When they first announced "UFC 85: Bedlam", little did the UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and President Dana White know that the title would come to reference the atmosphere in the office as one injury and complication after another came trickling in that seriously threatened the marketability and viability of the event.
Give them, and the fighters that stepped in on short notice, plenty of credit. After a whole lot of pre-fight drama, the UFC has delivered another stellar card for MMA fans to enjoy. The event will take place in London, England on June 7, so mark your calendar and get ready to rumble!
Matt Hughes (43-6 MMA, 15-4 UFC)
Thiago Alves (20-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC)
While this main event may not be quite at the level of the originally planned Chuck Liddell-Shogun Rua fight - both of those guys are on the sideline with injuries and may meet at the end of the year - the Hughes-Alves fight could prove to be a barnburner.
Thiago comes into this fight on an impressive 5-fight, 2-year win streak that culminated with a second round TKO over favored Karo Parysian.
He has won four in a row by knockout and has among the best Muay Thai skills in the welterweight division with knockout power in all four limbs. Toss in that he is a skilled BJJ purple belt who trains at the American Top Team in Florida and you'll understand why this fight with Hughes is main-event worthy. A win here and you can pencil him in for the winner of the GSP-Fitch title fight in August at UFC 87.
What can you say about Matt except that he is the most dominant welterweight in UFC history and a legend in the game. The question is whether we need to talk about Matt's greatness in present or past terms. He has lost two of his last three to GSP and has openly questioned how much longer he wants to keep fighting.
Will he be motivated for Thiago or is another Matt, as in Serra, or a BJ, as in Penn, the guys that have to be staring at him across the Octagon to get his attention? Matt is a world class MMA wrestler with brutal ground and pound, freakish strength in this class and strong submissions set up by his ground dominance.
If he stands with Thiago, he's likely to go to sleep. If he gets it to the ground without absorbing too much punishment, he's likely to ground it out. Either way, I expect him and Serra to go at it as the UFC knows that they cannot sell a fourth GSP-Hughes fight anytime soon and there is still a lot of unfinished business, and bad blood, between Matt and Matt.
One thing to really watch for in this fight is that Thiago is a slow starter, so look for Matt to come out aggressively and try to take his will from him in the first round.
Jason Day (17-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
When Liddell, the huge original draw for the London fans on this card, went down, the UFC made a fight between their most popular English fighter, Michael "The Count" Bisping and one of their most colorful personalities, Chris "The Crippler" Leben. Then disaster struck as Chris had an outstanding criminal issue that would only allow him to get out of jail after he turned himself in about two weeks before the event.
Enter James "Dooms" Day, who made his UFC debut on short notice at UFC 83 in April against heavily favored middleweight Alan Belcher. Day TKO'd Belcher in the first round, the same fate Bisping dealt Charles McCarthy at the same event in his first middleweight bout in the UFC.
Bisping is a great striker and looked the best I've ever seen him in the standup in his first middleweight fight. He had great success as a light heavy, going 4-1 with his only loss coming at the hands of still undefeated Rashad Evans. However, Michael always looked small, particularly against Rashad, and looks to have found the right physical home at middleweight.
Day is a well rounded fighter with 17 wins under his belt, 8 by TKO, 8 by submission and only one decision. On paper, these two look to have a similar skill set, but only having seen Day once thus far, it's hard not to favor Bisping. He's fought superior competition, bigger guys at light heavy and is used to the bright lights of the main card.
Expect fireworks as Bisping can't afford to lose to a relative unknown in his second middleweight fight and Day knows that a win here could catapult him quickly in a weaker division.
Mike Swick (11-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC)
Marcus Davis may be the most underrated welterweight in the UFC and this is the fight of his life. He has won 11 straight and six straight in the Octagon. The former pro boxer has done a tremendous job of turning into a top, well-rounded mixed martial arts fighter.
He obviously has top-notch standup but has added a slick submission game that has netted him a Submission of the Night bonus and six of those eleven wins.
In Swick, he faces a step up in competition, at least I think he does. Swick was a middleweight, and after tasting his first UFC loss there to Yushin Okami after five consecutive wins, dropped to welterweight and fought Josh Burkman. He got a majority decision, but looked unimpressive.
Was he tentative, perhaps the cut didn't go well? Who knows, but if that fighter shows up in England he has no chance against Davis. On the other hand, if he can bring the skills he showed as a middle, which included great standup and submissions, we could have a fight of the night on our hands. Let's hope so.
Thales Leites (12-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC)
One. That's the number of losses that each of the combatants has in the UFC. Nate lost to pound for pound best in the world Anderson Silva by first round TKO and Thales lost a three round decision to Martin Kampmann. Thales has a world class BJJ game while Nate is the stronger, more well-rounded fighter of the two.
This could be a tremendous chess match. Nate has great ground and pound and solid submissions, so going to the mat is frequent strategy for him. Thing is, that's exactly where Thales is most comfortable and has a dangerous submission game off his back.
Don't be surprised if Nate starts by trying to keep it standing, but I'd be surprised if it stayed there. Then we'll see who gets the better of the ground, probably the same guy who will have his hand raised.
Fabricio Werdum (10-3-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC)
This heavyweight battle looks to be evenly matched and will escalate one of these guys into the upper echelon of the division. Interestingly, Werdum, although not as well known by UFC fans, is usually ranked in the top 7-10 range of heavies in the world. He has phenomenal BJJ and had a dominant performance against Gabriel Gonzaga in his last outing after losing an uneventful decision to Andre Arlovski in his Octagon debut.
Vera, on the other hand, has more UFC experience, with six victories against only one defeat to 6-8 Tim Sylvia that went to a decision. Although Vera has a slight size disadvantage to Werdum, the Brazilian should look pretty small to him after Sylvia.
Brandon has tremendous Muay Thai and a solid overall game, standing or on the ground. Werdum would seem to be at obvious disadvantage in the stand up, as he was to Andre, but I'd give him a big edge on the ground. This fight could all boil down to who dictates where the fight takes place. We won't have to wait long to find out.