by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Murilo “Ninja” Rua and “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler look to unify their respective EliteXC and Icon Sport middleweight titles on Saturday in Honolulu at EliteXC: Uprising. Other featured fighters include Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Gina Carano and Joey Villasenor.
EliteXC: Uprising is the first event since ProElite, Inc., EliteXC’s parent company, acquired Icon Sport. It is also the promotion’s Hawaiian debut.
ELITEXC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
MURILO “NINJA” RUA VS. ROBBIE LAWLER
Elite XC Middleweight Champion Murilo “Ninja” Rua takes on Icon Sport Middleweight Champion Robbie Lawler. Murilo “Ninja” Rua has a 14-7-1 record in MMA and trains out of the Chute Boxe Academy with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Robbie Lawler has a 14-4 record in MMA and trains out of Team Hughes with Matt Hughes. Rua comes off a stoppage victory over Joey Villasenor at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Baroni. Lawler knocked out Frank Trigg at Icon Sport: Epic.
This should be an exciting fight to watch, as both guys like to trade leather on the feet. Rua has put together a couple of good wins together after having bad luck in Pride. Lawler has come into his own since leaving the UFC and has made himself one of the top middleweights in the world. Lawler recently left his long-time coach Pat Miletich in order to start a new gym with Matt Hughes, so that could have an effect on him. Rua showed heart in his last fight against Villasenor as he was rocked early but composed himself and won the fight.
Look for both fighters to test themselves on feet, but Lawler’s power will hurt Rua, forcing him to take the fight to the ground and using his underrated ground game to finish Lawler.
Prediction: Murilo “Ninja” Rua by submission in the third round
NICK DIAZ VS. MIKE AINA
Pride and UFC veteran Nick Diaz takes on BJ Penn-trained fighter Mike Aina. Nick Diaz has a 14-6 record in MMA and trains out of Cesar Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu with Nate Diaz. Mike Aina has an 8-5-1 record in MMA and trains out of BJ Penn’s MMA with Ross Ebanez. Diaz comes off an exciting submission victory over Takanori Gomi at Pride 33, which was later ruled a no contest after Diaz tested positive for marijuana. Aina comes off a stoppage victory over Rick Screeton at Rumble on the Rock: Beatdown 3.
This is going to be Diaz’s first fight since coming off of suspension and he is going to prove a point come Saturday night. Diaz is being built as one of EliteXC’s stars and he deserves it because he is an excellent fighter that always puts on a show. Aina is getting the chance of a lifetime as he takes on Diaz on a live national broadcast, giving him some exposure.
Diaz has the advantage in every aspect of the fight, both on feet and on the ground. Aina is just being used as a sacrificial lamb in order to introduce Diaz to a new audience. Look for Diaz to punish Aina on the feet and then finish him off on the ground with a submission.
Prediction: Nick Diaz by submission in the first round
WOMEN’S 140-POUND BOUT:
GINA CARANO VS. TONYA EVINGER
EliteXC veteran and Muay Thai champion Gina Carano takes on MMA veteran Tonya Evinger. Gina Carano has a 4-0 record in MMA and trains at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Tonya Evinger has a 4-2 record in MMA and trains at House of Pain in Missouri. Carano won a unanimous decision over Julie Kedzie at EliteXC Destiny earlier this year. Evinger is coming off of a loss to Vanessa Porto via an armbar at Fatal Femmes Fighting 2.
This is Carano’s first bout since February and her first since she began training at the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas. She has been a focal point for EliteXC’s promotional efforts, however, and there is now added pressure to bear the torch for female mixed martial artists. Evinger was on a five-fight winning streak before her recent loss in July, but despite her experience, Carano will be Evinger’s toughest opponent to date.
Despite three knockouts to Evinger’s credit, Carano is by far the best striker she has ever faced. Evinger will likely fall back on her wrestling skills – she was a member of the female national freestyle squad – and could steal a ground and pound win. But that’s not likely to happen. Carano has spent several months rounding out her skills at Xtreme Couture and will be difficult to keep on the ground. She will take the fight back to the feet where she should be able to wear Evinger down before utilizing her Muay Thai skills for the knockout.
Prediction: Gina Carano by KO in the second round
[Note: Carano vs. Evinger preview by Ken Pishna]
JOEY VILLASENOR VS. RIKI FUKUDA
KOTC Middleweight Champion Joey Villasenor takes on Pancrase veteran Riki Fukuda. Joey Villasenor has a 23-6 record in MMA and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Duane “Bang” Ludwig. Riki Fukuda has an 8-2 record in MMA and trains out of Killer Bee with Akira Kikuchi. Villasenor comes off a disappointing stoppage loss to Murilo “Ninja” Rua at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Baroni. Fukuda comes off an impressive stoppage victory over Hikaru Sato at Pancrase: Neo Blood Tournament 2007 Finals.
Fukuda has split time between Killer Bee in Japan and American Kickboxing Academy in California; since making the move, Fukuda has become a more polished striker. Both fighters are looking to put themselves in the hunt for a title shot with a win here.
Villasenor will look to keep this fight on the feet, while Fukuda wants it one the ground. Fukuda is a decorated wrestler in his native Japan, so he will try to get his ground and pound game going on Villasenor. Villasenor needs to stop the takedown and tag Fukuda on the feet in order to win the fight. Villasenor needs a win here in order to prevent a losing streak and not fall out of the good graces of EliteXC. Look for Fukuda to take the fight to the ground early and keep it there, as he should pound out a decision over Villasenor.
Prediction: Riki Fukuda by decision
JAKE SHIELDS VS. RENATO VERISSIMO
Shooto veteran Jake Shields faces off with UFC veteran Renato Verissimo. Jake Shields has an 18-4-1 record in MMA and trains out of the Jake Shields Fight Team with Gilbert Melendez. Renato Verissimo has a 7-4 record in MMA and trains out of BJ Penn’s MMA with BJ Penn. Shields comes off a fairly easy submission victory over Ido Pariente at K-1 Dynamite!! USA. Verissimo managed a stoppage victory over Lars Haven at Icon Sport: Epic.
Shields has slowly built himself into one of the best welterweights in the world. He finally has been given a chance to put his himself on display with EliteXC. Verissimo has had an up and down MMA career. He showed flashes of brilliance in the UFC, but he was unable to capitalize on that talent and ended up on the losing end. Shields has an excellent ground game and is slowly getting his stand-up up to par with his wicked ground game.
Both fighters are ground fighters, so expect this fight to hit the ground early and often. Verissimo has collected a couple of wins to get himself back into the MMA spotlight, but he has his hands full with Shields. Look for Shields to use his wrestling to ground this fight early and to control Verissimo en route to a decision.
Prediction: Jake Shields by decision