If your first thought after learning that Dominick Cruz tore an anterior cruciate ligament was anything like mine, then you've wondered whether or not a fighter who made his name off speed and movement is in danger of stumbling back to the pack.
It will be a year before we know the answer to that important question. In the meantime, Cruz's division apparently must march forward, which means Zuffa booked an interim bantamweight title fight between Urijah Faber and a to-be-determined opponent.
As is usually the case, the creation of a belt and a stand-in champion isn't needed. It's especially less so considering Faber fights on July 7, when most of the prefight coverage is expected to zero in on Silva-Sonnen 2. A healthy Cruz against his rival Faber, both off the reality show, wouldn't have generated a ton of interest considering the circumstances. So why push a fake belt? I don't get it.
At best, Faber versus TBD is a worthy No. 1 contender fight. And that's not so terrible. There are bouts at 135 pounds for Faber that line up to be terrific contests.
Renan Barao, ranked third at 135, is the obvious choice. Zuffa can break up his match against Ivan Menjivar, serendipitously scheduled for July 7, and it wouldn't upset too many people. If not the Brazilian, then an argument can be made to slot in 21-year-old Michael McDonald. I think that's the wrong way to go for the youngster, but it would be a fight with intriguing possibilities.
No matter how it pans out, hopefully Cruz makes a full recovery. It would be a shame to see someone who’s worked so hard, has so much potential, and hasn’t yet cashed in, take a knock that permanently changed the way he fights.
Is Koch ready?
Two weeks after what promises to be an epic UFC event in Las Vegas, Erik Koch’s title challenge July 21 in Calgary against featherweight champion Jose Aldo will feel small; maybe like it’s not even happening.
Depending on the outcome, of course, the 23-year-old Koch may wish it hadn’t. Then again, he wouldn’t be the first kid to come out of nowhere and pull off something many of us felt was impossible. And let’s be real here, there are few things in MMA more difficult to do than defeating Jose Aldo.
I thought it interesting that Hatsu Hioki, who based on his résumé is as ready to fight Aldo as any fighter in the world, has decided to take his time. Rather than jump at the chance to fight Aldo, Hioki meets Ricardo Lamas in a preliminary bout in June. The decision confused me, and it left the door open for Koch.
The first thing to notice when looking at Koch’s record, which is nowhere as good as Hioki’s, is his level of competition. He’s fought scrappy guys that helped make him look good. That’s not Aldo. Aldo is an offensive machine. I have the feeling Koch is in big trouble here.
Ratings ebb and flow
Somewhere between a heavyweight championship attraction and a card filled with scrappers is the truth when it comes to UFC ratings on Fox.
The number of households that tuned into Saturday’s network event, headlined by Nate Diaz and Jim Miller, plummeted compared to the previous two fight nights, but attempting to extrapolate what that means for future cards is risky business.
The May 5 card averaged 2.4 million viewers, a drop off of more than 50 percent from the first offering in November (5.7 million viewers), and this January (4.7 million). There were plenty of things to do Saturday, including a bevy of sports-watching options, not the least of which was Floyd Mayweather fighting Miguel Cotto on pay-per-view.
The UFC should regard the 2.4 million number as a baseline, the minimum number of viewers that will tune in to a Fox card. Considering the disappointment (and some have called it that) of Junior dos Santos’s early knockout against Cain Velasquez, and the decision-heavy second offering headlined by a five-round snoozer between Rashad Evans and Phil Davis, if people tuned in to watch a card without any star power and/or title fights they’re likely the most passionate watchers out of the casual group.
UFC’s third event on Fox was its most typical: just a solid lineup of action and good MMA. Had the evening gone another way, then there might be something to really worry about for Zuffa. But the bottom line is fighters performed and viewers likely felt as if the experience was worth doing again on Aug. 4.
Weekend viewing options
Zuffa is off until a Tuesday night fight card featuring Dustin Poirier and Chan Sung Jung, but that only opens the space up for multiple promoters. (By the way, with Hioki bowing out, the winner of this fight would have been my pick to face Aldo at UFC 149.)
May 10: Former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Soto has dropped to 135 and will fight for a respected regional title when he takes on Chad George at Tachi Palace Fights 13. The card streams on Sherdog.com
May 11: Speaking of ratings, Bellator and MTV2 earned an increase with the return of Michael Chandler on Friday. That’s a great sign for the lightweight titleholder. This week, Bellator heads to Atlantic City. Featherweights Marlon Sandro and Daniel Straus fight for the fight to get next crack at the 145-pound title after Patricio Freire. Should be a competitive fight.
On HDNet, Legacy Fighting Championship 11 from Houston features a mix of prospects and veterans. If you caught my podcast this week, you heard the interview with Chad Robichaux. The decorated special forces veteran, making his flyweight debut against Joseph Sandoval, has formed a non-profit -- Mighty Oaks Foundation -- to aid military personal stricken with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.