The UFC’s penultimate event for 2017 is a surprisingly stacked Fight Night card taking place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Although the athletes who will be at ground level all week long may not be thrilled at the prospect of braving the brunt of a Canadian winter; fans have a lot to look forward to on Saturday night.
The UFC has, for the past few years, been committed to putting on more shows than is palatable for its viewing audience. Its last card in Fresno had two decent fights (both on paper and in practice) while the remainder of the card was composed of regional-level talent who really had no place in the sports elite organization. The final free fight card of the year has gone in a different direction, featuring a number of compelling matchups.
That is not to say that they have changed their ways entirely. Indeed until the UFC purges some of their bloated roster, and cuts down on both the number and duration of their events (which can go 7+ hours!) you will continue to hear these criticisms being made. But one must also recognize the good when it is apparent and a quick look at the card for fans in Winnipeg will reveal just that.
Besides the main card, to which we will return to shortly, nearly every bout scheduled for Saturday night features at least one notable name: Elliot, Laprise, Taleb, Mein, Blachowicz and Cannonier. While none of these men are the next Conor McGregor, they all absolutely belong in the UFC. There are certainly a few men on the card who are arguably undeserving of the brightest spotlight in MMA, and that remains an endemic problem with the way the UFC operates, however by-and-large the card is extremely respectable, especially for free.
When looking specifically at the main card its hard to really find a single thing worth complaining about. In terms of quality/cost ratio, this main card is truly the best of the best. Each bout is extremely intriguing both for its own merit, as well as for its importance for its respective division.
At Light Heavyweight, both Glover Teixeira and Misha Cirkunov will attempt to bounce back after brutal KO losses. In a division as thin as 205, the winner of this Top 10 matchup will certainly find themselves right back in the conversation. The same case can be made for the night’s Co-Main Event in which Ricardo Lamas will face undefeated Josh Emmett for a pole position at Featherweight. With Edgar next in line and Ortega likely in need of another bout, the winner of Saturday’s Co-Main could easily find themselves on the short list with an opportunity to end the “Blessed Era”.
While the Main Event features two former champions vying for another shot at supremacy, a fight that speaks for itself, there is arguably more buzz surrounding another main card bout. There were a lot of people who hated Mike Perry when he debuted in the UFC; Hell, there are a lot of people who still do. There are a ton of criticisms to be made about the way he acts and even the way he fights, but there can be no doubt that he is the People’s Main Event.
When Mike Perry steps into the cage you know you are going to be in for a fight. 11 of his 11 wins are by KO. He does not care to grapple, nor does he throw anything without 100% power. His opponent too, is a reputable knockout artist sporting an equally impressive 14 KO wins. On paper this bout is a dream for the UFC. The hardcore fans will love it because they know both men’s stories, personalities, and talents. Perhaps more importantly though the causal fans, like the unwashed Roman masses, just want to see two gladiators fight to the death.
At the risk of derailing all the hype surrounding this fight, one important tendency must be noted. Ponzinibbio has earned a reputation — and not unduly — for employing a less-than-legal plan of attack. In his last fight against Gunnar Nelson, the Argentinian committed at least three separate acts of eye poking, which went unnoticed by the referee and led to a KO win. While this fight was probably the most egregious example of this behaviour, it is by no means an isolated incident.
Mike Perry is not the kind of man who will call for the referee at any point in a fight even if he should receive a foul blow; rather, he is more likely to be enraged and charge forward with reckless abandon. There is no doubt that his camp is aware of Ponzinibbio’s habit but for fans watching it will be interesting to note whether or not eye pokes will play a factor — even if they only act as a deterrent. Aside from that one potentially controversial factor this fight should be nothing less than fireworks.
From top to bottom fans in Winnipeg should get an exciting card. The UFC has booked both a number of native residents as well as high-ranked athletes in atypical fashion. While the prelims are of respectably quality, it is the main card and the people’s main event that really have fans fired up. Everyone has a lot going on in their lives especially during the holidays. People are stressed out, they have shopping to do, and they dread visiting friends and family; however, when Saturday night rolls around and Mike Perry faces off against Santiago Ponzinibbio, no one will be thinking about anything but the chaos unfolding before them.