E. Spencer Kyte takes a look at what promises to be an April to remember in the Octagon...
Consider last week and this one to be the UFC equivalent of Spring Break.
Not the wild and crazy, “We’re going to Cabo!” Spring Break that served as the backdrop for so many MTV specials, bad teen comedies, and even worse slasher flicks, but the Spring Break where you went back home, and were handed a list of tasks to complete while you pressed pause on your scholastic pursuits.
After all, the inside of the garage isn’t going to paint itself, is it Spencer?
After rattling off seven events through the first 11 weeks of 2013, the UFC has hit a two week stretch without an event, freeing loyal and dedicated fight fans up to do any number of things with their Saturday night. If you’re like me and have watched all 11 of those events from start to finish, may I suggest doing something nice for the significant other in your life?
Don’t think of it strictly as making up for being zoned out watching fights for seven of the last 11 Saturdays, though; this is also a pre-emptive strike, because once April arrives, there is a very good chance you’ll return to that aforementioned state, as every Saturday in the month ahead comes complete with its own fight card, and they’re all excellent.
Here’s a look at what’s on deck for the UFC’s action-packed April.
UFC SWEDEN 2013 – STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – APRIL 6
For the second consecutive year, the UFC makes an April appearance at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden for an event that will air live on FUEL TV.
Also returning for the second consecutive year is Swedish light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson. The 26-year-old will once again be the last man to walk to the cage, as “The Mauler” puts his six-fight winning streak on the line against former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi in the main event.
Although Lyoto Machida appears to have the inside track on the next shot at championship gold in the 205-pound ranks, the winner of this fight will certainly be able to make a strong case for deserving a crack at the belt as well. Mousasi has lost just once in the last six-plus years, and upending the local favorite in his UFC debut would make him an instant contender, while a victory for Gustafsson will leave him without any logical next step other than a title shot.
Two other fights to watch for on this event are the top-10 bantamweight matchup between Brad Pickett and Mike Easton, both of whom are coming off tough losses and are looking to re-establish themselves in the divisional title picture, and the featherweight scrap pitting Marcus Brimage against UFC newcomer Conor McGregor. Brimage has gone a perfect 3-0 since his time on Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, and has knocked off prospects Jimy Hettes and Maximo Blanco in his last two outings, while McGregor, a two-division champion in the UK’s Cage Warriors organization, enters on an eight-fight winning streak with a steady amount of hype behind him.
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER 17 FINALE – LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 13
After a shoulder injury forced flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to the sidelines, bantamweights Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgensen have been tabbed to headline this year’s TUF Finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
It’s an intriguing matchup that pits good friends against one another, with a chance to move one step closer to title contention going to the winner. Faber, coming off his UFC 157 victory over Ivan Menjivar, actually helped get Jorgensen involved in MMA following his days as a standout wrestler at Boise State University, but that won’t stop the duo from duking it out inside the Octagon.
This season’s finale will also provide us with one of next season’s coaches as well, as Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano square off in the second women’s bantamweight contest to be contested in the UFC, and there is a lot at stake. UFC President Dana White announced recently that not only will the winner of this bout be the next to challenge Ronda Rousey for her women’s bantamweight title, but they’ll also coach opposite the unbeaten champion on the first co-ed season of The Ultimate Fighter later this year.
UFC ON FOX 7 – SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 20
While the top three fights on this card could earn the event the “UFC vs. Strikeforce” tag, an equally appropriate way to characterize this card is “stacked.” From top to bottom, this might be the most impressive collection of fights the UFC has delivered this year.
The main event features a “Champion vs. Champion” pairing in the lightweight division, as Benson Henderson welcomes Gilbert Melendez to the UFC in a battle to determine which man is the undisputed top lightweight in the sport today.
In the penultimate fight of the night, Daniel Cormier makes his much-anticipated UFC debut against the man he was supposed to meet on the final Strikeforce card, former two-time heavyweight champion Frank Mir. Rounding out the main card are potential high-octane bouts between Nathan Diaz and Josh Thomson, and welterweights Jordan Mein and Matt Brown.
But that’s not all - the preliminary portion of this card packs a punch as well.
Flyweight contenders Joseph Benavidez and Darren Uyenoyama square off, bantamweights TJ Dillashaw and Hugo “Wolverine” Viana battle it out, and middleweight prospects Francis Carmont and Lorenz Larkin share the cage. Toss in a pair of intriguing lightweight bouts (Tim Means vs. Jorge Masvidal and Ramsey Nijem vs. Myles Jury), and it’s plain to see that UFC on FOX 7 is a must-see attraction in April.
UFC 159 – NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – APRIL 27
This will be quite a way to close out the month.
After matching wits and strategies against each other as opposing coaches on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen will put their respective skills and strengths as competitors to the test in the main event of UFC 159, with the UFC light heavyweight title going to the victor.
It’s a fight not many people believed Sonnen earned, but then again, chances are very few expected him to be such a magnanimous, diligent coach to “Team Darkside” either.
Though the main event doesn’t carry the bad blood and trash talk many expected it to as of right now, the co-main event makes up for it, as Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher meet in a pivotal middleweight clash. “The Count” and “The Talent” have been taking shots at each other long before this bout was put together, and they’ve continued since the pairing was announced, but come April 27, they’ll each have to back up their big talk inside the cage.
The Bisping-Belcher clash isn’t the only grudge match scheduled to take place at the Prudential Center though, as light heavyweights Phil Davis and Vinny Magalhaes square off to resolve their differences in the cage as well. Add in a heavyweight pairing pitting Roy Nelson against Cheick Kongo, and Jersey’s own Jim Miller welcoming Pat “Bam Bam” Healy to the biggest stage in the sport, and UFC 159 is poised to be a powerhouse pay-per-view event.