Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gonzaga vs. Dos Santos Booked For Incredibly Stacked "UFC On VS 1", March 21st

In addition to a stellar main event of Brandon Vera (11-4) vs. Jon Jones (9-1), UFC on VS.: 1 will feature a heavyweight (HW) showdown between fast-rising Junior "Cigano" Dos Santos (10-1, 4-0 UFC) and the formidable Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga (11-4, 7-3 UFC).

By announcing these fight so far in advance, not to mention stacking the rest of the card as well, The Ultimate Fighting Championship seems understandably determined to convince fans to sign up for cable providers that offer VS. in advance of the octagon's debut on the network. The fights will air live from Bloomfield, CO on March, 21st.

Junior Dos Santos was previously scheduled to fight Gabriel Gonzaga on the "cursed" New Year's card, UFC 108: Evans vs. Silva, but the fight was canceled due to an injury to "Napao." The UFC scrambled to find a suitable replacement to face Dos Santos, but their man, Gilbert Yvel (36-14-1), lasted only about two minutes with the hard-hitting "Cigano." Since his octagon debut at UFC 90: Silva vs. Cote, Dos Santos has run roughshod over the UFC's HW division-- finishing all four opponents by (T)KO, including the likes of world-ranked Fabricio Werdum (13-4-1) and the legendary Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (25-7-2).

As dangerous as Dos Santos appears to be, he will still have his hands full with he man they call "Big Nose" ("Napao" in Portuguese). Gonzaga has been considered a serious threat to finish opponents standing since becoming the first fighter to finish "Cro-Cop" with the Croatians own trademark right head-kick. Since then Gonzaga has finished two other UFC fights by (T)KO, plus broken Randy Couture (17-10)'s arm with a high-kick and dropped current interim title challenger, Shane Carwin (11-0), to the canvas with his fists. At the same time, Gabe has also been finished by (T)KO in three of his last six UFC fights, so attempting to strike with Dos Santos may be risky. Luckily for "Napao," he is a also a submissions expert with six MMA tap-outs to his credit--which, by the way, is the only method by which "Cigano" has ever lost.

Regardless of the outcome of this very closely-matched fight, it will clearly drive fan interest in the UFC's debut on the VS. network. In addition to two drool-inducing main events, Zuffa have also slotted fan-favourite Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (8-3) into the card against fellow-slugger John "Doomsday" Howard (13-4). Other massive UFC stars like Clay Guida (25-11), Sean Sherk (33-4-1) and Spencer Fisher (23-5) are also expected to compete at UFC on VS.: 1 on March 21st.

Interestingly, VS. is a subsidiary of NBC, which was recently majority-purchased by cable-giant Comcast. So drawing a big number on VS. these days would clearly get the attention of some pretty powerful TV industry-types. Could loading this card with talent be an attempt by the UFC to convince NBC/Comcast that MMA is a viable form of 21st century sports entertainment? It seems like a definite possibility.

However, most Canadians will be more concerned with how to watch the fights at all, given that VS. is currently seen only in a very limited number Great White Northern homes. It could be that Canadian sports giant and well-known MMA aficionados, The Score, will somehow acquire the Canadian broadcasting rights the way the have for VS.'s World Extreme Cagefighting programming, but nothing has been announced to that effect at this time. If nothing changes soon, there could be hordes of ravenous Canadian MMA fans phoning every sports bar from coast-to-coast looking for a place to watch these fights.

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