February 11, 2013

First and Worst: Week of February 4 to February 10, 2013

By Adam Martin

First and Worst is an ongoing series for MMARatings.net, where every week Adam will make his pick for the best and worst newly-announced fight of the past week (Monday to Sunday). If you’d like to see any additions to this series, hit him up on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.

First: Andrei Arlovski vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, WSOF 2

My pick for the best fight announced this past week is actually Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis, but since I’ve already written extensively about that fight, I’m going to highlight what I believe is the next-best fight that was announced, and that’s Andrei Arlovski vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, which takes place at World Series of Fighting 2 on March 23 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I absolutely love this fight.

We all know Johnson’s problems with making weight. On three separate occasions in the UFC the former welterweight missed weight, and the third time, when he came in at 197 pounds for a 185-pound fight against Vitor Belfort at UFC 142, was the last straw for the UFC, who cut him immediately after the fight. Since being released he’s gone a perfect 4-0, including three wins by T/KO, each time fighting at either 195 or 205 pounds.

We also all know that Johnson’s days as a welterweight are over, as are his days as a middleweight, because he’s permanently damaged his body trying to make 170 pounds. Instead, he’s a bloated light heavyweight now, and against Arlovski, he’s going to have to pack on the pounds because this fight is actually taking place at heavyweight.

Obviously Arlovski is going to hold the size advantage in this fight. A former UFC heavyweight champion, Arlovski flamed out in Strikeforce, losing all three of his fights in the promotion, and getting the axe soon afterwards, but he still remains a dangerous fighter. Since being cut by Strikeforce, he’s put together a solid 4-0 (1 No Contest) run – including three victories by way of T/KO – and looks to be catching his second career wind.

Both fighters have identical records since their releases from Zuffa, and both fighters are always in exciting fights. So, despite the apparent weight gap, this is the perfect fight for WSOF to book to headline their second fight card.

I’m very intrigued by this fight. Yes, Arlovski will have the size advantage as well as the power advantage, but Johnson is powerful, too, and unlike Arlovski, he can actually take a punch without going out. If “Rumble” goes in and knocks out Arlovski, the UFC will have no choice but to re-sign him and give him a top 10 fight in his return to the big show. And if Arlovski wins, the UFC could conceivably give him one more crack at the big time, too.

This is a great fight and March 23 can’t come soon enough.

Worst: Conor McGregor vs. Marcus Brimage, UFC on FUEL TV 9

I’m not a huge fan of the recently-booked featherweight battle between Conor McGregor and Marcus Brimage, which is set to go down at UFC on FUEL TV 9, also titled UFC Sweden II, on April 6 in Stockholm.

OK, I understand the fight is probably going to be exciting because it pits two of the featherweight division’s top prospects against each other. But that’s precisely the reason why I don’t like the fight.

I don’t know what’s up with the UFC’s matchmaking lately, but I don’t understand why they would match two blue-chip prospects against each other right now and not later on. Why risk having one of them lose, and thus putting an end to his momentum and hurting his confidence?

Sure, a loss in April would only be a temporary setback for either fighter, but it’s just not necessary at this point in their careers.

I guess the UFC, and most of the fans, are expecting McGregor to run right through Brimage, who many feel has been getting lucky with his wins. McGregor is a two-division champion in Cage Warriors over in Europe, and all 12 of his career victories have come by either T/KO or submission. He is a fantastic fighter, and will definitely be a player in the UFC featherweight division at some point or another.

Brimage, on the other hand, was supposed to lose to both Jimy Hettes and Maximo Blanco but he ended up coming through as a massive underdog in both fights. Most expect him to roll over to McGregor, but I’m not so sure of that. In fact, this might be the fight that finally lands Brimage some respect.

This fight kind of reminds me of Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio“Bigfoot” Silva, not because those guys were two prospects on the rise, but more so because Silva was extremely underrated and given no respect by anyone going into that fight against the much-hyped Overeem, and yet he ended up winning it in brutal fashion, derailing Overeem’s path the to the title shot, and having the fans calling him “Alistair Overrated” now instead.

If this happens here, I hope that Brimage is going to be looked at as a serious threat in the UFC featherweight division, because McGregor is a beast and it will take a special fighter to snap his eight-fight win streak. I just hope people don’t say that, if Brimage wins, his opponent McGregor was overhyped anyways, just like they did when he beat Blanco and Hettes, and just like people said about Overeem after “Bigfoot” smashed him.

I would have preferred if the UFC gave Brimage a veteran in his next outing, which will be his fourth UFC fight – a guy like Mike Brown or Clay Guida – while I would have liked the UFC to have given McGregor an easier fight in his UFC debut, someone like Steven Siler or Jason Young. But hey, I’m not Sean Shelby, and this wasn’t my choice.

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