by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Mark Weir pictured above)
There is perhaps not a match at Bushido 10 that most personifies two fighters at the same place in their careers as does the match-up between Mark Weir and Denis Kang. Both are veteran fighters who have gone through rough spots but have rebounded of late and are now seeking to climb the ladder to title contention.
For Mark Weir Bushido 10 is not only his debut for Pride, but it is also a chance to get back to the big shows again after having spent the last couple years working hard to return to them.
Originally spending much of his early career in his native England, Weir earned a reputation for being one of the complete fighters around. His long and lean body frame made him both dangerous striking with range as well on the ground where his flexibility was second to none.
Upon winning nine of his first ten fights, Weir was invited to the UFC’s only appearance in England at UFC 38 to face Eugene Jackson. In what would officially become the promotion’s fasted knockout, Weir needed just 10 seconds to KO Jackson and put himself on the major MMA map.
Things seemed to be going swimmingly for Mark, but after losing his next two UFC appearances Weir would be out of the company. Over the next couple years Mark would rollercoaster, winning more than he lost until he hit a four-fight losing streak in late 2004/early 2005.
At a crossroads Mark refused to let himself fade away and went on a tear, winning three straight, earning himself another shot at the bigtime, this time in Pride in what could be his last best shot at major MMA stardom.
Opposing Weir is Denis Kang who is making his return to Pride for the first time in eight months. And like Mark, Kang is looking to establish himself as one of the top 183lb fighters in the company heading into Pride’s proposed Welterweight Grand Prix later this year.
When it comes to Denis’ early career, he could best be described as a streaky fighter. He would often win and lose multiple fights in a row from 1998 to 2002. This would often lead him to be passed over by major companies not sure of which Kang they would be getting.
Things however began to change in 2003, when after a loss to Jason “Mayhem” Miller in Extreme Challenge things began to crystallize for Denis. It would be the last loss Kang would suffer as he would begin to make the steady climb up towards becoming a contender.
Being half Korean, Kang found himself an instant star in the Spirit MC promotion in Korea. There he would win the company’s 2004 Grand Prix, and with Pride constantly on the lookout for international talent, Denis was immediately to make his debut in Bushido in 2005.
Since joining Pride, Kang has won both of his appearances but missed out on the 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix due to injury. Returning triumphantly late last year in the AFC promotion in Florida (where he trains with the American Top Team), Denis rejoins Pride looking to regain the momentum he had prior to injury.
This is one of those fights that could go anywhere. And while Weir posses the advantage striking and Kang on the ground, both fighters have become well-rounded enough to know how to handle themselves outside their element.
What this fight could come down to is endurance. Over his career Mark has only gone to decision once whereas Denis has gone the distance three times. Whoever can keep up the pressure on their opponent, earning the judges’ favor if they cannot produce a finish, and not gas should be one to come out on top.
This fight is very important for both fighters. The winner most likely will find themselves involved in the proposed 183lb GP later this year that is slated to determine the number one contender for the Welterweight Championship. The loser may have fight again to qualify for the GP if they fight well enough to be brought back.
Both Mark Weir and Denis Kang are pressure fighters and both take chances if need be to win. They are each in same place in their careers and are going after the same goal. Put that together and it equals a recipe for what could be one of the most entertaining fights of the night and a standard setter for Pride’s welterweight division in 2006.