10 July Tussles Worth Watching

By Tim Leidecker Jul 2, 2009
One might think -- and rightfully so -- that UFC 100 on July 11 in Las Vegas obscures and eclipses all other mixed martial arts action this month. Sadly, it’s not much of a stretch. Besides the always-industrious Japanese promoters and the odd regional U.S. show with a compelling main event, July represents a summer break for the sport.

Still, Sherdog.com managed to compile a rundown of 10 worthy tussles for July.

As always, this list does not focus on the major bouts you already know to watch but rather on fights from all over the planet that are worth seeing.

10. Robert Westermann vs. Ric Schreiter
Fight Club Vogtland, July 4 -- Plauen, Germany

Westermann and Schreiter are two of the true pioneers of German MMA. Their bout serves as a rematch from their first encounter five years ago, when Schreiter won by first-round submission. The loss has long haunted Westermann, considered one of the premier German grapplers at his weight. Schreiter, on the other hand, remains one of the country’s most decorated wrestlers, with more than 500 amateur matches under his belt. Can Westermann overcome the weight difference and avenge an earlier defeat?

9. Alavutdin Gadjiev vs. Kazuhiro Hamanaka
Cage Force & Valkyrie, July 12 -- Tokyo

Two athletes who have fought on some of the biggest stages in the world find themselves on the undercard of a women’s MMA main event. Russian sambo stylist Gadjiev was a hot property early last summer until he accepted and lost a short-notice bout against Ralek Gracie, a man who outweighed him by 15 pounds. Meanwhile, Kazushi Sakuraba student Hamanaka’s fall from grace has been a long and painful one. Will the 30-year-old professional wrestler regain the form that once made him one of the most promising Japanese talents at 205 pounds?

8. Gan McGee vs. Ruben Villareal
Pure Combat 9 “Home Turf,” July 25 -- Visalia, Calif.

Six-foot-10 giant McGee was once a sought-after American heavyweight. After wins against Paul Buentello and Pedro Rizzo, he even challenged for the UFC crown in 2003, falling to Tim Sylvia. Following three straight defeats, he left the game for more than four years. Ruben Villareal has also fought a couple of notable names but for all the wrong reasons; “Warpath” has always earned high-profile fights by accepting them as a last-minute substitute.

7. Andrew Fisher vs. Martin Stapleton
Strike & Submit 11, July 5 -- Dunston, England

With Strike & Submit British lightweight champion Ross Pearson unable to defend his title because of his win on Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the promotion has put his strap up for grabs. Fellow TUF alumnus Stapleton will duke it out with another promising prospect, Fisher, for the vacant title. Fisher, a 23-year-old submission expert and former middleweight, had won four in a row prior to his defeat to Paul Sass in October.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

James Edson Berto returns
to his hometown promotion.
6. James Edson Berto vs. Jason Ball
Real Fighting Championships 18 “Pride,” July 24 -- Tampa, Fla.

Leglock master Berto, who traded leather with Karl James Noons and Yves Edwards during his stint in EliteXC, returns to his hometown promotion, RFC, for the second time this year. Ball, an experienced and well-rounded Englishman, will meet him in the middle. The Cage Warriors veteran became only the second fighter top stop durable Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Alexandre Izidro this spring and also holds notable wins against Leslee Ojugbana and Aidan Marron.

5. Ricco Rodriguez vs. Mario Rinaldi
World Fighting Championships “Battle of the Bay 8,” July 10 -- Tampa, Fla.

Another of Florida’s many local promotions returns with arguably its strongest effort to date. Former UFC heavyweight champion Rodriguez will headline the 11-fight card, as he takes on American Top Team’s Rinaldi. Their career paths have intersected at the Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships, where Rodriguez has medaled four times and Rinaldi reached the quarter-finals in 2007.

4. Hacran Dias vs. Ui Cheol Nam
M-1 Challenge 17, July 4 -- Seoul, South Korea

Nova Uniao has slowly but surely established itself as the number one fight team in Brazil and has positioned its top talent in the biggest promotions in the world. Dias, an undefeated prospect, wants to be the next to make the jump. The 25-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, having risen from the Complexo do Alemao favela, the most violent slum in Rio de Janeiro, will take on Spirit Martial Challenge veteran Nam. The 27-year-old submission wrestler went 8-0 in Korea’s most prominent organization and wants nothing more than to chalk up his first win on the M-1 Challenge circuit in front of his fellow countrymen.

3. Masakatsu Ueda vs. Eduardo Dantas
Shooto, July 19 -- Tokyo

Nova Uniao’s 20-year-old Shooto South American champion, “Dudu” Dantas, will challenge Ueda for the promotion’s 132-pound world title. The 31-year-old Ueda will defend the belt for the third time since he captured it against then undefeated Koetsu Okazaki in March 2008. Dantas will undoubtedly look for some valuable tips from teammate Marcos Galvao, who fought Ueda to a draw in September. Can “Dudu” accomplish what “Louro” could not?

2. Shinya Aoki vs. Vitor Ribeiro
Dream 10, July 20 -- Saitama, Japan

Although he recently relocated to New York, former Shooto welterweight champion Ribeiro remains a Novo Uniao product and one of the finest students of legendary black belt Andre Pederneiras. “Shaolin” returned from an 18-month injury layoff in April, as he stopped Japanese Olympic wrestler Katsuhiko Nagata on first-round strikes. He now faces the current poster child of Japanese MMA, Aoki, in one of the summer’s most-anticipated showdowns. Which BJJ style will prove more advanced, the one Pederneiras taught Ribeiro or the one Aoki learned from his master, Yuki Nakai?

1. Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves
UFC 100, July 11 -- Las Vegas

Technically the co-headliner to Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir 2, St. Pierre’s welterweight title defense against the powerful Brazilian ranks as every purist’s main event of the summer. With both fighters well-rounded, well-conditioned and finely tuned, the matchup boils down to the champion’s game plan. Unlikely to stand and trade with the dangerous muay Thai specialist, it seems like a good bet to expect St. Pierre to take the conservative route and try to control Alves on the ground.
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