Sunday, February 6, 2011
Silva earns respect; Jones, a title shot
By Josh Gross
So much for the prospect of a hyper-competitive fight card. Action at UFC 126 may not have lived up to advanced billing, but that doesn't make its results, or more accurately the consequences of those results, any less important.
To the contrary.
UFC 126 will be remembered and referenced for more than a particular bout or moment no matter how much Anderson Silva's Steven Seagal-inspired knockout of Vitor Belfort impressed. (And it did.)
Considering its depth, this is an event dripping in relevance. From establishing unexpected No. 1 contenders, to squaring the reputation of longtime champions, to raising doubts about one country's ability to produce greatness, there is much unpacking to be done in the wake of UFC's most meaningful event since its milestone hundredth card in July 2009.
What's a guy gotta do to get some respect around here?
If it's true that familiarity breeds contempt, perhaps this explains the attitude some fans have cultivated regarding the record-holding UFC middleweight champion. He's been so good for so long, maybe fans feel as fatigued as the fighters trying to master the Anderson Silva enigma.
Oh, Silva again? Ho-hum.
The 35-year-old Brazilian -- he of the 13 consecutive UFC victories, including a record eight successful title defenses -- was an all-time great before he tossed his foot into Belfort's face Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. His status was never in doubt, just the affection that tends to come from fans with success such as his.
As with most things in MMA, words like "legend" and "legacy" and "great" get thrown around without consideration for context or timing or reality. In any plane of consciousness, Silva has asserted himself as a legend, with a growing legacy of greatness.There are many very good fighters out there. No matter how badly he wants to fight one, none of them are Silva clones. It's time fans realize his uniqueness.
The next best thing to fighting himself, of course, is a match against Georges St. Pierre. Silva held up his end of the bargain by stopping Belfort. Now it's up to St. Pierre, the UFC welterweight champion, who defends his belt in April against Jake Shields. Perhaps it will take Silva's defeating St. Pierre for him to get his due.
|Will Georges St. Pierre be the man to solve Anderson Silva's style?|
Jonesing for a title shot
Jon Jones does everything fast. Following the thorough dismantling of undefeated light heavyweight prospect Ryan Bader, Jones was informed when the rest of us were that the UFC wanted him to fight UFC champ Mauricio Rua in March. He fell to his knees and agreed, not that there was any other option. Fast or not, Jones is confronted with a chance to win a UFC belt, and you can't begrudge a young man, still just 23 years old, from saying yes.
Is he ready? Can he do what's necessary for a fight of this importance in six weeks?
It feels sudden. Then again, Jones' three-year excursion into MMA has been nothing but sudden. And, well, violent.
Don't be foolish and suggest Jones is out of his league. He's not. Do question the timing, however. Short notice. No break between camps. The possibility of being overtrained. Is this the smartest way to approach a UFC title that surely would have come at some point? No. Is this the way Jon Jones is doing it? Yes. And so far so good on that front.
|Ryan Bader, right, won't have to worry about a force of nature like Jon Jones in his next fight.|
Struggles continue in and out of competition for Japanese MMA
Michihiro Omigawa and Norifumi Yamamoto couldn't do it. Just like Shinya Aoki couldn't. Or Caol Uno. Or the vast majority of Japanese mixed martial artists looking to replicate the success they found at home.
There aren't many Yushin Okamis.
As rumors persist about the pending demise of Japanese MMA on the promotion front, there needs to be a serious retooling on the fighter development end if the island nation expects to turn out prospects who can succeed on the highest international stages, particularly those in the U.S., where powerhouses like Chad Mendes (who swamped Omigawa en route to a unanimous decision) or speed merchants such as Demetrious Johnson (who made Yamamoto look old) were simply too much for two of Japan's best on Saturday.
|You're grounded: Michihiro Omigawa and the rest of the Japanese fight scene in the UFC have to retool.|
Cerrone win answers little
If you can tell me how WEC-housed lightweights will fare in the UFC based on Donald Cerrone's second-round submission of Paul Kelly, congratulations. Now put that power to good use and stop meddling around in trivial matters such as this. Look, Cerrone dominated a low- to mid-tier lightweight in Paul Kelly. Just a word of warning: Don't go reading too much into what this means as far as the competitiveness of Cerrone, Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis against upper-echelon 155-pounders.
|Thrashing Paul Kelly, above, doesn't say much about Donald Cerrone's UFC credentials.|
Spoils for the victors
Silva: A potential blockbuster fight against GSP. UFC president Dana White said Silva versus St. Pierre at Cowboys Stadium makes sense.
Forrest Griffin: A new life in the light heavyweight division. Griffin was too big for Rich Franklin, and it showed in the way he muscled takedowns from odd positions. The potential for a second title shot looms if he can score another meaningful win.
Jones: The opportunity to fulfill a major career ambition by the age of 23. Jones has all the makings of a special fighter.
Jake Ellenberger: A chance to breathe. A midpack welterweight in the UFC, Ellenberger's win over Carlos Eduardo Rocha means he's set up for a high-stakes fight next time around.
Miguel Torres: Forget the boos, Miguel. You did nothing wrong by taking advantage of height and length edges against Antonio Banuelos. Jabs worked beautifully, and Banuelos proved incapable of making adjustments. Tactically, it was perfect. A bout against Urijah Faber looms, presuming Faber bests Eddie Wineland in March.
|An eye on history: Anderson Silva might be one half of the biggest bout that can be made in MMA.|
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.