UFC on FX 8 isn't exactly the most anticipated fight card of the year.
It's not even the most anticipated card of May, if we're getting right down to it. That honor goes to next weekend's UFC 160 event in Las Vegas; it features a heavyweight title fight that, even if it feels eerily familiar (because we saw it one year ago, also in Las Vegas), will still appeal to the masses far more than anything we'll see this weekend on FX.
That being said, I'm excited for UFC on FX 8. More specifically, I'm excited for Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold. I noted yesterday that I had some personal misgivings about Belfort's TRT usage and TRT's place in the grand scheme of sporting events, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited about the fight itself.
Because, when it comes right down to it, Belfort vs. Rockhold is an important fight with plenty at stake for the middleweight division.
There are other interesting things on the card, too, and today we're going to take a look at two of them. Let's get started.
There was a time, and this wasn't all that long ago, when Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza was the newly-minted terror of the world's middleweight division.
I remember watching Souza dismantle Robbie Lawler back in 2011 and thinking to myself, "OK, this guy is pretty scary and I'd like to see him fight Anderson Silva."
That was still a pipe dream back then, of course. Zuffa wouldn't purchase Strikeforce until three months after Souza submitted Lawler for his fourth win in a row; the possibility of Souza actually facing Silva and other top UFC middleweights wouldn't become a reality until a little more than two years later.
On Saturday night, Souza finally enters the same division as Silva, and I can't help but think that his best opportunity to earn some kind of favored scorecard likely vanished out the window back when he lost his Strikeforce middleweight title to Luke Rockhold.
That fight was the one after Lawler, and it derailed years of hype behind Jacare; instead of making his UFC debut as a top title contender, Jacare is debuting against Chris Camozzi. Rockhold, meanwhile, is in the main event against one of the UFC's bigger names with a title shot likely on the line.
Souza has to feel like he could've easily been in Rockhold's shoes, like Rockhold's spoils should have been his. And Souza can still work his way back to the top, but that journey simply must start on Saturday night. He can't falter, or he'll be left behind.
In the previous slide, I talked about the time when Jacare Souza was considered a top-flight middleweight contender.
In this slide, I'm featuring another: Evan Dunham. Back in 2010, Dunham was riding an 11-fight winning streak. In fact, he was undefeated, and the win over Tyson Griffin was his fourth UFC victory in a row.
I remember that fight being considered as one that would crown a potential title contender; many folks thought Griffin would be the guy to beat Dunham and go on to contend for the lightweight title. That never happened, as you now know; Griffin would lose to Dunham and then lose four of his next five fights before being booted out of the UFC.
Dunham? Well, he hasn't had the best of times over the past few years, but he's still in the UFC. There's something to be said for that. I don't believe he'll ever be considered the kind of potential title contender he was back in 2009 or 2010, but he's still just 31 years old. That's not young, but it also isn't old.
A win over Dos Anjos would give Dunham his second in a row (after being Gleison Tibau in February). At worst, it would secure his job for another three or four fights. At best, it would earn him a chance to move up and face the newer generation of lightweight fighters who are all searching for greatness.
We'll combine two names on the same slide here, since they all fall into the same general category: veterans who are either in danger of being cut or will absolutely find themselves without a job if they lose at UFC on FX 8:
Paulo Thiago: Back at UFC 95, when Paulo Thiago Ryu-uppercutted Josh Koscheck in the face and knocked him out, the MMA world thought they had a new title contender. Thiago was 11-0 and mixed fearsome speed with an excellent ground game, and folks discussed him as a potential title contender for Georges St-Pierre.
Fast-forward to 2013, and Thiago finds himself on the verge of losing his job. He's just 3-5 since that night when he beat Koscheck and has never again displayed the kind of skills that made myself and others thing that he'd be an interesting match for St-Pierre. He'll need to beat Michel Prazeres in order to save his job.
Gleison Tibau: The monstrous lightweight (seriously, how he packs that much muscle on his frame, I'll never know) is 4-3 in his last seven, so he usually wouldn't be in that much danger of losing his job. But these are tough days for losing fighters in the UFC, with the promotion trying to cut back its roster of four million employees (or whatever the number of fighters under contract) to something a little more manageable.
If Tibau doesn't win beat John Cholish, he's in danger of finding himself standing in front of the firing squad. And considering the depth of Cholish's skills, well, that's much more likely than he's probably considering.