Monday, March 19, 2007

UFC's welterweights really giving us something to talk about

By Serene Thio

It’s been almost two weeks since Couture’s win over Sylvia and people are still talking about it. There were, however, two other major matches that happened that same night that have been less discussed.

In the middleweight division, Rich Franklin got back in the game with Jason MacDonald, whose corner called a stop at the end of the second round due to the cut he acquired over his left eye. Franklin looked good and ready. So did MacDonald, but obviously not ready enough. (Side note: I ran into Jason MacDonald buying himself a little treat at Starbucks the afternoon of the fight. I was gobsmacked as I thought he’d be off prepping himself for the big fight, not treating himself to a vanilla latte. He was, however, very gracious and accommodating as he stopped to take pictures and chatted with us.)

Earlier that night, I had the brief opportunity to speak to middleweight Nate Marquardt, whose victory over Dean Lister and humble demeanour really won me over. Yes, I have a bit of a crush on him. He was unable to confirm the rumours of him being Anderson Silva’s next contender, but he did mention that if a title shot were to take place, it would most likely be sometime in July.

I love Franklin, but I’m not sure what he would have on Silva at this time. I think Nate “The Great” has would have a better chance against The Spider. Marquardt is a great striker with solid takedowns and an equally solid ground game - that would be a beautiful fight to watch.

In the UFC’s most-talked about division - the welterweight class - there was the match between Hughes and Lytle. Lytle was a great contender and really gave Hughes a run for his money despite losing by unanimous decision after the most boring final round I’d ever seen. Both fighters simply rotated through a series of side controls with minimal attempts at submissions. It wasn’t the most exciting return for Hughes. It was clear that Hughes wasn’t going to knock Lytle out, and because he hadn’t submitted anyone since his non-titled fight again Joe Riggs in UFC 56, I figured it would be no different this time.

Despite the poor showing, what’s exciting about this win is that it now makes the buzz in the welterweight division just that much tastier. With all that’s happening, Matt Hughes’ return, along with the other current highly profiled welterweights, fans and their forums will be kept busy talking about this division for a while.

The upcoming UFC 69 - featuring headliners Georges St-Pierre and Matt Serra fighting for the welterweight title - also features the highly anticipated rematch between Diego Sanchez and Josh Koscheck. Most fighters begin each bout with a respectful hand slap, but don’t expect that from the Koscheck/Sanchez fight. The rivalry between the former “Ultimate Fighter 1” cast mates has made this upcoming match all the more exciting. Rumour has it, Sanchez trash-talked Koscheck on his Myspace page, calling him “a human blanket”, among some other choice statements. Them’s fightin’ words!

Winning this match would give the victor full and legitimate bragging rights, as well as earning the position of possible contender to the title, making the win that much more desirable. This leads to the next discussion topic: Which fighter will get the next shot at the title?

Another fighter worth mentioning at this time is BJ Penn, former welterweight champion and current coach on “Ultimate Fighter 5”. He will be leading a team opposite former lightweight champion, Jens “Little Evil” Pulver. In a fairly recent training seminar with The Prodigy, he had casually mentioned that he would be very interested in a rematch with Matt Hughes, and a couple more with Georges St-Pierre, as he likes to see these matches done in threes. That should work out nicely, as the UFC seems to schedule fights in trios as well. Whether or not he’ll get the opportunity, I’m sure BJ Penn fans would love to see him get back in the octagon with Hughes. Fans may have to wait awhile though, as Penn’s rematch with Jens Pulver at the conclusion of the series, has him currently in the lightweight division.

How’s that for some topics to keep fight fans talking for a while?

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