As much as we might wish otherwise, Donald Trump won’t go away. The USFL, the WWE, and a few golf courses weren’t enough involvement in the sports world for him. Now he’s involved with MMA. He’s a financial and promotional partner with Affliction, a clothing company that fancies itself a fight promoter. The first major Affliction event, called Banned, takes place tonight in Anaheim. In typical Trump style the Baned card is big and impressive. Fedor Emelianenko is widely seen as the best heavyweight, and perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter, in the world. The UFC has tried to land him for years, but they have failed. He’s headlining the Affliction card. Here’s a look at the card for tonight, with odds from Bodog.
Fedor Emelianenko (-350) vs. Tim Sylvia (+275) – Fedor was a menace in PRIDE, but he was done there at the end of 2006, and he has done little since. He has fought just twice, and neither match was even remotely a challenge. His first opponent was a seven foot giant without any skills to match his size, and his second was an undersized middleweight. He needs to prove that he is still as good as his legend, and Sylvia is a good opponent to do so. Sylvia is a two time UFC champ. His last fight in February was for the UFC title, but he lost to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He’s not the best fighter out there, but he is a legitimate talent. Sylvia is a good striker, and he is hard to take down. Fedor is much better inside, and the fight is probably over if it gets to the ground, Sylvia could surprise, but Fedor seriously needs this win, so I expect him to be hungry and get the job done. Fedor by a submission.
Josh Barnett (-450) vs. Pedro Rizzo (+300) – In what will become a recurring trend on this card, Barnett is also a former UFC Heavyweight champ. His reign was in 2002, and it was very short. He beat Randy Couture, but failed a drug test and was stripped. Since then he has fought mostly in Japan. Rizzo bounced around the UFC and PRIDE before most recently fighting in Art of War. Barnett is the clear favorite, and the fight would hold little interest if not for a bit of history – Rizzo is the only guy ever to knock Barnett out. That was back in 2001. Rizzo is a slugger, and this will have to look suspiciously like a boxing match with just the odd kick if he wants to win. If Barnett is able to avoid that and get the fight to the ground, and I think he will, then he should make short work of it.
Andrei Arlovski (-225) vs. Ben Rothwell (+185) – Oh look, another former UFC Heavyweight champ. In an incestuous coincidence, Arlovski both won his title from and lost it to Tim Sylvia. Rothwell comes from the IFL where he was a legitimate Heavyweight, having strung together 13 straight victories. Arlovski is a good striker. In fact, he is training with Freddie Roach as will make his debut as a boxer in September on the undercard of the Casamayor-Marquez fight. He’s also a solid threat on the ground. Rothwell is an enigma. He has looked like a menace in the IFL, but it’s unclear what that actually means. He’s bigger and stronger than Arlovski, but this is a big step up in class. This is the first fight we have discussed that isn’t clear on either side. I would give Arlovski a slight edge, but a Rothwell victory wouldn’t surprise me. I’d probably pass the fight, but if I had to go one way I would probably look at Rothwell for a bit of value.
Matt Lindland (-500) vs. Fabio Negao (+350) – This is an odd fight. Or, more correctly, Lindland’s current story is an odd one. He’s a middleweight who has had a solid career while bouncing around among several organizations. The last year or two have been bizarre, though. First, he moved up in weight to face Fedor Emelianenko. He lost, but that was almost a given. That was in April of last year, and he hasn’t fought since. He hasn’t bee sitting around idle, though. As unlikely as it might seem, Lindland won the Republican primary in Oregon’s 52nd Congressional District, and will enter the election looking to hold the seat of a retiring Republican congresswoman. Negao is aggressive, but he hasn’t exactly differentiated himself through his career. Still, given all that Lindland has on his plate it would seem like an upset could be possible. Negao will have to get the fight to the ground and make sure that Negao isn’t able to get on top of him. I don’t know that I am willing to bet on Negao, but I certainly wouldn’t touch Lindland at this price. I’m not sure I’d vote for him, either, though if he asked me to my face I’d sure say I was going to.