by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
For Chris Leben, Saturday night can make or break his fighting career. A win would put Leben back into the fold of the crowded UFC middleweight division. A loss could very well signal the end of Leben’s current run in the UFC. With new endeavourers ahead of him, Leben will look to take care of business against fellow Ultimate Fighter alumni Kalib Starnes.
Both Leben and Starnes are coming off losses, which makes this fight oh so more interesting because a loss for either fighter could put them out of the UFC for an extended period of time.
Leben was defeated at UFC 66, getting choked out by Jason MacDonald with a modified guillotine choke. Leben was pretty much controlling the fight, punishing MacDonald on the feet with punches and knees as he did an excellent job of keeping the fight off the ground where MacDonald had the advantage. But eventually once the fight hit the ground, MacDonald wasted no time and submitted Leben.
Starnes is coming off the first loss of his career, losing by stoppage to Yushin Okami at UFC 64. Starnes is the much more skilled fighter on the ground and Leben, fully aware of that, has mapped out a game plan for the fight. “He’s a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guy, so he’s going to body lock me and take me down to the ground, I’m going to try to get back on my feet and knock his head into the third row”.
Leben has been training primarily at two different gyms in preparation for his fight with Starnes. “I’ve been training in Seattle and Portland. When I’m in Seattle I train with Matt Hume and in Portland I’m training with all the guys at Team Quest”.
Leben is already looking at future endeavourers after he takes care of business on Saturday night. “I’m going to be the head coach at a new gym in Oahu. It’s being run by T.Jay Thompson who owns ICON Sport and it’s going to be the official ICON gym. It’s going to be one of the nicest gyms in the world and has everything, even a couple of plasmas, which is always nice”.
According to Leben he is already looking beyond his current contract with the UFC. “I’m already counting down the days until my contract is done. I’ve had eight fights in the UFC and I just got a raise to 10 and 10. Hopefully the UFC sees how valuable I’ve been to them and they’ll take care of me,” he said.
Leben also raised the possibility of fighting in ICON Sport once his contract expires. “If the UFC doesn’t take care of me then I’d love to fight in ICON and give those guys some exposure.” When asked about a possible fight with ICON Middleweight Champion Robbie Lawler, he said, “I’d love to fight Robbie, hopefully we can make that happen in the future”.
For Leben this is a make or break fight because he has lost two out of his last three fights and another loss could very well spell the end for his current UFC run. With both fighters needing a win on Saturday night, look for them to let loose in the cage and give it they’re all in what could be an entertaining back and forth battle.