10 February Tussles Worth Watching

By Tim Leidecker Feb 4, 2009
January was a crazy month for mixed martial arts. It started with Takanori Gomi’s passing of the Sengoku torch to Satoru Kitaoka and continued with a glimpse of the old Vitor Belfort and another night of brief work for Fedor Emelianenko. It ended with Georges St. Pierre’s annihilation of B.J. Penn at UFC 94.

Even a business as active as MMA has to take a breather from time to time, which is why February does not offer as much in terms of star power. Still, Sherdog.com has compiled 10 February tussles fans should not miss. As usual, this list does not focus on the major bouts you already know to watch but rather fights from all over the planet that are worth seeing.

10. Antwain Britt vs. Jamal Patterson
UWC “Man ‘O’ War,” Feb. 21 -- Fairfax, Va.

East Coast promotion Ultimate Warrior Challenge -- not to be confused with a fight organization that bears the same name in England -- will put on a classic striker-versus-grappler confrontation in the co-headliner of its first show of 2009. Britt, a hard-hitting “The Ultimate Fighter” alumnus, has been on a tear since he broke his hand in season eight’s light heavyweight preliminary round. The “Juggernaut” will face arguably his toughest test to date in Patterson, a former International Fight League title contender. Patterson will make his first appearance since he lost to Vladimir Matyushenko in April.

9. Mohamed Khacha vs. Mark Weir
Ultimate Challenge UK “Unbreakable,” Feb. 7 -- London

Originally scheduled to make his comeback in December after he missed all of 2008 due to various injuries, Khacha again hurt himself in preparation for his bout with Edgelson Lua and had to postpone his return to the squared circle once more. The always exciting Frenchman will make his next attempt on Feb. 7 and has upgraded his opposition, as well. Now, Weir will stand across the cage from him. Weir, the 41-year-old kickboxer from Gloucester, England, returned to his winning ways in October after he endured a rough 2007.

8. Ganjo Tentsuku vs. Kenichiro Togashi
Shooto “Gig Tokyo Vol. 1,” Feb. 20 -- Tokyo

Stephen Martinez/Sherdog.com

Tentsuku is currently seeded
third in the Shooto
world welterweight rankings.
The fair-haired Tentsuku, who looks more like the lead singer of a Japanese metal band than a professional mixed martial artist, will top the bill at Shooto’s first “Tokyo Gig” show this year. Tentsuku is currently ranked third in the Shooto world welterweight rankings. His opponent, Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Togashi, is no slouch, either, and is currently fourth in the organization’s Pacific Rim rankings. Tentsuku, an Enson Inoue understudy, has never been finished in his five-year career.

7. Rafael Natal vs. Alexandre Moreno
Ring of Combat XXIII, Feb. 20 -- Atlantic City, NJ

Ring of Combat promoter Louis Neglia has done his homework, as the fight between Natal and Moreno could have easily appeared on any major promotion’s card. Natal, a Gracie Fusion teammate of BJJ champion Marcio Cruz and UFC veteran Rafael dos Anjos, holds a win over current World Extreme Cagefighting contender Danillo Villefort. Meanwhile, Moreno belongs to Team Link, which features UFC heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga and former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho. Moreno’s most prominent win was a first-round submission against UFC veteran Antonio Mendes.

6. Peter Irving vs. Igor Araujo
Strike & Submit 9, Feb. 8 -- Newcastle, England

There’s a lot of politics in UK MMA. Based on talent alone, Newcastle, England, welterweight Irving belongs in the UFC after big wins over highly rated grapplers Reza Madadi and Daniel Weichel in 2008. Unable to win Joe Silva’s heart, “Pistol Pete” continues to defend his European title for home promotion Strike & Submit. Araujo, a dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, will serve as his Feb. 8 opponent. A familiar face on the European circuit, the former middleweight turned more than a few heads when he submitted the experienced Vener Galiev in Russia in December.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Will Mac Danzig be
the next TUF ace to
struggle with Josh Neer?
5. Mac Danzig vs. Josh Neer
UFC Fight Night 17, Feb. 7 -- Tampa, Fla.

Joe Lauzon and Jeremy Stephens may hold headline status for the next UFC Fight Night, but the purists’ main event is the bout between Danzig, the former King of the Cage champion, and Neer, everybody’s favorite fighting “Dentist.” Neer has become a hassle for “The Ultimate Fighter” winners. Three years ago, he defeated Joe Stevenson, and, in September, he stretched season five winner Nathan Diaz to the limit before he lost a razor-sharp split decision. How will his fight with the well-rounded Danzig play out?

4. Daiki Hata vs. Shoji Maruyama
Deep & CMA Fan Festival 2009, Feb. 10 -- Tokyo

The fight that will get the most attention in Japan this month is the clash between former lightweight King of Pancrase Shoji and the once second-ranked Hata. It will serve as a qualification bout for the Dream featherweight grand prix, scheduled to start on March 8. Neither has delivered many convincing performances recently, but they share a common quality -- they can bang. Hata stopped another former King of Pancrase, Yoshiro Maeda, three years ago, while Shojo defeated highly touted Russian Artur Oumakhanov for the title in 2008.

3. Ibragim Magomedov vs. Jeff Monson
FightForce “Magomedov vs. Monson,” Feb. 28 -- St. Petersburg, Russia

Upstart Russian promotion FightForce has put together February’s most compelling heavyweight match, provided Monson is allowed to leave the United States after some naughtiness involving spray cans and the Washington state capitol building in November. Despite a disappointing performance against Mirko Filipovic in 2005, Magomedov is a much stronger fighter than most believe. Monson’s stock is also on the rise after he finished 2008 with solid wins over Mark Kerr, Jimmy Ambriz and Ricco Rodriguez.

2. Paul Daley vs. Nick Thompson
MFC 20 “Destined for Greatness,” Feb. 20 -- Enoch, Alberta, Canada

Daley continues his white-hot ascent, as he heads into this clash with a former Bodog Fight champion in his new home promotion -- Canada’s Maximum Fighting Championship. The Nottingham, England, kickboxer has stopped seven of his last eight opponents, with his only loss coming by submission to Sherdog.com’s sixth-ranked welterweight, Jake Shields. He shares that fate with his next opponent, Minnesota’s Thompson. “The Goat” already spoiled the triumphal procession of another highly regarded knockout artist when he used his enormous reach to stop Eddie Alvarez in April 2007.

1. Nate Marquardt vs. Wilson Gouveia
UFC 95 “Sanchez vs. Stevenson,” Feb. 21 – London

Under normal circumstances this fight may have been buried on one of the more stacked UFC cards. In a subpar month, the collision between two Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts gets its just due. Marquardt, one of the most complete fighters in the business, has been a world beater since his loss to UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva in July 2007. Can he keep his latest run alive against a super dangerous veteran like Gouveia, who has knocked out or submitted six of his last seven opponents?
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