Around The Cage will be my new (semi) weekly rundown of what's going on in the world of MMA. All of the key stories, news bits, and random offbeat shenanigans, condensed for your pleasure in one convenient location.
Dana White's "accidental" text, Overeem claims Cain is No. 1, Andrei Arlovski throws down the weakest challenge ever, yet another Japanese import fails to live up to expectations, Anderson Silva vs. GSP, and much more.
Let's go Around The Cage, 2/10/11:
Dana White's "Accidental" Text
In a story quietly making its way around the internet, Dana White "accidentally" sent a text message to Yahoo Sports MMA columnist Kevin Iole, claiming UFC 126 was trending towards one million buys. White claims the text was meant for Lorenzo Fertitta. Oddly, the text was sent the day of the show, which is obviously way too early for any credible buy estimate to emerge. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (who also covers MMA for Yahoo Sports), who is notorious for accurate PPV estimates, placed his first estimate at 700,000, while an independent cable industry estimate settled at 750,000.
Which begs the question. Is Dana White trying to plant exaggerated PPV figures to the media? Iole has been under fire in the past from critics for being pro-Zuffa, so Dana "accidentally" feeding him false PPV numbers isn't going to help him kick that reputation, whether the text was accidental or not.
According to Meltzer, UFC 126 has been difficult to track, due to the show having wide variations from previous trends. Let's play along and assume the text really was meant for Fertitta. Where is White getting his figures from? Especially on the same day as the show? Something doesn't add up.
Andrei Arlovski Throws Down The Gauntlet. Kind Of.
At the 2/8 Strikeforce Grand Prix meet and greet in New York City, Arlovski was telling anyone who would listen how much he would like to face...Tim Sylvia?
In an interview with Ariel Helwani, Arlovski said that facing Sylvia again was "one of his dreams".
Arlovski, who hasn't won a fight since the Bush administration (a KO win over Roy Nelson on an EliteXC show in November 2008), has lost three straight fights heading into his first round Grand Prix matchup with Sergei Kharitonov this Saturday night in New Jersey.
Maybe a fight with Big Tim (who gave all new meaning to the nickname, weighing in at well over 300 pounds for his 0:32 KO loss to Abe Wagner on January 28), is exactly what the struggling Arvolski needs. Sylvia has three recent sub one minute knockout losses on his resume (the culprits being Fedor Emilianenko, out of shape boxer Ray Mercer, and Wagner), and Arlovski has worked hard on his boxing the last few years.
But even if the fight happens, does the world really need Arlovski/Sylvia IV? Both guys would have trouble beating a carpet with a broom these days, so maybe it's a fight both men need.
Alistair Overeem Says Cain Velasquez Is No. 1
Overeem drove the anti-UFC crowd crazy with the following statement earlier this week, as reported by MMAfighting.com:
"Cain Velasquez is No. 1 now because I haven't competed against the names. So there is that argument, that I haven't fought the caliber opponents I should—I wanted to, but either they wouldn't fight me, or the schedule didn't work out. But that's what this tournament is about."
At least Overeem is honest about the caliber of opponents he has faced, but one has to wonder why he chose to say Velasquez was No. 1, as opposed to Fabricio Werdum, the man who beat the previous consensus No. 1, Fedor Emelianenko, and the man who he will face in the Strikeforce Grand Prix.
Werdum is also the lineal world champion which you can read about right here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/593826-the-lineal-mma-world-heavyweight-title-runs-through-the-strikeforce-grand-prix
Credit Overeem for his humility and honesty, but he clearly needs to learn how to promote his own fights.
Kid Yamamoto Stinks Up The Cage
If there is one upside to the latest Japanese fighter to bomb in his U.S. debut, it's that hardly anyone saw the fight because it aired on Facebook. Facebook?
Kid has now lost three out of four fights, including a shocking decision to Joe Warren (in the fight that helped make Warren a star), and a lackluster decision to Masanori Kanehara. Losing to a quality fighter like Demetrious Johnson isn't the issue. The issue is this is now Kid's third consecutive lackluster performance in a decision loss. Dana White has wanted to sign Kid for years, but it looks like he got him a few years too late. Yamamoto is washed up.
Are We One Fight Away From Silva vs. GSP?
If Georges St Pierre can get by his next fight with Jake Shields, it is likely that MMA fans will get to see a fight between the two men generally regarded as the two best pound for pound fighters in the world.
Dana White has mentioned Toronto (Rogers Center) and Dallas (Cowboys Stadium) as potential sites, which would presumably happen at 185 pounds. GSP has repeatedly said that if he moves up and takes the fight (which for many years he privately claimed he wasn't interested in due to the enormous size difference between the two men), he will stay at 185 indefinitely because he does not want to yo-yo between weights. This would obviously mean that the UFC welterweight title would be vacated.
This fight is a bad idea for GSP, an undersized welterweight who would be facing a man who could easily compete as a small heavyweight (Silva cuts significantly to get to 185, and is roughly the same size as guys like Fedor and Randy Couture). But after cleaning out the 170 pound division (assuming he beats Shields, which I believe he will), what's really left to do? Moving up in weight is probably the best challenge he would have left.
If the fight happens, it will likely be the biggest fight in the history of the sport, both from a business perspective, and from the perspective of being able to see the two best fighters on the planet in the same cage.
Coming & Going
In another bad sign for Japanese MMA, as Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago was released from his contract. Based on Twitter comments, it appears Strikeforce is the frontrunner to land him, although UFC & Bellator are both said to be interested.
Bellator has signed former IFL & Strikeforce star Jay Hieron, and former TUF veteran and UFC fighter Ben Saunders.
Bellator has also inked former WEC lightweight champ "Razor" Rob McCullough, who will compete in their upcoming lightweight tournament.
Strikeforce has signed Jason High, a training partner of King Mo who is 13-3 and has won four straight, including a decision win over Hayato Sakurai, and an impressive win in under one minute over veteran Rudy Bears on a Titan Fighting Championships show.