MMA fans could hit the trifecta on July 19, with two of Mixed Martial Art’s best pound-for-pound fighters taking part in meaningful bouts, a who’s who of elite heavyweights doing battle, and the debut of the upstart promotion “Affliction”.
Affliction’s first event could mean another real contributor to the sport’s success – - depending on the performances. But the potential for a defining night for the sport sure is there – - with intriguing bouts and countless dollars spent on advertising and promoting the event.
Having only been on the national radar for several years, MMA is still in its early childhood, but growing fast. The question is: will Affliction become a serious competitor to Ultimate Fighting Championship, which has been synonymous with MMA since orchestrating the sport’s breakthrough into the mainstream? July 19 will show us a lot.
Popular clothing company, Affliction, has teamed up with business mogul and astute marketer, Donald Trump, to assemble one of the better fight cards in MMA history. The backdrop to the event is that Affliction has poured a vast amount of money into stockpiling some of the sports best talent and biggest names, in hopes of eventually challenging the UFC for MMA supremacy. To do that, Saturday’s pay-per-view needs to be a success.
Fedor Emelianenko versus Tim Sylvia
Â Affliction has invested a lot of money into Emelianenko. The company’s near-term success ultimately may hinge upon the performance of this former Pride heavyweight champion. Although being one of the biggest names in all of MMA, Emelianenko has not been able to translate his recognition into commercial rating success in the U.S.
His fight against Matt Lindland on PPV did a paltry 14,000 buys, an alarmingly low number. It will be essential for “The Last Emperor” to wow U.S. fans and live up to the hype by performing admirably against Tim Sylvia, in order for Affliction to develop a following.
The match itself is intriguing, because Emelianenko has been chastised for facing lesser opposition the past three years. By facing a top five heavyweight in Sylvia – - though he is somewhat limited in terms of style, Emelianenko will have the opportunity to validate his standing as one of the best fighters of all time and current number one heavyweight.
Sylvia’s strategy has never been a mystery and remains essentially the same for every fight. He will attempt to leverage his size by using a straight jab to set up his overhand right. Since Emelianenko is far smaller in stature, Sylvia may attempt to smother his opponent with his sheer size and overwhelm Emelianenko with his strength. As he did in his previous fight against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Sylvia will avoid being taken to the ground at all costs. Clearly, Sylvia is uncomfortable on the ground and has a tendency to get submitted when put there.
The Last Emperor is a gifted mixed martial artist and almost unanimously considered one of the best, if not, the best, pound for pound fighters of all time. Emelianenko is an explosive striker with deceptive speed and excellent footwork. His ground game is slick and he can flawlessly transition into submission attempts. He has a stout chin, incredible recovery ability, and a composure that has never unraveled. Needless to say, Emelianenko is the total package.
Emelianenko is like The Terminator in the first movie. Everyone kept looking for a weakness or a chink in his armor, believing there had to be a way to defeat him. Ultimately, there really wasn’t any possible way to win unless you sacrificed yourself first. Even then, victory wasn’t guaranteed.
Most analysts believe this fight will be thoroughly dominated by Emelianenko. If the fight goes to the ground, there is no doubt, Sylvia will be submitted with ease.
But, Sylvia should not be ruled out all together. He has heavy hands and by constantly circling Emelianenko, while throwing that jab, he should have a chance. Emelianenko has been known to bleed profusely from time to time. Syvlia’s best chance will be to try and bust Emelianenko open and keep the pressure on once he has. By turning the fight into a boxing match, Sylvia will have his best opportunity to prove the critics wrong.
Still, Emelianenko has too much heart, too much skill, and too much riding on this fight to lose. On possibly the biggest stage of his career, Emelianenko needs to demonstrate his dominance in the sport. And he should be able to do so against Sylvia.
Prediction: Fedor Emelianenko via submission, Round two.
Andrei Arlovsky versus Ben Rothwell
The fight between Andrei Arlovski and Ben Rothwell could have major implications in shaping the landscape of the heavyweight division. Assuming Fedor Emelianenko wins his bout against Tim Sylvia, Affliction could promote the winner of this fight as being his next challenge.
Do you remember Dewayne Robertson? He was a defensive tackle who played for Kentucky in college and was then drafted number fourth overall in the draft by the New York Jets. Entering the NFL, there was an immense amount of hype surrounding Robertson. Scouts thought he was the second coming of Warren Sapp and would prove to be a spectacular pro. It’s been several years and he has done decently thus far, performing commendably, but, not spectacularly. His career has been solid, yet ultimately, he has failed to achieve the greatness predicted of him.
Andrei Arlovski has followed a similar path. Although still considered one of the best heavyweight fighters out there and rightfully so, he has yet to ascent to that next level of stardom. A gifted fighter and arguably the most athletic heavyweight fighter in the world, Arlovski was hailed as a world-beater at one point. He was supposed to usher in a new breed of athletic, swift and powerful mixed martial artists and take the division by a storm.
Instead, while Arlovksi has remained at or near the top of the division, he has yet to emerge as the dominant force so many predicted. Arlovski’s legacy will be determined in his next several fights. The question will be whether or not he can cross the boundary from being a very good fighter to emerge as a great one?
His fight against Ben Rothwell will help to determine just what his career course will be. This fight is going to take place standing up, as long as Arlovkski wants it that way. Rothwell has put together an impressive winning streak of late, not losing since 2005. He is a big, big boy, who loves to throw leather. Still, his conditioning is likely to be challenged since he clearly is not in optimal shape. But, the guy is a man-bear, an aggressive, powerful, dangerous beast of an individual who can end a fight in the spur of a moment.Â
Arlovski needs to look impressive in this fight. His last two bouts, although victories, failed to inspire much awe. Frankly,Â Arlovski was losing most of the fight to Jake O’Brien because he couldn’t prevent getting taken down. And against Fabricio Werdum, he was tentative. Arlovski will need to use his quickness and athleticism to tire Rothwell. If he can put together solid combinations with a mix of leg kicks, he should be able to end the fight by TKO or KO.
Nonetheless, Arlovski must be weary of Rothwell’s power. As we’ve seen when Arlovksi faced Pedro Rizzo and to a lesser degree, Tim Sylvia and Ricco Rodriguez, Arlovski’s chin is more like wood than steel, it can be broken if hit in the right spot.
With such a great stable of heavyweights, it will be interesting to see if Arvloski rises to the occasion and separates himself from the rest of the pack.
Prediction: Andrei Arlovski via TKO, round two.
Josh Barnett versus Pedro Rizzo
It’s unfortunate this fight didn’t take place several years earlier, when Rizzo was still in his prime and the match would have been more meaningful. Since beating Arlovski, Rizzo posted a pedestrian record of four and four in his next eight bouts. The heavy handed Rizzos’ best days are behind him. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, this rematch could still end up stealing the show for several reasons.
First, Barnett would clearly enjoy avenging the brutal knockout he suffered to Rizzo in 2001. Second, both of these fighters have the ability to stand and trade punches, plus Rizzo is always entertaining. And lastly, the stakes are high – - Rizzo will help measure whether Barnett is still deserving of his top five heavyweight ranking.
It’s difficult to see Pedro Rizzo winning this fight. Barnett simply has too many tools. Barnett is a very respectable submission artist. His wrestling is solid, he is experienced in the clinch, has good body control and is a quality striker. If he decides to take a fighter down, he has an effective shoot, proper trips and is a very well versed mixed martial artist. Unless he gets over anxious and caught by a massive Rizzo haymaker, Barnett has the skills to win this fight decisively.
With an abundance of different skills, a gregarious personality that includes hilarious past entrances and comical in-ring antics, Barnett is a likeable character. An impressive win could finally earn him a shot at the one fighter he has previously called out, but never had the opportunity to face, Fedor Emelianenko.
Prediction: Josh Barnett via submission, round two
Fedor, Barnett and Arlovski, are three incredible heavyweights that have the opportunity to put Affliction on their shoulders and fight its way to success. Affliction’s upcoming event combines some of the greatest heavyweights ever assembled in one event. That in itself is special for MMA. With the additions of Matt Lindland and Renato Sobral rounding out the main card, the event could be the event of the year. Both of those fighters should be able to secure a victory, especially Lindland and although Sobral should win, Mike Whitehead is never an easy out. Regardless of the outcomes, Affliction will help clean up the muddle waters of the heavyweight division, provide The Last Emperor a chance to regain some of his mystique, and could end up being remembered as the first event of the promotion that became the yin to the UFC’s yang.