If you look at Demian Maia's resume on Wikipedia, you'll see a curious thing. Under the "Method" category pertaining to the Brazilian's loss at the hands of Nate "The Great" Marquardt, it says, "KO (Punches)."
Punches? As in, more than one?
My appreciation of Maia might be described as undignified, but even I must acknowledge the plural does Marquardt's classy savagery a disservice. The American shut off the lights with one blow and knew it; he stopped what would have been an unnecessary shot in mid-throw.
It was a brutal yet genuine show of sportsmanship. And it was one punch.
Incidentally, the UFC takes far too much heat for its allegedly negative influence. It's a cornucopia of valuable life lessons taught on a fight-ly basis.
For instance, the disparate treatment of Maia—a class act to the core, by all accounts—and that of a yappy blighter like Michael "The Count" Bisping illustrates with painful clarity the wisdom of the adage "don't let your mouth write checks your hindquarters can't cash."
Both Marquardt and "Dangerous" Dan Henderson (who victimized the Count) are old school, give-respect-get-respect kinda guys. Yet Nate froze his superfluous insult to injury while Hendo threw a little extra oomph into his, which was a forearm/elbow to Bisping's already unconscious mug.
Back to the point.
I mention the knockout because the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace makes his return to the Octagon when Ultimate Fighting Championship 109 opens its doors in February. It'll be the first time Maia must enter the cage coming off defeat and the first time rolling since Marquardt chucked a monkey wrench into his meteoric rise. In other words, it'll be interesting to see how he rebounds.
Like I said, I'm a big fan of Maia's, so it's one of the fights I'm most amped to see.
But it's not the only one.
After the spectacle that was UFC 108, I'm done judging fight cards by the names in neon or the relative import to the overall landscape.
Would I rather have a title on the line? Absolutely, but who wouldn't?
I'm sure Dana White would tell you he'd rather have Brock Lesnar back in the cage tomorrow if it were possible. This is a combat sport; sometimes your prized ponies can't go so you make due with what you've got.
Furthermore, Rashad "Suga" Evans, Thiago Silva, Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout, Joe "J-Lau" Lauzon, Paul "Semtex" Daley, Junior "Cigano" dos Santos, Jim Miller, and company made a lot of due at the MGM Grand without any belt up for grabs.
Consequently, I'm embracing Randy "The Natural" Couture versus Mark "The Hammer" Coleman even though the bout emits the faint smell of liniment. Both were among the greatest of all time when primed and neither Captain America nor The Hammer can claim to have Father Time in his corner, as they are separated by little more than one year.
I'm looking forward to the Attack of the Clones between Matt "The Terror" Serra and Frank "Twinkle Toes" Trigg (tell me those two don't look related) even though it could reasonably be described as irrelevant. There are worse fates than watching a pair of caricatures from New York going at it with six-ounce gloves.
Mike "Quick" Swick against Paulo Thiago? Sign me up—should be a good fight, and both these guys must be considered contenders.
For a different brand of intrigue, try the UFC debut of heavyweight Gracie.
Rolles Gracie Jr. isn't exactly a young up-and-comer since he's 31, but he's still mixed martial arts royalty as far as I'm concerned. That's enough to have me anticipating his clash with Mostapha Al-turk (whom you can call a tomato can if you want; I won't stop you).
Granted, I have no idea why Marquardt—as sincere a challenger at middleweight as there can be with Anderson "The Spider" Silva poised atop the division—is squaring off against Chael Sonnen.
Or, for that matter, why Maia gets Dan Miller.
Sonnen and Miller are both fine competitors, but Marquardt just obliterated Maia, and Demian easily handled Sonnen about six months prior to eating the Great's fist. Meanwhile, the two wins that have apparently earned Chael his date with Nate include a unanimous decision over Dan Miller.
So both Marquardt and Maia will be in the cage with antagonists who lost to each fighter's most recently vanquished opponent. Odd.
Nevertheless, UFC 108 taught us nothing if not that a fight is a fight is a fight. You never know when a good donnybrook will blossom, so you better pay attention.
Hopefully, UFC 109 will be a repeat.
Either way, I can't wait.