Tuesday, March 6, 2012
UFC title album missing some pictures
By Chuck Mindenhall
The UFC’s flyweight division was exactly one fight old when things went haywire at the top.
That’s so 2012 in the UFC. When title belts are in play, all paths look more like construction zones with detours.
This time, Ian McCall appeared as if he’d won a back-and-forth fight to advance in the shudder-speed flyweight tournament. Then the scorecards were read and it was actually Demetrious Johnson who won a majority decision, turning "Uncle Creepy’s" maestro swagger off as fast as it came on.
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His depression didn’t last long.
To the chagrin of flyweight matchmaker Sean Shelby, who was in Columbus for Strikeforce some 10,000 miles away, the Australian athletic commission miscalculated the scorecards on McCall/Johnson. The result should have been a majority draw, and somewhere in the bowels of Allphones Arena in Sydney they informed Dana White, whose only response could be the obligatory tirade of profanity. They weren’t. And the disheartening thing for the UFC was that this was an eventuality it had prepared for by introducing a sudden victory round -- à la "The Ultimate Fighter" format -- to resolve any draws at the end.
But there’s no accounting for human error, and nothing much can be done in that situation except adopt the common shoulder-shrugger’s refrain: it is what it is.
Now Joseph Benavidez -- who TKO’d Yasuhiro Urushitani -- will wait for a rematch that most will be stoked to see and yet shouldn’t have to see. Flies in the Vaseline, they are. Sadly, the UFC’s newest division adds to the already algebraic complications going on with the UFC’s title pictures.
Go back a week and start there. Benson Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 in a close fight to take home the lightweight strap. Seeing that it was a close fight, one that could be interpreted either way, Edgar asked for an immediate rematch. Problem is that Anthony Pettis, who knocked out Joe Lauzon the same night, wants his shot at the belt, too. He was the last man to defeat Henderson, and was at one point the solid No. 1 contender (a position he fancies himself in again). Jim Miller and Nate Diaz are operating with the understanding (delusion?) that their May 5 fight in New Jersey is a title eliminator.
Of everyone, Edgar is the unignorable here. The UFC wants him to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight belt, but Edgar doesn’t want to. He rematched B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard without quibbling, and he wants some return love. It’s hard to argue. Before his fight with Henderson, the UFC romanticized Edgar as a Rocky-esque figure in the hype process. Yet not even Rocky was Rocky coming off of wins. He was Rocky because of how he responded to losses. First with Apollo Creed, then with Clubber Lang. And later, after losing the vainglorious Creed to a killing machine from Russia, against Ivan Drago.
Hold it right there: No one is going anywhere so long as Georges St. Pierre remains on the shelf.
How can the UFC draw upon a man’s heart and not give him the chance to show its full dimensions? Having lost to the bigger, stronger Henderson sets the table for a truer representation of his nonfictional Rocky story.
As an extension of the uncertainty at 155 pounds and Edgar, the featherweight division is in limbo. What next for Aldo? Then you glance at the welterweight title picture, and that's way out of focus. Georges St. Pierre is recovering from ACL surgery, and is either way ahead of schedule or possibly right on schedule or something else. He is tentatively looking at a November return. Interim titleholder Carlos Condit is waiting to see something definitive in that timetable before deciding what to do next. Jake Ellenberger is waiting to see what Condit does, and now so is Martin Kampmann (the last man to defeat Condit). It’s possible we don’t see an “actual” title defense at 170 pounds this year.
By slotting Dominick Cruz against Urijah Faber as the coaches on "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 15, that means Cruz won’t defend his bantamweight belt until the summer. And that means any challengers beyond Faber -- guys like super-sensation Renan Barao -- are out of luck until winter.
As for middleweights, Anderson Silva is finally going to fight again in June after recovering from bursitis in his shoulder. There’s a chance we see just one middleweight title fight in 2012.
With eight weight divisions, and a conservative average of two fights per year, there should be in the neighborhood of 16 title fights. That won’t be the case in 2012. There might be 10, if we're lucky.
Can you imagine if Jon Jones had made good on his request to take a few months off? Light heavyweight is the closest the UFC has to a normally functioning division right now. And it looks like Junior dos Santos is ready to go, if Alistair Overeem can avoid injuries and conflicts beforehand.
Otherwise, title fights are scarce to come by this year. Which means we’ll be watching a lot more PFC (Penultimate Fighting Championship) than UFC (the Ultimate variety).