Wednesday, February 28, 2007


By Kelsey Mowatt

Swick, Okami, Macdonald, Franklin , Marquardt, Middleweight Title Shot Speculation Abounds

Right now the spotlight for the UFC Middleweight division is focused squarely on this weekend’s upcoming bout between Rich Franklin and Jason Macdonald. Obviously, any fight involving Franklin, the division’s former champion, a fighter who is also one of the more popular combatants in North America , is going to garner a ton of attention. Throw in a combatant like Macdonald, who has submitted Ed Herman and Chris Leben on route to UFC 68, and certainly the winner of this weekend’s fight could very likely face Champion Anderson Silva soon. The UFC also confirmed recently that another middleweight bout with plenty of implications for a future title shot will take place at UFC 69, April 7th, in Houston, Texas . After weeks of speculation, including Mike Swick saying in a FCF Radio January 18th interview that he in fact had told the UFC that he wished to fight Yushin Okami, the bout has been added to the April event.

Swick (9-1) has already stated publicly his wish to fight for the UFC belt, and by winning all five of his UFC fights thus far, one would think that the American Kickboxing Academy fighter is extremely close to getting his wish. In Swick’s first four UFC appearances he certainly lived up to his moniker Mike “Quick” Swick, winning all of his fights in the first round. First through strikes, he stopped Alex Schoenauer and Gideon Ray in less than 30 seconds at TUF Season 1 Finale and Ultimate Fight Night 1 in 2005 respectively. At UFC 58, Swick tapped out Canadian middleweight and former TKO champion Steven Vigneault at 2:09 with a first round guillotine choke. Next, at UFC 60, taking on likely his toughest opponent up until that date in the UFC, Swick caught Joe Riggs with the same guillotine choke for the submission victory at 2:19 of Round one. It wasn’t until UFC 63 last September that Swick was pushed past the first round against David Loiseau in Octagon action. The TUF veteran stalked Loiseau for the first two rounds, hurling combinations at the Quebecois fighter who had recently gone the distance with then current champion, Franklin. Despite clearly winning both the first and second rounds, Swick was unable to put away the tough Canadian. Finally in the third round Loiseau stepped up his attack, assaulting Swick with his infamous elbows that have given Loiseau several memorable wins. Remaining poised and focused; Swick weathered the storm, and completed the unanimous decision winning performance.

Okami’s (19-3) performance in the UFC thus far has come with little fanfare or attention, despite certainly deserving far more than he has received. In very quiet fashion, the Japanese fighter has won all three of his UFC appearances fairly impressively. At UFC 62 last August, Okami worked his way to a unanimous decision victory over Alan Belcher, the very fighter who more recently knocked out Jorge Santiago with a highlight reel head kick at Ultimate Fight Night 8. Next at UFC 64 in October, Okami stopped TUF semi-finalist Kalib Starnes in the third round, an extremely notable win that wasn’t included in the night’s PPV fights. At UFC 66 in December, in yet another of his fights that wasn’t seen by most due to it taking place as a “dark” bout, Okami worked his way to a unanimous decision victory over another TUF fighter, Rory Singer. During his 5 year career, the Japanese fighter’s losses have come only against notable opposition in Jake Shields, Falaniko Vitale, and Amar Suloev.

Of course it remains to be seen what the UFC does with the winner’s of these two upcoming middleweight bouts, which on the surface, appear to have serious title shot implications. If Franklin were to win this weekend, will the UFC look to have Franklin re-match with Silva immediately? Will Franklin look to avenge his devastating loss to the current champion next? Or will he decide that he wishes to fight someone else first, before facing the man who defeated him in such devastating fashion? If Macdonald makes it three in a row and defeats Franklin Saturday, will the UFC make the most of the hype surrounding the Canadian’s unbelievable streak and give him a title fight? One would think that this would likely be the case, the UFC knows a good story when they see it and would likely make the most of the ready made marketing storyline.

Or if Swick wins on April 7th, will the UFC give him his wish, will he face the Brazilian champion next? It could depend on who wins this weekend’s exchange between Franklin and Macdonald, if Franklin were to win, and decide not to face Silva immediately, then Swick might just be the UFC’s man. What about Okami, what would the promotion do if the Japanese veteran were to defeat Swick, as the Japanese fighter is one that hasn’t been given much coverage thus far? In all likelihood, his shot might not come for sometime, probably not until Silva was to attempt defending his belt at least once more. Of course, one would be remiss not too include Nathan Marquardt in the discussion, currently the 8th ranked middleweight in the world according to the FCF rankings. The Team Jackson fighter has won 4 fights in a row now competing in the UFC, and has also made it clear that he feels he is worthy of a title shot. Defeating the likes of Ivan Salaverry, Joe Doerksen and most recently Dean Lister at UFC Fight Night 9 in January, there is no doubt the 25-6-2 fighter could give any of the above mentioned fighters a run for their money.

In the end it will be the fans who benefit the most from this plethora of talent, in reality the UFC could throw the dice, pick a name out of the hat, and all of these fighters would make for a great title fight with Silva. Of course, there is a thing called match-making behind the Octagon madness, and just what will transpire remains to be seen.

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