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New Fight Announcements

Explosion Fight Night 3There has been an onslaught of fight announcements in the past few days.  To keep you up to speed, we're putting them together here in one story, so let's get to it.

Feb. 19 - Shootboxing act.1: We previously announced that UFC veteran Kuniyoshi Hironaka would be on this card against an opponent TBA.  His opponent is now set, and it's Satoru Suzuki.  The Japanese ex-boxer had a good year in Shootboxing in 2010, but ended the year breaking his arm and being forced out of the S-Cup.  This is his first fight back from the injury.

Feb. 26 - Golden Glory Eindhoven: Top 10 fighter Nieky Holzken is in action, facing Thilo Schneider in a Golden Glory sponsored event.  Holzken is moving back and forth between the 70 and 77kg limits these days - hopefully he can settle down and find where he fights best this year.

Feb. 27 - RISE 74: A few good fights set for the latest edition of Japan's RISE promotion.  The show will feature two title fights: 60kg champion Kan Itabashi faces Kousuke Komiyama, while 63kg champion Koji Yoshimoto meets Yusuke Sugawara.  The show will also include the retirement of former K-1 MAX fighter Tatsuji.  Full card at HeadKickLegend.

March 6 - It's Showtime Amsterdam: IS added a pair of interesting fights to their first show of 2011.  First, Wendell Roche fights Danyo Ilunga for the vacant IS 95kg title.  We'll have more on this fight in the coming weeks.  Plus, Chahid Oulad El Hadj vs. Robin van Roosmalen in what should be an exciting match up.

March 12 - Fight Nights: Battle of Moscow: Top 5 MW Albert Kraus headlines this show against Batu Khasikov.  Kraus is a busy fighter who takes a fair number of these smaller fights, typically knocking his opponents out.  But as Souwer showed us this weekend - anything can happen.

April 2 - Explosion Fight Night 3: This French Muay Thai event is notable for a 4 man K-1 rules tournament that will feature Sudsakorn.  The Thai fighter is popping up everywhere these days, already having turned in two high profile fights in 2011 against Khem Sitsongpeenong and Giorgio Petrosyan.  He's also entering a lot of tournaments, which is a smart move for the experience.  The other participants are Michael Piskitello, Michale Lallemand, and Mohammed Rahoui.

April 24 - REBELS 7: Former K-1 MAX Korea GP champion Chi Bin Lim meets Daiki Watabe.  Good to see Chi Bin Lim here, as he looked very good at the K-1 MAX Final 16 last year, but has seemingly been passed in the MAX pecking order by his countryman Su Hwan Lee.

May - Local Kombat: This one is not 100% confirmed yet, but Local Kombat revealed that their May event will likely be headlined by Daniel Ghita vs. Alexey Ignashov.  Ignashov is notoriously hard to stop or even knockdown, but he's not looked good lately, and I have to think Ghita may be the man to finally stop him here.

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Jon Jones Earns Shot at Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 128

Jon JonesTonight at UFC 126, Jon "Bones" Jones took the fight to Ryan Bader. Both men were seen as huge prospects for UFC's 205lbs division, and after a slick guillotine choke from the top, Ryan Bader moves down the ladder a bit and Jon Jones moves up. Jones demonstrated some superb ground work against Bader and was able to use his reach advantage to keep Bader at bay.

Jones' stand up still leaves a lot to be desired, with his stance, movement and lack of set-ups. All of the big strikes he threw had a lot of power behind them and looked right on target, but not as many connected as could have if he actually set the strikes up. This includes a left high kick, a few big hooks and a Remy Bonjasky-style flying kick.

So what is the point of all of this? In what was a WWE or even Oprah moment for UFC, Joe Rogan came into the cage to tell Jon Jones that Rashad Evans was injured and at UFC 128 the UFC would like Jon Jones to step in for him and challenge Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. It is a huge step up in competition for Jon Jones, and honestly the fight of his life. Shogun's striking, while a bit on the brawling side due to the Chute Boxing style of Muay Thai, is still technically sound and does lots of damage.

Jones has a reach advantage over Rua, but that wouldn't be the first time he has given up reach, and it also isn't the first time he has gone into the fight without a giant hype train behind him. When he challenged Lyoto Machida, Machida had endless momentum and it turns out wasn't prepared for Muay Thai, and now Jon Jones is in the same position. Jones is most definitely a great prospect, but there are serious holes in his stand up that Ryan Bader was able to exploit tonight and not enough time to fix them before the fight.

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Vitor Belfort: Pro Boxer

Vitor Belfort and Anderson SilvaYesterday we took a look at Anderson Silva as part 1 of our LiverKick.com take on Saturday’s big UFC 126 showdown between Silva and Vitor Belfort.  If you missed it, be sure to read that article here for a look at Silva’s Muay Thai and Pro Boxing careers.  Today, part 2 as we examine the boxing career of Saturday’s challenger: “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort.

Belfort’s career as a boxer has many similarities to Silva’s.  Belfort has just one pro boxing bout to his name, and like Silva, Belfort’s opponent was another one and done fighter.  But while Silva tried his hand at boxing just before hitting his MMA peak, Vitor’s boxing debut came at a very different point on his career trajectory.

Belfort made his boxing debut in April 2006, and while it was a small show in Brazil, there were many eyes on the fight.  Because Vitor Belfort was only a year removed from his 2nd UFC run and the classic series of fights with Chuck Liddell, Marvin Eastman, Randy Couture, and Tito Ortiz.  In the time since leaving the UFC, he had taken two fights (including his first encounter with Alistair Overeem); he had also spoken openly about his plans to compete as a boxer.

The idea of Vitor Belfort as a boxer makes a lot of sense.  Despite talk of his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu pedigree, Vitor is and always has been a largely one dimensional MMA fighter, using his hand speed and power throughout his career (Belfort did try out a new wrestling based style in Pride, which was successful, though incredibly boring).  And so fans were interested in what kind of skills Belfort the boxer would bring to the table when he met Josemario Neves.

As it turns out, Vitor Belfort the boxer is not much different from Vitor Belfort the MMA fighter, which in all honesty is not a bad thing.  Belfort’s strength has always been his boxing, so for him to focus on those skills and really keep his game tuned to this strength is a smart move.  And here we do see some nice examples of Belfort tightening up his technique.  One quick exchange I like comes when Neves tries to trap Belfort against the ropes.  Once he has Vitor pushed back, Neves goes for a punch, but Belfort ducks the punch and steps out to the side, escaping the punch and the bad positioning in one fluid motion.

This fight really displays Vitor’s greatest strength – the killer instinct and knowledge of when to finish a fight.  Belfort is one of the best at this in the history of MMA – once he tags you, he simply unloads until you are done.  If you watch Vitor’s left hand here you can see when he decides to switch gears and end the fight.  For the majority of the fight, he keeps that left hand high and close to his chin in a very strong defensive position, ready to block any incoming punches.  Once he hurts Neves just before the first knockdown, he gives up that defense in favor of landing as many heavy shots as he can as quickly as he can.  In some ways it’s a gamble – leaving yourself open to go for the kill can get you hit – but Belfort knows when to time it so that he stays safe.  It’s telling that Belfort has used that flurry to KO numerous opponents, but never once has an opponent landed a counter strike to drop Belfort during these rapid fire attacks.

One other interesting aspect from this fight is that, because this is boxing and not MMA, Vitor needs to do more than just overwhelm his opponent once suddenly – he needs to hurt him enough to keep him down or continue the assault after his opponent has time to recover.  Here, Vitor’s power is not enough to keep Neves down for a 10 count, but it is enough that after the first knockdown, the fight is essentially over.  The moment they begin to exchange again after that initial knockdown, it’s clear that Neves has nothing left to offer.  Vitor swarms him again, then once more for the 3 knockdown victory.

When he faces Anderson Silva tomorrow night, all it will take is one opening for Vitor to launch that rapid fire attack, overwhelm Silva once, and again become UFC champion (though hopefully this time it will be a bit more legitimate).  What’s tricky for Belfort is that, while no man has yet countered that quick attack, if there’s any man to do it, it’s Silva.  Will Silva give Belfort the opening he needs?  And if he does, will the sublime striking we know Silva is capable of be able to save him?  We’ll know soon enough.

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UPDATED: Melvin Manhoef Fighting in Strikeforce March 5

(C) Susumug.comSometimes being Marvelous means people will get confused when they talk about you, apparently that is what is going on with "Marvelous" Melvin Manhoef. Earlier today, MMAJunkie broke some news that Melvin Manhoef will be fighting for Strikeforce on March 5th against Tim Kennedy. Tim was originally slated to fight Luke Rockhold, but that fell through.

Ever the vigilant fight fan, Bloodstain Lane (yes, Bloodstain Lane) so artfully told everyone on Twitter that Melvin Manhoef was not fighting Tim Kennedy, that it was faulty information. Manhoef was going to be fighting on that card, but that is not his opponent. So, now this evening, Manhoef himself cleared the air about his upcoming fight: Melvin Manhoef will be facing Luke Rockhold at Strikeforce: Columbus.

We'll have to wait to see what the official word from Strikeforce is, as well as what will become of Tim Kennedy, but Melvin Manhoef fighting again in the US means that we can expect fireworks for sure. With only one armbar win to his credit, Rockhold does not seem to pose a threat to Manhoef's kryptonite of sorts, but Rockhold is a strong wrestler with an impressive four rear naked choke victories. He has never faced a striker as dynamic, powerful and skilled as Melvin, so he should look out.

Manhoef's career has spanned K-1, It's Showtime, DREAM, HERO*s, Cage Rage and more. Manhoef has knocked opponents out all over the world, 27 times in kickboxing competition, 23 times in MMA competition. Rockhold is in for the fight of his life.

UPDATE: Melvin Manhoef was armbarred by the internet, it seems, as he just moments ago announced on his Twitter that Luke is injured and that he'll be fighting Tim Kennedy. The news, it just comes slower in the Netherlands, alright?

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