Today during my MMA rounds, I noticed a story on MMA Junkie with 45 year old Renzo Gracie stating he still has a number of fights on his UFC contract, and is planning on fulfilling them.
"I'm getting ready to fight again," Gracie told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) in his native Portuguese. "I have a six-fight contract with no predetermined time frame. I still have five fights to go, so I plan to jump back into it."
Renzo is a legend in the sport, and is considered one of the best fighting Gracie's to ever appear in MMA. For those not familiar with his work, go to Amazon and order it ASAP. It is an awesome behind the scenes look at a MMA legend.
Now the problem that comes from this is similar to the one that the UFC faced when there was rumors of Royce Gracie making his octagon return for the first UFC card in Brazil. The main difference being that Renzo is a much more diverse fighter than his more famous cousin. The main question still remains tho, who do you have a 45 year old man who is only a semi active fighter actually fight? Joe Silva has a tough job ahead of him in terms of trying to make a competitive and meaningful matchup. In this FanPost I want to touch on a couple of fighters who would make sense to square off with the returning legend. These are in no real particular order, just a few names I thought would be a good matchup.
To say Akiyama has been a disappointment since joining the UFC back in 2009 is an understatement. He came over with a lot of hype after dominating the competition in Japan. After winning an controversial split decision from Alan Belcher at UFC 100, "Sexyiama" has lost 4 straight. While they have been entertaining affairs, it is obvious that Akiyama is not going to be a world beater. He lost his welterweight debut to former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields earlier this year, and is on the cusp of being cut. Renzo made a name for himself fighting in Japan during the heyday of Pride FC, and the judoka versus BJJ is always an interesting matchup. On top of that, Renzo is also a Judo black belt, which would make for a very interesting clash. Sexyama hasn't had a KO victory since 2007, so there would be no immediate threat of Renzo getting his lights turned out. I believe this matchup could be a close and exciting affair.
After coming out and basically taking a giant dump in all of our eyes at UFC on Fox 2 back in January, Demian Maia decided it was time to drop down to welterweight and try his luck there. Often cited as the best grappler currently in MMA (Roger Gracie may have something to say about that, but that is another argument all together), a fight between Maia and Renzo could possibly be a ground clinic. As Joe Rogan is fond of saying, "there are black belts, and then there are BLACK BELTS". These two certain fall into the latter category with a handful of ADCC championships between them. A matchup between the two would either entail some intricate jits with a number of sweeps and sub attempts, or we would watch 15 mins of shitty kickboxing. It could go either way.
A know Shields recently moved up to 185, but they could easily meet in a catch weight fight. Shields would be another awesome matchup for Renzo as he possesses no actual punching power, but has a great ground game that could challenge the BJJ master. Shields had cut his teeth under Renzo's cousin Cesar Gracie and it would be interesting to see Cesar Gracie BJJ vs Renzo Gracie BJJ. Again, this fight has the potential to be an awesome ground battle and just a fun fight for the hardcores and grappling fans to enjoy.
Hey, remember this guy? One of the original cast member of the very first TUF and came in with that large influx of talent in 2005, there was a point in time where Mike Swick was considered a top shelf fighter. He is 9-3 in his UFC career and has had some impressive finishes of Joe Riggs, Marcus Davis and BE's own Ben Saunders. The only problem is, he has had a litany of injuries that have kept him on the sidelines since February of 2010. I know he is scheduled to fight in August (as is Shields above) but I have a feeling with all the injuries going around this summer, Mike Swick is bound to get hurt. This is a guy Dana White was quoted as saying "Swick hurts himself when he gets out of bed every day, you know? I love Swick. He's one of my favorite guys but he's Mr. Glass." He is a very well rounded fighter when healthy, and I think he and Renzo would put on a pretty good show, that or Swick would blast him on his feet if he has still got the quickness he is noted for, after being away for so long.
A veteran with over 60 fights under his belt, Brian Ebersole has fought all over the world. His notoriety went up dramatically when he stepped in for an injured Carlos Condit back at UFC 127, where he came in with a arrow shaved into his chest hair and proceeded to take a decision away from the always tough Chris Lytle. Since that win, Ebersole has won two more UFC fights, bringing him up to 3-0 in the UFC and 10 fight win streak overall. A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler who has 20 submission victories, he would be a fun and suitable matchup for one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time.
The former Pros vs Joes contestant turned MMA fighter, Brenneman is best known for stepping in for Nate Marquardt on 24 hrs notice to fight Rick Story (and pull off an improbable win in the process). He recently got choked out by prospect Erick Silva at UFC on FX 3 but otherwise is a solid name to fight Renzo. He possesses good wrestling and could put it to use if he is confident enough to play in Renzo's guard.
Short and sweet. If Renzo does indeed come back, Joe Silva will have a tough job trying to find a good, competitive and interesting fight to put him into. These are just my suggestions, does anyone else have any other suggestions, oh knowledgeable and wise BE community?