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25 febbraio 2010

[MMA]: 3 incontri da non perdere questa settimana

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A rare respite from the UFC’s relentless campaign to take over the universe gives some of the world’s more underappreciated promotions a chance to shine. This week has a hearty serving of violence in extremis, and I’ve got the full breakdown of the fights any fight fan worth his forum post count can’t afford to miss.

So get your knowledge on in a big way with a thorough outline of how you’ll be spending the next few days. Failure to comply will deny you the opportunity to send me a fresh round of hate mail for my picks, so just follow me on this one.

Paulo Filho vs. Yuki Sasaki -- Bitetti Combat 6

Half the excitement of a Paulo Filho fight is wondering if he’ll even bother showing up. It’s a sad turn of events for a man once regarded as one of the sport’s premier middleweights, but lost in the miasma of chaos surrounding his career is the fact that he’s gone 3-0 since leaving the WEC.

A win over sturdy Japanese veteran Yuki Sasaki on Thursday could be another step in the right direction for Filho. Then again the drama that accompanied the abrupt news of Filho’s withdrawal and subsequent return to the card may have been the killing blow to his chances of returning to a major league MMA promotion.

With that said, Filho is undoubtedly the better fighter on paper. His elite jiu-jitsu skills and underrated judo throws make it virtually impossible to keep him from working his suffocating top control. Unfortunately, no amount of paper in the world can properly document the inner workings of Filho’s head, and that is what makes this fight so appealing.

Sasaki may not be some all-universe prospect, but he’s got a world of experience and isn’t about to be scared by fighting on Filho’s home turf. If Filho doesn’t have his marbles firmly in hand, Sasaki will be all too happy to show the Brazilian enigma why being of sound mind is a big part of making it as a professional face-smasher.

The popular opinion is that even if Filho manages another impressive win, he’s simply screwed up one time too many to ever make it back to the bright lights and big stage. To anyone who follows that line of thought, please remember that Junie Allen Browning got two fights in the UFC despite displaying the mannerisms of a cartoonish sociopath. The idea of Filho returning to his old self should be enough to get all of you hyped up on “Paulao” restarting his grappling train of pain.

If rooting on Filho doesn’t make you want to cancel your Thursday plans, there’s always dusting off your vintage Pancrase T-shirt and pretending that Sasaki was your favorite fighter back in the day. Just keep dropping references to Team Grabaka and try not to confuse Sasaki with Sanae Kikuta.

Derrick Noble vs. Yves Edwards -- MFC 24

Possibly the illest option on this weekend’s platter features UFC expatriates Derrick Noble and Yves Edwards in a lightweight bout Friday that could decide the next man to challenge incumbent MFC lightweight champion and resident wrestle-saurus Antonio McKee. Considering both fighters are on the back end of their careers, the chance to hold a title again could be the reviving elixir they so desperately need.

The MFC lightweight title was once within reach for Noble, but a loss to McKee sent him tumbling down the ranks and now he has to take on one of the few fighters in the division who can handle his slick striking game. Anyone who saw Noble’s crackling fight with Thiago Alves at UFC 59 knows how nasty Noble can get on the feet, but he often leaves himself open to counters by going into “HULK SMASH!” mode.

Rocking the defensive skills of a kamikaze is no way to approach Edwards, who also has the submission savvy to turn Noble into human origami. The trade-off here is that Noble has the power to starch the Bahamian thug-jitsu impresario, who has never been known for having an adamantium chin.

One way or another, this is your striking special of the weekend, as the idea of both men making it to a judges’ decision is about as likely as democrats and republicans making nice for more than two seconds. The smart money is on Edwards’ reach and superb timing, but if Noble can get inside on him, this fight takes on a completely different dimension.

While Edwards’ clinch game was once a feared part of his repertoire, he’s no longer a clinical killer from up close, which only makes Noble’s job easier. How Edwards uses his reach to dictate distance will be key. He can ill afford getting into a phone booth with Noble and letting the chips fall where they may.

As anyone who has been following MMA for any period of time knows, no one is quite sure what thug-jitsu is, but it sure does work and Edwards has a justified reputation for delivering violence in unhealthy doses. Noble brings equal amounts of violent goodness to the fistic buffet, so make sure your Friday evening is clear of any worldly demands.

Sarah Kaufman vs. Takayo Hashi -- Strikeforce Challengers 6

The long-awaited bout between undefeated American TKO machine Sarah Kaufman and Japanese grappling guru Takaya Hashi finally comes to fruition Friday, and it will crown the first Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion. A major bit of female fistic history and a quality scrap to boot should have the lot of you plunking down the extra change for that Showtime subscription.

The fight itself comes down to a classic style clash. Hashi’s ADCC-proven ground game will depend on her ability to take down Kaufman before the striking-centric American can turn her brains to mush. Not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing image, but MMA has never been about appearances.

While Hashi certainly has the game to tap Kaufman out, top-shelf wrestling seems to be the main component missing from Hashi’s game. That’s bad news considering her striking just isn’t good enough to survive more than a few moments on the feet with Kaufman, who will be in headhunting mode from the opening bell.

How Hashi will adapt to facing someone with big-time KO power and the game to make it sing is what will decide her chances. By the same token, Kaufman will be in for a serious test if she ends up on the mat with the bantamweight division’s resident grapple-god.

For anyone legitimately interested in feMMA or just looking to see something other than Cristiane Santos turning her opponents into chum, this is a can’t-miss fight of the highest order. It’s not every day you get to see a sport take a huge leap forward, and while Don King did his best to ruin the legitimacy of female combat sports, fighters like Kaufman and Hashi could go a long way toward making the public forget about those dark days.

Game-changing possibilities aside, this is still one of the best fights you could put together in feMMA today. If that doesn’t capture your imagination, I’m going to have to ask you to start watching curling so you can be reminded just how good MMA has been to you.

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