By Adam Martin
Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez gets an immediate UFC title shot, and heavyweight Grand Prix champion faces former UFC belt-holder Frank Mir at April’s UFC on FOX 7 in San Jose.
Here are thoughts on these two matchups as well as a couple other ones announced last week as we survey the MMA landscape.
Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez, UFC on FOX 7
UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson meets former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez in the headlining fight at UFC on FOX 7, which takes place April 20 in San Jose, Melendez’ old stomping grounds in Strikeforce. The bout will unify the UFC and Strikeforce belts and pits two of the best 155-pounders in the world against each other. So who’s going to come out on top in what should be an epic five-round battle? It’s tough to say, because these guys are so evenly matched and this is going to be a very competitive fight.
This is an awesome matchup but I can’t help but wonder if Anthony Pettis is getting the short end of the stick yet again. Pettis, who fights Donald Cerrone next Saturday at UFC on FOX 6, has been promised UFC lightweight title shots twice only to have them taken away from him on both occasions. The lightweight has been waiting a while for his crack at the belt, but Melendez’ long reign as Strikeforce lightweight champion trumped Pettis’ reign as the former WEC lightweight champion in the UFC brass’s eyes, so instead it’s Melendez vs. Henderson. It’s going to be a great fight, no doubt, but it’s not a good time to be Pettis right now.
What do you think of the Henderson-Melendez matchup?
Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir, UFC on FOX 7
Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier makes his UFC debut against the man he called out to fight in his first bout in the Octagon, former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, when the two clash at UFC on FOX 7 this April in Cormier’s backyard of San Jose. The two were set to fight in Strikeforce back in November, but Mir was injured and had to pull out. Now healthy, he’ll welcome “DC” to the UFC in what will be the toughest test of Cormier’s young MMA career.
Despite his inexperience, though, Cormier has remained undefeated in mixed martial arts despite fighting veterans of the sport as Josh Barnett, Antonio (Bigfoot) Silva and Jeff Monson, all of whom he defeated to claim the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament. Although Mir will present some problems for Cormier, there’s no doubt in my mind that Cormier is going to steamroll him, and that’s why the oddsmakers have installed him as a 4-to-1 favourite. Actually, you might see Mir get knocked out again in this fight, and who knows, with the amount of damage he’s received as a result of knockout blows in the last few years, this may be the last time we see him in the Octagon.
The only question is whether or not Cormier stays at heavyweight or goes to light-heavyweight after the bout. My money is on him going down to 205 and picking a fight with Jon Jones, but it remains to be seen what he does. In the meantime, though, we can all enjoy him beating up on Mir.
What do you think of the Cormier-Mir matchup?
Dan Hardy vs. Matt Brown, UFC on FOX 7
Dan Hardy returns to the cage when he fights Matt Brown in the opening fight of UFC on FOX 7, in a bout that has fireworks written all over it. Both Hardy and Brown are two of the best strikers in the division and going up against each other, there’s no doubt in my mind this could be a “Fight of the Year” candidate.
While Hardy has been inconsistent in the last few years, it seems as though Brown is peaking after winning four UFC fights in 2012. Hardy represents Brown’s chance to pick up that marquee win he needs in order to move into the title talks. It’s crazy to consider this is the same man who was nearly cut from the UFC in 2011, but Brown has really turned things around and it’s a credit to his work ethic and dedication to the sport that he has.
Hardy on the other hand… we don’t know where his head is at these days. He has the potential to win this fight but it’s not going to be easy. Either way, this fight is likely to end with an awesome finish, and it’s definitely one to look forward to.
What do you think of the Hardy-Brown matchup?
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi, UFC on FUEL TV 9
A matchup between light-heavyweight contenders Alexander Gustafsson and Gegard Mousasi headlines UFC on FUEL TV 9, which takes place April 6 in Gustafsson’s hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. The lanky Swede, who currently is riding a six-fight win streak, and the Strikeforce import Mousasi are two of the most talented and skilled 205 pounders in the world, and with a possible title shot on the line, expect both men to come to the fight very well prepared to go five rounds.
This is just an exciting matchup any way you put it. Sure, Gustafsson is going to be a lot bigger than the undersized Mousasi, but “The Dreamcatcher” has made a career out of beating up larger opponents, holding wins over heavyweights like Mark Hunt and Gary Goodridge. Mousasi, the former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion, is looking to put on a show in his UFC debut while Gustafsson knows he needs to get a decisive win over Mousasi in order to get his crack at UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Both Gustafsson and Mousasi are two of the top fighters in the world under 30 years of age, so expect an incredible fight when they clash in the cage this spring.
What do you think of the Gustafsson-Mousasi matchup?
Adam Martin has blogged for theScore.com and is a regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s MMA section. Follow him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.