last two wins, however, proved quite the contrary, finishing the bouts with a knockout and a technical knockout. Browne steps into the octagon with 10-0-1 record, which includes a win over former All-American wide receiver and Washington Redskin Michael Westbrook. At 6’7″, Browne stands as an imposing figure. Still, it’s a tall order, asking him to get one over on The Skyscraper. I’ll take Struve to extend his win streak to three.
Frank Mir vs. Roy “Big Country” Nelson- Heavyweight Division Bout
Speaking of the Heavyweight division’s best submission artist, the former champion is looking to reclaim the division’s thrown. Given the unfortunate return of Brock Lesnar’s diverticulitis, Mir inches closer to that goal. Before he can stake claim as a top contender, he must first go through fellow Las Vegas native and friend Roy Nelson. Although Nelson is coming off a loss to aspiring number one contender Junior Dos Santos, Nelson put everyone on notice as to how tough he is, taking punches from one of the heavyweight division’s elite punchers. Some think Mir has the edge if this goes to the ground. What people don’t realize is Nelson beat Mir in a grappling competition, 15-2, pre-UFC. I’m putting my chips on Big Country to get the best in this fisticuffs of friends.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Matt “The Hammer” Hamill- Light Heavyweight Division Bout
As if the stakes in this match weren’t already high with championship implications, here’s comes a promotion to the main event slot. This is familiar territory for Jackson, who is a former UFC and Pride champion. He’s had his share of moments on center stage. For Hamill, not so much! The former All-American wrestler is evolving into an all-around Mixed Martial Artist. The knock on Jackson as of late is his one-dimensional style of fighting. While Jackson has the heaviest hands in the division, fight fans are clamoring for him to revert back to his Pride days where he wrestled and slammed his way to supremacy. As formidable as Hamill is, his chin has yet to endure a true test. On the flip side, the lingering question over Jackson’s head is his cardio. Because it’s been shaky as of late, my call is for Rampage to drop the Hammer on Hamill, in a narrow decision.
While the fight that everyone wanted will, at a minimum, have to wait until September, I expect UFC 130 to shock fight fans and provide a compelling fight card. Please have a safe holiday weekend and check back soon for the UFC 130 recap.
By Antoine Hoffman