10 January Tussles Worth Watching

By Tim Leidecker Jan 2, 2009
Mixed martial arts fans have no time to rest. The last chapter of 2008 was written by Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura at K-1 “Premium 2008 Dynamite,” and now a host of colossal super fights jockey for fight fans’ attention. Most major promotions -- including the UFC, World Extreme Cagefighting, Affliction, Sengoku and Shooto -- will start the New Year with a bang. Compelling bouts also fill out lineups in smaller shows around the globe.

As always, this monthly list won't remind you of just UFC bouts you already know to watch but instead aims to inform you of matches from shows all over the planet. Without further adieu, here are 10 January tussles fans should not miss.

10. Alvin Robinson vs. Keith Bach
Ring of Fire 33 “Adrenaline,” Jan. 10 -- Broomfield, Colo.

After winning just one of his four UFC fights, Denver’s Robinson has returned to his home promotion Ring of Fire to headline its Jan. 10 “Adrenaline” event. The Royce Gracie black belt decided to drop down a weight class and offer his services to the WEC, provided he come through with a good performance against U.S. Army champion Keith Bach. The namesake of the legendary German composer sports an impressive 8-1 record and should provide a solid challenge for the 26-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist.

9. Gregory Babene vs. Karl Amoussou
100% Fight “Samurai,” Jan. 10 -- Paris

The first-ever French MMA show sports a worthy main event. Excellent muay Thai practitioner “Blade” Babene and well-rounded submission fighter “Psycho” Amoussou will clash in the nation’s capital. Neither Babene nor Amoussou has taken it easy in their respective careers, taking on lots of tough opponents. While Babene -- a pupil of Cyrille “Snake” Diabate -- has a slight advantage in experience, Amoussou -- the younger brother of Pride “Bushido” veteran Bertrand Amoussou -- has the edge as far as recent form goes.

8. Yusuke Endo vs. Kotetsu Boku
Shooto “Tradition 5,” Jan. 18 -- Toyko

Top-ranked Endo will face 2007 Cage Force lightweight tournament runner-up Boku in a title eliminator. Endo’s a fighter in the mold of fellow former Pacific Rim champion Mitsuhiro Ishida (strong grappler, nearly impossible to finish), while Boku’s extremely well-rounded with good hands to compliment his excellent wrestling. Fight fans at the small but mighty Differ Ariake Arena can expect a dogged war in this one.

7. Gan McGee vs. Scott Junk
PFC 12 “High Stakes,” Jan. 22 -- Lemoore, Calif.

The California-based Palace Fighting Championship will put on a nice heavyweight slobberknocker for fans who plan to attend the big Affliction show two days later and can afford to travel to the Golden State early. Both men are UFC veterans, with McGee having challenged for the heavyweight title at UFC 44 in 2003. The 6-foot-10 “Giant” had taken a four-and-a-half-year break from fighting before returning to action this past September. In Junk, he faces a stocky Karate practitioner with big punching power.

6. Dave Dalgliesh vs. Martin Zawada
Beast of the East, Jan. 24 -- Zutphen, Holland

Without a doubt, the biggest and most important bout in Europe this month takes place in Zutphen, a 47,000-inhabitant municipality in Eastern Holland. Dalgliesh comes in fresh off his tournament triumph at KSW X and will provide a stern test for Zawada, who put a five-fight drought behind him with a much-needed victory last October. Both men want to market themselves to powerful bookers abroad; Dalgliesh hopes to make the move to Japan, and Zawada wants to jump onto the UFC train headed for Germany this summer.

Mike Fridley/Sherdog.com

With his slick ground game,
Fredson Paixao matches up
well with Jose Aldo.
5. Jose Aldo vs. Fredson Paixao
WEC 38 “Varner vs. Cerrone,” Jan. 25 -- San Diego, Calif.

This month’s most technical fight takes place in San Diego, Calif., between two Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts at WEC 38. Paixao’s not just any other “faixa preta,” though. Osvaldo Alves, the director of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, considers the four-time BJJ world champion the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioner of the decade. Aldo’s no slouch, either. A teammate of top UFC middleweight contender Thales Leites and Sherdog.com’s 10th-ranked featherweight, he holds a win over Shooto legend Alexandre Franca Nogueira.

4. Mark Coleman vs. Mauricio Rua
UFC 93 “Franklin vs. Henderson,” Jan. 17 -- Dublin, Ireland

No fighter in MMA history has experienced a rise and fall as rapid as the one Rua has endured. Almost universally recognized as the No. 1 light heavyweight in the world after his triumph in the 2005 Pride middleweight grand prix, “Shogun” has since dealt with a string of injuries that included a broken arm and two torn knee ligaments. Against Coleman, a man 17 years his senior, Rua will try to put his career back on track.

3. Takanori Gomi vs. Satoru Kitaoka
Sengoku “Rebellion 2009,” Jan. 4 -- Saitama, Japan

One-time Pride icon Gomi has fallen from grace during the past two years. “The Fireball Kid” embarrassed himself in his sophomore fight on American soil against Nick Diaz, sat out the remainder of 2007 and has been largely unimpressive for his new employer, World Victory Road. Following a controversial split decision loss to unheralded Russian Sergey Golyaev in November, the 30-year-old has to defeat lightweight tournament winner Kitaoka to remain Sengoku’s top lightweight ace.

2. Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn
UFC 94 “St. Pierre vs. Penn 2,” Jan. 31 -- Las Vegas

Their first encounter in the spring of 2006 gave fight fans a glimpse of how dangerous Penn can be against a world-class welterweight. He put St. Pierre through a real beating for the first five minutes, but the Hawaiian lacked the stamina to keep up the pace throughout the whole fight. Judging from his destructions of Joe Stevenson and Sean Sherk in 2008, fitness will not be an issue the second time around. The “Prodigy” will need to be in the best shape possible, as St. Pierre has delivered grade-A performances in his last four bouts and appears to improve each time out.

1. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andrei Arlovski
Affliction “Day of Reckoning,” Jan. 24 -- Anaheim, Calif.

Fight fans have waited for this one ever since Arlovski slapped an Achilles lock on Tim Sylvia three years ago. Emelianenko bested Arlovski by 11 seconds in his 36-second drubbing of Sylvia at Affliction “Banned” in July and will now look to add the “Pitbull” to the list of UFC champions he has defeated; it already includes Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. A win over the Chicago-based Belarusian could set up a dream fight between Emelianenko and Josh Barnett this summer.
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