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Saturday Afternoon Throwdown: Three UFC light heavyweight fights that need to happen

firday night throwdown
With Quinton "Rampage" Jackson set to defend his UFC 205-pound title against Forrest Griffin in a few weeks at UFC 86: "Jackson vs. Griffin," it's a good time to discuss some other potential fights in the stacked division.

It’s obvious that the UFCs light heavyweight class is the deepest division in mixed martial arts today. With guys like Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Wanderlei Silva, Thiago Silva and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, among others, there are plenty of contenders who consider themselves the next man in line for a shot at the strap.

Accordingly, there are three fights that needs to take place to give the UFC a much more clear picture of who will face the winner of the Jackson-Griffin showdown later this year.

At UFC 84: "Ill Will" last month, Wanderlei Silva and Machida helped eliminate the pretenders who many thought would be contenders in Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine. Even with the impressive wins, however, Silva and Machida still have some work to do to be next in line.

Silva returned to the "Axe Murderer" of old in smashing fashion against Jardine, but he still needs one more big win. As for Machida, his style still fustrates both fighters and fans alike.

On the other hand, inactivity has hurt the title prospects of top guys such as Rashad Evans, Rua and Liddell. It's hard to penalize a fighter or fault him for getting hurt, especially when all three of these fighters were scheduled to headline this past weekend’s UFC 85: "Bedlam" at one time or another.

Because of the lack of fights one can argue that it's the reason there is no clear cut number one contender. Do you give Machida a shot before Liddell because he’s won five fights in the UFC and his biggest win is against an over the hill Tito Ortiz? Or do you give Liddell the next shot in line because he won one of the biggest grudge matches of all time against Silva and a possible Liddell-Rampage III could mean big bucks for the UFC?

On top of all that, let’s not forget one guy who can also shake things up in this division in Thiago Silva!

And with that let’s look at three fights that have to take place before the 2008 fight campaign comes to a close. Now there are some no brainers for you MMAMania readers have discussed for some time but mine are a little bit different.

Chuck Liddell vs. Lyoto Machida: As reported earlier this week, Liddell is going to headline UFC 88 in Atlanta on September 6. Even though talk now centers around Evans as his possible opponent, why not plug-in the very dangerous Machida instead? If there is one man who can knockout the elusive Machida -- or outpoint him on counter strikes alone -- it is Liddell.

"Iceman" is as patient as Machida is, but Liddell clearly has the advantage in terms of powerful striking. He throws punches from odd angles and it’s something that perhaps Machida has never seen before.

In addition, Liddell would not allow Machida to dictate the pace of the fight. A win for Liddell could cement his place in the division as the clear front runner, which would set up a big New Year's Eve weekend showdown with either Rampage Jackson or Forrest Griffin.

A win for the Brazilian, however, could make Dana hang himself because Machida is considered "boring" ... and that's just not going to cut it in the UFCs money-making division.

Shogun Rua vs. Rashad Evans: These men are two of the younger contenders in the division and have big questions to answer. Evans is undefeated, yet he is still looking for that big win that can propel him to super stardom. He was losing his fight against Ortiz at UFC 73: "Stacked" until "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was deducted a point for grabbing the cage in the second round.

And he barely escaped with a split-decision win over Michael Bisping at UFC 78: "Validation" last November. Is Evans for real and can be a future champion? His next few fights should tell that tale once and for all.

The future looked bright for Rua -- he was widely considered the number one fighter in the weight class for some time until he hit rock bottom in his Octagon debut. He entered the bout against Griffin with a bum knee and bad cardio ... and it was his ultimate undoing.

Rua looked nowhere near the man who ripped through the likes of Ricardo Arona, Alistair Overeem and Rampage Jackson while competing under the Pride FC banner. Simply put, it was quite a shock to see a tired Shogun tapout to a rear naked choke by Forrest Griffin last September.

He was scheduled to meet Liddell in the UFC 85 main event until he suffered another knee injury that required knee surgery. It’s hard to come back from two ACL injuries and it makes many wonder if we’ll see the same Shogun that was supposedly destined to rule the UFC light heavyweight division. This could be a fight that could put Shogun right back in the thick of things at 205.

Wanderlei Silva vs. Thiago Silva: The backstory of this potential war could be quite compelling because of the fact that both men at one point in their careers fought for the legendary Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, which churned out an army of great Brazilian warriors.

The list is incredible when you consider that guys like Shogun, Ninja Rua and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva were all at one point Chute Boxe fighters.

And Wanderlei was arguably the face of Academy during its heyday just a few years ago.

Wanderlei was the past, but at one point, Thiago was the present and future for the Academy. Thiago was clearly the new breed of the Chute Boxe and it showed in all of his fights in the UFC thus far. In the past what made Chute Boxe one of premier fight camps was its emphasis on one thing when fighting: aggression.

The aggressive style overwhelmed essentially all of the guys put in front of Silva and Rua. But with Thiago, he utilizes his striking that leads to his jiu-jitsu game which is a double-edged sword for all of his opponents.

The thing you have to remember with Shogun and Wanderlei is that both men are black belts in jiu-jitsu, but because they’re such powerful strikers, it's never really was needed. Thiago uses his striking to frustrate opponents standing and then takes them down (See Houston Alexander).

Once he took Alexander down, he exposed Alexander’s ground game and used it to mount Alexander and pound him out.

But the one thing we have to see in Thiago is if he can handle the aggressive style that a fighter like Wanderlei brings the minute the bell rings. It’s would be a big test for Thiago, but a fight he can win. It’s a fight that Wanderlei can win as well because Wanderlei is such a powerful striker. We all know Wanderlei has a chin but does Thiago?

Thiago’s chin hasn’t truly been tested and a guy like Wanderlei will answer that question with one solid right hand.

The three fights proposed here are fights that just have to take place by the end of the year. What do you think? Do you think Liddell should fight Machida in September? Or do you think Evans is a better fight that the fans (not Dana White) want to see? What about the Silvas? Oh let the debates begin!

Quick picks for DREAM 4 and Elite XC this weekend:

  • Yves Edwards
  • Nick Diaz
  • Ron Waterman
  • Ninja Rua
  • Rafael Feijao
  • Shinya Aoki
  • Gegard Mousasi
  • Melvin Manhoef
  • Jason Miller
  • Zelg Galesic

I’m going to end this week’s edition of the Friday Night (Saturday Afternoon) Throwdown on a sad note.

It’s going to be quite a depressing site this Sunday at DREAM 4, when Japanese MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba goes against a menacing Melvin Manhoef in the second round of the middleweight tournament. Unless he can pull out a miracle submission (and he can) this could be the fight that puts Kaz out of MMA for good because Manhoef is straight up mean.

This fight will take place under PRIDE-type rules, which allow knees to grounded opponents. It’s been almost three years since Sakuraba has fought under these rules against a fighter like Manhoef -- he is a monster in terms of striking and if he gets Kaz in side control, those knees will be coming with bad intentions.

Now Sakuraba has defied the odds many times, but this is one fight that I just can’t see him winning. I could be wrong and I hope I am for the sake of Sakuraba.

Until next time people, I’ll see you right back here in the Throwdown next Friday night!

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