Ontario Continues Its String Of High-Level Events
After hosting the biggest event in North American MMA history, as well as a recent Maximum Fighting Championship event, the province of Ontario is set to continue to establish itself as one of the centres of the MMA world. Within the next month, two more very solid cards will be taking place in Canada’s largest province.
The first of those cards is actually taking place tomorrow night in London, home to current and former Zuffa fighters Mark Hominick, Sam Stout, and Chris Horodecki. MMA Live 1, set to be the inaugural event in a series traveling around the province has arrived with relatively little fanfare, especially considering some of the names on the card. This could be due to issues some of the MMA media have had getting credentials and access to the card, including one of Canada’s more recognizable personalities, “Showdown” Joe Ferraro, who tweeted about his struggles to communicate with the promoters, Jones Entertainment Group, a mere 2 days prior to the event.
Regardless of some disorganization on the part of the rookie MMA promoters, the card still looks quite impressive, should it be able to proceed as scheduled. The headliner features former MFC poster boy Ryan Ford against UFC veteran Karo Parisyan, who once again claims he’s past the issues that have plagued him in the past. As always, we won’t truly know if such statements are accurate until fight time, or the hours preceding it. Whether the main event comes unhinged or not, the undercard features some solid action as well. UFC and PRIDE veteran Marcus Aurelio will face off against Canadian Matt MacGrath in the Welterweight co-main event, as Aurelio moves up from his natural weight of 155. Sengoku Featherweight GP participant Nick Denis was also slated to be on the card, but his proposed bout fell through.
For a first time promoter, JEG has put together a card that looks to be entertaining, has some name value, and doesn’t break the bank – a very important factor for a fledgling promotion. They have also intelligently chosen their venue, as London is likely still riding an MMA wave which started with Hominick’s showing at UFC 129. We’ll have a better idea of the success of this card in about 30 hours, but if the bouts run as scheduled and the production isn’t a total disaster, MMA Live 1 should acquit itself as a solid event.
The other card is set on a curious date, June 10th, as it conflicts with UFC 131 – which will undoubtedly have most of the Canadian MMA media’s attention that evening. The event is being produced by the Score Fighting Series, the same group that runs The Score TV network in Canada. Despite the scheduling conflict, this card deserves some attention on its own merits as it will feature one of Canada’s top prospects, Jordan Mein taking on DREAM Welterweight Champion Marius Zaromskis. Mein has to be on the precipice of a Zuffa contract, with a current 4-fight winning streak, including victories over UFC vets Joe Riggs and Josh Burkman under his belt. Zaromskis, while coming off a lamentable win over Kazushi Sakuraba, is still looking to prove himself in North America, as his Strikeforce run provided less than stellar results. A win for Mein would be huge, while a win for Zaromskis would go a long way to repairing his legitimacy in this continent.
Also on this card, we’ll be seeing the return of one of the bigger busts in recent MMA history, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. With a strong Judo background, and devastating knockouts over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona, Sokoudjou was supposed to be the next big thing in the 205lb division. He struggled in the UFC however, and then took a string of meaningless fights in Japan, culminating in a loss in the Super Hluk GP Finals to Minowaman. Since that time Sokoudjou has taken a step out of the MMA spotlight and has quietly attempted to reconstruct his career. He currently sports a two-fight win streak, with one of those wins coming over the solid Jan Blachowicz to earn himself the KSW Light Heavyweight title. While Sokoudjou will never be looked at in the same light as he was in 2007, hopefully he continues to remain committed to working his way back up the MMA ladder, as physically he still possesses almost unlimited talent.
As one looks further down the card you’ll notice many recognizable names, including UFC vets Joe Doerksen, Matt Brown, Luigi Fioravanti and Doug Evans. My eye however is drawn to two Canadian fighters in particular; the first is Antonio Carvalho, who is probably the best Featherweight to ever emerge from Canada. The other is one of Canada’s top Bantamweights, Adrian Wooley.
When the WEC was still a regional promotion without the focus on lighter weights it came to be known for “Pato” was fighting the best 145ers in the world over in Shooto. He is one of only a few fighters to hold a victory over Hatsu Hioki, and also has a win over longtime Japanese standout “Lion” Takeshi Inoue. After a nearly two year absence from competition, Carvalho returned in 2010 and scored two victories in the W-1 MMA promotion. He’ll look to continue to build upon his recent success against Doug Evans, who took part in one of the most entertaining fights in MMA over the past few years (my personal pick for 2009 Fight of the Year) when he went to war with Thierry Quenneville at XMMA 7.
Wooley’s challenge comes in the form of Nick Mamalis, a former Bellator competitor who was actually looked at as one of the favorites for their inaugural 135lb tournament. Mamalis ended up bowing out at the hands of eventual champ Zach Makovsky and has fallen into a bit of a rough patch in his career, dropping 3 of his past 4 fights. Still, Mamalis represents a tough challenge for Wooley, who was one of a significant group of Canadians to try out for The Ultimate Fighter’s upcoming Bantamweight season. As with many lighter weight Canadian fighters, one of Wooley’s biggest issues has been getting fights on a consistent basis, but hopefully with MMA now being sanctioned in Ontario that will become a thing of the past.
Although these two upcoming cards feature numerous high level fighters, and some very intriguing fights, the most compelling storyline in my mind is how MMA in general will fare in the province of Ontario following the UFC stopping into town. Is Ontario really a “mecca” of MMA as many have described it? Or is it simply another UFC hotbed that could care less about smaller organizations in the sport?
MFC 29, which was held in Windsor, prior to UFC 129 was a success on all accounts, drawing a reported 5,000 people and being shown live on HDNet, but with how starved for MMA the province was at that point, I don’t want to extrapolate anything from those results until we see the same type of fan support on a consistent basis. Both the Labatt Centre and Hershey Centre can seat in the range of 10,000 people, so MMA fans in Ontario have their chance over the next month how willing they are to support the sport. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake they show up in droves.