10 Big Issues Facing the UFC for the Rest of 2012

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIJuly 17, 2012

10 Big Issues Facing the UFC for the Rest of 2012

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    Dana White doesn't worry about where the money for his next mortgage payment is going to come.

    In the same sense, he doesn't worry about whether Rich Franklin is going to put on a show, or whether Chael Sonnen will bother to promote his fights. Some things you can bank on.

    However, there are some things that must keep the UFC brass up at night. Some concerns are too real and too possible to overlook.

    With injuries to top stars, terrible referees, terrible judges and many more issues staring them in the face, life for the Zuffa owners isn't as stress-free as you might think.

    Here is a glance at 10 big issues that are facing the UFC for the rest of 2012.

Lack of Depth in Newly Created Flyweight Division

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    At UFC 152, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson will battle for supremacy in the first-ever UFC Flyweight Championship bout. Unfortunately, when the day is done, there isn't much left for the winner.

    Outside of the main event, the UFC has only Ian McCall and Yasuhiro Urushitani are within a mile of deserving a championship opportunity, and both of those men are coming off of tournament losses. 

    Being that the UFC created a division at a time when the roster was in the single digits, this problem is one that could have been avoided with more recruiting. 

    What makes the shallow talent pool even scarier is the fact that five of the 12 contracted flyweights are still winless under the Zuffa banner, in both UFC or WEC contests.

    Are we truly ready for Louis Gaudinot or John Dodson to fight for a world title? Is Jussier da Silva going to jump straight into a championship fight based on his rankings outside the UFC?

    It's time that the UFC beef up their tiniest division before it can no longer support itself.

Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson Needing a Trilogy Fight

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    Think about a scary scenario. What if Frankie Edgar defeats Benson Henderson via controversial decision? Even worse, what if it ends in a draw like Edgar's UFC 125 title defense against Gray Maynard?

    Many would argue that the rematch-heavy title scene in the lightweight division is not fair to other fighters who miss their chance at fighting for a title. At some point, putting together enough consecutive wins needs to be rewarded with a championship opportunity.

    When the division found itself in a logjam last year, fighters like Jim Miller and George Sotiropoulos both fell to the wayside without getting their chance, despite putting together seven-fight winning streaks in the UFC.

    Additionally, WEC champion Anthony Pettis would also lose his chance to unify the belts when he lost a tune-up fight to Clay Guida.

    If a third fight between Edgar and Bendo is necessary, how will current contenders Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard and the aforementioned Pettis respond? When will it be their turn?

Georges St. Pierre Falling to Injury Again

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    The championship reign of Georges St. Pierre has been nothing short of phenomenal.

    After winning the belt for a second time by finishing Matt Serra back in 2008, the champion's domination of the division's top contenders has been awe-inspiring.

    Elite welterweights BJ Penn, Jake Shields, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck and more have fallen during the "Rush" era. 

    What would another injury mean for the champ?

    Unfortunately, GSP has been out for 15 months already, and another injury would certainly see him stripped of his belt for an inability to defend it.

    Carlos Condit would be promoted to the undisputed champion and would start defending a belt that doesn't have lineage to the original belt.

    Without lineage, the belt loses its prestige and the MMA world will lose interest in the division. How well do you expect a PPV headlined by Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks to sell?

Injuries That Could Ravage the Fall Fight Card

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    GSP is certainly not the only fighter who might run into injuries later this year. In fact, if the Fall is anything like the summer of instability, Joe Silva might have his hands full trying to piece together fight cards for the remainder of the year.

    Dan Henderson is one of the worst-case options for an injury. With Jon Jones already dispatching all other contenders in the division, finding a suitable replacement for Hendo could be impossible.

    Another injury that fans can't afford would be either competitor in the inaugural UFC Flyweight championship bout. A further delay in this tournament would move the division final into a world of apathy.

    We are less than a week away from UFC 149, but what happens if Urijah Faber has to pull out against Renan Barao? The only star on an already weakened card falling off could make UFC 147 look like the Super Bowl in comparison.

Daniel Cormier Losing His Plus-One Fight

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    When the boys from Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, they wasted little time in importing the heavyweight roster from their sister organization.

    However, with the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix ongoing, there was some question surrounding what would happen to the tournament champion.

    Before Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett battled it out in the GP finale, it was announced that one final fight was required before the champion could leave Strikeforce in his rear-view mirror.

    Cormier would go on to win the tournament, and it was just announced that his "plus one" will occur on Sept. 29. An opponent has yet to be announced, however, the implications of the bout are tremendous.

    Being that Cormier is a hot commodity who is an undefeated tournament winner and the last star of Strikeforce, the desire to see him enter the Octagon is great. But what if he loses?

    Much like our desire to see Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC, the craving to see his promotional debut will fall off of a cliff in the event that he fails in his next bout.

    With tremendous wrestling and an ever-improving striking game, it isn't a fear that is likely to be realized, but stranger things have happened.

Bad Judging Wrecking Big-Name Fights

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    Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann at UFC on Versus 3. Lyoto Machida vs. Shogun Rua at UFC 104. Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera at UFC 105. What do these three fights have in common?

    All three main-evented their respected events, and each saw a hotly contested decision in which the wrong man had his hand raised.

    Colossal ignorance seems to be a disease that has plagued judges no matter what geographic location the fight takes place. Go back to slide No. 3 to see an example of a fight that cannot afford to see the judges scorecards.

    Thankfully, former fighters such as Ricardo Almeida are making the transition to the judges' table, which should lend itself to improved results.

    However, with many renowned retirees still contracted to the UFC (Liddell, Couture, Florian), it would be impossible to get them behind the scorecards without accusations of corruption.

    "Keep it out of the judges' hands" is a philosophy that many fighters live by, but they shouldn't have to. If a fight is not finished within the allotted time, fighters shouldn't have to worry about incompetence. 

    Things could get better, however, there is little time to waste, as there are several key bouts on the next several events.

Early Stoppages

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    The Ultimate Fighter: Live Finale was an event that had multiple stoppages that are questionable to say the least. 

    In a bantamweight battle, John Albert was handed a loss via submission despite never tapping out. Both Albert and opponent Erik Perez agree that Albert did not quit verbally nor via tapout, however, Kim Winslow dissented.

    Later in the night, top welterweight contender Jake Ellenberger would see a six-fight winning streak snapped after a knee sent him to the canvas. Ellenberger was not unconscious and was given no time to recover before referee Steve Mazzagatti stepped in.

    The stoppage may not be considered controversial to some, however, Kampmann was in a similar situation in Round 1, and given a substantial recovery window which allowed him to get into guard and survive the round. 

    Early stoppages can ruin a fighter's record and bump them from the fast track to title contention. Notable fighters Mac Danzig, Scott Smith and Pete Sell, along with countless others, have also been victims of premature intervention from a referee.

    Could you imagine Jon Jones getting rocked by Dan Henderson and falling to the mat in a conscious state, only to see a referee claim that he is finished? The champion would lose his belt and his claim to the status of being the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Late Stoppages

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    The third man in the cage is responsible for making sure that fighters follow the rules, and to determine when a fight needs to be called off.

    When a referee is trigger-shy and doesn't step in early enough, he endangers the safety of the man on bottom.

    An example of this came last week when Mark Munoz fell prey to an onslaught from Chris Weidman. After a nasty elbow sent Munoz to the floor, Weidman would unload with ground and pound in hopes of seeing Josh Rosenthal call him off.

    Unfortunately, Rosenthal missed the call, and Munoz ate double-digit punches while lying face down on the canvas. 

    Being a great referee means stopping the fight on time. Being a great man means acknowledging when you make a mistake.

    While Rosenthal has proven time and time again to be a great referee, he proved to be a great man by owning up to his mistake.

    Munoz would eat a six-month medical suspension, and we can only wonder how much shorter it would be if the bout was called on time.

    Hopefully, we won't see any more fighters fall victim to late stoppages, but with Kim Winslow somehow getting work, we can be assured that it's not a question of if, but when.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy Becoming an Accepted Practice

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    Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt, Todd Duffee and Shane Roller are UFC veterans who have something in common.

    Their use of testosterone replacement therapy has allowed them to perform with higher amounts of testosterone than their body can produce naturally.

    Some call it cheating, while others refer to it as gaming the system. No matter how you look at it, the fact remains that these men are gaining a hormonal advantage compared to what their body naturally provides them.

    It is dangerous to allow the use of TRT, because there are athletes who have clearly found a way to cheat the system. Anyone who has taken a look at Todd Duffee can tell you that his body is certainly not cheating him out of a natural supply of hormones.

    However, the 26-year-old monster has been granted a therapeutic use exemption.

    There is little doubt that TRT use in MMA will grow so long as there are big-named stars leading the way. However, quality names like Michael Bisping and BJ Penn have been so outspoken as to say that those who need supplemental testosterone are in the wrong sport.

Father Time Taking Top Stars

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    While some athletes like Dan Henderson and Anderson Silva continue to do well in the twilight of their careers, it is no mystery that Father Time is a friend of no athlete. In 2012, there is a youthful influx of talent that has everyone taking notice.

    Fighters like Jon Jones and Michael McDonald are the future of the sport, and that may have something to do with the fact that many stars are on the cusp of retirement as they approach (or in some cases pass) the age of 40.

    When fighters like Randy Couture fight into their mid-40s, we cannot make assumptions as to when any man is going to retire. However, we can speculate based on the age of many stars whether they will be hanging up their gloves in the near future.

    Here is a small list of stars over the age of 35: Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Chael Sonnen, The Nogueira Brothers, Wanderlei Silva, Matt Hughes, Shane Carwin, Mark Hunt, Cung Le.

    How would the UFC landscape look in the event that all of those stars simply disappeared from action?

    Stars can be created at any event, but with so many top-level names seemingly edging closer to the end, having more young talent like Jose Aldo and Jon Jones breaking into the mainstream is a dream come true.