UFC 108 - The build up...
UFC 108 has seen a tortuous build-up, featuring injuries to so many announced fighters that suspicions about the venue having been built on an Indian burial ground were raised.
No doubt any number of Las Vegas gamblers would agree. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva has still managed to offer a card featuring a number of well matched fights, including the return to the Octagon of TUF 10 coach Rashad Evans, Pride veteran Gilbert Yvel, and up-and-coming British wdaelterweight Paul “Semtex” Daley.
The headline fight sees “Suga” Rashad Evans against Brazilian knockout artistl Thiago Silva, with both men looking to progress toward title shots in the light-heavyweight division.
Evans will be looking to avenge the KO defeat of his training partner Keith Jardine at the hands of Silva, and his prior success in claiming the championship belt from Forrest Griffin sees him go into this fight a 4/9 favourite.
Silva, at 13/8 has much more than a punchers chance, but it may be his punching that offers his greatest hope of victory.
The British interest on this card comes in the form of Nottingham fighter Paul “Semtex” Daley. Daley, true to his nickname, exploded onto the UFC scene with a brutal TKO victory over Martin Kampmann, putting on hold Kampmann’s hopes of a title shot at Georges St Pierre.
The Muay Thai fighter faces Jiu Jitsu ace Dustin Hazelett, holder of a “Submission of the Year” accolade for 2008 following his armbar defeat of Josh Burkman at The Ultimate Fighter Six Finale.
This could be the closest fight of the night with a classic striker vs. grappler matchup, and the combatants are priced at 4/5 Daley, 10/11 Hazelett.
The heavyweight division sees one of its potential stars of the future in action, as Brazilian Junior Dos Santos takes on 50-fight veteran Gilbert Yvel.
Dos Santos comes off an extremely impressive shock victory over Fabricio Werdum, and subsequent victories over fellow heavyweight tyro Stefan Struve and Pride GP champion Mirko “Cro Cop” Fillipovic.
At 1/3 to win here, Dos Santos is undoubtedly being built up for an eventual title shot, and must prove he is up to the challenge by defeating the resilient Dutchman. Seasoned pro Yvel, a 9/4 shot in this fight, has wins over Pedro Rizzo, Cheick Kongo and Valentijn Overeem – more significant however may be his recent loss to Josh Barnett where he weathered a lot of punishment on the way to a third round TKO defeat.
Also on the main card, Joe Lauzon and Sam Stout trade off, and the event is completed by – further injuries permitting – a lightweight bout between Jim Miller and Duane Ludwig.
The latter fight has suffered more than any by drop-outs due to injury, but the final announced matchup has been applauded by many MMA fans. Miller has a solid wrestling and BJJ base, and a record of 15-2 including wins over TUF 6 winner Mac Danzig, and Matt Wiman.
He faces a Muay Thai kick boxer in 31 year old Duane “BANG” Ludwig, who steps in for an injured Sean Sherk.
Ludwig has a win over former UFC Lightweight champion Jens Pulver on his C.V., and will be hoping to tie down a spot back in the UFC with a performance that has one eye on the win and one on entertaining the fans.
Joe Lauzon will look to justify his price of 1/3 with a convincing defeat of Sam Stout, most likely by tying up the brawler on the ground, using the experience earned from his 14 previous submission victories.
Lauzon, a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu -and who’s younger brother Dan takes on Cole Miller on the preliminary card – made his name by also achieving a win over Jens Pulver – a 48 second knockout at UFC 64 which saw him overcome odds of 7/1.
Stout, a Muay Thai fighter with 8 knockout victories from 14 wins has gone to a decision in each of his last four fights, splitting them 2 and 2. At 9/4 he must be looking to end the fight without leaving it to the judges.
The preliminary card fights include Martin Kampmann looking to regain status after that loss to Paul Daley by beating Jacob Volkmann, light-heavyweight prospect Steve Cantwell taking on veteran Vladimir Matyushenko, and welterweight Jake Ellenberger – loser of a thrilling back-and-forth fight at UFN 19 to Carlos Condit – taking on Mike Pyle, proving that even without the many injured fighters intended to fight at 108, the UFC has great strength in depth.