by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
WAMMA Heavyweight Championship Bout:
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Sylvia
In one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year, former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko faces off against former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia for the vacant WAMMA heavyweight championship.
Emelianenko comes off a submission victory over K-1 veteran Hong-Man Choi at Yarennoka while Sylvia failed in his bid to become UFC heavyweight champion for a third time, succumbing to a choke by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 81.
Fedor has been criticized recently for his lack of quality opposition and many fans are questioning his status as the best heavyweight in the world. He will have an opportunity to change that once he squares off with Sylvia, who is arguably one of the best heavyweights in the world. This match-up is intriguing because these two fighters were respectively at the top of the heavyweight division in both Pride and the UFC for some time.
It’s fairly easy to say that Sylvia will pose a new type of threat to Fedor. Although he has faced fighters similar in size to Sylvia, none of them have had the skill and technique. Sylvia is a more than competent striker and will pose a challenge to be taken to the ground. Sylvia needs to use his reach and stay on the outside, using his jab to frustrate Fedor who will be looking to get on the inside.
If Fedor is able to get on the inside, he will likely secure a body lock and throw Sylvia on the ground. From there he will either look to land his vicious ground and pound or work a submission.
Sylvia needs to stick to his game plan and not get sloppy because if he makes one mistake, there is no doubt that Fedor will take advantage of it like he has done so many times in the past.
With the fight being in the ring, Fedor will be able to fight more comfortably and won’t have to worry about adjusting to fighting in cage; which is a whole different experience in itself. The winner of this match will have major impact in the heavyweight division.
Josh Barnett vs. Pedro Rizzo
Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett takes on Brazilian slugger Pedro Rizzo in a rematch of their exciting fight several years ago.
Barnett is coming off a workman-like decision victory over Jeff Monson at Sengoku 2 while Rizzo also defeated Monson in his last outing at Art of War 3, stopping him with strikes late in the fight.
Both fighters have taken different paths since their last fights. After winning the UFC heavyweight title, Barnett moved on to Japan and became a superstar fighting in Pride. Conversely, Rizzo faded out of the UFC and Pride before putting together two solid wins in Art of War.
Rizzo’s best chance for victory is to once again lure Barnett into a slugfest and catch him off guard with combinations. If he is unable to utilize his punches, he’ll need to throw his devastating low kicks to chop Barnett down and make it harder for him to take him to the ground.
Barnett needs to fight smart and not play into the Brazilian’s striking prowess; get on the inside early and take Rizzo down to the ground where he can outwork him with ground and pound or submissions. He should have both strength and size advantages over Rizzo, so bullying him in the clinch and getting a takedown may not be too difficult.
This should be another exciting fight, but in a different way. Barnett has become a smarter and better fighter since their first encounter, while Rizzo is on the upside after looking good in his last two fights. That should be a confidence booster for him. Regardless of the outcome, either fighter could be in line for a title shot at the next Affliction show.
Andre Arlovski vs. Ben Rothwell
Former UFC heavyweight champion Andre Arlovski faces off with former IFL heavyweight kingpin Ben Rothwell in another intriguing heavyweight fight.
Arlovski comes off a stoppage victory over wrestler Jake O’Brien at UFC 82, while Rothwell hasn’t seen action since September of last year when he won a decision over Ricco Rodriguez at the 2007 IFL Team Finals.
Many fans and critics have wondered if Rothwell is the real deal or not. After running through the IFL heavyweight division without much competition, this will be his toughest test to date.
Arlovski is the better fighter on the ground and is the better striker when it comes down to technique. He will look to stay on the outside and use movement to land combinations and frustrate Rothwell. If the fight hits the ground, Arlovski will have Rothwell on the defensive with submission attempts.
The few advantages that Rothwell has will be his size and power. He needs to use his strengths to impose his will on Arlovski. Look for Rothwell to get inside or lure Arlovski into a striking exchange, which would favor the more powerful Rothwell, who needs to keep the fight standing.
The winner of this fight could be in line for a shot at the WAMMA heavyweight title in the near future depending on how things play out after the first Affliction show. These two will put on an entertaining fight and will surely not disappoint.
Matt Lindland vs. Fabio Negao
Team Quest middleweight standout Matt Lindland takes on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Fabio Negao in a middleweight scrap.
Both fighters were defeated in their last outings. Lindland briefly moved up to heavyweight to face Fedor Emelianenko at Bodog Fight: Clash of Nations but suffered a submission loss. Negao is coming off of a submission loss to Rousimar Palhares at Fury FC 5.
This will be Lindland’s first fight in well over a year. In addition to training for this fight, he has run for a U.S. congressional position and maintained his Sportfight promotion. If there was anytime for Lindland to be upset, this could be the best time.
Negao needs to get this fight to the ground and work submissions, keeping Lindland on the defensive. Neither fighter is known as a remarkable striker, but they each have their strong points on the feet; Lindland’s dirty boxing and Negao’s aggression.
Lindland will look to impose his style and wrestling ability, which he has used to become one of the better middleweights in the world. He will want to get on top and maul Negao with ground and pound, keeping him grounded and unable to react to Lindland’s offense.
More than likely the majority of this fight will be played out on the ground, so expect this to be a tactical ground battle with back and forth exchanges. Either way, Lindland will look to reestablish himself in the middleweight division as one of the best.
Light Heavyweight Bout:
Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Mike Whitehead
Former UFC title contender Renato “Babalu” Sobral takes on former Ultimate Fighter participant Mike Whitehead.
Sobral comes off a submission victory over Dutch striker Rodney Faverus at PFP: Ring of Fire, while Whitehead submitted Zak Jensen at Beatdown: 4 Bears Casino.
Both fighters have parted with the UFC and will look to establish themselves as the best light heavyweights outside of the promotion. This is an interesting clash of styles with Sobral being a submission fighter and Whitehead a wrestler.
Sobral needs to take control of the fight on the feet, putting together combinations that will keep Whitehead off balance and make him more susceptible to a takedown. Once on the ground, Sobral will need to use ground and pound to create openings for a submission.
On the other hand, Whitehead will look to clinch up and work dirty boxing on his feet. If that doesn’t pan out, he will use the clinch to take the fight to the ground. He’ll want to stay off his back where he will be more vulnerable to submissions.
The fight will basically come down to which fighter is able to get the takedown and control the fight from the top. The winner of this match could possibly meet the winner of the Nogueira vs. Dewees fight in the future.
Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Paul Buentello
Pride veteran Aleksander Emelianenko faces off with former UFC slugger Paul Buentello in a guaranteed heavyweight slugfest.
Emelianenko comes off a stoppage victory over Silvao Santos at M-1 Challenge, while Buentello comes off a disappointing stoppage loss to Alistair Overeem at Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives.
These two love throwing leather on their feet and this match-up should produce nothing but fireworks and have the crowd on its feet for the duration. Plain and simple, the fight will come down to who is able to land the first power shot that will put his opponent out.
Emelianenko is the bigger and stronger fighter of the two and he will have the advantage on the ground, as he is a national Sambo champion in Russia. On his feet, he uses a lot of footwork and angles to put together fight ending punch combinations.
This will be a tough fight for Buentello as he needs to stay out of any exchanges with Emelianenko because that is when he is more vulnerable to being knocked out. The “Headhunter” needs to stay on the outside, use his jab, and pick his shots coming in.
This fight won’t last too long and it will have the same outcome whichever fighter wins; a crowd-pleasing knockout. Neither fighter will lose too much with a loss as long as they perform to their fullest ability and don’t hold back.
Vitor Belfort vs. Terry Martin
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort makes his middleweight debut against Midwest wrestler Terry Martin.
Belfort is coming off of a decision victory over James Zikic at Cage Rage 23. After departing from the UFC, Martin earned a rather strange disqualification victory over Daiju Takase at Adrenaline MMA 1.
This is an interesting fight for both fighters. Martin needs a good win to get his career back on track while Belfort looks to reestablish himself as a prominent force in mixed martial arts. This has the potential to be a great fight but it depends on which Belfort shows up.
If he wants to win the fight, Belfort needs to keep it on the feet and let his hands go. He can’t be gun shy like he has in the past because that will play into Martin’s strategy of slowing the fight down to his pace. If the fight goes to the ground, he’ll need scramble to stay on top because he hasn’t shown much off his back in the past.
The key for Martin will be to slow down the pace and control the striking exchanges with boxing technique instead of swinging without regard. If the fight goes to the ground, it will be because of Martin taking Belfort down for some ground and pound.
The fight will either be exciting or a slow methodical technical battle that’ll depend on who is controlling the action standing. This will be the first telecast fight in Affliction history, so pressure will be on both fighters to impress.
The undercard is littered with Pride, UFC and WEC veterans. In a light heavyweight bout, Pride veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira takes on Ultimate Fighter alumnus Edwin Dewees. In a featherweight bout, UFC and WEC veteran Mark Hominick faces off with Shooto veteran Savant Young. In a welterweight bout, Xtreme Couture fighter Mike Pyle takes on the undefeated J.J. Ambrose and rounding out the card is a middleweight bout between UFC veteran Justin Levens and local fighter Ray Lizama.