UFC 121 recently featured quite a few competitive matchups.
Brendan Schaub earned his way into the heavyweight mainstream by defeating Gabriel Gonzaga, Jake Shields made a lackluster UFC debut, Diego Sanchez earned his mojo back with a hard fought victory over Paulo Thiago; and Brock Lesnar lost badly to Cain Velasquez.
In the midst of the main bouts, though, is probably one of the most important fights we've had in a while: Tito Ortiz vs. Matt Hamill.
Ortiz was Hamill's coach on The Ultimate Fighter 3. The two had worked extensively together and even became friends.
Naturally, before the match, there was a lot of tension. The main question concerned how Ortiz and Hamill would approach each other before, during and after the match. In answer to the question, they approached each other with class.
Now on to why this match was so important.
Sure, Ortiz is a former champion who at one time seemed unstoppable, but that's not it. Hamill is a tough light heavyweight that has dealt with being deaf his whole life, but that's not it either.
The lesson to be learned from this match is that friends, even training partners, can and should be willing to fight each other.
There have been a few key fighters that are unwilling to fight each other for personal reasons. For example, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida refuse to fight each other, and Big Nog refuses to fight Junior dos Santos. Then there's Jon Jones.
Jones has adamantly stated that the one fighter he will never fight is Rashad Evans. The trouble is that they are both in the same division, and despite Evans' loss to Machida, they show similar wrestling skill and overall dominance.
Jones is on the way to reaching the championship by this time next year if he keeps doing well, and Evans is in a championship match anticipated for March 2011. Now the question is what Jones will do if his training partner Evans wins against Shogun and (possibly) defends his title once before facing Jones.
If Jones had a title shot with Evans as champ, it sounds like he would turn it down. At the same time, obtaining the championship is Jones' ultimate goal. Therein lies the lesson to be learned.
The thing that makes UFC fighters money is the fans. Without fans purchasing Pay-Per-View cards, buying fighter merchandise and attending live events, there would be no UFC. This is precisely where Jones and some of the other fighters refusing to engage in bouts with their friends should learn from Ortiz and Hamill.
Sure, it was probably tough for Hamill and Ortiz to train for each other, for a couple of reasons. For one, each fighter is a friend of the other. Two, they both knew how each other fought because they had trained together for so long.
So what went down after the fight? They were still friends.
After the victory, Hamill took a couple of minutes to address the issue. He told the world that fighting Ortiz didn't change their friendship and that he will always consider Ortiz a friend.
Jones should realize that he and Evans have some of the best wrestling in the light heavyweight division, if not the very best. As far as not being willing to fight Evans, it seems a bit premature given Evans' elite rank and Jones' massive potential.
It seems like an inevitable fight, and let's hope that both fighters can eventually put their friendship on hold for 15 to 25 minutes if they have the chance to meet each other.