MMA: The Pros & Cons of Stepping Up to Fight on Short Notice

Duane FinleyContributor IOctober 2, 2012

Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Matt Mitrione during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

This topic has been swatted around like a beach volleyball as of late. Everyone, from UFC President Dana White to an array of high profile fighters, have weighed in with their opinion on the matter.

It has to be understood with each situation varying circumstance has played a part, but stepping up to take a fight on short notice has seemingly become the house special in the MMA debate world.

Are there advantages?

Sure there are. By diving into the fray a fighter has the opportunity to "save the day" and salvage a fight from its deathbed. In some cases, it works out better than anyone could imagine (see Charlie Brenneman vs. Rick Story), but there are certainly others where the decision, while seemingly beneficial to all parties involved, only results in the negative.

When Brenneman took the bout with Story, who was rolling his way to contender status, it was on the tail end of the Marquardt release. "The Spaniard" was the right man at the right time, who took a rare opportunity when it was presented.

By doing what few believed he could in actually winning the fight, not only did Brenneman earn the UFC's good graces, but brought some spotlight to his career in the process.

Following the victory, Brenneman replaced Story on the potential contender on the rise list, but the good vibes wouldn't last long. He was dealt a punishing defeat to Anthony Johnson in his very next outing and only managed to win one of his next three showings following the loss.

Today, it was announced Brenneman was released by the organization and therefore the debate goes on.

How much does stepping up on short notice truly help a fighters career?

With Brenneman being a notch on the positive side, current Bellator welterweight Ben Saunders is an example of the opposite.

The "Killa Bee" stepped up to face perennial contender Jon Fitch at UFC 111 when Fitch's original opponent Thiago Alves failed his medical clearance to fight.

In the bout, Saunders was out-wrestled in route to a unanimous decision defeat. He suffered a similar fate in his next outing at UFC 117 against Dennis Hallman and was released by the UFC shortly after.

There's little doubt Saunders's 4-3 record played into the decision, but being cut just one fight after stepping up against a top contender, is proof "stepping up" isn't a guarantee for a lock in the company favor department.



It also has to be looked at from different perspectives. How much does it truly prove when a fighter takes a fight on short notice?

In the case of Brenneman vs. Story, there was just as much argument of Story having to adapt to the situation as Brenneman putting on a career making performance. Let's not forget Story himself was stepping up to fill the void left by an injured Martin Kampmann.

He was looking to knock off another top contender in a quick turnaround when he agreed to face Marquardt in Pittsburgh. After the flip-flop and three rounds of a determined Brenneman, Story was left with his head spinning.

The most recent example is with DeMarques Johnson and highly-touted prospect Gunnar Nelson. The two men met in the Octagon this past weekend in Nottingham for the UFC on Fuel Five card. Johnson was fresh off getting knocked out by veteran Mike Swick in Los Angeles in August and agreed to take the bout after Pascal Krauss was forced to withdraw. Nelson made short work of the TUF alum as he earned the first round submission stoppage.

There is not doubt Johnson is tough as nails, but what did we truly learn about Nelson in the process?

The other side of this argument in recent months has occurred when one fighter is in the process of training for a bout and the potential replacement has not been in camp.

It was made public this past weekend former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans turned down a potential fight with Glover Teixeira at UFC 153. Evans took to his Twitter account to explain his reasoning behind the decision and it came down to not being prepared.

He attempted to make it clear that while he was helping Vitor Belfort train for the bout with Jon Jones, Evans himself was not walking around in fighting shape. On the other hand, Teixeira had been preparing to face Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and was already conditioned for a fight.



Does it make sense for Evans to turn down the fight?

I can get behind the thought process 100 percent. Evans has already traveled the rough road of being out of company favor and has remained one of the top fighters in his weight class despite any surrounding circumstance.

Can the same be said for UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione turning down a fight against Daniel Cormier when it was offered?

"Meathead" couldn't get Cheick Kongo off of him when they tussled at UFC 137 and knows full well when Cormier decided to take the fight to the canvas, there would be no stopping it.

There's no doubt the decision drew the ire of Dana White, and it would most likely serve in Mitrione's favor to be in the boss's good graces. Unlike Evans, he hasn't defeated the top tier fighters in his weight class, but coming off a loss to Kongo, and facing a probable defeat against Cormier, doesn't sound all that appealing either.

It's certainly a tough situation and an important decision which has to be made a moment's notice.

Are you in or are you out?

Can we count on you to step up for us or are you going to turn away?

While it sounds somewhat simplistic, the business of fighting is winning and whether we choose to see it or not, that's what truly matters to fighters. Being entertaining is nice, but being employed is better. There's a rare breed of fighter out there who can bring both to the table, but not enough to be the constant hero on the ready.

While somewhere Donald Cerrone is waiting for the "Cowboy Signal" to hit the sky, another bout will open up and the debate will continue.