Casual Corner is back once again, with an assortment of topical news that would appeal to the...not so hardcore fan of mixed martial arts. We'll be talking about Quinton Jackson, or "Rampage", ducking Mauricio Rua and a title shot (or not), and the match up that was created because of it, Jon Jones vs. Shogun Rua. Before we get to that though, let's look at what major MMA event we have coming up this weekend.
The first round of the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix is upon us, and Saturday night will feature an all-heavyweight main card. Brother to Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, Valentijn, will face off with Ray Sefo. Chad Griggs, the man who sent Bobby Lashley out on a stretcher, takes on Gian Villante. Then, Shane Del Rosario meets Lavar "Big" Johnson. These three fights will serve as reserve bouts for the heavyweight tournament.
In the co-main event, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski takes on Sergei Kharitonov. Arlovski, known for his vicious strikes and looking eerily like Leonidas from the movie "300", has been on three fight slide, losing to Fedor Emelianenko, Brett Rogers, and Antonio Silva. Many have questioned his chin after being knocked out by Fedor and Rogers, but those are both two incredibly hard hitters. Kharitonov is a veteran mixed martial artist, and hasn't been incredibly active as of late. He fought once in 2010, winning via KO against Tatsuya Mizuno. He also only fought once in 2009, getting choked out by fellow veteran Jeff Monson. Over this period of time he was kick boxing in K-1, his most recent bout saw him lose by KO to a fighter know to be average, and lacking much power in his strikes. Both men have seen better days, but I expect them to come into this tournament hungry to impress, and with both being comfortable on the feet, I suspect that we'll see an exciting finish after some back and forth action.
Fedor Emelianenko, one of greatest fighters in the history of MMA, returns to action looking to rebound off the first legitimate loss of his career, facing Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. Emelianenko has left a legacy forged overseas in Japan, where he was the heavyweight champion of Pride. The stoic Russian has found his way to the USA after deciding not to go with the UFC, instead going with Strikeforce. In his Strikeforce debut, Emelianenko knocked out fellow heavyweight grand prix participant Brett Rogers in the second round. He then went on to face Fabricio Werdum, and was submitted early in the first round via triangle choke. Similar mistakes look to be avoided by the legend as he faces another dangerous Brazilian in Antonio Silva. Silva is known for his massive stature, and well rounded game. He's coming off a brutal TKO victory over Mike Kyle, but only after weathering an early scare when he was nearly knocked out by his undersized opponent. Although it's likely that "The Last Emperor" will secure a win in impressive fashion, Silva cannot be overlooked going into this heavyweight grand prix.
The first round of the Strikeforce world heavyweight grand prix begins this Saturday, February 12th, at 10 PM ET, live on Showtime.
After the jump, we check out the back and forth between Shogun and Rampage, where Shogun accused him of "ducking" him. Then, we'll analyze the match up between Jon "Bones" Jones, and light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua, which takes place at UFC 128.
Rampage Jackson Turns Down Title Fight:
UFC light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua talked with Tatame about Rampage not taking the fight:
"The UFC thought in other alternatives, but it didn’t worked out. For some reason he (Jackson) didn’t accepted it", Shogun said, talking about his upcoming fight against Jon Jones. "I’ll have to change my training because he’s a lot different from Rashad, much taller, and it’ll be a great challenge. He’s been surprising everybody in the UFC, defeated everybody with easy, and it’ll be a tough fight for me", he stated.
Rampage is on his path back to the title, but why not jump at the chance to fill the role that his rival Rashad Evans had to pull out from? Well, Rampage answers that question when speaking to MMA Junkie:
"I don't care who the opponent is. I'm not taking a fight on four weeks' notice. It's not enough time to get ready for a five-round fight. Dana knows that. And 'Shogun,' he's a fighter, and he should know that. He shouldn't even go and say [expletive] like that with him being a fighter. He saw me at the fight this weekend. Everybody saw how big I am."
"I'm just doing maintenance training right now. I just started back. I fought right before the holidays, and I went on vacation to see my family and took my kids to see their family in Japan. I've been living my life, so I gained a lot of weight. I'm a natural fighter. I don't do any drugs, and I don't know any high-performance drugs, so I have a natural body. My body gains weight when I don't train and I don't eat like I'm in camp."
"I'm 250 pounds, and I would have to lose 45 pounds in, what, three or four weeks? The first time I fought 'Shogun,' I was injured going into that fight, and it's haunted me all the way up to now. I always believed the second time I fight 'Shogun' that I'm going to be close to 100 percent as possible... I don't want to have a rushed camp and have a last-minute fight to fight someone who's already beaten me. Even if they offered me Forrest (Griffin) or Rashad (Evans) in four weeks, I can't take that fight because I'm too big."
I have no issue with a fighter being smart and knowing when taking a fight is unwise. Rampage has always been about making money in MMA, but in this case, it looks like he took his health and career more seriously than that money mentality typically allows. Rampage is set to take on Thiago Silva in the near future, which is a winnable fight for Rampage, and will likely secure a title shot...no need to take short notice title shots, when one is within arms reach already.
Jon Jones vs. Shogun Rua:
It's been a short road to the title for rising light heavyweight star Jon Jones, but here he is, still green, but challenging for the title. At UFC 126 he made Ryan Bader look clueless on the feet and on the ground, submitting him in the second round after allowing Bader to accomplish nearly nothing throughout the fight.
The champion looks to give the young challenger the hardest test of his career, bringing vicious muay thai, and solid ground game. Rua solved the "Machida puzzle" and now has to solve another problematic striking situation, with Jones having the longest reach in the UFC, and being bigger than not only most light heavyweights, but even bigger than some heavyweights. Jones opened up as a -150 favorite against the champion, making Shogun the underdog with odds makers.
Jones will be forced to do back to back training camps, but his young body can handle that kind of pressure, I don't suspect he'll have a difficult training camp due to time constraints. Working with Greg Jackson means that he's got one of the best camps in the world making sure he takes all the right steps to be healthy come March 19th. Shogun on the other hand, has been training for a completely different kind of fighter, one who's not nearly as big. Building a game plan around a fighter such as Jones takes time, and training to deal with reach also has to be done at length, despite Shogun being a quality kick boxer. Top it off with Shogun coming off injuries, which have been troubling him since coming to the UFC.
Although I don't believe Shogun should be the underdog, I suspect that Jones just might have the answer for the champion here. Should Jones be able to take Shogun down, I'm not sure how long the champion can last with Jones in a dominant position. Jones wasn't able to show off his nasty ground and pound against Ryan Bader, but Bader is a quality wrestler, who is trained to not let his back be pinned to the mat...Shogun won't have that sort of ability to scramble and not let Jones create space. Instead, Shogun may be comfortable with Jones in his guard, looking for submissions...but can he prevent Jones from caving his face in? The fight is too close on paper to say who might win with any sort of confidence, all that is certain is that it will likely be far more exciting than the original match up between Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua.
Photo via Scott Peterson,MMAWeekly