Our string of never-ending fight weeks continues this week with UFC on FOX 9. I'm sure it'll be a memorable event, but can it live up to the strong memories created by heavyweights Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva last Friday night in Australia? My gut tells me it cannot, but my gut has been very wrong before. My gut was very wrong about Hunt vs. Silva, and look how that one turned out.
The heavyweight slugfest is the talk of the town (and many other towns), but there are a few other topics of discussion I'd like to broach today. Without any further ado, let's get started with this week's edition of The Buzz List.
If you'd taken a trip to your local sportsbook (or online equivalent) last Friday prior to the start of UFC Fight Night 33, you would've seen one extremely interesting prop bet. The idea of Hunt and Silva going to a draw seemed a ludicrous one, and the bookmakers odds on that prop reflected the absurdity: for $1, you would've earned $15,000.
Yes, Hunt and Silva going to a draw was 15,000 to 1.
If anyone threw down a few bucks on that long-shot just for the fun of it, they were richly rewarded when Hunt and Silva did, in fact, fight to a draw. And not just any draw, but one of the greatest heavyweight fights in the history of mixed martial arts and one of the UFC's best offerings in 2013.
My colleague Jonathan Snowden called it the fight of the year. I can't go quite that far. It was an awesome, thrilling fight, and you'll never hear me taking anything away from what those two men did in the cage on Friday night.
But it wasn't the fight of the year. On my list, it ranks behind Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez, Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson and even Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice. All were great fights, but all seem to be overlooked because Hunt vs. Silva is the newest thing. It is the most fresh in our collective memories, and so it is afforded more attention even as we brush the previous contenders to the wayside.
If Hunt and Silva are pushed into a rematch, there's no way they'll be able to live up to the build-up that will surely accompany any such fight announcement. I'd much rather see the men go their separate ways. They don't need to "settle" anything. They already proved they're among the toughest fighters in UFC history, and no rematch can take that away from them.
The UFC's eternal quest to throw more mixed martial arts programming at us than we can possibly handle rolls ever onward. This week, the circus moves into Sacramento, to the arena once known as the Arco Arena and then the Power Balance Pavilion and now known as the Sleep Train Arena.
The card has a bit of local flavor to it. Headliner Joseph Benavidez, Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes all live in Sacramento and train at Team Alpha Male, and all three are featured heavily on the FOX broadcast.
The UFC tends to stack these FOX fight cards with the best they have to offer, which is to say the best they have to offer outside of their biggest champions. The flyweight title seems to have found a home on Fox, though the word "flyweight" is never mentioned because the UFC doesn't want to risk turning off its fans who have a cro-magnon view that bigger dudes are better just because they're bigger. Instead, it's billed as "the world championship." Which world championship? You'll have to tune in to find out.
Regardless of the billing in the main event, it's clear this is another superb effort from the UFC. Faber vs. MacDonald is a bout of old vs. new, or at least veteran vs. rising contender. Mendes vs. Lentz might be able to cement another title shot for Mendes, but Lentz is a much tougher opponent than perhaps many are giving him credit for. And then there's the main event, which could be Benavidez's last opportunity at gold so long as Johnson remains flyweight champion and Dominick Cruz holds the bantamweight title.
And then there's the most interesting fight on the preliminary card: Scott Jorgensen taking on the debuting Zach Makovsky, the former Bellator bantamweight champion who signed with the promotion as a late-notice replacement for Jorgensen just last week.
All told, this is one to watch.
Invicta Fighting Championships held their seventh event on Saturday night. It's a remarkable thing; even if you don't believe the amount of pay-per-view streams they continually brag about selling, you know it's still a well-run promotion that is serving as a good developmental ground for the UFC and their women's divisions.
But there are also troubling signs. For the second time, the promotion ran into issues with the "pay" aspect of their pay-per-view. The pay wall that protected the event from moochers wasn't working properly, and so Shannon Knapp took it down. Once again, an event that required payment and could have helped offset the cost of the event became a money loser.
This is not a viable business model. It cannot be utilized for long-term success. Even if Knapp has a money backer hiding in the wings, losing money is not a good long-term strategy, and this should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about fighting or money.
It's long past time for Invicta to sign a television deal and to stop relying on the internet to deliver its product to fans. They're already available on many cable carriers. Knapp needs to get out there and get deals done, because the fans want their product and they're willing to pay for it. But they'll lose interest if they continually face roadblocks when trying to actually make the purchase.
Last year, I wrote that the UFC will never sign Nick Newell. Here's what I said:
Imagine that someone who has never before seen a UFC event tunes into Fox and sees Newell fighting in the cage. What goes through their mind? Do they see the glory and the courage that Newell has exhibited thus far in his career? Of course not. They don't consider that Newell is hanging in there or that he's on equal footing with this opponent. They only see the freak show. They're disgusted—and again, this is without knowing anything of the real story—and they turn the TV off, never to watch again.
This still holds true. Newell—who ran his record to 11-0 with a first-round submission of Sabah Fadai at WSOF 7 on Saturday—is a remarkable story. He's also a very good fighter who might be able to hang with some of the best fighters in the UFC's lightweight division, or at least stick around in the pack of middle contenders. And in a perfect world, he's more than deserving of a shot at greatness.
But this is not a perfect world. The UFC is still embroiled in a long battle with Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in a fight to get into New York. The union paints the UFC as a barbaric blood sport, as the most base form of human entertainment available. They're looking for any little thing they can use to keep the UFC out of New York, and it's all because the workers at Station Casinos have thus far refused to join the union.
If the UFC signed Newell, and he took a ton of punishment on television, you think the Culinary Union would ignore that? Not for a split second. They would be all over it, and it would be the biggest arrow in their quiver. It would be a game-changer, and they could forget about ever stepping foot in Madison Square Garden.
I know it isn't fair. But it's reality. The UFC will not put themselves in a position to give 226 more ammunition. And so, even though he is surely deserving, Nick Newell still won't find a place waiting for him in the UFC as long as the UFC's principal owners keep the union fight going.