By Adam Martin
Last week a handful of fights for April’s UFC 159 were announced, but we start our look at the most recently-announced UFC matchups with a bout featuring a former Strikeforce lightweight champion.
Josh Thomson vs. Nate Diaz, UFC on FOX 7
A lightweight battle between two of the top-10 fighters in the division takes place at UFC on FOX 7, as fan favourite Nate Diaz welcomes Josh Thomson back to the Octagon in what is for sure a leading contender for “Fight of the Night” on an already-stacked card.
Thomson is one of the most underrated lightweights on the planet and nearly defeated Gilbert Melendez to capture the Strikeforce lightweight title in his last outing this past May. Unfortunately for Thomson he was on the wrong end of a controversial split decision, but if he defeats Diaz in his return to the UFC he’ll definitely be “in the mix” as UFC president Dana White likes to say.
Diaz, meanwhile, needs to get back in the win column and put behind him that miserable effort he gave against UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 5. I know a lot of people are thinking this fight might be a cakewalk for Diaz, but that’s just because Thomson is so underrated.
In a battle between two lightweights who are always in entertaining scraps, this is just solid matchmaking from Joe Silva and I can’t complain about this one at all. It’s going to be awesome.
What do you think of the Thomson-Diaz matchup?
Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher, UFC 159
It was announced last week that Michael Bisping, fresh off that head-kick KO loss to Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7, will be taking on Alan Belcher in the co-main event of UFC 159. Like Bisping, Belcher is also coming off a bad loss to Yushin Okami at UFC 155, so we can expect both fighters to be very motivated to earn the victory over one another and get back into the title mix.
And that’s exactly why this fight was booked. Even though both men are coming off of losses, the UFC middleweight division is shallow and new challengers for champion Anderson Silva are needed. So don’t be surprised if the winner of this fight — especially if it’s Bisping — is only one or two fights away from a title shot yet again.
My biggest issue with this fight is that, while it should be fun and the trash talk in the lead-up to it will be golden, I don’t believe a fight between two guys coming off a loss should be the co-main event on a huge PPV card. If main eventers Jon Jones and/or Chael Sonnen get hurt and Bisping vs. Belcher is elevated to the main event, we could have another UFC 151 situation on our hands, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.
What do you think of the Bisping-Belcher matchup?
Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy, UFC 159
A fight between the always-exciting Jim Miller and Strikeforce import Pat Healy has also been added to the UFC 159 card. Miller, who will be the hometown favourite as this fight takes place in his native New Jersey, is looking to make another run for the lightweight title while Healy looks to prove his worth as a top-shelf lightweight in his return to the UFC.
After Strikeforce fighters went 3-0 in their UFC debuts this past weekend, it would be wrong to count out Healy, who has been an absolute stud since permanently dropping down to the 155-pound division. Sure, Miller is a beast himself and is coming off an amazing win over Joe Lauzon at UFC 155, but Healy matches up pretty well with him.
Both guys are normally wrestling-based grinders, so I’m not sure how this fight is going to go — it could take place standing, it could go to the floor, who knows — but one thing I do know for sure is that both men always come to fight and always leave it all in the Octagon, so I’m expecting the New Jersey fans to be cheering after 15 minutes is up regardless of if their hometown hero gets his hand raised or not.
Kudos to the UFC for recognizing Healy’s talents and giving him a top-ranked guy in his first fight back in the UFC. This one should be fun.
What do you think of the Miller-Healy matchup?
Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo, UFC 159
A battle of top-15 heavyweights also takes place at UFC 159 as Roy Nelson takes on Cheick Kongo in what is a fight that will likely end in a knockout. Both men are usually in entertaining bouts (save Kongo’s last fight against Shawn Jordan at UFC 149 in Calgary) and I wouldn’t expect anything different here.
Still, though, I wonder what the UFC is doing with Nelson. A former winner of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Nelson is 5-3 in the UFC with all five victories coming via TKO/KO and the losses all coming to perennial contenders (Frank Mir, Junior dos Santos, and Fabricio Werdum). He keeps knocking people out, save for the elite of the division, but for some reason he just can’t seem to elevate himself back into the title picture, and I don’t know what a win over Kongo really does for him. Likewise, I’m not sure what a win for Kongo does for him, either.
Someone should find themselves waking up to a doctor’s flashlight in this fight, but neither man should expect to be considered a title contender with a victory here despite the fact that they’ll be on decent little runs. In my opinion, the UFC should have given Nelson someone higher ranked while Kongo should have fought Gabriel Gonzaga in a battle for the tag of “ultimate gatekeeper.” But I’m guessing Kongo vs. Nelson was put together more due to timing than anything else, even if a win doesn’t really push either guy up the ladder.
What do you think of the Nelson-Kongo matchup?
Adam Martin has blogged for theScore.com and is a regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s MMA section. Follow him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.