I don't know about you, but the news that Anthony Pettis is injured and out of his UFC 163 fight with Jose Aldo, according to Dana White's tweet—replaced by Chan Sung Jung, which I'll get into here in a bit—gave me a severe case of the Mondays on this beautiful Friday.
I realize that Pettis may not have been the most deserving featherweight contender to begin with. After all, he's never actually fought at 145 pounds, which probably means something to those who believe that fighters should be required to work their way up the divisional ladder before securing a title shot, instead of jumping more deserving contenders in line simply because they have a bigger name.
I agree with that notion, to an extent. But man, I was excited to see Pettis step in the cage against Aldo. Deserving or not, I believed Pettis represented a unique threat to Aldo's reign as champion. That's not to say I believed he would actually beat Aldo; it was simply an interesting matchup from a style perspective, and I was intrigued to see how Aldo dealt with Pettis and his one-of-a-kind fighting style.
All of that is out the window now, of course. Pettis has a partial tear of his meniscus, and who knows if he'll still consider the featherweight option when he returns from the injury? Perhaps, he'll decide to stay in the lightweight division and do the long-awaited rematch with Benson Henderson, provided the current champion beats T.J. Grant in August.
And with Pettis vs. Aldo off the table, Jon Jones facing Alexander Gustafsson and Georges St-Pierre stepping in the cage against rightful challenger Johny Hendricks in November, the dream of seeing one or two more superfights in 2013 is no longer a reality.
We won't see Jones face Silva to celebrate the UFC's 20th anniversary in November, as was heavily rumored after Jones dispatched Chael Sonnen in April. We won't see Silva face St-Pierre, despite Silva openly requesting the fight earlier this year. And even though it was always a long shot, we won't see Jones move up to heavyweight to challenge for the title. Not yet, anyway.
Sure, it's a bummer. I want to see Silva vs. Jones just as much as you do. I still believe that fight will eventually happen, especially if Silva beats Chris Weidman next month, and Jones dispatches Gustafsson—his only true remaining challenger in the division—come September in Toronto. But it's off the table for now, and that's just a tad bit depressing.
But when I really sit back and think about it, I have to say that it's not the end of the world. I'm a big fan of watching new talent develop and make their way to title contention within their divisions, much like Grant did in working his way to the lightweight title fight with Henderson.
And while I'd love to see the best in each division face off against each other, there's just something to be said for divisional stability. Superfights are interesting, but they also tend to put deserving contenders on ice, while they wait for the champions they've earned.
I can only imagine what kind of vile thoughts Hendricks would've had coursing through his brain if St-Pierre opted to face Silva instead of giving him the title shot he's worked so hard for.
Another perfect example: just look at the replacement for Pettis. Jung has won three spectacular fights in a row against Leonard Garcia, Mark Hominick and Dustin Poirier.
Two of those fighters are no longer in the UFC due to multiple losses, but they weren't easy opponents. Jung is ranked fourth in the official UFC rankings, so the argument that he's more deserving in that division than Pettis is an easy one to make.
One fighter is still being screwed in all of this, though: Ricardo Lamas, who is ranked No. 2 ahead of Jung and was scheduled to face "The Korean Zombie." Lamas has won four in a row against Matt Grice, Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch.
That's a tougher lineup than Jung has faced, and I'd have to say that Lamas is more deserving. But he didn't get the call to replace Pettis because he's not as popular as the Zombie.
That shouldn't surprise anyone; that's how things work in the UFC. It's why Pettis bypassed both Jung and Lamas in the first place. It's why Sonnen was able to face Jones in his first light heavyweight fight in years after losing to Silva.
Money is the driving force behind every decision the UFC makes; if Fighter A is more deserving than Fighter B, but Fighter B is more marketable, well, Fighter B will get the call for important fights almost every single time.
But the important thing here is that fighters like Lamas or Jung are getting their chance to shine in the fights they've worked so hard to get. Without superfights getting in the way, true divisional contenders can count on actually receiving the payoff they so richly deserve after they string together a series of important wins.
They may not do blockbuster numbers at the box office, but it makes the UFC feel more like a sporting organization and less like a version of World Wrestling Entertainment that just so happens to feature real fights instead of scripted entertainment.
That's a good thing.
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