By all rights, what I should be writing right now is something along the lines of “UFC makes much-anticipated return to Toronto for huge world title fight!”
Yeah, that would be a nice story. And it’s certainly what I expected I would be writing even a month ago.
Yet this UFC has the feeling of ordering a pizza from Dominos: Even if it hasn’t arrived yet, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re about to be disappointed.
Apparently, tickets are still available less than a week before the fight. For any UFC event, that’s a troubling sign. For a major world title fight featuring the breakthrough star of 2011, it’s even worse. And for a return card to the “Mecca of MMA," well, it’s downright bad.
Blame the recession. Blame the fatigued fanbase trying to keep up with so many events. Blame Jon Jones, who hasn’t “turned it on” for this fight like he did against Shogun and Rampage. Blame Machida, for not being Rashad Evans. Blame Dana White. Blame Joe Silva. Blame Canada!
Personally, I blame bad timing. It’s a simple rule of promotion that if you want to sell out an event in Toronto, don’t have it in December, when the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing hockey.
Have it, like UFC 129, in April during the playoffs, when the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing golf (just kidding, Leafs fans. You know I love you. This is your year, baby!).
I thought UFC 140 was an interesting card even before the addition of Jones vs. Machida “clinched the deal” so to speak. To go by some critics, however, what we’re getting is a forgone conclusion of a title match, preceded by a bunch of over the hill guys fighting for sentimental sake. Oh, and Hominick vs. “Korean Zombie," which should rock.
But back to the point. The main card at UFC 140 features fights that could have big implications on the future of the UFC for some time. Like it or not, a handful of the sport’s true greats could be looking at an “end of the line” scenario that night in Toronto. No, I don’t mean retirement, just ejection from the title picture—possibly forever.
What’s on the line at UFC 140? I’ll break down the main card fights, the consequences if either fighter won and what the fight means in the vaunted “bigger picture”.
First up: a fight that I absolutely love, and at the same time, loathe.
Mark Hominick vs. Chan Sung Jung
I know I’ve complained about this before elsewhere, but I just don’t like the matchmaking in this fight. Featherweight is still a new division, and it doesn’t have a long list of marketable title contenders for champ Jose Aldo. I’d argue that outside Aldo (and the possibly irrelevant Kenny Florian), these guys are the two most popular fighters at Featherweight.
So rather than build them up into stars separately, they’re being fed to each other at a time when a loss could derail either man’s title aspirations quite seriously.
On the other hand: The fight rocks, both guys match up well and both guys bring it. I see Hominick picking Jung apart on the feet to take the decision, but I wouldn’t be surprised with any outcome in this one.
If Hominick Wins: Is it too early to put him back in a title fight? My instincts say yes, but then again, who else is there for Jose Aldo? The champ faces Chad Mendes next in Brazil, but after that, it’s not exactly clear who he’d face next. Hatsu Hioki? Dustin Poirier? Both good choices, but lacking the “name value” of Hominick, especially in a rematch with Aldo. Remember that their first fight is not only considered a classic; it’s also the most Aldo has been pushed since winning the title.
There’s history there, and a convincing win from Hominick could see him jumped to the front of the line for Jose Aldo, especially if the fight is in Canada, where it would likely do big business.
Jung, a well-known guy and a favorite of UFC management, would likely not be cut from the promotion in defeat.
If Jung Wins: A new, bona fide star will have been born at Featherweight (if he wasn’t one already). However, I don’t see Chan jumping into a title fight with a win the same way Hominick would. He’s 1-2 in his last three, including a vicious headkick KO loss. Even a “convincing” win probably wouldn’t be enough to actually convince fans (and Joe Silva) that he’s ready for a beast like Aldo.
Still, the future is bright for Jung if he wins, and it opens up a range of possibilities for him in 2012. A fight with the likes of Erik Koch or the aforementioned Dustin Poirier would be guaranteed fun.
Hominick, possibly the most marketable fighter in Canada behind GSP, would be safe from a firing in defeat.
Claude Patrick vs. Brian Ebersole
Originally slated as Rory MacDonald vs. Brian Ebersole, this fight would have been an interesting clash of a surging young contender and an extremely seasoned vet with some momentum of his own. With MacDonald scratched from the fight, I fear Claude Patrick has too steep a mountain to climb in his hometown.
I remember feeling the same way about the Sean Pierson vs. Jake Ellenberger fight at UFC 129, and my concerns unfortunately were spot on.
Ebersole is a beast. Remember when he beat the beejesus out of Chris Lytle, who beat the beejesus out of Dan Hardy, who went five rounds with GS freakin’ P? Yeah, don’t be fooled by the strange choice of chest hair-styling.
If Ebersole Wins: He’ll officially become the best fighter you’ve never heard of. At that point, he’ll have a record of 49-14-1-1. Jeremy Horn-esque is the record of Brian Ebersole, Joe. He’ll be riding a 10-fight winning streak and be 3-0 in the UFC. In short, it’s time to step Ebersole up into the division’s top 10. Fights with Martin Kampmann, Diego Sanchez or Paulo Thiago are a logical next step.
This being only his first loss, “The Prince” would undoubtedly be given another shot inside the Octagon.
If Patrick Wins: Does he vault ahead of fellow Canuck Rory MacDonald in the welterweight rankings? I say no, but there would be a fair number of people who’d disagree with me, especially if it was an emphatic victory.
Patrick would likely find himself in a similar situation to Ebersole if he won, and would start getting offered fights towards the top of the division. Thiago Alves would be a good next step to test Patrick’s offensive grappling. If he was really feeling sadistic, he could challenge Jake Ellenberger to take revenge for his teammate Pierson.
Tito Ortiz vs. Little Nogueira
Let’s dispense with the unpleasant facts right up front, shall we? Combined, these guys are 71 years old. They are both coming off dominant, one-sided losses to “athletic” wrestlers who dominated them in a “game has past me by” kind of way. Both guys are riding out what could charitably be called “rough patches” in their respective careers.
Yet this fight matters, if only for the simple reason that one MMA legend will get to keep being relevant to the title picture, and one won’t. One way or another, a formerly great fighter will have to face no longer being elite after Saturday night.
If Tito Wins: He buys himself one more year of big fights, media attention, large paydays and everything else that comes with being “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy”…erm…I mean “The People’s Champ.”
Sidebar: What? “The People’s Champ”? Really. “Let me tell you what you’re feeling…actually, it doesn't matter what you're feeling, Renato Bablu!"
If Ortiz wins, I say match him up with Stephan Bonnar. It would be a good clash of old versus…not quite as old, and would be a good test and a good name for Bonnar at this point. Also, Bonnar needs to face a strong wrestler to erase the sitgma of that whole “losing to Mark Coleman in 2009” thing.
Sad to say, but if Nogueira loses, he could very well be cut in today’s “sucks if you’re not Dan Hardy” MMA climate.
If Little Nog Wins: The UFC loses a legend and a “name” in Tito, but gets the chance to possibly build another one with Nogueria. Sure, us hardcore fans know Nog is a legend, but to Joe Average fan, I don’t think he’s viewed quite the same way a Tito Ortiz or Randy Couture is.
Should Nog win, I think the ideal scenario for him would be exciting, “name” fighters who could build his profile further with American fans. Guys like Rich Franklin or Forrest Griffin come to mind as opponents who could interest fans, guarantee a fun fight, and provide a solid stylistic challenge for Little Nog.
If he loses here, Tito Ortiz is getting bounced; whether or not he retires is another matter entirely. Someone get Ken Shamrock’s number on speed dial!
Frank Mir vs. Big Nog
Man, am I pumped for this fight. Maybe even moreso than the main event, though I’m weird like that. Their first fight was a coming out party for the “new” Frank Mir and created a whole lot of fan debate that really hasn’t abated since. Was Nogueria hobbled by staph infection? Did he fight at 100 percent? Or is he just making excuses for getting dominated by Frank?
This fight will (hopefully) go a long way towards answering those questions, assuming both men are healthy.
If Mir Wins: Somewhere, somehow, Brock Lesnar will take notice. A Frank Mir win here pretty much guarantees we’re going to see Mir vs. Lesnar 3, even if Brock loses to Overeem at the end of the month. Count on it. There’s simply too much money on the table for the UFC to walk away from the trilogy, especially if Mir uses his post-fight mic time to stir the Brock-pot once again.
In the event of a Mir win, I don’t think Nogueria will be cut; he’s still a huge draw in Brazil, which the UFC is clearly hoping to continue expansion into. But it’s a possibility, and a sad one at that.
If Big Nog Wins: Pride Never Dies! A Big Nog win allows the elder (I think, by a minute or two) Nogueria brother to continue on in the division’s upper echelon. In fact, having starched rising prospect Brendan Schaub and avenged his loss to Frank Mir back-to-back, Nog would find himself in the best position he’s been in since besting Tim Sylvia for the interim HW title.
Call me crazy, but I’d love to see a Nogueria vs. Roy Nelson fight should Nog win.
Frank Mir is a darling of the UFC brass and rising a nice little win streak. He’s not going anywhere.
Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida: LHW Championship
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve really dug certain aspects of this fight’s promotion. Look up the 30-second spot for UFC 140 on YouTube. The add focuses on martial arts, the amazing moves we’ve seen both men pull off and the meeting of technical masters that this fight will surely be. That’s a few chops above the “guaranteed knockouts, he’ll know he’s been in a fight, into pieces!” style of the UFC’s usual fight promotion.
If Jones Wins: Than he caps off the single greatest year anyone has ever had in MMA. Seriously, I feel pretty confident saying that. Beating Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida—and winning the belt—all in one year is an astonishing feat. If Jon Jones wins, then he can be as cocky and arrogant as he damn well pleases; he’ll have pretty much earned it. Should he win, I’d like to see him fight…oh what’s his name again…oh yeah…Rashad something.
If Machida Wins: Da Dragun is Da Shameeon! If Lyoto wins, expect it to rain cats and dogs in the MMA world while we all get a repeated schooling of the old mantra “anything can happen in MMA.” Depending on the circumstances of his win, there’s a chance Machida could face an immediate rematch with Jones, but more than likely, it’s the Evans/Davis winner who will challenge for the strap next. Though does anyone else think Hendo vs. Machida would be a seriously fun fight?