This Saturday night the MMA landscape will enter a new era of competition. The UFC's rise in recent years has been spectacular and unparalleled. However, it was a rise without competition. Affliction: Banned is the first shot in an MMA war that will change the sport. With a second option, fighters will have more opportunites. It will not simply be up to the UFC to decide when a fighter is allowed to fight. It will also force the UFC to do things it normally would not do, such as schedule the July 19 Fight Night. MMA fans across the world should embrace Affliction, because in the end they are the ones who will benefit most.
Now onto the Affliction: Banned preview...
Mike Pyle vs JJ Ambrose
Mike Pyle is best known for being one of the only two fighters to defeat the UFC's Jon Fitch. Of course that was 6 years ago and a lot has changed since then. Still, I like Pyle to win this match by submission.
Renato Sobral vs Mike Whitehead
Renato "Babalu" Sobral hopes to get back to his old form against Mike Whitehead of Xtreme Couture. Babalu used to be a fan favorite until he went all vigilante at UFC 74 and refused to let go of a choke on David Heath. That led to his dismissal from the UFC and since then he hasn't been on the MMA map all that much. Mike Whitehead, on the other hand, enters the fight riding a 12 match win streak that stretches back to February 2006 when he lost a decision to Keith Jardine at UFC 57 (My God that seems like it was a hundred years ago). In this match, I think Whitehead's wrestling will prevail and allow him to control the action from the top. It will end with the referee running in to save Babalu from further punishment.
Matt Lindland vs Fabio Negao
This is one of those weird fights that looks too easy to call. I would not be surprised to see a Hail Mary Leg Kick come out of no where and win the fight for Negao. Ok, back to reality. Lindland wins it by TKO.
Josh Barnett vs Pedro Rizzo
For anyone that has never seen Josh Barnett fight, you are in for a treat. He almost always puts on a great show. Rizzo owns a victory over Barnett back in 2001. This time should be different. Barnett has seemed reenergized by the emergence of Affliction and I believe he will end this fight in grand fashion. Barnett takes the rematch over Rizzo by TKO.
Andrei Arlovski vs Ben Rothwell
Arlovski is a tough fighter to figure out. He can look menancing in the ring or totally apathetic. Word is Arlovski has spent his time working on his stand-up with legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach. If Andrei takes this fight seriously and is not looking ahead to a rumored HBO boxing match in the future, he should carve through Rothwell. I've had two sources tell me that Rothwell is no joke and could pull off the upset of the night. With Arlovski you really never know until the bell rings, but I think he will continue his winning streak. Arlovski wins with a TKO in first round.
Fedor Emelianenko vs Tim Sylvia
In the main event we get to see the most consistently great MMA fighter in the history of the sport go against one of the least beloved fighters ever. I've followed Tim Sylvia for a long time and I still can not put my finger on why I don't like him. Maybe it's because he never looks in shape for a fight. There is something about seeing a fighter with fat hanging over his shorts that turns me off. I just can't be a fan of a fighter like that. On the other side of the spectrum we have "The Last Emperor" Fedor Emelianenko, who not only has the coolest nickname in MMA, but also is the greatest fighter on the planet. You can count the people cheering for Tim Sylvia on your hands - his cornermen, his family, and Dana White. Other than that, the planet is tuning in to see Fedor kill a guy with flab hanging over his shorts. "The Last Emperor" wins this one by Submission.