After a super busy combat sports weekend last week, things calm down a little this weekend, but we still have a monster Saturday featuring the heavyweight champion of the world, and the return of a UFC mainstay.
Showtime Championship Boxing — Principality Stadium — Cardiff, Wales (Showtime, 5 p.m. Eastern)
The afternoon card emanating from Cardiff features WBA and IBF heavyweight Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) facing late replacement Carlos Takam in his first fight since his changing of the guard knockout victory over Wladimir Klitschko last April. (The fight is up for free on Showtime’s YouTube channel, and I can’t recommend it enough.) Joshua is 6’6, 245 lbs muscled former 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist who looks like a central casting version of the modern heavyweight champion. He’s lived up to it so far as well, winning all his fights by knockout and becoming the biggest draw in a boxing crazy UK.
Joshua faces an interesting challenge in Takam (35-3-1, 27 KOs), who will be stepping in for Bulgarian No. 1 contender Kubrat Pulev, who pulled out three weeks ago. Whereas Pulev is a tall, rangy fighter who likes to box from the outside, Takam is shorter and likes to fight on the inside, meaning Joshua will be looking for the uppercut that served him so well against Klitschko. Takam has beaten some solid fighters, but has failed in his biggest chances against Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin. More and more people are seeing this as a trap fight for Joshua. Also, Joshua weighed in at a career high 254 pounds this morning and Takam is in good shape at 235, so there are real signs that he can give Joshua a solid challenge. In the end, this is probably just another knockout for the heavyweight champion, but for as long as this fight lasts, expect to be exciting, as Joshua has emerged as a must-see TV for any fight fan.
UFC San Paulo — Ginasio do Ibirapuera — Sao Paulo, Brazil
As what usually seems to happen before a big card, the UFC heads to Brazil for the first time since June for a card that will be headlined by the return of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida (22-7, 14-7 UFC), who will be fighting for the first time in over two years against the American, Derek Brunson (17-5, 8-3 UFC).
Machida last fought in June 2015, when he was knocked out by Yoel Romero. He was suspended for eighteen months after USADA told him something that he admitted himself to taking was banned, right before he was supposed to have a rematch with Dan Henderson. At his best, Machida is a tricky fighter who is hard to hit and figure out, but with two losses to Luke Rockhold and Romero before the suspension and layoff, who knows what Machida we will get this Saturday. In June, Brunson knocked the hell out of Daniel Kelly in Australia, halting a two-fight losing streak that included a confusing knockout to interim champion Robert Whitaker and robbery to Anderson Silva. While Brunson doesn’t present with what problems Machida the most-size and power-he’s been a very active fighter and he can punch like hell. He also seems to fall off a bit under the bright lights. So this is a very interesting main event simply because we don’t know what fighters we will get in the cage.
In the co-main, American Top Team’s Colby Covington faces the last man to challenge for the UFC middleweight champion, Damien Maia, in a matchup that Covington has long been calling for. Covington has emerged as both a wrestling machine in the cage, constantly going for and getting takedowns and a very interesting follow on Twitter, as he just talks trash endlessly. But he is taking a big step in class against Maia, who will be fighting in his home country and is the best fighter Covington has faced so far. It’s a hell of a style matchup because all Covington does is look to take guys down, but being in the guard of Maia is not a place you want to be. If both fighters do what they do, it could be a very interesting fight-or they could cancel each other out and have a subpar striking battle. One also must ask how motivated Maia will be after losing to Tyron Woodley, while Covington’s motivation and confidence probably couldn’t get any higher. The Wrestling Machine versus Death By Jiu-Jitsu. It’s a monster movie of a co-main event.
The main card will open with the return of top bantamweight contender John Lineker fighting for the first time in ten months against Marlon Vera of Ecuador, who is red hot after wins over Brad Pickett and Brian Kelleher. In addition to nationalistic pride, Vera could cement himself as a top contender with a win here. The prelims will be headlined by the undefeated Niko Price, who has stopped everyone he’s fought in the UFC will face Vincente Luque, who is coming in on three weeks’ notice and is a better opponent than who Price was supposed to fight. There could be real fireworks here. The Fight Pass prelims will be headlined by undefeated flyweight Jarred Brooks taking on Brazilian Deiveson Figuera.
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