Niko Price has produced one of the knockouts of the year at UFC Tampa.
The UFC returns to Australia for the third time in as many years on Saturday. Australian fans have noted that this offering features less star power than the previous two, an allegation which is hard to deny.
Thiago Alves versus Martin Kampmann is a quality match-up, but isn’t much more than a pay-per-view opener. The match is definitely not in the same class as the Cain Velasquez and BJ Penn match-ups we’ve received the past two years.
While the sub-standard card has been heavily discussed, an area that hasn’t received much attention is the subdued presence of the Australian fighters on this card. Aussies James Te Huna, Anthony Perosh and Kyle Noke will fly the flag on Saturday night but they have all been relegated to the preliminary card.
It’s disappointing when you look at the past two Australian events to see that these three fighters plus George Sotiropoulos and Mark Hunt have been the only Australians (rather Australasians) featured in these events. When you factor in the lack of fresh home-grown faces as well as the majority of middling success the fighters have obtained, it’s hardly a mystery why we haven’t received another pay-per-view calibre event.
Amazingly, the most successful out of the five listed is Hunt, who is riding a three-fight win streak, last week defeating heavyweight gatekeeper, Cheick Kongo.
The win finally put Hunt back in the positive in terms of his fight record as he made it eight wins and seven losses. That feat looked very unlikely three fights ago when Hunt, on a six-fight losing streak, told the Roar he could have faced a chair in the cage, and still lose.
It’s a testament to his tenacity that he is now the most highly ranked Australasian fighter inside the UFC. He scores points for enthusiasm as well, as he wanted to fight on Saturday night despite having fought last Sunday. The UFC nixed that plan, which is a shame as the event could have used a Samoan infusion.
This isn’t to slam Saturday’s event, which is a well matched card that also has the novelty of being the first UFC event to showcase their newly introduced flyweight division. It’s more an indictment of the Australian MMA scene, which has definitely slid since this time last year.
After Denis Siver battered George Sotiropoulos out of the lightweight No. 1 position at Acer Arena last February we’ve seen Kyle Noke’s short lived flame get stamped out by Ed Herman, with no real young talent waiting in the wings.
Te Huna shows considerable promise but is still bouncing back from his loss to Alexander Gustaffson, while Perosh has notched back-to-back wins despite glaring stylistic weaknesses which don’t inspire confidence.
I’d back all three fighters to notch wins on Saturday, which will make all Australian fans feel good for the night and will probably hold us over until the proposed Brisbane event later in the year.
However, if Australian MMA doesn’t start producing some exciting new talent, we may not see a fourth Sydney event next year.