In what B.C. MMA Fan hopes will become a consistent quarterly column, I have cataloged and handicapped some of the highest-profile bouts featuring Canadian fighters that have been announced at the time of publication.
The article below includes numerous fights that were just announced in the last week, one that was first-reported just today, a UFC world title fight, several main events that are primed to take place on Canadian soil, and even one high-profile match featuring two fighters with losing records. So take your time, tell your friends, post this up in your bathroom facing the toilet, whatever it takes.
Most of all, make sure you enjoy as many of these fights as you possibly can. It's the Canadian thing to do.
Aggression MMA F.C.: Vengeance
When: February 5th
Where: Edmonton Expo Centre in Edmonton Alberta
[185lbs.] Jason "Dooms" Day (18-8, CDN) vs. Jesse "JT Money" Taylor (13-5)
This is the main event at Aggression MMA's second show, and with good reason. These two are internationally known, UFC veterans who have each been fighting exclusively against elite-level competition for years. Lethbridge, Alberta's Jason Day even holds an octagon win over current UFC middleweight contender Alan Belcher (15-6), but was since let go by the UFC following a pair of tough losses. Day has already scored one victory on his personal comeback trail and surely hopes that another will catch the attention of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. His opponent, Jesse "JT Money" Taylor would also like a return-ticket to the octagon, but will have to do a little bit extra to prove himself considering his checkered past with the organization. Then there's the fact that Taylor is coming off two straight losses, albeit to very high-level competition in Luke Rockhold (6-1) and Jay Hieron (18-4).
The experienced and well-rounded Day finds himself in a very winnable fight here. His chances remain high so long as he successfully defends the incoming takedown attempts from "JT Money," a powerful wrestler. "Dooms" will also need to fend-off his opponent's underrated submissions long enough to lock in one of his own or, ideally, find a home for his world-renowned fists somewhere on or around Taylor's chin. Just another day at the office, right?
[170lbs.] Claude Patrick (10-1, CDN) vs. Matt MacGrath (8-2, CDN)
In a fantastic co-main event match, one of Canada's slickest grapplers, Torontonian Claude Patrick, who has scored seven submission wins and achieved all of his victories inside the distance, faces well-rounded Maritimer Matt MacGrath. MacGrath may be slightly less well-known, but would surely like nothing more than to steal Patrick's momentum with an impressive victory. Neither fighter has lost more than twice, with IFL-vet Patrick's only defeat coming to well-known UFC slugger and Team Miletich mainstay Drew Mcfedries (8-6) way back in 2002. Meanwhile, MacGrath has only lost to Canadian welterweight star Cory MacDonald (10-2), and to Matt Veach (11-1) whose record was perfect until he recently fought valiantly in defeat against the UFC #1 lightweight contender Frankie Edgar (11-1).
Clearly, both Patrick and MacGrath are on the verge of major breakthroughs into national and international MMA stardom. With a win here, either fighter would cement their claim to being among the country's very best fighters regardless of promotion.
UFC 109: Couture vs. Coleman
When: February 6th
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV
[HW] Tim Hague (10-2, CDN) vs. Chris Tuchscherer (17-2)
Edmonton, Alberta's Tim Hague has gotten off to a somewhat rough start in the UFC. Whether it was getting dropped in his debut against Patrick Barry (5-1), before gamely securing a submission win, or becoming the victim of Todd Duffee (6-0)'s record-setting seven-second knock-out, the hard-hitting Hague has not yet shown UFC fans the best of what he has to offer. His opponent Chris Tuchsherer, a training partner to the currently-sidelined HW champion Brock Lesnar (4-1), will not be interested in adding to Hague's highlight reel. Despite losing his last match in the first round, to HW contender Gabriel Gonzaga (11-4), Tuchsherer undoubtedly has the size and experience to give "The Thrashing Machine" a good bit of trouble.
Even though neither fighter was afforded much time to find his octagon bearings, this could well be a loser-leaves-town match, which should make both fighters desperate for a win.
UFC 110: Nogueira vs. Velasquez
When: February 21st
Where: Acer Arena in Sydney, AU
205lbs.] Kryzsztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski (18-9-1, CDN) vs.
Stephan "The American Psycho" Bonnar (11-6)
When Krysztof Soszynski lost to Brandon Vera (11-4) at UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira, it snapped a six-fight MMA win-streak that dated back to mid-2007 as well as blemishing his formerly 3-0 UFC record. He'll look to return to the winning track against Stephan Bonnar, of TUF:1 Finale fame, who hasn't won in the octagon since defeating Eric Schafer (11-4-1) in October, 2007. Although neither is likely in danger of being cut, since Soszynski is still 3-1 in the UFC and Bonnar's history with the promotion gives him the equivalent of a lifetime free pass, both would like to return to climbing up the light heavyweight ladder. Both men have scored the majority of their MMA wins by submission, but Soszynski has actually scored more tap-out wins in the UFC despite having half as many fights. Given that Soszynski also likely hits harder than Bonnar, his chances of victory are fairly high. One area of superiority for Bonnar is the more-advanced pure striking technique he possesses, based in both Muay Thai and traditional boxing.
Winnepeg, Manitoba's most successful pugilistic "Experiment," can flourish here as long as he forces Stephan Bonnar into a brawl and avoids a stand-up chess match. That should be doable given Bonnar's history of being drawn into memorably haphazard scraps.
Maximum Fighting Championships 24
When: February 26th
Where: River Cree Casio in Enoch, Alberta
[205lbs.] David Heath (13-6) vs. Dwayne Lewis (10-4, CDN)
His rabid, ever-growing fan base has high-hopes for talented, Albertan slugger Dwayne Lewis who has finished his last four fights by (T)KO, the last three of which occurred in the MFC. His last fight, against UFC veteran Marvin Eastman (16-12-1), ended in an emphatic first-round KO. Lewis will look to continue his rapid MMA development against his most hardened opponent to date. David Heath, who has fought the likes of Renato Sobral (35-8), and Lyoto Machida (16-0), will be eager to rebound from a hard-fought, third-round submission loss to Mike Nickels at MFC 22.
It will be no easy feat, but if the Fort MacMurray resident can get by a fighter as established as David Heath, Lewis will surely be ready for the sternest test the MFC can find for him in his next fight.
Armageddon Fighting Championships 2
When: March 6th
Where: Bear Mountain Arena in Collwood, B.C. (Near Victoria)
[HW] Jason Fairn (3-4, CDN) vs. Phil Friedman (1-2)
Although both fighters clearly have losing MMA records, this fight should be considerably more competitive and entertaining than their histories might suggest. Jason Fairn, who hasn't competed since 2003, remains familiar to MMA fans worldwide for having made his professional debut against Guy Mezger (30-14-2) at UFC 4 in 1994. Fairn lost that match by TKO, but, at just thirty-seven years young, "Bonecracker" believes his best fights are still to come. His opponent, Friedman trains at Xtreme Couture and should pose a significant threat in all areas of MMA.
In case Fairn wins, he has already began a longshot campaign for an undercard fight at UFC 115 in Vancouver.
UFC 111: St-Pierre vs. Hardy
When: March 27th
Where: Prudential Center in Newark, NJ
[170lbs.] Georges St-Pierre (19-2, CDN) vs. Dan Hardy (23-6)
I would wager that the majority of adult Canadians, be they sports fans or not, have at least heard of St. Isador, Quebec's favourite son, Georges St-Pierre. He has won his last six in a row including five title fights, and has seemed unstoppable in that frame-- not losing a single round. Does the hard-hitting Brit with the funny red mohawk have what it takes to dethrone the welterweight king? Most likely not, but his powerful punching will serve as a decent test for GSP's chin which some people are still stubbornly suspicious of dating back to the infamous "Matt Serra Incident" of April, 2007.
Even if this match ends up as yet another rout for GSP there won't be a single Canadian MMA fan who doesn't love every second of it. That said, GSP and his trainers aren't sleeping on Hardy's chances and neither should you.
Mark Bocek (8-2, CDN) vs. Jim Miller (16-20
After a rocky start in the UFC that saw Bocek, a much-touted lightweight submissions specialist from The T.O., go 1-2 with losses to Frankie Edgar (11-1) and Mac Danzig (18-7-1), the red-headed BJJ wunderkind has gone on to rattle off three consecutive octagon victories all by tap-out. A dominant wrestler, Jim Miller has his own three-fight winning streak to protect and, with ten career wins by submission, it's clear that Miller also knows a thing or two about strangulation and large joint manipulation.
Make no mistake, this fight will be an absolute war, but if Mark Bocek can come out on top, he will put his name near the top of a very short list of current lightweight contenders who haven't already lost to the champ, BJ Penn (15-5-1).
Maximum Fighting Championships 25
When: April 9th
Where: Winspear Centre, Edmonton AB
[205lbs.] Wilson Gouveia (12-7) vs. Ryan Big Deal" Jimmo (12-1, CDN)
Wilson Gouveia's decision to join the MFC's swiftly-growing roster is a real treat for Canadian MMA fans. It might not last all that long, either. Indeed, by his own admission, the Brazilian MMA superstar is mainly looking to sharpen his skills at 205lbs. for a return to the UFC's light heavyweight division. This will probably be viewed as a wise move after a somewhat disastrous 1-2 run at middleweight ultimately culminated in Wilson being knocked out by Alan Belcher (15-6) in the first round at UFC 107: Penn vs. Sanchez. On the other hand, a win here by Halifax's Ryan Jimmo would instantly get him the attention of MMA fans the world over. With an already near-sterling 12-1 record, Jimmo would become an overnight hot-commodity for the major promotions to fight over.
This scrap may still be months away at this point, but it has already become a serious blip on the Canadian MMA radar. With good reason, too, it has amazing potential to really put MFC on the global MMA map.
UFC 113: Machida vs. Rua II
When: May 1st
Where: Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec
[185lbs] Patrick Cote (13-5, CDN) vs. Alan Belcher (15-6)
This unconfirmed fight would be a true test of "The Predator's" ring-readiness as he will be returning from a 19-month layoff due to a knee injury he suffered while fighting Anderson "The Spider" Silva (25-5) at UFC 90: Cote vs. Silva. If "The Talent" does face Cote, he surely will not offer a warm "welcome back," more likely a well-timed "take that!" Belcher has undeniably been looking better-and-better in recent fights, including a razor-thin loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-1) and a first-round KO over Wilson Gouveia (12-7). Belcher certainly seems to have tons of confidence built up-- enough to begin calling out "The Spider" himself.
There's no doubt that fighting Belcher will be a tough challenge, but it's one Cote will surely relish-- especially in front of a hometown crowd in Montreal.
[155lbs.] Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout (15-5-1, CDN) vs.
Jeremy "Lil' Heathen' " Stephens (16-5)
Sam Stout and Jeremy Stephens have identical 4-4 records in the UFC, which means neither can afford too many more losses. Then again, with 20 (T)KO's in a combined 31 career wins, both have such exciting styles that they can probably stick around for a while yet, regardless. That's not to say their styles are one-and-the-same. Canadian Sam Stout is a Team Tompkins kick boxer with an extremely technical style, whose power, while considerable, has not been sufficient to finish a UFC opponent to date. Stephens' MMA skills are, perhaps, slightly more well-rounded. His relative strength in all areas means his pure striking is not quite as technically advanced as Stouts. That said, the power in Stephens' fists is nothing to be trifled with-- he has scored three of his four UFC wins by (T)KO.
Just how their closely-matched skill set will shake out is anyone's guess, but very few lightweights in the world can hang with Sam Stout's dazzling stand-up, while several can probably match Stephens' power. This means that Stout arguably has the single greatest attribute of either fighter going in. So, that should help.
[170lbs.] Jonathan Goulet (22-10, CDN) vs. Marcus Davis (16-6)
What would a trip to Montreal be for the UFC without an appearance by "The Road Warrior," Jonathan Goulet. That's a bit ironic of course, because Jonathan, who hails from Quebec, probably won't have to drive far to get to Montreal's Bell Centre on May 1st. In any case, he is in tough against "The Irish Hand Grenade," Marcus Davis who is coming off two straight losses, the last by brutal KO. Davis, once considered a fringe contender at welterweight, will be eager to prove he hasn't lost his touch, and most prognosticators will like his chances here.
That said, you can never count out Goulet who has eleven (T)KO's and eight submissions on his extensive pro record.
[170lbs.] TJ Grant (15-3, CDN) vs. Johny Hendricks (7-0)
The most recently-announced match on this list has among the highest potential for unadulterated excitement. The main contrast here is in experience. Nova Scotia's second-favourite son (sorry T.J., but Sidney Crosby is like Superman over there) has nearly twice as many submission victories as successful-NCAA-wrestler turned blue-chip-MMA-prospect Johny Hendricks has fights. By the time the fight rolls around, Grant's only loss in the last two years will be to undefeated Korean welterweight contender, Dong Hyn "Stungun" Kim (12-0-1) at UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir II. Johny Hendricks has never lost, but he has never faced a competitor as elite as TJ Grant, either. If Hendricks' Team Takedown stablemate Jake Rosholt (6-2) taught us anything about MMA prospects, it's that a dominant wrestling career does not necessarily prepare a fighter to deal with top-of-the-food-chain submissions.
If Grant gets dominant position, or even a high-guard, on Hendricks that could be all he needs to slap on a fight-ender. Then again, there's no telling where the ceiling is for an undefeated youngster like Hendricks until he finally hits it.
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