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The Week in Review: Wily Machida wins on FOX; Dana talks TUF; Back to the Future for ONE FC; Dana and Vince McMahon tag team
Wily Machida wins on FOX
After a desperately disappointing pay-per-view that doubled as a mild sedative in Calgary, UFC exploded back to life at UFC on FOX 4 from the Staples Center, Los Angeles.
Perhaps the biggest winner on the main card was Lyoto Machida. His canny deconstruction of the younger, heavier Ryan Bader was a masterclass in how patience can pay off in prizefighting. Machida’s awkward style, moving in and out of range at ease, frustrated Bader and also the crowd. As they grew restless and the first murmurs of discontent momentarily echoed around the arena, Bader felt compelled to push the pace. On such split-second decisions careers can be defined. This was one Bader would regret. Whilst he wrestled with the circumstances, Machida stayed circumspect, happy to throw punches in retreat. Bader charged into a counter right that shattered his senses - and his title hopes. He’ll have to rebuild. At 29, time is on his side.
The question now is whether Machida will truly offer a threat to the phenomenal talent of Jon Jones, assuming the latter overcomes the violent veteran Dan Henderson. There’s no such thing as a foregone conclusion in the Octagon, though oddsmakers insist that defeat for Jones would match the greatest upsets in UFC history.
If that’s the case and Jones-Machida becomes a reality, the acid test for the UFC marketing machine will be selling this as a genuine contest. The image of “The Dragon” slumped on the canvas, slain by a standing guillotine, is one that will haunt their efforts.
Machida’s destruction of Bader went some way to erasing that memory, but in many ways the hard work has only just begun.
Dana gets TUF with Nelson
The early signs are that the forthcoming stint of long-running reality show The Ultimate Fighter will feature plenty of the genuine antagonism that has defined some of the more compelling seasons since the show’s inception. And that’s not just between the rival coaches.
When asked this week how Roy Nelson was settling into his new role as a supremo on season 16, Dana White, himself a crucial component of the series, was less than complimentary about “Big Country”:
“He’s a pain in the ass. He was a pain in the ass when he was on the show as a contestant, he’s a pain in the ass since he’s been in the UFC and he’s a huge pain in the ass now that he’s on the show.”
White, who has clashed repeatedly with the TUF season 10 alumni throughout his UFC career, was doubtless referring to the names of preferred coaching staff that Nelson submitted. Aside from the usual past and present UFC glitterati, Nelson, never shy of controversy, opted for some more surprising personalities.
Among them was “King” Mo Lawal, recently handed his pink slip by the UFC for drug violations, and now pursuing a career both as a professional wrestler and mixed martial artist with TNA and Bellator respectively. Nelson hoped to match Lawal’s wrestling know-how with that of former Olympian and current pro wrestling superstar Kurt Angle. Angle has a spurious history with the UFC, claiming on occasion to have been offered contracts to swap the squared circle for the Octagon and compete in the sport’s marquee promotion; claims that have been repeatedly denied by the latter.
If that curious duo wasn’t enough to draw Dana White’s ire, Nelson saved his best until last by nominating Victor Conte to advise on his team’s nutritional needs.
Conte, founder of controversial sports nutrition center BALCO, was responsible for the biggest performance enhancing drugs scandal in history, as his cocktails of stimulants were injected or ingested by some of professional sport’s most notorious cheats. Once exposed, Conte infamously traded sides and now advises authorities on how to track down the miscreants.
Given the sport’s current struggle with pharmaceuticals, it was a typically provocative ploy by Nelson, an outspoken critic of those who rely on a synthetic edge. His tweets to Carwin, some of which have been subsequently deleted, have contained thinly-veiled accusations that his rival is not the natural athletes he professes to be.
This is not engineered for the benefit of television. On this issue Nelson is a rebel with a cause. He believes he’s not competing on a level playing field and he’s not afraid to say it.
Carwin, meanwhile, has a point to prove after a long injury lay-off. His brand of frenzied physicality has been keenly missed in the heavyweight division. When these two meet inside and outside the cage, fireworks are guaranteed.
Let the cameras roll.
Back to the Future for Arlovski-Sylvia
After Tim Sylvia’s hopes of competing for the Strikeforce title were cruelly dashed, the “Maine-iac” sought solace in an old friend. When he next steps into the cage, he’ll be greeted by the familiar face of Andrei Arlovski as the two meet for an unprecedented fourth time on the latest offering from ONE FC on 31 August.
The heavyweights contested the UFC strap on no less than three occasions in 2005/6 with Sylvia’s two victories eclipsing Arlovski’s lone stoppage success.
Back then the two were at the height of their powers, though the ravages of time have since taken their toll. Gone are the titles and the primetime billing, replaced by a struggle to stay afloat in a sport that cares little for nostalgia.
Victory for both is essential, which will make it compelling viewing for those diehards who share the combatants’ conviction that a return to the top is still attainable. Defeat, however, will have an altogether different resonance.
For either Tim Sylvia or Andrei Arlovski, the road to nowhere awaits.
He’s ruthlessly destroyed all his competition and now Vince McMahon, infamous chairman of WWE, has aimed a verbal clothesline at the UFC.
He went on record deriding their ratings as “abysmal," a comment that sparked a predictably prickly response from Dana White.
“Vince keeps talking s--- about us and I don’t know why. I don’t know why he’s trying to kick us in the balls. We are two completely different businesses.”
Though White won’t admit it, the two have more in common than he may care to realise. Both have effectively swallowed up the competition and prefer to rule their respective talent rosters with an iron fist.
All except one, that is.
Brock Lesnar, former WWE and UFC champion, remains the enfant terrible of both organisations. Blessed with an acute awareness of his own value, Lesnar continues to flirt with both sides, allegedly teasing a UFC return to earn him more leverage on his already lucrative WWE deal.
It’s a situation neither White nor McMahon is comfortable with - effectively being held to ransom by an employee whose potential profitability brings a host of problems. Perhaps if these two dynamic business brains worked together they could finally unlock the secret to controlling Lesnar.
Dana White and Vince McMahon – that’s some tag team.