The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.
Two of the bigger upcoming Strikeforce and UFC cards were recast this week. Strikeforce announced it had secured Fedor Emelianenko to fight Fabricio Werdum in June, while the co-main event of UFC 114 later this month, which is getting more promotional consideration than UFC 113 this weekend, fell through due to an injury to Forrest Griffin.
After an up-and-down renegotiation period with Emelianenko's management, it was announced the Russian heavyweight kingpin will face Werdum on June 26 in San Jose, Calif. The bout was considered imminent since Emelianenko knocked out Brett Rogers in November before 5.4 million viewers on network television.
Strikeforce tried to swing the fight for April 17, but a renegotiation of its deal with M-1 Global, the promotional company Emelianenko owns a share of, kept the mythical heavyweight off the promotion's second effort on CBS. The Werdum bout will now take place before a considerably smaller television universe on Showtime. MMAWeekly.com reported that a Scott Smith-Cung Le rematch is also set for the card. A title defense by Cristiane Santos is also targeted.
While Strikeforce gained a headlining bout this week, the Ultimate Fighting Championship lost a co-main event for what is looking like one of its top-five cards of the year, UFC 114 on May 29 in Las Vegas. Griffin told ESPN’s “MMA Live” that he pulled out of his fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira because he has not been able to train like he needed to, and that a shoulder injury he had surgically repaired three years ago is still bothering him. Griffin was replaced by Jason Brilz, which significantly lowers the bout's profile. Brilz, a solid wrestler, is 3-1 in his UFC career but has yet to appear on a main card.
The push for UFC 114, which will be bolstered by the second-ever UFC Fan Expo that weekend and a three-part Spike TV “Primetime” special on the Quinton Jackson-Rashad Evans main event, has in some ways overshadowed promotion for UFC 113, which goes off Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Still, the event should have no problem drawing a packed house.
Spike TV aired its "Countdown" hype special for UFC 113 last Thursday, but didn’t play it during event week until Saturday evening. There will not be a one-hour preliminary fight special on Spike prior to the pay-per-view starting, though the show may benefit by ramped-up ESPN pre-fight coverage. “MMA Live” will broadcast a preview show from Montreal on ESPN2 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
The “Countdown” show focused on KImbo Slice vs. Matt Mitrione, Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley and Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua. It benefited greatly from the fact that the main event is a rematch, displaying to great effect the Machida and Rua camps watching the first fight on a projector screen in their respective gyms. Both camps offered thoughts on stance changes, adjustments and counters as the close five-rounder unfolded at UFC 104 in October. As Machida was controversially declared the decision winner, a Shogun camp mate blurted: “He can’t believe it himself. He needs to go play the lottery after that.”
Sharp-tongued welterweights Koscheck and Daley did their part to create heat for their welterweight clash. The stakes are particularly high. UFC President Dana White announced this week that the winner would earn a title shot and would coach opposite Georges St. Pierre on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show.
Koscheck -- promoted on the Countdown show as having more UFC wins than all but Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Georges St. Pierre -- has alternated between saying he will stand with the British knockout artist and will dump him on his head with takedowns. Daley was shown working takedown defense with amateur wrestling standout Kenny Johnson, and held up a Koscheck-meets-Bob-Ross photoshopped image for some last-minute head games at Thursday’s press conference.
Countdown to UFC 113 drew an average of 512,000 viewers for its premiere airing on Spike, MMAPayout.com reported. The number is in the middle range of what the hype specials typically attract, and at the same level for the special preview the first Machida-Rua bout at UFC 104 last October.
UFC 113 marks the company’s return an arena that has drawn the company’s top two North American attendance marks. The company’s push continues in earnest to further crack open Canada. St. Pierre toured Canadian Parliament this week in an effort to overturn a federal law that bans all combat sports except boxing in the country. While the law is largely ignored, it has been held up in Ontario as a reason to keep the MMA out of Toronto, which has the highest per-capita interest in the world for UFC events. Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford said this week that if elected he’d do everything in his power to bring the UFC to Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
All UFC 113 fighters made weight Friday.