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Why UFC 116 got better

(“Oh, hello there!”)

For all the stacked cards we get from Zuffa, every little while they pull a card from the boxing deck and promote a show that’s based solely around the main event. You can’t really blame them because most of the people who are gonna plunk down their hard earned (or stolen) money don’t care about anything but ‘the big fight’. It makes no difference to them whether it’s Quinton Jackson or Eugene Jackson in the co-main. They’re already buying the show regardless of what’s underneath the fight they want to see, so it makes sense for Zuffa not to load up the card with headliners they could save for other events.

The UFC is pushing 116 as the most ginormous show in history next to 100, mostly because of the two ginormous men who will be fighting in the main event. Actually, all because of them. Seriously, the undercard was nice, but not befitting of such a big event. We’ve got two – count them, two – rematches between guys who are fun but not relevant, and a curtain-jerker with two guys we’ve already seen lose a buncha times. The fights were going to be like a Youtube &feature=related”>clip of a dog with human hands – sure it’s entertaining, but you forget about it when it’s over.

The only other fight on the card with a little bit of interest was Wanderlei Silva finally meeting up with Yoshihiro Akiyama. But all fell apart when Wanderlei got injured and couldn’t be duct taped back together enough to make the fight. Sure, we got deprived of the epic entrance music duel between “Sandstorm” and “That &feature=related”>Song From The Catalina Wine Mixer”, but in its place we’ve been given a MUCH better fight. With Wanderlei in a full body cast or whatever, Chris Leben was called to step in on two weeks’ notice. Despite all the whining and crying from people, and even Akiyama himself, the UFC 116 co-main event has gone from ‘interesting’ to ‘awesome’.

Saying Leben is a downgrade makes as much sense as the lyrics to “Dayman”. Wanderlei is a legend in the sport, so much that Akiyama turned down all other opponents, but competitively he isn’t much of a match for the Jukoda at this point in his career. The fight seems like it was made more to get some leverage on the Asian television markets than anything else. It was probably a blessing that Wand was injured because Leben possesses all the skills to turn this into a barnburner that gets even more Monday morning water cooler talk.

Dont’ agree? Let me explain why:

- Akiyama is too technical for Wanderlei
Akiyama showed just how slick his hands are in the Alan Belcher fight. He completely lit up a mediocre Muay Thai striker, easily winning the fight (no matter how much Joe Rogan cried about it).

- Akiyama is too tough for 185 pound Wanderlei
The lone?wmode=transparent” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen> “>couldn’t replicate the same amount of asskicking when he fought Akiyama.

- Wand has only KOed Jardine in the past five years, his only top ten win in the same amount of time
Silva hasn’t shown much of his Axe Murderer style in the past half-decade. He’s got wins over Bisping, who did a great Lance Armstrong impression, and Keith Jardine, who can be KOed if it’s too windy outside.

- Wand doesn’t have the chin to survive Akiyama
Let’s face it, Wanderlei isn’t anywhere near as tough as he used to be. It’s a sad fact, but that’s what decades of hard sparring and bare-knuckle fighting will do. Akiyama’s combos would have lit up Silva just like Vitor Belfort did.

- Leben can survive almost anyone’s offense
Patrick Cote, Jorge Rivera, Mike Swick, Terry Martin, Alessio Sakara and Michael Bisping, all primarily strikers, didn’t even make Chris Leben blink. The guy can absorb damage like nobody else in the sport, save for Anderson’s sniper rifle punches.

- Leben has a top ten win at 185
This is what makes the fight more interesting. Unlike Wanderlei, Leben actually has a win over someone currently ranked in the top ten of the Middleweight division. Not only that, it was a gruesome knockout. Chris Leben could make himself very relevant if he can say he knocked off both #9 and #10 in Sherdog’s rankings.

In short: unlike Wanderlei, Leben has the chance to actually beat Akiyama, sending him back to Korea where the competition’s a little easier.