The Weekly Wrap: April 25 – May 1

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By Jack Encarnacao May 2, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week’s top story, important news and notable quotes.

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In a stretch of provocative matchmaking across the mixed martial arts spectrum, the UFC announced an intriguing and marketable test for middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Strikeforce rebounded from the loss of a light heavyweight title fight and Dream announced the MMA debut of one of professional baseball’s most controversial figures.

The UFC booked Silva -- who has been derided for passivity in his last two performances -- against former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 on Aug. 8. The UFC confirmed the event will be at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pa. UFC President Dana White hinted after Silva’s cautious UFC 97 performance against Thales Leites that he would look to give the pound-for-pound king his second test at 205 pounds. Griffin was originally set to face fellow light heavyweight Thiago Silva on the card. Silva will now be matched against Keith Jardine at UFC 102 on Aug. 29 in Portland, Ore., MMAJunkie.com reported.

The bout garnered widespread buzz for a few days, but a curveball announcement by the Dream organization on April 30 captured headlines, as well. The promotion, which needs to garner an impressive rating for its May 26 broadcast on primetime network television in Japan, announced it had signed former Major League Baseball slugger Jose Canseco. A reputed karate practitioner who has openly admitted to steroid use, Canseco is set to compete in what is being called the Super Hulk Tournament. The open-weight curiosity will begin on the Dream 9 card, which also includes the next round of the promotion’s featherweight grand prix, along with a lightweight showdown pairing Gesias Calvancante with Tatsuya Kawajiri and a middleweight championship match between Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Jason "Mayhem" Miller.

Canseco, 44, whose management stipulated to The Canadian Press that the Dream deal was not finalized, is set to be paired with Hong Man Choi, the avuncular kickboxer that Dream parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group has used for spectacle appeal since 2005. Other pairings in the Super Hulk bracket are Bob Sapp vs. Ikuhisa Minowa, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Jan Nortje and Gegard Mousasi vs. Mark Hunt. According to the Wrestling Observer, Sapp recently signed a one-year, three-fight deal with Dream.

Shortly after Dream made the Canseco announcement, HDNet announced it would air the card live in the wee hours of what will be a Tuesday morning in the United States. The past two Dream shows have aired on a several-day tape delay on the network. Dream event producer Keiichi Sasahara predicted a 15 share rating for the broadcast on Japan’s Tokyo Broadcasting System; that number would be up considerably from the ratings of last year’s primetime offerings, which hovered between a nine and 10 share rating.

Yet another major upcoming card was bolstered by a fight announcement, as Strikeforce responded to the recent loss of its June 6 co-main event by matching the two fighters who came out of the promotion’s April 11 show with the most momentum. Nick Diaz will face Scott Smith at a 180-pound catch weight at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. A catchweight bout between Robbie Lawler and Jake Shields will headline the event on Showtime. Diaz and Smith made significant impressions during Strikeforce’s debut on Showtime in San Jose, Calif. Diaz out-boxed Frank Shamrock in a decisive two-round win, while Smith launched a remarkable come-from-behind attack against Benji Radach and scored a third-round knockout in the night’s best fight. Strikeforce had lost its co-main event for June 6 -- a light heavyweight title match pitting Renato “Babalu” Sobral against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante -- last week after Sobral pulled out due to his wife’s pregnancy.
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