UFC 128: Five Notes Not About the Main Event
With a main event as intriguing as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua's title defense against rising phenom Jon Jones, it is easy to forget about the rest of the fights going down at UFC 128.
After all, this is one of the biggest fights the UFC can make, and in my estimation, the most anticipated main event since Cain Velasquez challenged Brock Lesnar for the heavyweight championship at UFC 121.
But, there are plenty of quality fights throughout the rest of the card.
Here are a few thoughts I pondered while looking over the lineup.
Where Is Joseph Benavidez?
Joseph Benavidez has clearly established himself as the No. 2 bantamweight in the world. He has only lost to one man—champion Dominick Cruz—and holds a 2010 submission victory over the great Miguel Torres.
So, it comes as a surprise that, with the multiple outlets used by the UFC to show the majority of every major card, they could find no room to show Benavidez's UFC debut live.
For the last year, the UFC has used Spike TV preceding a pay-per-view event to show two fights that before would have gone unseen. Recently, they have shown even more free undercard fights on their Facebook page, preceding those on Spike TV.
It is great for the fans and it is hard to argue with more for free. But I do not understand why they would leave one of the best fighters in the world in Benavidez off of every live outlet for UFC 128.
An uninteresting matchup of mid-level lightweight contenders Kurt Pellegrino and Gleison Tibau will be shown live on Facebook instead of Benavidez's match with Ian Loveland.
I really don't see where they are coming from, but hopefully there is enough time on the pay-per-view broadcast to squeeze in a replay of Benavidez vs. Loveland after the main event.
If Cro Cop Loses, Is That It?
It has been nearly five years since Mirko Cro Cop was great, but still he fights on.
Many of his supporters would have liked to see him retire on a high note when he upset Pat Barry last year at UFC 115. It was the first major win Cro Cop achieved in his underwhelming UFC run, which started in 2007.
Unsurprisingly, Cro Cop did not consider calling it a career and fought Frank Mir in the main event of UFC 119. The bout turned out to be one of the most uneventful main events in recent years, up until Mir knocked Cro Cop completely out with an unexpected knee.
It was arguably the lowest low in a career that has seen its greatness continually tainted since Cro Cop came to the UFC.
Still, he fights on and will meet newcomer Brendan Schaub on the main card of UFC 128.
If he loses again, I respectfully hope his fighting days are over. He is a shell of the man we came to know in PRIDE, and he will likely never be great again.
And that brings up another question: What is a win over Cro Cop even worth these days?
Can the Miller Brothers Repeat Their Feat?
At UFC 124, brothers Dan and Jim Miller became the first brothers to win on the same UFC card.
Dan won a close decision over veteran Joe Doerkson, while younger brother Jim upset Brazilian prospect Charles Oliveira with a first-round submission on the main card.
Now both brothers have found their way onto the main pay-per-view card of UFC 128 with hopes of repeating their previous feat.
According to the odds-makers, this time Dan is facing the much more daunting task, as he is more than a 3-1 underdog to best former middleweight title challenger Nate Marquardt. Dan also took this fight on short notice, as he was originally scheduled to face Nick Catone on the undercard.
Jim is facing debuting former WEC lightweight Kamal Shalorus. Jim is about a 2.5-1 favorite and with a win, he would turn himself into one of the top lightweight contenders.
Can the Miller brothers repeat their accomplishment? If so, there will have to be only one upset between the two bouts, just like last time.
UFC-WEC Merger Sure Is Helping Out
Of the 12 bouts scheduled for UFC 128, seven fighters on the card are recent acquisitions from the now-retired WEC.
That is a big chunk of violence that the UFC would have had a much tougher time filling if it wasn't for the recent merging of the two promotions.
Most importantly, the well-known Urijah Faber's presence creates a co-main event, despite most MMA observers never hearing of his opponent, Eddie Wineland.
Stars in MMA like Faber are few and far between. Despite losing three of his last six fights, he has built his brand so tall that his name alone can help sell an event.
It is hard to think of what else the UFC could have put together as the co-headliner if Faber was not making his debut in the Octagon.
With two extra divisions and a couple bona fide stars like Faber and Jose Aldo now in the UFC, merging with the WEC was clearly the right idea.
Despite Some Hiccups, This Is a Fine Card
The UFC has gotten pretty good at what they do over the years.
While a lesser promotion might crumble when a few fighters were forced to pull out of fights, the UFC doesn't miss a beat, patching up the holes and leaving the seams untraceable.
Chael Sonnen was originally scheduled to face Yoshihiro Akiyama, until Sonnen pleaded guilty to money laundering charges, forcing the UFC to put him on ice for the time and replace him with Nate Marquardt.
With the recent tragedies in Japan at the forefront of Akiyama's mind, he pulled out of his fight with Marquardt, so the UFC quickly bumped undercard fighter Dan Miller into Akiyama's place.
Tito Ortiz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was originally scheduled for this event, but Ultimate Fight Night 24 needed a marquee headliner, so that bout changed events.
Karlos Vemola was set to take on Luiz Cane on the Spike TV prelims, but Vemola was forced out of action with an injury. TUF standout Eliot Marshall was re-signed to the UFC to meet Cane.
Manny Gamburyan pulled out of his fight with Rafael Assuncao with a back injury, but contender Erik Koch was quickly brought over from another card to fill in.
And, to cap it all off, this main event was made just six weeks ago after original title challenger Rashad Evans was forced off the card with a knee injury, prompting the UFC to rush Jon Jones' career along just a bit quicker to fill in.
Honestly, this main event between Jones and champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is far more compelling than any matchup involving Evans could ever be. It has a little bit of everything.
So, considering the struggles to keep this event alive, the lineup looks pretty darn good.