Friday, March 2, 2007

MMA stars ready to rumble

By Neil Davidson

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A super-sized champion, a Hall-of-Famer re-emerging from retirement and two former title holders coming off losses highlight tomorrow's mixed martial arts card UFC 68: The Uprising.

Not to mention rising Canadian sensation Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald. The main event pits 6-foot-8, 265-lb. heavyweight champion Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia against 43-year-old legend Randy "The Natural" Couture, a former heavyweight and light-heavyweight title holder who is returning to action after a year away from the game.

Sylvia, who says he counts Couture as a friend and mentor, is pithy in his assessment of their fight.

"I'm obviously looking for the knockout and Randy's looking to take me down and ground-and-pound me," the 30-year-old champion told a news conference yesterday. "Look for me to take the centre of the ring and try to knock this old guy out."

Distinguished ex-champions Rich Franklin (middleweight) and Matt Hughes (welterweight) return to the Octagon for the first time since losing their crowns: Franklin in October to Brazilian Anderson Silva and Hughes in November to Montreal's Georges St. Pierre.

Tomorrow, Franklin takes on MacDonald while Hughes tackles Chris "Lights Out" Lytle.

Franklin looked like he had already been in a fight when he faced the media with a black eye, courtesy of a boxing workout. MacDonald looked relaxed and confident after spending time with respected trainer Greg Jackson in New Mexico gearing up for the bout.

UFC president Dana White has said the winner will get a middleweight title shot. He may have to wait, however, with Nate Marquardt widely expected to get next crack at Silva.

The bookies favour Franklin big time. listed Franklin at minus-520, meaning you would have to lay down $520 to net $100 profit. MacDonald was plus-380, meaning a $100 bet would return $380 in profit.

With a card crammed with stars, the UFC will be looking to go one better than its rival, Pride Fighting Championships.

The Japanese-based circuit is rumoured to be on its last legs but still managed to put on a barnburner of a card last Saturday in Las Vegas that was filled with upsets and knock-'em-down brawls.

St. Pierre, who fights Matt Serra next month at UFC 69 in Houston, will be watching the Hughes fight closely. A Hughes win tomorrow would set up a third matchup with St. Pierre, a fight that White would dearly love to hold in Canada.


No comments: