Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Snowden: While Lavar Johnson might not be the best example, there is truth hidden in MattOCL's seemingly random babbling. We've seen the UFC struggle to create stars in the last five years, and a big part of the problem stems from its matchmaking style. The UFC just won't work with a fighter like Lavar to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses.
On a certain level it works wonderfully—matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby put the best fighters in the world across from each other, turn them loose, and watch to see who gets knocked silly and who lives to fight another day. It's a meritocracy in the best way, with fighters earning their positions in a trial by fire. The result has been a stunningly good show, cards featuring five or six compelling fights instead of the one or two bones boxing typically throws rabid fans on a slow Saturday night.
But that style comes with a cost. By the time a challenger rises to the top of the heap, fans have already seen him exposed. He's lost fights, or sometimes worse, looked human and dull along the path to the summit. Any chance to truly shine is lost on the journey. That's led to a roster full of good professional fighters—but one without many names capable of carrying a show to the stratosphere.
Dundas: First of all: Its. The UFC decline is due to its failure to feed Lavar Johnson cans. But I digress.
I totally get the sentiment here, and honestly it makes me a little ill. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m the kind of guy who wants to watch the best, most qualified artisans of unarmed combat strip to the waist and fight inside a steel cage without the meddling influence of promoter bias gumming up the works.
How about we just let the invisible hand of the marketplace decide who is best, without favor or discrimination toward big, tatted-up monsters who throw them bungalows?
Besides, surely by now we’ve all learned that the best way to get your best drawing card knocked out in career-destroying fashion is to try to build his/her rep by setting him/her up with easy fights. The MMA Gods will only allow that sort of nonsense for so long before they send a Seth Petruzelli or Emanuel Newton your way.
In this sport, we have no choice but to book the best fights we possibly can and hope stuff pans out. If that’s not good for business, well, so be it.
Seriously though, it was awesome when Johnson used to knock out tomato cans in the old WEC and then drink a beer in the cage while he did his postfight interview. So, I guess I can’t pretend like I wouldn’t watch.
Botter: Joe Silva once sat me down and explained his matchmaking philosophy. His job, he says, is to find someone to beat the world champion. He's continually on a search to find that next person who can step into any weight division and beat the champion.
But his job is also to create stars, and as Jonathan said earlier, there's a contrast here that is tough for the matchmakers to overcome. They want to pit young rising stars and other young rising stars, having them fight their way up the ladder instead of going the old Pride route and building stars by putting exciting young dudes in fights that are easy to win that will make them look good.
The UFC very rarely books squash matches, or at least not anymore; the last one I can really think of was Randy Couture vs. James Toney. And that featured two old dudes.
I get their matchmaking. It really does help separate the wheat from the chaff, as Chad and his farmer friends in Montana like to say. But it doesn't help anyone capture the public's imagination, and that's a more important factor in pay-per-view sales and television ratings than simply determining who is the best.