Just My Thoughts: Miracle or Massacre?

By Mike Sloan Mar 3, 2007
I admit that I must start off this column with this snazzy catchphrase: I haven't been pumped for a UFC event like today's UFC 68 in a long, long time. It seems that many wintry moons have sauntered past my bedroom window since the days of yore; the days when I and others like myself would gnaw on our collective pillow cases at the thought of a new UFC event.

Okay, so that's a little overboard, but seriously; I am anxiously awaiting tonight's combat opus courtesy of our friends at Zuffa. But I am afraid that I'm amped for UFC 68 for all the wrong reasons, at least they seem like the wrong reasons.

You see, typically with each new major event (UFC, PRIDE, K-1, etc), the fans become rabid pre-fight lunatics for the super fights, the bouts that seem like eons to make. Or even the must-have rematch of a splendid battle from the not-too-distance past. Tonight's card however, sorely lacks either of those two typical mouth frothing, gum foaming matchups. In fact, when one looks a bit deeper at tonight's card, it's rather suspect from top to bottom.

But for a few reasons, I simply cannot wait to tune into tonight's pay-per-view telecast. And I know that once that leather-clad Hercules Hernandez/Sean Sherk (Pictures) hybrid gladiator straps on his war vest, its fight time!

You're probably scratching your heads if my few intro paragraphs befuddle you. I basically just said that I am pumped up beyond belief for a suspect card. Lemme ‘splain.

If anybody can do it, Couture can

I've gone on record quite a few times since this fight materialized and I'll gladly say it again; Tim Sylvia (Pictures) versus Randy Couture (Pictures) should not be happening. In my eyes, this is a first round slaughter with Couture winding up on the butcher's block. I predict that Sylvia will obliterate the elder statesman of MMA in the first round without breaking a sweat.

But instead of complaining about it like some spoiled little brat, I simply embrace the tussle for being what it is and instead focus on the positives of said matchup. For one thing, virtually no one outside of Couture's immediate family gives the former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion a shot at winning. And I mean no one. Couture, even though he possesses one of the biggest names in the short history of the sport, is a huge underdog. So much so that I'm literally shocked odds on the fight are in the Vegas sportsbooks.

But that's what adds intrigue to the fight, as little as it may be. Couture has been counted out and left for dead routinely in his career and almost every single time he's triumphed, congratulated his fallen opponent and then snubbed his busted-up nose at the "experts."

He was supposed to become cannon fodder for Kevin Randleman (Pictures), Pedro Rizzo (Pictures) (twice), Chuck Liddell (Pictures) and arguably Tito Ortiz (Pictures). Hell, many insiders figured a "good" Vitor Belfort (Pictures) would show up and pummel Couture (that second fight doesn't count in my eyes), yet Randy proved us all wrong. Well, Couture proved us right in his third fight with Liddell, but let's cut the guy some slack.

What I'm getting at is that the majority of the time whenever a popular fighter is the overwhelming underdog in the fight game, he miraculously pulls a rabbit out of his hat and somehow winds up having his arm raised in victory. Nobody in the fight game, at least in MMA, is better at such fistic wizardry than Couture.

That alone is what makes this expected decimation in favor of Sylvia somewhat attractive. That's not to say that I'm predicting Moses to reappear and part the Red Sea again beside Couture grounding and pounding his way onto yet another "world" title; I still think Sylvia will decapitate him in the first round. I'm just trying to add a positive spin on a fight that has the collective MMA world groaning with displeasure.

The return of two former champions

Yippee! Former world UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin (Pictures) is finally going to return to action tonight. And he's facing the white hot Jason MacDonald (Pictures) to boot. On paper this seems like a forgettable fight, even if Franklin still had his title. For some reason, I have not uncovered too many people: A) swelling with joy that "Ace" is back and B) gushing with excitement that he's fighting the "TUF killer."

Is it just me or have I missed the pre-fight hype for this intriguing showdown? To me, this is clearly the niftiest fight of the night as we will hopefully be given dozens of answers in regards to two talented fighters. Nothing piques the interest of yours truly more than a previously dominant champion bouncing back from a crippling knockout loss, especially if it's against an up-and-coming tough guy who's on a roll. And wouldn't you know; this fight contains both!

MacDonald, in the minds of many "experts" is still unproven. Outcries about his spotty record, his level of competition and, for the love of god, all those losses, have been splattered all over the various forums and my inbox. Sure the kid's on a tear lately but he toppled two TUF veterans, both of which lost on their respective seasons. The important aspect, though, is how quickly and how impressively he dispatched both Ed Herman (Pictures) and Chris Leben (Pictures). So even though they weren't exactly a tandem of Dan Henderson (Pictures) and Matt Lindland (Pictures) (coincidentally both from Team Quest like Herman and Leben), they are popular blokes who were "smoked," like Herman likes to say.

This is a pivotal fight for MacDonald in the manner that a win would send his stock skyrocketing through the ceiling. He'd instantly morph from a contender with too many questions marks into a legitimate threat to Anderson Silva's 185 pound crown.

As for Franklin, he absolutely has to win or at least look sensational in defeat. If he approaches his dangerous opponent with too much caution or crumbles to the pressure of trying to regain lost luster, his already dwindling fanbase (that still puzzles me) will dissipate into evaporated water.

Will Franklin be able to exorcise the demons of defeat? Will he regain that lost magic? Will MacDonald prove that he's no fluke and demonstrate that he's a legit warrior? It's questions like these that will be answered tonight and that makes for intrigue.

Matt Hughes (Pictures), on the other hand, will have his hands full when he deals with the durable Chris Lytle (Pictures). Hughes struggled for two rounds in his victory over BJ Penn and then was spanked by Georges St. Pierre (Pictures). I don't see the same thing happening tonight even though Lytle is as good as they come.

Hughes has more to lose with this fight than does Lytle. Hughes knows it, Lytle knows it and anybody with half a brain knows it. If Lytle loses, it's a loss to the best 170 pound fighter in the sport's history; big deal. If Hughes loses, it'll be two in a row and to a man who didn't officially win his season of TUF (for the record; I thought Lytle beat Matt Serra (Pictures)). That's why Hughes will prevail.

Anything else besides a win would be detrimental for Hughes and his legacy. That sort of appeal, along with Franklin's return and the Couture Factor, is what makes UFC 68 such an alluring event.

Letter Head

Mike. Do you think Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) will be able to come back from that terrible pounding he took from both Cro Cop and Henderson? I think he's finished for good. There is no way he ever be the same. What do you think? – DJ

Hey DJ. I think Silva can bounce back and return to his winning ways but he has to rest first. I see no reason why Wanderlei can't take about ten months off to recoup, rest and rethink his career. After that much time off, he should be fine. He'll need a can or two to reinstall that confidence and killer instinct, though. We'll see what happens.

Sloan how does Sherdog even pay you when you write stuff like gogoplata who cares? All that is is a triangle choke from below why do you writers have to come up with tricky names for basic moves you don't sound smarter just call it a triangle choke who cares – Broad Street Bully from Philly

Hey Bully. Um, I called it a gogoplata because that's what it's called. Yes, it's similar to a triangle but it's not; it's a gogoplata. And yes; I am much smarter than you. I probably smell better, too.

Hey Mike I'm a big fan of your articles and columns. Real quick- do you think my guy Babalu will ever win the title in the UFC? – Nick from Texas

Hey Nick. Thanks for the kind words, brother. To answer your question, I think Babalu can become champion depending on who the champ is. If the champ will be someone like Liddell, Rampage or Rashad Evans (Pictures), then no I don't. But if it's someone like a Tito Ortiz (Pictures) or Vitor Belfort (Pictures) somehow, then yes; he can. It all depends on who he fights if he gets another crack at the belt.

Yo Sloan what up? Do you know of any fighters who are gay? Just asking as I figured you'd know. – Chris Rousch.

Chris, why would I be the one to know? What are you getting at? But seriously; no. I don't know of any gay fighters and I don't care if any or all of them are gay. It doesn't matter to me and it's not my business to know. Why do I get an email regarding this subject at least once a week?

Hello Mr. Sloan. How much of a chance do you give Randy against Sylvia (tonight)? I don't think he will be able to do anything against Timmy because he's so big and strong. If Couture can't take him down, there's just no possible way that he can take home the title. Do you give him any realistic chance of winning? – (no name given)

Hey you. No, I give Randy 0% chance of winning. None. It's impossible.

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