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Justin Wilcox Easily Beats Vitor Ribeiro, Looks Like a Strikeforce Contender

I got to see the Strikeforce Challengers 12 in Jackson, Mississippi on Friday night and was entertained by some of the fights. The only disappointment came in the middle of the card when the Marius Zaromskis-Waachiim Spirit Wolf fight was called after six seconds because Spirit Wolf was poked in the eye. That would have been an exciting fight, but Justin Wilcox made up for it putting on a clinic in the main event.

The former wrestler and bodybuilder gave up little ground to Shaolin, the Dream veteran, winning by unanimous decision. Wilcox won the fight 30-27 on all three judges’ cards and really was only damaged a few times when he took shots to the face. He beautifully fended off any attempts by Ribeiro to get a takedown, dropping his hips and blocking Shaolin from grabbing his legs. Wilcox decided to win the fight using his stand-up game and constantly peppered Ribeiro with punches to the body and face, doing a good amount of damage.

At 5’6″ and 155lbs, Wilcox is an absolute beast, earning the nickname “The Silverback” for his muscular stature. He is a physical specimen with good conditioning, and his stand-up game is strong, serving as a nice complement to his wrestling game. The only area where it appears Wilcox needs work is how he beats his opponents. Eight of his 10 wins have come by decisions with one coming by TKO and the other by submission. You’d like to see more variety in what he can do to beat his foes, but he looks like an emerging contender.

UFC-WEC Merger Means Big (and Little) Things for MMA

UFC President Dana White announced today through conference call that the UFC would merge with its lighter-weight sister company, the WEC, adding their lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight divisions to the UFC, starting in January 2011.  MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani with the exclusive.

With that announcement came several other developments, the most exciting of which is that WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will be the first WEC fighter to represent the brand, as he defends his featherweight title on the UFC 125 card (Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard 2) on New Year’s.  For those who are more casual fans of MMA, Aldo (18-1, 8-0 WEC) is one of the most exciting young fighters in the sport and is considered one of the best 3-5 pound-for-pound fighter in the World depending on the list.  His destruction of Mike Brown to win the title and Urijah Faber to defend the title are already stuff of legends.  Google that man.

Also, the winner of Ben Henderson-Anthony Pettis will face the winner of Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard. Henderson (12-1, 5-0 WEC) is the dynamic WEC lightweight champion and his first fight with Donald Cerrone to win the interim title was largely considered the most exciting MMA fight of 2009.  Giving these guys first crack at the lightweight title is a strong endorsement of the WEC brand by the UFC.

For serious MMA fans, this move was pretty obvious and certainly well-deserved.  For newer and more casual MMA fans, we’re all in for a treat as these lighter weight guys are Fight of the Night-type fighters every night.  This will allow them to earn the money they deserve and the mainstream recognition they deserve fighting on pay-per-view cards and under the UFC banner.

UFC Going to Network TV in 2011, Potential MMA Channel in Future

Though the popularity of MMA is growing immensely, there aren’t too many places to find coverage of the UFC on TV. There’s Spike, Versus, and of course pay-per-view for most of the big cards. Strikeforce has been on CBS and their cards are found on Showtime, HDNet airs Dream fights, and Bellator cards are seen on Fox Sports channels. But good news for the growth of the UFC in particular, Dana White says the organization is looking into network TV deals for 2011 with a UFC or MMA channel a possibility for the future.

He wasn’t able to get into many specifics during an interview with Broadcasting & Cable, but he said they’re in the process of working on several deals. FOX and NBC were mentioned as possibilities. As for a potential MMA or UFC channel? It appears as if one is forthcoming according to White, who said “Sports Business Journal just came out with a survey asking big names in the industry which sport could start its own network and 4 out of 5 said us. They are right. I agree. That will happen within the next couple years.”

There have been talks of the UFC going to network TV for the past few years and nothing has emerged, but Strikeforce did break that barrier debuting on CBS. The notable information here is the possibility that they start their own network, like MLB Network, NFL Network, The Golf Channel, The Tennis Channel, and all the other sports with their own channels. It’s probably just a matter of time before we see both items happen.

Weight Loss to Blame for Jake Shields’ Underwhelming UFC Debut?

Jake Shields made his UFC debut on Saturday night in Anaheim defeating Martin Kampmann by split decision at UFC 121. Shields may have won the fight but he looked unimpressive doing so. Moreover, his wrestling style bored fans who were looking for more action.

The 31-year-old, who extended his winning streak to 15 with the win, said UFC jitters and a weight drop played a role in his underwhelming performance. “I don’t want to make excuses, but it was my first time at 170 in while,” Shields said after the fight. “I cut 20 pounds in a day. I’ll never do that again. I kept my winning streak going, and I’m going to come back stronger next time.”

Shields had been fighting at the middleweight level in Strikeforce where the weight limit is 185 pounds. His match with Kampmann was a welterweight fight where the limit is 170 pounds, so the weight drop definitely played a role. Watching the fight, we commented immediately that Shields looked emaciated and as if he may have over-trained. He seemed to lack strength and stamina throughout the fight, so his post-fight comments definitely explain things. He won’t make the same mistake next time when he squares off against the GSP-Koscheck winner.

And if you really want to know how fans feel about Jake Shields, check out this video:

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Undertaker Trying to Goad Brock Lesnar into a Fight, Possibly at Wrestlemania

If Josh Koscheck drew the strongest reaction from the fans amongst personalities in the crowd who weren’t fighting at UFC 121, then The Undertaker was right behind him. Being 6’10″ and wearing a bandanna around your head, you’re going to stand out. After the Brock Lesnar-Cain Velasquez main event came to a close, Lesnar sauntered through the crowd on his way back to the locker room. The Undertaker, who had premium seats, got into Brock’s face. Little did I know that Ariel Helwani was there interviewing The Undertaker at the time and caught it all on camera:

LBS contributor Alan Hull, who shared the story with us, says the conspiracy theory is that The Undertaker and WWE wants to get Brock Lesnar back into wrestling to fight at Wrestlemania 27. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

First off, Lesnar didn’t love his time in WWE and hasn’t done it for a while, so I’m guessing he won’t be anxious to get back until he’s absolutely done in MMA. Second, just because he lost to Cain Velasquez doesn’t mean he’s done fighting in the UFC. You know he wants to get back to being a champion, and his message after the loss was that he would regroup and bounce back the way a champion does. He won’t go back to wrestling until his MMA career is over. That’s probably five years away, if it ever happens.

Video from Cain Velasquez-Brock Lesnar Fight at UFC 121

Cain Velasquez beat Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 to win the heavyweight title. Velasquez was the fan favorite fighting in front of a Mexican crowd in Anaheim, California. Cain came out to some Mariachi music and wasted little time taking it straight to the defending champ. The match didn’t even last a full round as Velasquez beat up a stunned and dizzied Brock Lesnar.

Luckily for you, the LBS crew was on hand for the fight to bring you the atmosphere at the Honda Center. From the ring entrances to the fan reaction after Cain’s win, describing Anaheim as electric is an understatement. See for yourself in this video from the Cain Velasquez-Brock Lesnar fight at UFC 121 and check out the full fight recap at the LBS twitter page:

Fans Boo Josh Koscheck at UFC 121

Josh Koscheck earned some sympathy the last time he made an appearance here at LBS when Paul Daley nailed him with a cheap shot after their fight. The fans on hand for UFC 121 in Anaheim on Saturday were less forgiving.

When the 32-year-old welterweight was spotted walking to his second row seats at the Honda Center, the fans showered him with boos. Koscheck seemed to embrace the bad boy role, playing to the crowd. Every time he got up to move around, he heard boos even though he wasn’t even fighting. Eventually he flipped the crowd the bird (as reported by the LBS twitter account — you must follow) which is what they were waiting for. As if the boos weren’t enough, the fans began to chant “GSP, GSP!” — a reference to Georges St. Pierre.

Koscheck and GSP are set to fight in December at UFC 124 in a rematch of GSP’s win over Koscheck at UFC 74. The fans let Koscheck have it because he threw rumors around that St. Pierre was juicing (in addition to all his talk that has made him a polarizing character). If the fan reaction at UFC 121 in Anaheim is any indication, Koscheck will certainly be the villain in Montreal (not that that’s anything new for Josh).