Saturday, for the first time, a belt will be on the line in FUEL for free, as Renan Barao fights Michael McDonald for the UFC Interim Bantamweight title. But it was a busy week in MMA leading up to it, as related by UG Columnist Ralph Welch
•Bigfoot Silva chases heavyweight gold.
•Cyborg on the loose.
•The IOC puts TV before tradition.
•UFC heads to New York
Silva chases heavyweight gold
The announcement came as no surprise, even if its origin did. As Dana White enjoyed himself with fans in Dublin’s public houses, rumour spread via Twitter of a big heavyweight title fight: Cain Velasquez booked to defend his strap against former foe Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
Evidently the patrons of Temple Bar were sober enough to realise they had an exclusive on their hands. It was confirmed the following day that the big men would do battle at UFC 160 in May.
This was one of the easier decisions Joe Silva’s made in his time as matchmaker. Daniel Cormier won’t put glory before his friendship with Velasquez, whilst Fabricio Werdum already has a date in the diary.
Rather than have the heavyweight champ sit on the fence, the UFC elected to keep him active against a man he decimated in 2012. That fight lasted little more than three minutes, but memories of Bigfoot’s blood splattered across the canvas will stay with us a lot longer.
Before we write this off as a stay busy fight for the champ, we should remember Silva’s uncanny habit of winning fights he’s meant to lose.
If you believed the betting lines, the Brazilian behemoth had less chance than General Custer when he faced Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem. Yet both times he left with the winner’s purse.
On the other side of this heavy-duty double bill, Junior Dos Santos squares off against Alistair Overeem. A few months ago most observers expected this to be for the gold; instead the number one contendership is now at stake.
Both men were demolished in their recent outings. Dos Santos withstood a five-round shellacking at the hands of Velasquez. Meanwhile, Overeem was left seeing stars by Bigfoot’s big fists.
Whilst the physical scars of their losses have healed, the mental scars remain.
Picking a winner in this one boils down to who can conquer their own self-doubt. Confidence is a fighter’s friend. It creates an impregnable force field that insulates them against the fear of failure.
Overeem and Dos Santos have seen those shields ripped to pieces. They need to pick them up again fast.
There’s big money on the line.
Cyborg on the loose
We’re a week away from “The Ronda Rousey Show” at UFC 157 and speculation over her oft-mooted fight with Cris “Cyborg” Santos has finally been put to bed.
Despite Rousey facing Liz Carmouche in her inaugural title defence, her longstanding rivalry with Santos has dominated the column inches. It was the fight the UFC wanted, the fight Rousey wanted and the fight fans were anxious to see.
But it’s not going to happen. At least for now.
The sticking point has been Cyborg’s refusal to trim her muscular physique to meet the 135 pound limit. She insists the long-term damage of the weight-cut is a risk she’s not willing to take. The UFC insists that the money on the table makes the risk worthwhile.
Her suggestion of a catchweight contest has been dismissed by the champion.
Cyborg may carry more physical weight, but when it comes to UFC politics, Rousey packs the bigger punch. She’s the franchise player in the women’s division and assuming she gets through next Saturday unscathed, potential fights with Miesha Tate, Sara McMann, Alexis Davis or Cat Zingano lay ahead.
For Santos, Invicta FC – the all-female organisation under the impressive stewardship of Shannon Knapp – will offer a pleasant, if less profitable home.
She will be the promotion’s star name, though a name that comes with a considerable bounty for Invicta’s ever-growing list of hungry fighters.
If she impresses under that banner, then no doubt we’ll start to hear talk of Rousey-Cyborg again in 2014. If the stars are aligned, it may yet happen.
Just don’t call it a Superfight.
IOC puts TV before tradition
One decision that was almost certainly influenced by money over morality was the International Olympic Committee’s call to remove wrestling from the Olympic roster in 2020.
It’s a sport enshrined in Olympic history. When the ancient Greeks weren’t debating deities they were wrestling for the entertainment of the mortals.
That a sport with such deep roots could be so easily cut down has sparked outrage in the MMA community.
The sad truth is that this represents another step in the commercialisation of an event that has long since given up the ghost on tradition. Sporting achievement plays second fiddle to sponsorships; excellence has given way to endorsements. Unless your pursuit brings the requisite viewing figures to keep the brands at bay, you’re under threat.
Wrestling will survive, albeit in a smaller capacity, thanks to the collegiate infrastructure that supports it on US soil.
However, a generation of college hopefuls will never know what it’s like to showcase their talents on the biggest stage of all.
What would the ancient Greeks make of that? I’d wager they’d call it a tragedy.
And finally… New York wants to be a part of it
After a lot of lobbying, a lot of debating and a significant investment in the legal profession, finally there is light at the end of the tunnel on the UFC’s long road to New York.
Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, has been battling for legalisation of MMA in New York State and this week they got some success. A Manhattan judge agreed that the promotion could stage an event with an approved third party partner.
If this is ratified, expect a big bill to mark the UFC’s arrival in the “Big Apple”.
Follow UnderGround Blogger Ralph Welch on Twitter
How about Anderson Silva, the greatest fighter that ever lived, against New Jersey native Chris Weidman for the middleweight title?
Related MMA gear from the UG Store