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First Blood

by Archives September 22, 2009

As the saying goes, what goes up must come down. But never was it said that what has come back down could not rise again.
This seems to be the case for the Internet superstar and EliteXC poster boy Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson (3-1) and five-time UFC champion Randy “The Natural” Couture (16-10), who have both been given an opportunity with the UFC. Kimbo gets a spot on the newest instalment of The Ultimate Fighter reality television show and Couture has a multi-fight contract that will have him finish his career within the promotion. However, both fighters will not be blessing the heavyweight ranks as one might expect.
Randy Couture has decided to reinvent himself, again, as a light heavyweight, again. Already a former light heavyweight champion, Couture will be testing the waters of the 205 lbs. division against a formidable opponent, Brandon Vera (11-3), in the main event of UFC 105, set to take place on Nov. 15 in Manchester, England.
Coincidentally, Vera is also a former heavyweight fighter who decided to cut weight after dropping two fights to much larger opponents.
This fight will prove a challenge for “The Natural” as he has been the victim of adept strikers in the 205 lbs. division before, such as Chuck Liddell in their last two encounters. Although, Randy’s legendary status may have Vera feeling the jitters, allowing Randy to set the pace and grind out Vera in the clinch and on the ground, much like his first encounter with Chuck Liddell which previously earned him the light heavyweight crown. Despite his decorated wrestling background, don’t be surprised if Vera’s underrated Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills prove advantageous in the ground game.
As for Kimbo Slice, he has taken a step to legitimize himself in the MMA community by entering The Ultimate Fighter’s 16-man heavyweight tournament. This was probably provoked by UFC president Dana White’s remarks that Kimbo was a backyard brawler, who would only get an opportunity in the UFC if he tried out for the television show (which is geared towards young and generally less-experienced fighters).
Debuting last Wednesday, the show tried to centre itself around Kimbo and his celebrity status, but Kimbo didn’t take the bait; he remained humble among the other 15 contestants and impressed the coaches with his quick hands and boxing skills, while admitting weakness in his grappling abilities.
Though he appears an early favourite to win the tournament, Kimbo will face tough competition in other experienced fighters appearing on the show, such as the last IFL heavyweight champion Roy “Big Country” Nelson (13-4) and UFC veteran Wes Sims (22-12-1). Sims is infamous for his back-to-back fights with Frank Mir (12-4), the first of which saw Sims disqualified for stomping the head of a downed Mir.
As for opinions of Kimbo among his cast-mates and coaches, those of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (30-7) and “Sugar” Rashad Evans (13-1-1) mirror that of the public at large. Jackson and his selected team took to the YouTube icon in star struck awe, while Evans and his team of fighters saw an overrated, ratings-booster with a target on his back.
Despite Kimbo’s celebrity status, he is joined by a number of famed cast-mates, including former NFL players Marcus Jones, and legendary MMA trainer Greg Jackson, who will be assisting Evans and his 8-man team.
So it seems the UFC has a taste for the nostalgic as Randy and Kimbo are the most prominent fighters to be welcomed back to the promotion. Others include Dennis Hallman, Phil Baroni, Vladimir Matyushenko and of course last Saturday’s headliner at UFC 103, Vitor Belfort.

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