A key talking point for most fans leading up to major events is which fighters are skating on thin ice, looking to sling leather and literally give it their complete all to avoid getting demoted off the big stage. Pride used to punish inactivity and stalling with yellow to red cards, UFC trims the fat by bestowing pink slips to guys lugging around losing streaks and poor performances.
This added pressure of job security has the tendency to transform a mid-range competitor—usually the reason he or she finds themselves in that situation to begin with—into a savage beast (anything but a 52-year-old Dan Severn) looking to not only win, but to sear a lasting impression of brilliance in the minds of the UFC brass.
In many cases, it’s this heightened sense of insecurity that creates the barn-burners of the card.
As a diehard fan and wordsmith of the sport, keeping a keen eye out for these overlooked battles is very intriguing. This is why I’m resurrecting my Chopping Block series from the cold grave it has occupied since the last time my keystrokes breathed life into it over a year ago.
Leading up to major events—typically UFC’s, since it remains the only top promotion with an abundance of talent in each division they’re willing to part ways with—The Chopping Block will grace Bleacher Report MMA’s front page, presenting the possibility of which fighter(s) already walking the plank will face the French guillotine with a loss.
Furthermore, I’ll do my damndest to analyze all the varying factors contributing to the impending doom of our fallen gladiators and rate whether or not their respective fight should get the Blazing Barn-burner stamp of approval—my elbow nudge, wink wink, and nod to the fans to make sure they don’t miss that particular fight.
For our comeback edition, let’s turn our attention to UFC 130, a card mangled from its inception with injuries and last minute replacements. The highly anticipated third meeting in a storied trilogy between lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and perennial contender Gray Maynard was completely scrapped from the date once it was announced Edgar suffered a serious back injury. Shortly afterward, Maynard also surfaced with his own knee injury, preventing him from competing against a stand-in.
In addition, Rampage Jackson was originally slated to slug it out with Thiago Silva, but was later tossed out of the equation after the Brazilian tested positive for PEDs. This is just the tip of the injury iceberg; many more fights were altered by way of replacement opponent.
Per the usual, come Saturday night in Las Vegas, all the top-shelf talent on the main card is safe from the chopping block. Rarely do you see a straggler fending for his life in a primo spot since the UFC reserves many of those slots for their bigger fishies—for good reason, they have many snapping piranha with selling power in their ranks to spare these days.
Simply put, we won’t be witnessing a shocking Donald Trump moment from the main card come this Sunday…unless Matt Hamill puts a clinic on “Quinton” and forces him into a reclusive life of junk food binges and the occasional b-rated action movie role as the street mean henchman, who he was apparently born to play.
We have to dig deeper into the prelims to find our man. In the case of UFC 130, he is paired up on the chopping block with his opponent, to make this fight a double whammy—a pink, pink situation. I’m referring to the opening Spike bout between Tim Boetsch and Kendall Grove.
Tim Boetsch experienced a rocky inaugural run in the UFC back in 2008, garnering a .500 record that sent him packing, after his fourth fight in the octagon, to the underworld promotions where he strung together a three fight winning streak. After returning to the UFC after three straight wins, he decisioned Todd Brown and lost due to a “wonderful” kimura submission by Phil Davis.
Neither fight seemed promising enough to ensure a real second chance to instill new life into his newly found, but waning, UFC career.
Kendall Grove on the other hand, has only won four of his last nine matches, spanning the last four years. Despite the soft spot in Dana White’s heart for this Hawaiian-American fighter, and to his credit, Grove has fought stiff competition consistently enough to get the benefit of the doubt.
Competition and likeability aside, dropping his prelim bout to Boetsch would make it difficult for matchmaker Joe Silva to continue pulling Grove’s name out of his wizardly hat.
To say the least, neither of these fighters’ John Handcocks are etched onto roster lineup in ink.
Blazing Barn-Burner Stamp of Approval: Not only will each man’s dire spot on the peaking order fuel wonders in this fight, but they also match up well stylistically and they are close enough talent-wise to make this one a close call.
Neither man possesses a granite chin, but neither really excels in one discipline to put the other in constant danger. With that said, this will be a battle of wills and emerging skills. Who can be the smarter, more in shape and mentally prepared fighter? I have a feeling Boetsch vs. Grove will offer up plenty of variety, a chance to showcase both their closely matched striking and ground games.