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Thursday, Jul 20, 2006

Breaking Down The Wfa

Breaking Down the WFA
Despite a Last-Minute Card Change,
a New Promotion Trudges into the Market

By Derek Callahan

Kimo Leopoldo - Photo by Joel Gold
Kimo out

On paper, the new owners of the WFA have put together a card that wasn’t all that imaginable even a year ago. In two of their most anticipated bouts — one for its novelty and the other for its competition — the fighters were either then-retired, or fighting for the UFC or Pride. The WFA isn’t just laying their reputation on the competitive fight between Matt Lindland and Quinton Jackson, or the good-natured return of Bas Rutten (who just yesterday, lost intended opponent Kimo Leopoldo to a positive pre-fight steroids test and will now face Wes Sims). The show is building potential stars by using their heads prior to matching up fights.

They knew that Lyoto Machida is the only man to have beaten UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin. By bringing Machida onto the show, they have someone malleable enough to work on, assuming he beats Vernon White. Machida isn’t known for a whole lot in the U.S. and the WFA is incurring some risk in having him fight White. Coming off wins over Alex Stiebling and Jason Guida, White is bringing momentum into the bout. If that momentum can continue through the Machida bout, White will have given his career another unexpected surge, and the WFA will have one less ace on their soon-to-be competitor, the UFC.

Even if the plan to build up Machida at the expense of White doesn’t pan out, the WFA will still have Jason Miller to count on. Despite the fact that Miller is bumping up in weight to fight Lodune Sincaid, it seems as if the new poster boy for the WFA is set up for a win. Sincaid is enjoying success recently with a win over UFC vet James Irvin. Still, the skills that Miller has shown in a loss to Georges St. Pierre and in wins over Ron Jhun and Falaniko Vitale will more likely than not be too much for "The Ultimate Fighter" alumnus.

From here the fights get more competitive. Marvin Eastman is taking on Jorge Oliveira, and that will be a good test to see where he’s currently at. His bad luck on the big stage of the UFC may subside since he has the chance to fight again for a burgeoning show that, on the strength of it’s card, can be titled for now as the ‘big stage.’ Eastman is a fighter whose career has been patterned on strings of wins, followed by unexpected setbacks. He’s been on his game lately though with an avenged loss to Jason Guida, set up by wins over the likes of Jason MacDonald and Travis Wiuff. For Oliveira’s part, he hasn’t had much experience to speak of. Thrown into good competition early on, his ledger has a win over Shonie Carter, a loss to Justin Levens and a win against Mike Van Arsdale. It’s an impressive way to start a career, but whether or not that translates into a win over a decorated striker like Eastman is another story.

Rob McCullough has looked like a completely different fighter than he was when he lost to Harris Sarmiento in 2004. The WFA knows this, and seems to have him on pace to become a big local draw in his native California. Sarmiento has lost four straight, and McCullough hasn’t seen defeat since they last met.

In one of the more evenly matched fights on paper, Art Santore has the chance to raise his own stock when he takes on Ivan Salaverry. Coming off of a loss nearly a year ago to Nate Marquardt, a win for Salaverry would put him back in position to fight some of the best middleweights in the world. With Matt Lindland on the same card, it may not be too big a stretch to see a rematch between the two if fans clamor for it.

Lindland is bumping up to light heavyweight to fight Quinton Jackson in a bout that will go to — at the risk of saying the obvious — the one who can impose his game plan on the other. Always a thinking-man’s fighter who finds ways to win, Lindland is undoubtedly coming into this bout with an idea of what he wants to do. "I think [he’s] a great, athletic opponent," says Lindland. He concedes that Jackson is both stronger and more explosive, but Lindland’s takedowns will be something that Jackson needs to think about. On the flip side, Lindland is giving up weight for this fight, making his control and positioning that much more important.

While it’s still unseen whether or not the WFA card will live up to it’s billing, the return of Bas Rutten doesn’t look like it could be spoiled, even with the last minute switch in opponents. Training in California with a crew that includes Dan Henderson and comedian Kevin James of "The King of Queens" fame, Rutten is feeling in shape after a long road back to fitness. While he feels like the fight, "just popped up. It came to me and I took it," Rutten is optimistic about the newest MMA show to hit an oversaturated market. "If you looks at this card, I think they put a good [one] together," he says. It certainly looks that way. All that’s left for the WFA, is to see it unfold in the way that hope it to.

posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm
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