Although UFC is only 17 years old, the origins of the sport can be traced back to a Brazilian mixed-martial art called Vale Tudo (‘anything goes’). The form emerged in Brazilian circuses in the 1920s. Gone were the days when Jiu-Jitsu fighters only took on other Jiu-Jitsu fighters and wrestlers matched up only against other wrestlers – this was a chance for the disciplines to go no holds barred against each other and find the ultimate fighter – hence the name.
UFC has recently blown-up and become a huge phenomenon with die-hard fans. Fantasy UFC online and reality TV spin-offs have done incredibly well, proving that this is probably the most popular form of martial arts in the world today. On April 10 Abu Dhabi is going to be holding the first ever outdoor event in a 12,000 seat custom-built stadium (erected in just 12 weeks) at the ultra-cool Ferrari World on Yas Island. It will kick off at 9pm and will be a smorgasbord of aggression, with 10 fights in total. Here’s our run-down of the key bouts.
Family pride at stake
A key bout for entertaiment value on the night will be the face-off between UFC icon Matt Hughes (who’s had the most UFC title wins in history) and Renzo Gracie (a member of Jiu-Jitsu and UFC royal family, the Gracies). Sure, both fighters are a little past their prime, but family pride is in the ring as Hughes defeated Gracie’s cousin in 2005. Who’s your money on? The 36-year-old Illinois ‘Country Boy’ with a love for wrestling, or the 43-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert with the strongest family lineage possible in UFC?
UFC isn’t for everyone. With most fights going to the ground within the first three minutes, it’s never going to be as spectator friendly as the toe-to-toe action of boxing, while grown men in pants will always hint towards the farce of wrestling rather than hand-to-hand combat. Yet combat is exactly what it is. Two years ago year I convinced my fiancée to join me on a trip to Manchester to catch a round of the UFC. We sat up in the stalls, and watched one man break his arm (not pleasant), another’s chin crack under the weight of a round-house kick to his head (awesome!) and quite a lot of men roll around the ground for a while (boring). In between rounds a gentle-looking man attempted to mop the blood off the canvas. I had the time of my life. My fiancée wouldn’t speak to me for a week. As I say, it’s not for everyone.
Ross Brown, Editor
Round one… Brazilian brawling
Anderson Silva vs Demien Maia – This fight sees Silva defending the Middleweight crown against fellow Brazilian Maia, who has stepped into the ring after original contender Vitor Belfort had to step out due to a
chronic shoulder injury. Both these fighters have a black-belt in the Brazilian art of Jiu-Jitsu, and Silva may be the favourite, but we think Maia might just want it badly enough
Ring name: The Spider
Signature Move: The Thai clinch
Martial art of choice: Loves all of them
Despite being known as more of a Muay Thai fighter, Silva started his training at 14 in Tae Kwon Do and holds a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. He’s considered by many to be pound-for-pound the best fighter in the
world today. He particularly likes fighting on the ground, and is known for his strike. With the longest winning-streak in UFC history (10 wins), he’s the one to watch on the night, but will the pressure to perform prove too much?
Height: 6’ (1.83m)
Ring name: Doesn’t have one
Signature move: Choke holds and submissions
Martial art of choice: Jiu-Jitsu
A lot of fans think that replacing Vitor Belfort with Maia was a bad move: they believe the fighter’s not ready to come up against Silva. We don’t think it’s fair to dismiss Maia: despite coming in at the last minute, he’s spent the past eight weeks in dedicated training, and he calls the opportunity ‘something I’ve dreamed of all my life’. Maia started martial arts training at four years old with judo, then trained in kung fu and karate before settling on his final love, Jiu-Jitsu. Skill and weight play a big part, and Silva is a better bet here, but fights often come down to who wants it the most, and we think Maia might. If UFC doesn’t work out for him, Maia holds a degree in journalism and considers it his fallback career. Just give us a call whenever that day comes, Demien.
Round two… American rivalry
BJ Penn vs Frankie Edgar – Hawaiian Penn is defending his Lightweight belt for the fourth time in this match against New Jersey native Edgar, the number one ranked challenger
Height: 5’9” (1.75m)
Ring name: The Prodigy
Signature move: The rear-naked choke
Martial art of choice: Jiu-Jitsu
The number one lightweight fighter in the world, BJ Penn is a favourite with the fans. He’s affectionately known as ‘Baby Jay’, his childhood nickname as he was the youngest of three brothers who all shared the same name (his parents were imaginative, then). The fighter has held both a Welterweight and Lightweight title, but has since decided to focus on Lightweight. A fantastic fighter on the ground with contortionist-like flexibility, Penn is our pick for showman of the night.
Height: 5’6” (1.68m)
Ring name: The Answer
Signature move: Chain wrestling
Martial art of choice: Wrestling/MMA
Once a plumber, Edgar doesn’t have as strong a martial arts background as the other fighters, but he’s known for his wrestling and boxing finesse. He only came onto the scene in 2007, but he won his first Octagon match against Tyson Griffin. His background is high school wrestling and his story is the American dream: he got into UFC by auditioning for reality show The Ultimate Fighter. Surprisingly, he didn’t make it onto the show, but the judges remembered him and the rest is history. We’re looking forward to seeing Edgar’s attacking style. Some insiders think Gray Maynard should be the contender, but Edgar has been chosen for his stronger overall skill and because he’s more likely to stand and trade with Penn. Should be an exciting match.