Recap: Biggest and Best MMA Moments From July 2011

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July was month you did not want to miss as an MMA fan.  It was like a good movie.  There was action and drama, heroes and villains, and most importantly, something was always happening to keep you interested.  Four big, important, events happened this past month, and one of them wasn’t even technically an event.  We began the month with UFC 132: Faber vs. Cruz and closed it with Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson.  In between was arguably the more intriguing part of the month with the UFC 133 lineup changes and the Alistair Overeem saga.

UFC 132: Faber vs. Cruz

Starting the month with a bang, UFC 132 did not disappoint.  This card was action filled from top to bottom, save one preliminary fight in which 15 minutes were spent on the cage . Also on the prelims, Brian Bowles earned a decision against Takeya Mizugaki and will now get a number one contender fight against Urijah Faber at UFC 139 in November.  Anthony Njokuani battered Andre Winner for three solid rounds to get the severely one-sided decision.  Rafael Dos Anjos threw his name in the contender’s hat in his upset first round knockout over the contender George Sotiropoulos.  Melvin Guillard continued his surge to a title shot with his TKO of WEC import Shane Roller, and subsequently begged for a fight at UFC 136 in his hometown of Houston,Texas.  He got it, as he is now facing Joe Lauzon on that card.

On the first fight of the pay-per-view main card, Carlos Condit handed Dong Hyun Kim his first defeat, in the first round no less, by way of KO from a powerful flying knee and follow-up punches while Kim’s limp body lay against the cage.  It seemed as if Condit had put himself into position for a title shot with the win, but with Nick Diaz relocating to the UFC, the Natural Born Killer is going to have to go through B.J. Penn to get that shot when they meet at UFC 137 in October.

Just when you thought this card was already awesome, it became even more so.  Tito Ortiz saved his job and shocked a good majority of the MMA world as he defeated Ryan Bader with a guillotine choke in the first frame.  Tito cracked Bader with a right and followed him to ground to lock up the choke.  This was Tito’s first win since 2006 and his first submission win since 2001.  Even stranger things happened with the Huntington Beach Bad Boy in the month of July, but that’s for later.

In a somewhat controversial affair, Dennis Siver took a unanimous decision nod from Matt Wiman.  Dennis got the upper hand in the first, but not my much.  Wiman has a much stronger showing in the second, seriously dominating his larger opponent.  The third round was back and forth, but all three judges saw it for Siver.  Wiman stormed out of the octagon and the arena into the parking lot, he was so upset with the decision.

In Wanderlei Silva’s return to the cage after a 16-month absence, he was again knocked out, this time by Chris Leben.  Silva landed a hard shot to the Crippler that seemed to only anger him.  Leben then caught the Axe Murderer with a series of uppercuts that led to Wand falling to the canvas and Leben earning the knockout victory.  Many questions have been asked by fans and Dana White about whether or not Silva should retire, but that choice is his.  Leben got a headlining fight at UFC 138 in England against Mark Munoz out of the deal.

The main event essentially followed the same game plan as the rest of the card: action, action, and action.  While Dominic Cruz had the upper hand most of the fight, Urijah Faber got some powerful shots in.  Cruz used his footwork, head movement, and in and out combinations to fluster Faber and get the unanimous decision.  Cruz will defend his bantamweight title against Demetrious Johnson in the main event at UFC Live of Versus 6 in October.

UFC 133 Line-up Changes

A new term has entered MMA vernacular, “Anderson Silva money.”  In a matter of a few days, this phrase went from never before being uttered to being a major talking point (or joke) among the MMA community.  When Phil Davis withdrew from the UFC 133 main event against Rashad Evans, the UFC called on Tito Ortiz to take his place.  Tito declined, initially.  Then Dana called Lyoto Machida, he said yes.  So we thought.  Apparently, the Dragon asked Dana to pay him a lot more money to take the fight on just four weeks’ notice, “Anderson Silva money,” to be exact.  How much is that?  We don’t know exactly; both fighter made the same $200K in their last reported athletic commission paychecks.  So, we are left to assume that pay-per-view percentages have something to do with it.  Anyway, Dana White told Lyoto, “You accomplish what Anderson Silva has accomplished, and we’ll pay you Anderson Silva money.”  WhileMachida confirmed his request for a bigger paycheck, fans still mutter about who’s at fault.  Either way, a man did come forward to take on Rashad Evans.

That man was Tito Ortiz.  He initially declined, citing a lack of prep time and no real need to fight this soon.  After some thought, Tito accepted the fight.  It appears that he is now a company man, and Dana White approves.  Still a heavy underdog going into this fight, he can rest assured that his job and career are no longer on the line.  Also, if Tito pulls off the improbable, by beating two top ten opponents in a matter of five weeks, the UFC President has stated that the Ortiz’s name will be on the short list of potential light heavyweight title contenders.  This would be an amazing turn of events in what has already been an amazing turn of events.

Alistair Overeem

In perhaps the largest news story of the month, Alistair Overeem was pulled from the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and later released from the organization altogether.  Overeem thought fighting in the semi-finals in September would not be enough time to prepare for a fight with so much on the line, as he was originally told he would be fighting in October.  He also cited an injury.  Being dropped from the grand prix soon followed.  Zuffa has repeatedly said that September 10 was the date Showtime wanted for the event, and that there was no getting around it, thus Overeem’s exit.

Many were contemplating whether or not this was done to move Overeem to the UFC to take on the winner of the Cain Velasquez/Junior Dos Santos matchup for the UFC heavyweight title.  There is not a clear contender slated for the winner of that bout.  To surprise of many though, Overeem was then cut by Strikeforce, making a crossover highly unlikely.  Overeem then released video evidence of a rib injury and will now be competing in a United Glory card in Russia sometime in October.

Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson

The drama and excitement did not end there.  Zuffa’s last card of the month brought forth continued excitement and controversy to boot.  Tarec Saffiedine picked apart Scott Smith and took almost no damage earning the unanimous decision and possibly setting himself for a rematch with Tyron Woodley for the vacant welterweight title. On the same card Woodley grinded out a decision over Paul Daley by using his wrestling to nullify most of Daley’s attacks on the feet.  He was still hit with some hard shots, but was on top for a majority of the fight.  Perhaps the most enthralling part of the fight was Daley’s flashy omaplata attempt.  You had to see it to believe it.

Tim Kennedy may also have earned himself a title shot as he out pointed Robbie Lawler to earn the nod from the judges.  Lawler didn’t seem his usual self, but was very reserved, while Kennedy was on the attack for much of the fight.  JZ Cavalcante won his fight against Bobby Green, twice.  The “best in the business,” referee Herb Dean missed Green tapping out to a choke in the second round.  Luckily for JZ, he did enough in the rest of the fight to get the split decision.  Meisha Tate upset submission ace, Marloes Coenen, by submission, to win the women’s bantamweight championship.  Next up for Tate may be Sarah Kaufman, who defeated Tate just a little over two years ago.

In the main event, Dan Henderson made magic happen.  Hendo weighed in at 207 pounds for the fight, just one pound over the minimum required to compete at heavyweight.  Fedor only weighed 16 pounds more coming in at 223.  With those stats, it appeared that weight shouldn’t be a huge issue.  And it wasn’t.  Both fighters came out aggressive, with Dan landing a hard left early.  After some positional warfare against the cage, the fighter split.  With both parties still aggressive, Fedor landed hard shots and Hendo fell to the floor.  Using his wrestling to move from the bottom, he took Fedor’s back and landed a dangerous right uppercut from under the Russians armpit.  Fedor broke his fall with his face and Henderson followed up with punches until Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.

Other MMA Happenings in July

  • Pat Curran and Marlon Sandro are set to face each other in the Bellator 2011 Summer Series Featherweight Tournament Final to see who will earn the next shot at the featherweight title after Patricio Friere.
  • Nate Marquardt signed with the England-based promotion BAMMA.  Initial speculation was that he would sign with Bellator, but talks fell out and Bjorn Rebney stated that Nate was “not the right fit.”
  • Sarah Kaufman defeated Liz Carmouche at a Strikeforce Challengers event to likely earn her a title shot against the new women’s bantamweight champion, Meisha Tate.
  • DREAM held its second Fight for Japan event.  Gegard Mousasi and Marius Zaromskis, among others, earned victories at this event.  Hideo Tokoro won the Japan Bantamweight Grand Prix and Hiroyuki Takaya retained his featherweight title.

Newly created Singaporean MMA promotion ONE Fighting Championships finalized their first fight card set for September 3.  Some familiar names on the care include: Yoshiyuki Yoshida, Phil Baroni, Andy Wang, and Gregor Gracie.  Also of note, is that ONE will be using a mix of the Unified Rules and old Pride Rules and will allow knees, kicks, stomps, and elbows to the head of a grounded opponent.

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