An ‘Ultimate Fighter’ Fight Night

‘Ultimate Fighter' Fight Night

Jan 23, 2008
For all of you tuning into SpikeTV on Wednesday night, I sure hope you've been paying attention to the last few seasons of "The Ultimate Fighter." With nearly half the talent on this card coming from reality TV's fistic child, get ready for "Ultimate Fighter" references aplenty.

Regardless, nothing short of an invitation to the Playboy grotto should keep you from tuning in, as the UFC has rolled out one of its strongest Fight Night cards to date.

Also, the thing is free. After paying $40 to watch Alessio Sakara (Pictures) bunny hop all over the Octagon, I consider this only fair. Again, FREE.

In the immortal words of the dearly departed Lionel Hutz, "I rest my case … I mean, case closed."

Mike Swick (Pictures) vs. Josh Burkman (Pictures)

Because you can never have enough "Ultimate Fighter" graduates on a fight card, the main event of the evening features the welterweight debut of Mike "Quick" Swick against fellow reality TV alum Josh "The People's Warrior" Burkman.

Questionable nicknames aside, the road either begins or ends here for both fighters. Swick's move down in weight is a last-ditch attempt to establish himself among the UFC elite while Burkman's once-promising career has stalled to the point where he is little more than a gatekeeper.

For Burkman, becoming the welterweight division's cleanup man was an unexpected turn of events given how his UFC career began. Bursting out of the gate with a pair of crushing wins over Sam Morgan (Pictures) and Drew Fickett (Pictures), he was making like Julius Caesar in the UFC's toughest division.

Then came a disheartening loss to Jon Fitch (Pictures), and suddenly "The People's Warrior" was representing his electorate about as well as Marion Barry. Pedestrian decisions over middling contenders such as Forrest Petz (Pictures) and Chad Reiner (Pictures) exposed a fighter who lost the savage explosiveness that he had once been synonymous with.

Rediscovering a past self is precisely what Swick (10-2) hopes to accomplish by joining the welterweight fray. Much like Burkman, Swick emerged from "The Ultimate Fighter" with a full head of steam and plowed through his first three UFC opponents in less than five minutes combined.

That run of dominance was interrupted by a less than memorable decision over David Loiseau (Pictures), and the magic appeared gone forever in his decision loss to Yushin Okami (Pictures). Seemingly put off by Okami's physicality, Swick sleepwalked through most of the fight and all but handed Okami a win.

In a division full of bruising wrestlers, Swick would do well learning how to deal with such adversity, and Burkman is a perfect barometer for testing Swick's willingness to take a single-minded wrestler head-on. Conversely, Burkman will be tested by Swick's varied offense, which includes not only explosive striking but also surprising awareness of submission opportunities. While we should all be leery of Swick packing it in as soon as Burkman tries for a takedown, I expect to see a rejuvenated Swick bring his full array of ridiculous-sounding moves to the table.

I'm not desperate to hear the term "Swick-otine choke" repeated ad nauseam on-air, but it's a fate we'll have to endure as Swick unloads with strikes early and pressures Burkman into a telegraphed takedown attempt. We've all seen what Swick can do when he sees a takedown coming, so put down the quick one for a first-round submission win.

Just pray that Swick doesn't hit an omoplata. The phrase "Swick-oplata" makes my few remaining brain cells contemplate suicide.

Patrick Cote (Pictures) vs. Andrew McFedries

If you've ever spent a night forgoing more important matters in favor of reacquainting yourself with "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out," Wednesday's co-main event is the fight that you have been waiting for.

Pitting MFS super-slugger Andrew McFedries against his Canadian mirror image, Patrick "The Predator" Cote, is the kind of matchmaking that should warm the cockles of any MMA fan's heart. The only people more pleased than the fans are Cote and McFedries, since the UFC middleweight division is desperate for someone to step forth and stake a claim to Anderson Silva's middleweight title.

For Cote (11-4) in particular, the idea of challenging for any UFC title seemed laughable after starting 0-4 inside the Octagon.

The most bitter of those losses came in the finals of "The Ultimate Fighter 4" against Travis Lutter (Pictures) with a UFC title shot on the line. His career seemingly over, Cote found the resolve to rededicate himself to his craft despite being universally written off as a choke artist of A-Rod proportions.

Much to the surprise of anyone paying attention, Cote just needed some time to get his feet wet in the UFC. Entering this fight with back-to-back UFC wins over Scott Smith and TUF champion Kendall Grove (Pictures), Cote is on the verge of graduating from the Doug Flutie School of Impossible Comebacks.

Comebacks are something McFedries (6-2) has found himself on both sides of in his short UFC career. In his UFC debut, he took on light heavyweight Alessio Sakara (Pictures) and had to eat everything on Sakara's fistic buffet before mounting a sudden comeback to conquer the Roman.

The pendulum would swing against McFedries the next time around, however, as he lost his UFC middleweight debut to Martin Kampmann (Pictures) via submission despite mauling his physically overmatched opponent for most of the bout. Having righted the ship with a brutal knockout of Jordan Radev (Pictures), McFedries can now look forward to facing another willing slugger. Whether that bodes well for him will depend on who shies away from the slugfest first.

We've seen Cote matched against opponents willing to brawl with him. Typically he looks to control the tempo inside the clinch while occasionally disengaging and landing short, powerful shots inside the pocket. This sort of approach can be frustrating for opponents expecting a toe-to-toe affair, but McFedries has the advantage of being the physically stronger man.

Possibly the most imposing fighter in the division, McFedries has shown a knack for forcing opponents into extended exchanges. That knack will keep McFedries out of the clinch against Cote, and while the Canadian has a solid chin, getting into a brawl with McFedries means an all but guaranteed loss.

Probability won't save Cote in this one, as his run of success ends with a KO loss in the first round. I expect all of you to send me a thank you e-mail for resisting the temptation to make a corny "predator becomes prey" pun. Seriously.

Alvin Robinson (Pictures) vs. Nathan Diaz (Pictures)

In a stunning turn of events, a TUF champion is actually being matched up against quality competition early in his UFC career. Bob Dylan was right about the times a changin' after all, as TUF 5 pseudo-champion Nathan Diaz (Pictures) will take on fellow up-and-comer Alvin Robinson (Pictures).

That "pseudo-champion" tag is something Diaz (7-2) has been saddled with since winning the finals of "The Ultimate Fighter" fifth season with an injury-induced TKO over Manvel Gamburyan (Pictures). Already left to deal with the stigma that follows every graduate of the UFC's reality sweepstakes, Diaz must now shake the perception that his success is owed to Gamburyan's ticking time bomb of a shoulder.

Having already dispatched Junior Assuncao (Pictures) in his formal UFC debut, Diaz has shown he belongs. Just how far he can go is a question that will be on everyone's mind entering this match against Robinson, who would love to add a second straight upset win to go with his decision over Rich Franklin (Pictures)'s, BFF Jorge Gurgel (Pictures).

After a disappointing performance against Kenny Florian (Pictures) in his UFC debut, Robinson proved his worth by gutting out a win in his return against Gurgel. Showing improved takedowns and surprising flexibility for a guy built like a growth hormone-deficient Larry Csonka, Robinson has become the division's dark horse.

Against the wrestling-impaired Diaz, Robinson's best bet would be to mimic Csonka and grind out yardage while stifling any attempts at offense Diaz might muster.

It is a game plan that Gamburyan used to great effect against Diaz until the MMA Gods saw fit to end matters with a Deus ex machina in Diaz's favor. With no such injury concerns entering this fight, Robinson will score takedown after takedown and control the action on the ground en route to a unanimous decision win.

Michihiro Omigawa (Pictures) vs. Thiago Tavares (Pictures)

Opening the televised portion of the evening is the return of Brazilian grappler extraordinaire Thiago Tavares (Pictures), who would love to take out the frustration of his first MMA loss on Japanese judoka Michihiro "Micci" Omigawa.

That first loss came against Tyson Griffin, in a bout that was like watching a pair of highly trained Tasmanian devils go at it. After three rounds of non-stop action, Tavares (12-1) found himself on the wrong end of a hotly contested unanimous decision.

Losing two in a row would be disastrous for Tavares, who emerged as one of the division's premier prospects after dismantling Jason Black (Pictures) like a stack of off-brand Legos. Considering the number of up-and-coming lightweights on this card alone, Tavares can ill afford to fall behind the rest of the pack.

Joining the pack is the goal for Omigawa (4-5). He seems a bit out of place in the UFC sporting a sub-.500 record, but that can be traced to the Japanese MMA tradition of treating their own like Aztec sacrifices.

Forced to take the equivalent of on-the-job training, Omigawa began his career with an abysmal 1-4 record before finding his stride in the DEEP organization and showing dramatic improvement for a fighter who was universally written off. The improvement continued in his UFC debut, as he took Matt Wiman (Pictures) to a surprisingly competitive decision.

Moral victories won't get you far in MMA, though. If "Micci" is going to become more than another random judo convert, he'll have to start with Tavares. That's a tough place to begin since Tavares simply outclasses Omigawa in every facet of the game. Being Brazilian, Tavares is typically looked upon as a straightforward grappler, but his wrestling and striking are hardly indicative of the stereotypical Brazilian jiu-jitsu player.

This one won't be long and it won't be pretty, as Tavares batters Omigawa with leg kicks early before taking his hobbled opponent down to the canvas. For a visual reference of what you can expect from there, Google "Saturn Devouring His Son" by Francisco de Goya.

For those of you with acid reflux, have the Zantac ready before punching that in.
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