Run for the LH title shot now a party of four

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
5:52
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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This is one sport where public outcry reaches important ears.

After promising a title shot to the winner of Saturday night’s Brandon Vera/Mauricio Rua bout on a media call, Dana White has had a change of heart. The news of Rua or Vera getting another crack at Jon Jones hit like a thud. As such, UFC on FOX 4 becomes a four-man affair, as Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader have been added to this penultimate drama. Whoever wins in the most devastating fashion gets the winner of Jones and Dan Henderson.

The fans have spoken. Bigger possibility now comes into play on Saturday night. With bigger possibility, bigger drama.

But this is one of those cases where you wonder if the outcry was fully understood. Back at UFC 103, when the UFC announced a main event rematch between Rich Franklin and Henderson, the “why bother” undertow was so strong that it was immediately shut down. You remember what happened next. Henderson hit a contract snag and defected to Strikeforce, and Franklin got knocked out by Vitor Belfort instead.

It all panned out OK for everybody.

It will pan out OK this time, too; but right now, it’s confusing. It’s White’s prerogative to switch gears as he sees fit, and he’s not afraid to do just that, especially if it calms down outraged fans. Tim Sylvia was pretty close to fighting Daniel Cormier before the roof collapsed in on him. Enter Frank Mir, and everybody breathed a sigh of relief. Mir having no chance is far better than Sylvia having no chance.

Why? Essentially because Mir deserves to be there more. These are the types of alignments we make through initial gut reactions.

But that was last week. This week, whimsy is shaking down the light heavyweight division. The thing is, a lot of people’s fates are attached to the whims. There are the four guys in question, but also Alexander Gustafsson, and even Glover Teixeira, who are hovering around. Not to mention all the out of division foes Jones’ name gets linked to. Are we sorting out merit, or convenience? It’s always a fine line.

I wrote a blog yesterday after it was announced that the Rua/Vera winner would get a title shot, which is down the scroll just below. The gist is, if Jones beats Henderson, neither Rua nor (especially) Vera makes for a compelling rematch. Unfortunately, that problem still exists with the introduction of Bader and Machida. Jones has distanced himself from all of Saturday night’s company. He defeated both Bader and Machida so thoroughly the first time -- the same as with Rua and Vera -- that the drama of a playback just isn’t there.

However, small-view drama that can sort itself out on Saturday night is. And this seems to be what we’re keying in on.

The problem is, we don’t know if Jones will win on Sept. 1. Most only suspect he’ll beat the 41-year old Henderson. Since the promises are being made ahead of the order, it’s difficult to say if any of this makes sense. If Henderson upsets Jones, any of the UFC on FOX guys look like a solid matchup. Since that fight comes a month after this impromptu contender’s tournament, though, we go off of potential disappointments.

And the potential disappointment in this case is that one of these four guys will end up facing Jones in a fight that won’t be altogether riveting, just as Jones enters the most riveting juncture of his career.

White changes his mind quite a bit. Oftentimes it’s because the fans voiced their opinion and, as he’s proved to be many times, he’s a man of the people. By opening up Machida and Bader to the mix, he’s done that again. Now there’s a showcase vibe for Saturday night, and there’s every incentive for each fighter to come out with guns blazing to put the other away.

Whoever does it gets the title shot, whether it makes sense or not. That is, unless, you know, White changes his mind -- which has every chance of being the case.

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