Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The UFC gathered a group of some of its biggest stars this week and took them across the globe on a media tour.
The daily snippets of information and updates from the fighters who will headline events this fall and winter has almost made the mixed martial arts world forget that, hey, there’s a card this weekend first. And it’s a big one.
A pay-per-view UFC 163 goes down at 7 Saturday night from Rio de Janeiro after a preliminary card on FX and Facebook.
While no one is going to confuse this set of midsummer melees for the upcoming UFC 168 in terms of prestige, the two bouts at the top of the card are premier matchups holding major implications.
Jose Aldo looks to defend his featherweight championship belt for the fifth straight time in a bout against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Lyoto Machida tries to get into position to win back the light heavyweight strap that he once owned in a showdown with Phil Davis.
Rio is sometimes referred to as a “magical city,” so look below for a wish to each of the four UFC 163 headliners.
That Jose Aldo stays active
If Aldo wins, which he will, here’s to hoping he’s healthy enough to take another fight before the end of the year.
No. 2 ranked Ricardo Lamas, the only fighter in the 145-pound top five Aldo hasn’t faced, is patiently waiting in the wings. But more importantly, lining up another Aldo assignment would make this year the first time since 2009 he’s had three fights.
Since crossing over to the UFC from the WEC 2 1/2 years ago, Aldo will have fought five times including Saturday. That’s one or two less than the desired pace.
Injuries are to blame. It’s no fault of either the UFC or Aldo — though he did hurt himself last year by not understanding that fighters and motorcycles are a toxic combination.
The 26-year-old Aldo is just now entering his prime and, as one of the three most exciting and unpredictable fighters in the promotion, it would be a shame if he’s not featured as often as possible.
That the circumstances don’t affect Chan Sung Jung
Jung was partaking in an activity quite uncommon to zombies in between training sessions seven weeks ago before an interruption.
“The Korean Zombie” was sleeping when his phone rang. His manager was on the other end to inform Jung that Anthony Pettis was hurt and the UFC wanted him to fill in against Aldo at UFC 163.
“I was really in disbelief about it,” Jung said through a translator. “So until (UFC President) Dana White announced that I was going to be in the fight, I actually didn’t really even believe it.”
Jung described the feeling as complete excitement, but there must be some part of him that wished he had more time to prepare for the biggest moment of his professional life. Seven weeks doesn’t typically make for a short training camp, but it’s different when a fighter is facing Aldo for a title.
Additionally, Jung spoke of the understandable difficulties of having to travel for more than 24 hours to get from South Korea to Brazil.
He wasn’t going to defeat Aldo anyway, but Jung has the ability to push the champion and get him into a brawl that no one will soon forget. Let’s hope none of the obstacles deprive that possibility.
That Lyoto Machida gets his title shot with a win
No one was particularly enthused when White declared Machida the light heavyweight top contender after the judges sided with him in a yawner against Dan Henderson last February.
But that’s not the point. In the end, White promised Machida a title shot he never paid up on.
“I was a bit frustrated because it was the second time I got this opportunity and wasn’t given the opportunity to go for the title,” Machida said through a translator. “So this Saturday, I would like to ratify and show that I am ready for the title.”
A victory would mark three in a row for Machida and prove undoubtedly that he’s the guy to meet the winner of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165.
Forces are already at work to prevent this from happening. On the UFC World Tour, Jones mentioned he would like Glover Teixeira to be the next challenger.
Heavyweight Daniel Cormier is another possibility. But Cormier won’t be ready for the drop to 205 pounds until next year at the earliest, and Teixeira could use a couple more fights of seasoning.
Jones vs. Machida II is the way to go if both fighters win.
That Phil Davis pushes the action
Let’s just say that neither Phil Davis’ last fight nor Lyoto Machida’s is going to make it on the UFC’s “Best of 2013” DVD at the end of the year.
Davis’ unanimous-decision win over Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 159 and Machida’s split decision nod against Dan Henderson at UFC 157 were duds.
Machida and Davis could use an exciting performance right about now. It’s going to be up to Davis to make it happen.
After 14 fights in the UFC, it’s clear Machida is never going to be the one to push the action. The Brazilian karate master will sit back and look for opportunities to counter.
Sure, opponents run a risk by rushing him, but it’s also the most likely path to victory. Reference: Rua, Shogun.
If Davis plays it smart and gets aggressive, he has a much better chance than the 4-to-1 betting line indicates.