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Brian Lo-A-Njoe vs Shinya Aoki is a classic example of how Pride’s booking style is completely retarded yet totally awesome all at the same time. Why the hell would they put Aoki, a rising lightweight star who should be getting groomed for a title shot, against some random crazy dude? Who cares? Check out those flying knees? Lo-A-Njoe made a fan out of me no matter how easily he was dispatched. Watching him fight was like playing Street Fighter 2 all over again.

I was just as dumbfounded as everyone else when Matt Serra knocked out Georges St Pierre. I was watching UFC69 specifically to see GSP fight … never in a hundred years did I expect Serra to pull an upset like this, or so effortlessly. Anyways, you’ve read that 1001 times already. What you haven’t read about is what this means to the UFC’s welterweight division.

After a cooling off period, I’m starting to think that this isn’t that bad of a situation. At the beginning of 2007 you had Georges St Pierre and Matt Hughes sitting at the top of the welterweight division, seemingly invincible. For all it’s promise and reputation as the most stacked division in the UFC, the reality of the situation was that no one could touch these two guys … Diego Sanchez was still too green, Karo Parisyan was stuck in the shuffle, BJ Penn was wrapped up in TUF5. What was the average fan to do other than wait for Matt Hughes to fight his way back to #1 contender and take on Georges?

Even that prospect was looking pretty grim after Matt Hughes had a lackluster win against Chris Lytle. There was no way he seemed ready to face GSP again. Add Diego Sanchez’s loss and all of a sudden the two top contenders are no longer looking in any shape to fight for a title. If Georges had defeated Matt Serra like he was supposed to there would have been a pretty big gap between top dog and contenders, similar to what we’re stuck with in the Light Heavyweight division.

But with the loss, things just got very interesting. The welterweight ladder, once mashed into the middle with two elite at the top, just got spread a lot more evenly.

If Diego Sanchez had won against Josh Koscheck, I don’t doubt it’d be him we’d be seeing facing Matt Serra for his first title defense. But his loss paves the way for Matt Hughes to step up for a fight against Serra … perhaps the only exciting matchup that people WANT to see the TUF4 winner in. Instead of another shitty tune up fight that will annoy the fans and generate only middling PPV buys, Hughes will be battling for his belt, which is always a huge sell for the UFC. And of course the UFC will then have the winner of that fight face the winner of a GSP vs X opponent bout. I doubt it’ll be Diego taking on GSP … Dana White wants the love triangle of Diego-GSP-Hughes to play out in title fights.

Unfortunately I don’t smoke crack so I can’t be sure what Joe Silva is going to do, but I expect GSP fight Luke Cummo. Cummo’s link with Serra Jiu Jitsu and Silva’s apparent love of feeding promising talent to it’s rebounding stars make it add up in my head. Diego? I’ll bet he’s going to face the winner of Parysian/Burkman. Diego/Parisyan 2 would be a big sell and would also cement yet another #1 contender for whoever comes out on top in the GSP/Hughes/Serra bouts.

Regardless the point is this: What at first seemed like a disaster for the UFC’s Welterweight division actually sets us up for several exciting championship drives for the rest of the year.

Two weird things going on during the final Pride show.

First things first, there’s an official looking flyer going around for the next PRIDE event implying that Matt Hughes and Diego Sanchez were going to participate in the PRIDE lightweight tournament on May 20th. Now in ‘Reality’, the chances of this happening are ‘snowball’s chance in hell’. So it raises the question : what the fuck?

PRIDE’s got a rep for implying that fighters are going to fight on a card, and then the fighters don’t. Just look at Wanderlei Silva, Dennis Kang, and at least 4-5 others who were announced as participating at PRIDE34. This actually happens so much it’s a pretty big joke amongst MMA fans, and no one believes the lineup promises until an actual match is confirmed.

This was one of the things that we all assumed would end with Sakakibara’s reign. Of course, his reign only ended on Saturday, so who’s to say he’s not behind this last act of false promotional hype? It’ll definately be interesting to see if this kind of stuff continues after he leaves. Originally i thought not. Now, after reading so much stuff from and about the Japanese fight media, I think it’s just an integral part of how stuff is promoted in Japan.

Second thing: The Sakuraba / Tamura thing. Yeah … speaking as an ‘outsider’, this was pretty weird. Considering K1 and Zuffa are gearing up to go to war, it just doesn’t make sense that Sakuraba would be allowed to return to Pride. Of course, I don’t understand the nuances behind the Japanese scene and Sakuraba.

It seems like Saku has a good amount of pull and respect in Japan, enough to do what he wants when he wants to do it. Is it possible that this massive fight in Pride (and don’t kid yourselves, this is gonna be huge in Japan) was forced down K1’s throat, with Saku using the Smirnovas/Akiyama controversies as leverage? Or perhaps there’s just so much honor going around that when Sakuraba asks for something, he gets it? A final and more tinfoil possibility is the idea that this match will never happen in PRIDE, and that it will actually happen in K1. Could it somehow make sense that Sakakibara, stepping down from PRIDE, used the final show as a platform to set up this match for another promotion? You’ve seen Sakakibara use a similar kind of bait & switch before with Wanderlei Silva and the UFC.

Anyways, there’s two random thoughts for you.

Yeah, we’re back to blogging as well. Fightlinker started as a blog and now we’re returning to our roots. I haven’t decided on a voice yet … insightful … crass … serious … funny … high brow … crude. Hmmm. So many voices, so little time. I’m sure things will yo-yo day by day depending on my mood and the quality of the painkillers I get down by the docks. So for now sit back, relax, and try not to take anything I say too seriously. More than likely, I’m just as dumb if not dumber than you.

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