The Ultimate Fighting Championship opens 2008 with its first pay-per-view card of the year coming just three weeks after UFC 79. The promotion takes its show to Newcastle, England, after the UFC held two events in the country last year. UFC 80 begins a very busy stretch for the UFC -- one that includes a UFC Fight Night the Wednesday after UFC 80 and UFC 81 just two weeks later.
Last week according to
Still, Europe is a big part of White's plans for global expansion and he seems intent on conquering the English market first and expanding from there.
As with previous UK cards, UFC 80 will feature its share of European talent. The two main fights are a battle for the UFC lightweight title and a matchup that could help determine the number one contender in the heavyweight division.
In the 15 months since
Following the ruling, White stripped Sherk of the title, which set the stage for UFC 80's lightweight title fight between Penn and Stevenson.
Perhaps the only thing less active than the lightweight title in recent memory is Penn's MMA fighting career. The free-spirited Hawaiian has always enjoyed a number of interests outside MMA and fought only once in 2007, twice in 2006, and twice in 2005.
While his motivation level is sometimes questioned, Penn's skills certainly never are. He is a highly respected submission artist with a strong background in
"That's what I do. I eat, breathe and sleep Jiu-Jitsu," Penn said according to "
But don't discount Penn's potent standup game, which helps make him an all-around threat often included in the top ten of various pound-for-pound rankings. Interestingly enough, Penn has previously shown no hesitation to fight in higher weight classes, which certainly can't hurt his efforts in the lightweight division. Prior to his rear naked choke victory against
Stevenson -- the TUF 2 winner in the welterweight division -- received his shot at the title by virtue of his current four-fight win streak in the UFC. His main assets are his strength and his wrestling ability. While he has won a number of fights by submission, it is difficult to imagine that Stevenson will be able to submit the "Gumby-esque" Penn. It's also not easy to believe that Stevenson can get the better of Penn standing up. Stevenson's best chance in this fight is to grind out a decision victory on the ground.
And, don't forget about Sherk -- the now-eligible former champ is the number one contender in the division and awaits the winner of this fight.
This bout features two up-and-coming Brazilian heavyweights in a rematch of a 2003 fight won by Werdum via third-round TKO.
With the UFC heavyweight division currently in a state of limbo because of the impasse with champion
Gonzaga is a star in the making in a division with very few stars. While his background is in
Werdum, on the other hand, is best known as a superb practitioner of BJJ. Before suffering an uninspiring unanimous decision loss to
Although Werdum won their first fight, Gonzaga has improved quite a bit since then. While the two would appear to be even on the ground, Gonzaga has the edge because of his prowess on his feet.
In a division that has long been dominated by
Liaudin comes in with a two-fight win streak in the UFC and sports a resume full of victories earned by various types of submissions. In his last fight -- against
This bout could win fight of the night honors. In the end, Davis has the edge in Octagon experience and should have an edge standing up.