Inter-Promotional Angles

Angles

By Jake Rossen Jun 23, 2008
Anyone insistent that mixed martial arts has more in common with boxing than professional wrestling should learn their alphabet: UFC, IFL, WAMMA, etc.

Like the televised clown convention that is the WWE, the UFC has a stable of athletes unavailable for lending -- kind of like those musty reference books at the library.

That stands in sharp contrast to boxing's business model, which tends to acquiesce to fans' demands. Lennox Lewis was an HBO commodity. Mike Tyson was on Showtime's leash. Yet, the two networks understood that remaining contentious was just leaving money on the table.

With $106 million in the till, the Lewis-Tyson fight was the second most profitable pay-per-view of all time.

MMA's current problem is that no one -- fans, media or otherwise -- are demanding promoters to make important bouts before age and ring wear make them obsolete.

What follows is a list of fighters from disparate promotions that should swap leather before it's too late.

10. Melvin Manhoef (Pictures) vs. Cung Le (Pictures)

Some bouts are just too combustible to ignore.

Manhoef is a K-1-groomed kickboxer that fights as though caffeine is running through his veins. The opening moments of his fights are frequently the biggest source of tension because we are waiting for his limbs to go off like scared circus animals.

Le's stature has grown considerably since his gutsy win over Frank Shamrock (Pictures) in March. He's more of an opportunist, choosing his spots and maintaining a steady stream of offense. The Strikeforce middleweight champion usually grimaces when someone comes straight at him, and Manhoef doesn't understand the term "lateral movement."

9. Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) vs. Antonio Silva

If the long-dormant Emelianenko nests with Affliction and the promotion can run more than a single show without a cash-fueled explosion, he has a deep run of contenders to go through.

A glaring omission is EliteXC's Silva, a 10-1 athlete with sharp striking, solid jiu-jitsu and division-scraping 265-pound frame. For such an outsized physique, Silva moves with impressive agility -- nearly as impressive as that of Emelianenko himself.

8. Tim Sylvia (Pictures) vs. Semmy Schilt (Pictures)

More often than not, Sylvia's dominant performances derive from his reach and ability to use his 6-foot-8 frame for maximum benefit.

Nothing wrong with that, but it would be interesting to see how the Affliction heavyweight and former UFC champion responds to another tall, productive striker on the level of Schilt, a 6-foot-11 Dutchman who's spent the past several years racking up impressive wins in K-1.

If Schilt translates his honed standup skills to MMA, maybe de facto champ Emelianenko would also have a problem on his hands. "The Last Emperor" was unable to finish Schilt in their first Pride bout in 2002.

7. Frank Shamrock (Pictures) vs. Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures)

Prior to his decimation by Manhoef at Dream on June 15, rapidly aging MMA statesman Sakuraba had thrown up a credible 7-1-1 mark since 2005.

Sure, he's old and hobbled. Sure, his body has seen more abuse than Keith Richards'. But in the interests of parity, so has Shamrock's, who has been fighting since 1994 with the mileage to show for it.

Shamrock clearly has the striking edge in this fight, but on the ground, his famously lackadaisical style would mesh well with Saku's bag of mat tricks. The fight would mean nothing, other than to entertain an audience reverent of what both men have accomplished -- automatically making it more valuable than 80 percent of what's currently televised.

6. Kimbo Slice vs. Don Frye (Pictures)

Putting Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson against virtually anyone with a competent ground game at this stage in his career is financial suicide for promoters. Even prospective opponent Brett Rogers (Pictures), who has shown real power and quickness in his hands, is likely to best Slice at his own game.

If we accept Slice's place as an MMA novelty act, then we should hold little reservation in matching him against opponents that will play to his strengths. There's no one more likely to exchange power shots than Frye, who has been in some of the most sensationally dramatic fistfights in the history of the sport.

Plus, who could be against Frye talking smack on CBS? That's guaranteed to be better entertainment than 90 percent of their primetime lineup.
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