UFC 127: “Penn vs. Fitch” is the UFC equivalent of a “bad dream” episode.
Not familiar with the concept of a “bad dream” episode? I’m willing to bet you actually are. Its the episode of “Star Trek” where Spock is an evil, goatee sportin’ bastard. Its that whole season of “Dallas” that never actually happened. Its the entire plot of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
That’s UFC 127. That weird, one-off episode that doesn’t fit into the continuity, that never happened, that doesn’t “count”.
Except it does. Just because it’s going down in Sydney, Australia doesn’t mean its happening in an alternate dimension – it just seems to be booked that way.
Seriously, everyone knows I’m a giant UFC fan, and I think they do a phenomenal job of putting on relevant, exciting events month after month. But this card makes me scratch my head a little. More than a little. This is the closest the UFC has ever come to booking a “pro-wrestling” style card, where every match features someone who is “expected” to win.
Come to think of it, that sounds like a Boxing PPV under card (surely not!). Or, if I can be so bold, like your average, exciting, sometimes clusterf*ck of matchmaking Strikeforce event (now I’ve done it).
Read on as I breakdown the latest UFC offering in the Twilight Zone Land Down Under!
Let me get this straight: BJ Penn drops two straight fights to Frankie Edgar, a natural 145′er who’s ass BJ was supposed to kick. With two losses to the now-LW champ, BJ moves back to welterweight (where he also, oddly enough, has two losses to the reigning champ). He takes a “Senior’s Circuit” fight with fading legend Matt Hughes, who he dispatches in 21 seconds. That brings his record in the UFC welterweight division to a sterling 2-3, with both wins being over Matt Hughes, who he also lost to.
And yet, in spite of all that, Penn is now one fight – one freakin’ fight- away from another welterweight title shot. Hell, we could be one fight away from BJ vs, GSP 3 if Dana reneges on his word regarding Anderson Silva vs. GSP.
I realize that’s a particularly craven perspective to take, in light of the bigger picture. For starters, Jon Fitch is in some weird sort of limbo, where both fans and Dana White seem determined to keep him away from another title shot while each party blames the other for making it so.
The truth is Fitch has earned his title rematch many times over, but his plodding style hasn’t won him any fans. With GSP set to face Jake Shields – and then potentially Anderson Silva – Fitch needs relevant, interesting fights worthy of his elite status.
A finish victory wouldn’t hurt either.
As for BJ, the popular Hawaiian is still one of the UFC’s bigger draws, and he’s still somewhat in his athletic prime. The UFC has evidently decided to book him in big fights, rankings be damned!
Its clear the UFC is hoping BJ Penn will be the one to finally solve the Jon Fitch riddle, so they can stop stringing the AKA product along with promises of title shots and go back to simply ignoring him. With his takedown defense, BJJ pedigree and heavy hands, Penn could very well be the man to do it. But probably not. I see Jon Fitch grinding out another decision and Dana White claiming Fitch is, for the umpteenth time, “in the mix” for a title shot.
I know I’m not the president of the UFC or anything, but don’t you eventually you have to stop “mixing” and actually cook something?
Speaking of “in the mix”, England’s own Michael Bisping must feel like he’s in MMA Groundhog’s Day.
Since dropping to Middleweight, “The Count” has taken two kinds of fights. The first kind is which he’s supposed to win, the “squash match” against a faded legend, a journeyman, or a mid-level gatekeeper. These fights maintain Bisping’s marketability and keep him “in the mix” for a title shot.
The second kind is the “step up” to the top five of the division, the “win this and get a title shot” fight.
That isn’t exactly a remarkable progression in combat sports. But that’s just it. What makes Bisping unique is the lack of progression. He wins a bunch of the first kind of fights, gets one of the second kind, loses, and its right back to jobbers and journeymen again.
Enter Jorge Rivera.
Ok, that’s mean. Jorge Rivera is one tough SOB who’s earned his respect the hard way. He has overcome immense challenges both personal and professional in his life, and he’s knocked out some bad mofo’s along the way. He has my and everyone in the MMA world’s respect.
But let’s be honest here. Rivera is 38 years old. He’s 19-7 overall. Rivera has had a long MMA career, but I think most would agree he’s never going to return to the title picture. For better or worse, his ship has sailed.
So that’s what you’re looking at for a co-main event: a 90 percent chance Michael Bisping grinds out a win and keeps treading water in the MW top-10, and a 10 percent chance Jorge Rivera finds Bisping’s chin at some point and another “Shoop That Bisping” thread gets made on the UG.
The last time George Sotiropolous fought in Australia, he put away Joe Stevenson in the Fight of the Night. It was a coming out party for the Aussie, a statement to the rest of the Lightweight division that he was ready to start hunting for the title.
Since that time, Sotiropolous has faced Kurt Pelligrino, followed by Joe Lauzon. This Saturday, he faces off against Dennis Siver in the UFC’s return to his home land.
If something seems strange about that list, you’re not imagining things. Each time Sotiropolous wins, he gets rewarded with a lower ranked opponent.
Its like the UFC has plotted Sot’s entire career, and then decided to run it in reverse just to mess with him. I swear, we’re gonna hear the announcement of a Jens Pulver/George Sotiropolous title eliminator any day now (yes Jens is going back to LW, its my hypothetical scenario damnit!).
Once again, let me say I mean Dennis Siver no disrespect – before I get an angry German crescent kicking my door down.
But facts are facts, and Dennis Siver is a big step down the totem pole from Kurt Pelligrino, Joe Stevenson, or Joe Lauzon. Maybe Siver is actually the better fighter from among those men. So be it. At present time, any subject ranking has Siver ranked lower then most or all of those guys. Those are just the facts.
So this is a keep busy fight for Sotiropolous, nothing more. Someone the UFC assumes will be an easy win for George in front of his hometown fans. Another cool rubber guard submission for Sot, and its back to the holding pattern that is the LW title picture until the Maynard/Edgar/Pettis situation resolves itself.
There is a certain logic to this fight if you assume the UFC is saving Sot’s title shot for a future show in Australia, where it would do big business. The UFC needs to set Sot up with fights legit enough to keep him in the top-10, but not legit enough to seriously threaten said ranking.
Just be careful what you wish for. All this planning only holds true if Sot stays undefeated. Should he lose to the Dennis Siver’s of the division, it will undo all of the hype the submission whiz has managed to accrue over the last year.
Seriously, when I first heard that Carlos Condit was being replaced at the last minute by Brian Ebersole, I had two reactions:
1) Supreme disappointment that the most exciting fight on the card -
hell, of first quarter 2011 – had been scrapped.
2) Does the head of NBC sports have a son who is fighting in MMA?
What else can you say about this fight? Condit/Lytle would have been the barn burner to end all barn burners, an epic slugging match, the Monitor vs Merimac of MMA. Instead, Condit has fallen out with an injury, and the UFC has scrambled to find a fill-in on short notice.
This fight should be fun while it lasts.
Lytle via whatever he wants.