Although 2016 is a little over a month old, it is shaping up as a massive year for combat sports for Australian fighters and fans, with March hosting two MONSTER events for fans down under.
On March 5th (March 6th Australian local time), heavyweight boxer Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne will aim to become the country’s first World Heavyweight Champion, when he travels to Russia to battle Ruslan Chagaev for the WBA Title.
The undefeated Browne (23-0) is a far better chance than the $3.70 odds being offered on the fight.
Local pay-per-view provider Main Event has announced that the fight will be shown which allows Australian fans to wake up early to watch their charger attempt to create history.
The day should be a big one for Main Event and combat fans with UFC 196, headlines by Conor McGregor and Rafael dos Anjos taking place just hours after the Browne fight.
Win, lose or draw, Browne’s fight gives Australian audiences a genuine star in the heavyweight division, something we haven’t had for many years.
Later in the month, the world’s premier mixed martial arts company, the UFC, returns to Australian shores, with UFC fight night 85: Hunt vs Mir taking place in Brisbane.
Following the record-breaking success of UFC 193 in Melbourne, which saw over 56,000 fans attend, and a million-plus buys on pay-per-view, it was only a matter of time until Australia hosted another fight card.
In the main event of the card, adopted Australian Mark Hunt will continue his latest charge to a possible UFC Heavyweight title shot when he takes on former two-time UFC Champion Frank Mir.
Hunt will look to continue to momentum his first round stoppage over Antonio Silva has presented him, by knocking out a man who has fought in the UFC 26 times for 16 victories.
Mir is looking to return to the winner’s circle after his decision loss to Andrei Arlovski, which halted his previous two-fight winning streak.
Both men have a combined 22 finishes in their combined 29 professional wins, so the odds are this fight will not go the scheduled five rounds.
Given Hunt’s war with Silva that headlined the UFC’s last venture into the Queensland capital, plenty of eyes will again be on the “Super Samoan”.
Australian-based New Zealander James Te Huna is looking to get his UFC career back on track following three straight losses.
Although Te Huna has lost four of his nine fights inside the UFC octagon, his losses have come at the hands of Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, Maurício Rua and Nate Marquardt, four former world title contenders, and in Rua a genuine MMA legend.
Canada’s Steve Bossé (10-2) is the man tasked with standing across the canvas from Te Huna. Given his UFC debut saw him knocked out inside 30 seconds, motivation will not be lacking for either man.
Also representing the locals on the card are Brisbane-trained Brendan “The Badger” O'Reilly, Olympic Judoka Dan Kelly, Sydney’s Richard Walsh, and Jake Matthews.
Jake Matthews is perhaps Australia’s best prospect in terms of a future title shot given he has earned a professional record of 10-1 despite being just 21 years-of-age.
‘The Celtic Kid’ bounced back from his first career loss, a doctor’s stoppage win before the third round over the vastly more experienced Akbarh Arreola in Melbourne last November.
Matthews has three wins in his four UFC fights to date, with his only loss coming to undefeated, fellow Ultimate Fighter alumni James Vick.
Melbourne-born and raised Matthews has huge wraps from some of the biggest names in combat sports in Australia including kick boxing great Sam Greco.
“He’s got a great mind for it, he’s obviously got a good team behind him. He’s got to learn from everything, be it a win, loss, draw. He has to try and improve as much as he can, be ahead of the eight ball.” said Greco when asked of his opinion of the then 20 year-old.
Matthews was forced to dig deep in his win over Arreola, losing the first round, and having to fight his way out of a potential choke.
The home-town lightweight competitor came out with fire in the second stanza, taking Arreola down and delivering such a vicious beat down that the doctor refused to allow Arreola to return for the third round.
Matthews is the future star of Aussie MMA, and if he can continue his development, has all the attributes to become the country’s first UFC Champion.
Also taking place on the card is a super exciting welterweight co-main event between title contenders Neil Magny and Hector Lombard, as well as a potential lightweight slug-fest between Ross Pearson and Abel Trujillo.