The Ultimate Fighting Championship had a bad weekend in Vancouver.
Mind you, the actual scrapping was pretty good and delivered some quality moments. But the outcomes couldn't have been worse for the organization as far as building its future brand.
Perhaps the most crushing evening belonged to Paulo Thiago because he was the lone headliner with sincere hopes of contending for a championship belt.
The UFC welterweight entered the Octagon on Saturday night with only one loss on his record, which was suffered against Jon Fitch. No shame there since Fitch has only one loss since 2002, courtesy of the division's champion, Georges "Rush" St-Pierre.
Additionally, the Brazilian could point to 12 wins against the single defeat, including stoppages of No. 1 contender Josh "Kos" Koscheck (KO) and Mike "Quick" Swick (technical submission via D'arce choke).
Unfortunately, Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann threw cold water over Thiago's shooting star by dominating him for three rounds and earning a clear unanimous decision.
The future is still bright for the 29-year-old member of the Brazilian elite special police, but it would've been a lot brighter if his hand had been raised instead of Kampmann's.
Next, there was Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and his mediocre showing against Pat "HD" Barry.
The former heavyweight force didn't put the unspectacular Barry away quickly, he didn't do it all that impressively, and he didn't even go down in a heap to become fodder for his younger adversary's hype machine.
Actually, the Croatian did get crumpled in the first round—twice—he just didn't stay there.
Instead, Cro Cop delivered a worst-case scenario by taking almost the entire 15 minutes to pound HD into near-submission before finishing the bout with a rear-naked choke.
Again, there wasn't anything absolutely wrong with the action (so, technically, I guess it wasn't a worst -case), but that dog won't hunt in the unforgiving relative world of the UFC heavyweight division.
It's now abundantly clear that Filipovic won't survive against the cream of the 265-pound crop. He'd have a chance to pull off the magic punch since his power is still there, but the weight class is too thick at the top to rely on such low percentage game plans.
Based on what mixed martial arts fans saw in Canada, the Big Four—Brock Lesnar, Shane "The Engineer" Carwin, Cain Velasquez, and Junior "Cigano" dos Santo—would eat his lunch. JDS already has.
Nevertheless, the triumph means Filipovic will hang around to muddle the heavyweight picture for a bit longer.
Finally, there was the main event—Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell battling Rich "Ace" Franklin for a light heavyweight reprieve.
Let's be brutally honest here, virtually everyone agreed that both of these former champions were already irrelevant at 205 pounds before they paired up North of the border.
The top tier of the division is simply too crowded with younger, faster, stronger, and more athletic gladiators.
Consequently, the loser of the Liddell/Franklin contest was pretty much guaranteed a limousine ride into the sunset. More so for Chuck than Rich since he's five years older (40 vs. 35), but a loss to a fading Liddell would've been Franklin's metaphoric end if not the literal one.
Of course, we all know what happened.
The former light heavyweight champ spent most of the first round pressing the action and getting the better of the exchanges. He unveiled some effective leg kicks (one of which broke Ace's arm) and even shot successfully for a takedown—something basically unheard of from Liddell.
Franklin, the former UFC Middleweight Champion, seemed to take advantage after Chuck came up from the takedown with a nasty gash over his left eye. The younger fighter dished out some punishment before getting backed up into the cage, but ultimately thawed a wild Iceman when he landed a short right hand square on the chin.
It was a nice counter, but not the sort of devastating warhead that you'd expect to end someone's night.
So the first casualty is obvious—UFC President Dana White has already publicly stated that Chuck Liddell's days in the organization are over. With a victory, the Iceman might've edged back into relevancy.
Now he's done.
Sad, but undeniably true after three consecutive, horrifying knockouts, and four in his last six engagements.
The second casualty might not be so obvious, but nothing about Rich Franklin's performance screamed revival.
The native of Cincinnati certainly looked better than I expected and proved me utterly wrong—not that he's part of an exclusive group in that regard—since I gave him a snowball's chance in hell against the Iceman. But he still spent a good portion of the round getting abused by an athlete passed his expiration date.
Until the (apparently) accidental gusher opened over Liddell's eye, the rhythm of the bout seemed to be against Franklin.
In other words, Ace is in essentially the same position as Cro Cop after an uninspiring victory—still in the mix, but as a confounding variable rather than genuine threat.
Which means the UFC is in virtually the same position as it would've occupied had Rich lost except it can't squeeze any more dollars from the retired Liddell.
Complicating the issue is the minor detail that nobody's received word from the Iceman, himself, that he's hanging up the gloves. What happens if the UFC legend disagrees with the brass and wants to battle on?
That's ugliness no one wants to see.
And yet another reason why, although the action might've been thrilling, the results from UFC 115 sure weren't.
At least as far as the future of the organization is concerned.
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