by UnderGround Columnist Ralph Welch
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UFC on FOX 5: Jorgensen back from the brink
The most eagerly-anticipated UFC card of 2012 delivered spectacular action in all the televised bouts. Whilst plenty of column inches have been devoted to the marvellous efforts of Benson Henderson, Alexander Gustafsson and Rory MacDonald, hidden away on the undercard there was an equally impressive victory.
Former WEC headliner and bantamweight title challenger Scott Jorgensen’s fall from grace has been such that he found himself banished to the outer reaches of the Facebook prelims. Following successive defeats to Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland, Jorgensen was fighting for his UFC future. Given the pressure, Jorgensen’s rear-naked choke finish of John Albert, which earned him bonuses for Submission and Fight of the Night, was some achievement indeed.
Pacman KO spells trouble for UFC superfights
The Las Vegas natives amongst you may have noticed a mushroom cloud on the horizon this Saturday night. It was the inevitable aftermath of a $200m superfight going up in smoke, courtesy of the right hand of Juan Manuel Marquez. The Mexican’s sensational knockout blow not only concluded the most compelling boxing rivalry in recent memory, but finally ended all talk of Mayweather- Pacquiao in the process.
In truth, this potential pugilistic pearl had long since lost its shine. This fight should have happened three years ago when both men were at their peak. It would have made for a historic spectacle: the sort of one-off occasion that brings boxing back into the public stream of consciousness at a time when the sport finds itself increasingly marginalised. Forget the cacophony of gaudy trinkets that the numerous governing bodies portray as titles, this contest needed no silverware.
The title of undisputed pound-for-pound fighter of the modern era would have been at stake. It should have been motivation enough for both to forego their financial pride and step between the ropes. It wasn’t. And once again the sweet science’s unerring ability to shoot itself in the foot has proved costly.
The consequences of Saturday night won’t be lost on the top brass at UFC headquarters. Speculation is at fever pitch about potential superfights involving a triumvirate of dominant champions: Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre. Middleweight king Silva has the option of either stepping up or down in weight class to challenge the rulers of their respective divisions.
There’s no doubting that either contest would be a box office bonanza, but the window of opportunity is closing. This is a sport where four-ounce gloves put even the most secure title stewardship at risk. If the UFC is serious about making these mega matches a reality, it needs to act fast.
Hendricks left in limbo
Of course, one man tired of hearing about any potential Georges St-Pierre superfight is welterweight star Johny Hendricks. The hard-hitting Texas fighter has bulldozed his way to the front of the title queue by out pointing Josh Koscheck and demolishing the exceptional talents of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann.
Unfortunately it seems the Canadian champion is looking elsewhere for his next challenge. This week Dana White, who previously seemed hell-bent on securing an Anderson Silva–Georges St-Pierre superfight, announced that next spring St-Pierre will most likely defend his title against the returning Nick Diaz.
If it was something of a volte-face for the UFC president, it was an utterly demoralising turn of events for Hendricks. Few would dispute his status as the genuine number one contender, yet the move to promote Diaz makes business, if not sporting, sense. Whereas “Bigg Rigg” likes to let his hands do the talking, Diaz’s controversial, streetfighting character has captured the imagination of a passionate fanbase. He may be coming off a loss, but his name recognition and heated rivalry with St-Pierre brings pay-per-view dollars.
Some fans have questioned whether the recent award of title shots to the likes of Diaz and the charismatic Chael Sonnen means the UFC now places a higher tariff on personality rather than ability when it comes to pay-per-view matchmaking. It’s an interesting point.
Perhaps the lines between pro wrestling and MMA are blurring. Legend has it that former WWE star Gorgeous George once told a young Cassius Clay “A lot of people will pay to see someone shut your mouth. So keep on bragging, keep on sassing and always be outrageous.”
It was good advice.
And finally… Couture Under Siege from Sensei Seagal
As BJ Penn showed us this week, you’re never too old to make a comeback. However, at the ripe old age of 49, it was fair to assume that we wouldn’t be seeing UFC Hall of Famer Randy “The Natural” Couture in an Octagon anytime soon.
Couture, along with Penn, is one of only two fighters to wear UFC gold in different divisions. The former light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion is still a regular on our screens on fight night, albeit from the distinctly cosier surroundings of the FOX studio.
Meanwhile, nineties action movie hero Steven Seagal has also become an increasingly familiar presence on UFC programming. The aikido master rarely wastes an opportunity to talk of his association with his “martial arts family” Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida and is often spotted ringside at their contests.
Seagal appeared on Ariel Helwani’s excellent MMA Hour last week and gave a stinging response to what had seemed to be a jocular suggestion from Couture that the only fight that would tempt him from retirement would be against the star of the straight-to-DVD rental market.
According to Seagal, should this clash of the titans ever take place, there will be no cameras in attendance. Indeed, using a line that could easily grace one of his stellar screenplays, he delivered the ominous warning that the fight could take place, “in a secret location with no witnesses”.
Whilst this has prompted many an excited forum thread, this author is rather less enthusiastic. A fight of this magnitude has to mean something.
Unless the winner promises to fight Chuck Norris, I’m not interested.