On April 27, 2013, Jon Jones will enter the cage and the door will slam shut. He'll go toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose with Chael Sonnen for the UFC's Light Heavyweight Championship.
Jones is the reigning champion and, after having decimated the ranks of the 205-pound division, finds himself running short on competition.
The challenger Sonnen is coming off of a second-round TKO loss to 185-pound champion Anderson Silva.
Despite the fact that we're more than six months from fight night, I believe that we can already reasonably assess the winners and losers from this fight.
The first winner from this fight is the UFC.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) is mired in a major slump, at least in terms of ratings.
Cue Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones.
Sonnen is an absolute marketing mastermind and one of the biggest draws in the UFC.
Jon Jones is one of the most dominant champions the sport has ever known.
These two men squaring off as coaches for TUF is exactly what the fledgling show needs at this point.
In order to resuscitate TUF the UFC needed to pull out all the stops. They needed to make the right decision in terms of whom to bring in as coaches for this season.
The show is at a crossroads, and the UFC knows it.
The combination of Sonnen's persona and Jones' talent will breathe new life into TUF.
TUF will thrive, at least in this upcoming season.
Just a couple of days ago, there were whispers that the fight between Alexander Gustafsson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua would decide who would take on Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight Championship.
Fast forward to yesterday, and those two combatants learned with the rest of the world that Jones would be fighting neither of them.
Instead, Jones would be fighting Chael Sonnen, someone who hasn't fought in the division for quite some time.
Now with the TUF finale being scheduled for the end of April, my best guess is that the Gustafsson-Rua winner wouldn't have the opportunity to fight Jones until the end of the summer, at the earliest.
So what's to happen here? Will the winner sit for eight months or more, waiting for the opportunity to fight Jones? Keep in mind that most fighters earn the bulk of their income for fighting.
Waiting eight months for a payday, lucrative as it may be, is not an ideal scenario.
The more likely situation will be that the winner of this fight will have to fight another top contender in the interim.
This means one more chance to lose. Their shot at the belt, which they could have seized with a win, would now be another fight down the road.
Anyone will tell you that on any given night, anything can happen inside the Octagon.
There is no guarantee that the winner of this fight will ever have another opportunity to fight for the championship, whether against Jones or another opponent.
Make no mistake about it: I do not believe for a second that Chael Sonnen will beat Jon Jones in the cage.
I know I just said that on any given night, anything can happen in the Octagon, but let's be real: It's extremely unlikely that Sonnen pulls off the upset of Jones, and if he does, it will go down in the books as one of the all-time greatest upsets in MMA history.
No, the reason Sonnen is already a winner is because he's being afforded the opportunity to fight once again for a championship.
Sonnen has capitalized more on a loss (Sonnen-Silva fight) than any man, woman, child, team, horse, army or anything else for that matter, in the history of the world.
If you're not familiar, in 2010 Sonnen dominated the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, Anderson Silva, for four-plus rounds. It was as close as Silva has ever come to a loss in the UFC.
However when all was said and done, Silva locked up a triangle armbar and submitted Sonnen.
Sonnen went on to win his next two fights, one a very close contest against Michael Bisping, and another against Brian Stann, who quite honestly was outmatched by Sonnen's wrestling and completely dominated.
Beating Bisping earned Sonnen a shot at redemption with Silva.
Redemption would not be obtained. Silva won by TKO in the second round.
Let's back it up, though.
This will be Sonnen's third title fight in five years. During that time, he has a record of seven wins and four losses.
Sure, two of those losses were to Anderson Silva, but still, how does that translate to an immediate title shot in a new division, and with a bigger fighter?
The answer is: it doesn't.
Sonnen got this fight by way of his charisma and self-promotion.
Sonnen won the popularity contest.
I, for one, am disappointed that the UFC chose the easy route by making this fight happen.
TUF is floundering because Friday nights at 10 p.m. is a horrible time slot.
I can't tell you the exact demographic that the UFC is looking to reach, but I feel like I have a pretty good idea.
Allow me to be a one-man focus group:
21-30-year-old men are generally not home to watch TV on Friday nights.
Friday nights are guys' nights.
Friday nights are date nights.
Friday nights are not sit-at-home-and-watch-people-who-we've-never-heard-of-fight nights.
The show has gotten stale; it's the same thing over and over.
I liked the idea behind the fights being live, but it was still on Friday nights, so I didn't watch.
Instead of scrapping the show, the UFC, in a last-ditch, desperate attempt at reigniting what once was, signed Jon Jones, which was a good move.
Signing Sonnen as his adversary, however, was not.
It has seemed to me that the UFC has become increasingly enamored with the bottom line, and this is just another example.
Instead of the UFC having the Gustafsson-Rua winner or even Daniel Cormier, the Strikeforce heavyweight champion—who according to reports had inquired about the opportunity to coach opposite Jones—they chose Sonnen.
The UFC is essentially saying that the ratings for TUF are more important than the end result, which is the fight between the two coaches.
Because TUF is floundering, they can't use the show to build the brand that is Gustafsson or Cormier.
Rather, TUF needs the Chael Sonnen brand name to build the show.
Competitiveness be damned: Let Chael get murdered in the cage, so long as TUF scores well in the ratings.
Cormier, who I believe poses the biggest threat to Jones' reign, will just have to sit cage-side and hope that he can garner a few more Twitter followers.
All in all, the decision leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as I'm sure that it does for many others.
I watch MMA so that I can see only the best fighters do battle with each other.
The UFC seems to have forgotten that.
Recently, the murmurs of a super-fight between Jon Jones and Anderson Silva have grown louder.
Being such aficionados of the bottom line, I'm sure that Dana White and the powers that be would relish the opportunity of having a Jones-Silva fight in the Octagon.
What such a super-fight would mean is that the top of the middleweight division could find themselves stalled for quite some time.
At the top of the heap is Chris Weidman, who's utter decimation of Mark Munoz landed him squarely on top of the contenders list, at least in my opinion.
Working your way down there is still Alan Belcher, Tim Boetsch and Michael Bisping among others, each of whom hold credentials that could warrant a title shot with another win.
No disrespect to any of these men that I mentioned, but outside of Bisping, most are relatively unknown to the casual fan.
Unfortunately for Weidman, the aforementioned destruction of Munoz was on a Fuel TV card, which doesn't reach nearly enough households to make the most of a fighter's performance, even when headlining.
The super-fight, if the UFC could've convinced Silva and Jones to make it, would've shut down the middleweight champion for quite some time, and not a single person would've thought twice about it.
With Jones now contracted to fight Sonnen, Silva is free to fight someone else.
I know that it's been rumored that Silva could potentially fight Georges St-Pierre, the welterweight champion, which would ultimately inflict the same damage to the middleweight division as fighting Jones. I don't believe that this fight will happen.
As great a fighter as GSP is, I don't believe that he'll be willing to move to 185, and I don't believe that Silva can cut to 170 lbs. I also don't believe that they will risk the legacies that each have built to fight at a catch weight.
No, the middleweight contenders have definitely won this round.
Jon Jones is striving to become the greatest fighter of all time.
Yet he has balked at the idea of fighting the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva.
He also refused to fight Chael Sonnen on short notice, prior to the UFC 151 event that never was.
Be that as it may, I don't fault him for his stance on either of those fights.
Fighting and beating Silva would be a huge feather in anyone's cap. But I don't agree that it is a fight that Jones needs to take and win to cement his legacy, whatever that may be, at the end of his career.
On a side note, Silva has been equally as unreceptive to the idea as Jones. In my heart of hearts, at this point in his career, I believe Silva has more to gain from taking the fight with Jones and beating him.
Regardless, I don't fault him for not wanting to fight Silva.
I also believe to fight at the level that he needs to fight at, to continue his ascension up the pound-for-pound ranks, it doesn't behoove Jones to take any fight on short notice, particularly just a week's notice.
Although the UFC did do a bang-up job at portraying Jones as poorly as possible to the media and fans, I don't buy into the fact that the event's cancellation was his fault, and nor do I believe his decision not to fight Sonnen hurt his credibility as a fighter.
Even though I don't fault Jones for not taking the fight with Sonnen for 151, I do not believe that it is the right fight for Jones to take now.
Jon Jones is 17-1 in his career. The lone defeat was a disqualification as a result of illegal downward elbows against Matt Hamill—who had been brutalized up until that point.
In fact, I'm not sure if Jon Jones has ever lost a round. The only time I personally have ever seen him really tested was in the first round against Lyoto Machida. The fight ended in the second round with Machida unconscious on the mat, succumbing to a guillotine choke.
If Jon Jones wants to be the greatest of all time, he doesn't need to beat a natural middleweight.
He doesn't need to move up to heavyweight.
He needs to beat light heavyweights.
He needs to beat the best light heavyweights.
If Cormier is serious about fighting at 205, then he is the second-best light heavyweight in the world at this point.
He should be fighting Jon Jones.
In my opinion, based on his full body of work and the fact that no one seems to want to fight him, Glover Teixeira should be high on that list.
Dan Henderson, Jones' original opponent for UFC 151, should be high on the list.
Machida, who might be the only person to have won a round against Jones, should be high on that list.
Chael Sonnen isn't anywhere on that list, and Jon Jones knows it.
Shame on Jon Jones for not wanting to fight the best.
Chael Sonnen on TV once a week for an hour: yes, please!
There is not a more entertaining person in MMA, and that includes Joe Rogan and his standup career.
It will be ten weeks (or however long the show lasts) of pure entertainment.
I have no doubts that Chael P. Sonnen will deliver week-in and week-out.
Jon Jones—I'm not so sure.
But Sonnen will bring more than enough to carry the load.
The fans will tune in.
The season is destined to be a smash hit.
The fans will love every second of it except for....
...the fact that the fans will eventually lose.
UFC fighters tend to fight three or four times each year.
To waste one of the game's greatest talents on a fight of this caliber is just that— a waste.
Instead of Jones pushing to fight the best, he's fighting a slightly above-average wrestler who brings no other discernible skill inside the Octagon.
Part of the allure of MMA is opportunity for the average person to watch other people push themselves to extremes, all in the name of sport. These athletes push themselves beyond a point of exhaustion and pain of which the normal person couldn't even dream.
To pass on what would pose as his biggest threat does Jones no favors to his already tarnished image.
The fans want to root for fighters. The fans want to root for greatness. Everyone wants to say they've seen the greatest of all time.
If Jones is looking to protect his legacy, he's certainly going about it the wrong way. In the end, Jones isn't giving the fans anything to root for.
Jones isn't putting forth his maximum effort.
And at the end of the day, it's the fans that lose.