Sunday, August 12, 2012

Are quick rematches helping or hurting the UFC?


Before I get into this week's topic of discussion, let me start by saying I felt Frankie Edgar got the raw end of a split decision in his lightweight championship rematch against Ben Henderson on Saturday night. As a matter of fact, while it wasn't a landslide by any means, I don't think it was close enough to warrant a split decision. After the first round, which was clearly won by Henderson, I feel Edgar won three of the remaining four rounds for sure; and quite possibly all four.

Considering many other MMA hard cores whose opinion I respect also felt Edgar won, it brings me to another question; was an immediate rematch between these two even necessary? Less than six months ago Henderson defeated Edgar in a close fight he won via unanimous decision. The fight was good, but not epic by any means: I mean it wasn't Bonner vs. Griffin 1 or Rua vs. Henderson. I don't even think it was as good as last week's main event between Rua and Vera. Yet for some reason, the UFC brass decided it needed an immediate rematch.

In the last two and a half years, Frankie Edgar has fought six times; against only three opponents. Each of his fights resulted in immediate rematches. In the case of opponent Gray Maynard, it ended up being a trilogy of fights, though there was a gap between the first and second fights. My point is, with so many really good lightweight (155 lbs.) contenders in the division, Edgar and we as fans may have been better served in seeing him fight somebody else.

Unfortunately, Frankie Edgar is not alone in this equation. Many of the UFC's champions in their other weight classes are also finding themselves competing against opponents, who quite honestly they defeated convincingly. In three weeks, light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Jon Jones will defend his title against Dan Henderson. Assuming he wins, which is the general consensus among most experts, his next opponent is already chosen.

Lyoto Machida earned that distinction from UFC President Dana White himself after knocking out fellow contender Ryan Bader last week. According to White before that fight, Machida and Bader were two of four contenders, along with Rua and Vera, "Gunnin' for that #1 Spot," as Ludacris would say. How did Dana White conclude on Machida although he was just one of two winners that night? Well besides winning impressively, he exclaimed, "Machida wants it more."

What does that mean? Any true fighter wants it; When Edgar lost to Henderson in February, he wanted a rematch and got it. When Maynard lost to Edgar, he wanted a rematch and got it. That was even after Maynard got knocked out by Edgar and in the case of Machida, this is even after he got choked unconscious by Jones only eight months ago. Truth is the Bader win is Machida's only fight since that lullaby Jones put on him.

So one impressive win gets you the nod? Apparently so, because Cain Velasquez is getting a title shot at champion Junior Dos Santos solely because he looked impressive in his knockout victory against Antonio Silva. This is regardless of the fact that Dos Santos destroyed Velasquez in all of 64 seconds just nine months ago. Is it me or does this just not make any sense?

To the MMA hard cores it may seem fine, but to the casual fan that MMA is trying to attract it doesn't seem logical and I can't argue with them. That's why in this situation I must give props to Bellator Fighting Championships CEO Bjorn Rebney. His organization's mantra is "title shots are earned not given," and last year when Eddie Alvarez lost his title to Michael Chandler in what was arguably the fight of the year, he was pressured to have a rematch. Alvarez wanted it and we as fans wanted to see it; even Rebney himself said he wanted to see it.

However, sticking to his company's way of thinking, he told Alvarez he would have to "earn" that shot by going through the next lightweight tournament just like everybody else. Bellator's system is not fool proof by any means, but it does make some sense. To me, it makes a lot more sense than giving a rematch to someone eight or nine months later after they were put to sleep by either a choke or a punch; don't you think?

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