Last week's news of UFC 151's cancelation made waves in the MMA industry unlike any we've ever seen before.
We've seen plenty of big news over the years, from the Zuffa purchase of PRIDE and Strikeforce to Brock Lesnar's tumultuous tenure in the UFC. But nothing polarized the fans, media and fighters the way Jon Jones did when he elected not to fight Chael Sonnen, thus forcing the first-ever cancelation of a UFC pay per view event.
Who are the real winners and losers from the fallout of the event cancelation? Let's take a look.
Chael Sonnen: Much like a cat, Sonnen has nine lives. The guy went from being finished by Anderson Silva in early July to suddenly being truly and wholly considered for a light heavyweight title shot against one of the best fighters in the world. It was, and still is, an unfathomable sequence of events. But because of Sonnen's willingness to step in the cage on extremely short notice—and his obvious verbal skills—he's once again back in the brightest spotlight in the UFC. I fully expect him to stay there.
Vitor Belfort: I mentioned that Sonnen's rise back to prominence was unfathomable, but it doesn't match what Belfort has done. Belfort was a middleweight training to face Alan Belcher, and now he's headlining yet another UFC main event, this time for the UFC light heavyweight championship. Regardless of how Belfort does in the cage in late September, he's bought himself extra life in the UFC for his willingness to step up and fight when seemingly few others would.
Jon Jones: For his decision to not fight Sonnen, Jones is going to take his lumps in public for the foreseeable future. He went from being a polarizing fighter to—for all intents and purposes—the most hated fighter in the sport. It'll take him awhile to recover from this incident, but one thing is for sure: Jones badly needs experienced help in the public relations department.
Dana White: I understand that White was incredibly upset by Jones' decision to step out of the UFC 152 main event, but he couldn't have handled the situation more poorly than he did. Jones is a guy who can still be built up as the face of the company and has the most mainstream potential of anyone on the roster, and White still spent 30 minutes verbally tearing him a new one. Again, I understand the anger stemming from the situation, but White needs to learn to take a more measured approach. It'll serve him better in the long run.
Lyoto Machida: Machida was offered two separate title fights in the course of 24 hours, and turned them both down. For a guy who, according to White, badly wants another title shot, he sure isn't showing much initiative. Turning down UFC 151 on 8 day's notice is one thing, but turning down UFC 152 and the four weeks of preparation it would bring is another. I'd be surprised if Machida is even considered as the next light heavyweight title challenger.