Wednesday, August 29, 2012

UFC 151 Breakdown - Hey, wha' happened?

Welcome to Leg Kick TKO, a MMA blog that’s more rudimentary than Royce Gracie’s striking.
In old news, a fight is not happening due to injury, a theoretical fight is not happening due to one fighter not agreeing to it, and the MMA community lost its collective mind.  It basically shakes out like this:

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Dan Henderson suffered a slight tear in his MCL about three weeks ago.  Dan, being a stubborn, tough, old man, wanted to try and push through the injury and fight Jon Jones at UFC 151 on 9/1.  After a final evaluation around 8/23, it was determined that Henderson would be unable to fight due to stability issues.  He could handle the pain, but his knee just couldn't properly support him, and Dan needs a stable base to unload a Big Right Hand and push off for a diving forearm, both seen below.

Get more information on this debacle after the jump!

Dana White scrambled to find a replacement for Jones to fight, but according to him, most people turned down the opportunity to fight for the Light Heavyweight title against one of the best fighters on the planet on roughly 8 days notice (Shocking that so many Mixed Martial Artists showcased that much intelligence).  Two people did agree, though, Chris Weidman and Chael Sonnen, both Middleweights.  Not much has been made about Weidman’s offer; mainly because he’s not a “name” fighter like Sonnen, and the casual fan doesn’t know who Chris Weidman is, but they should, because he's a cool guy with a pretty awesome dad, and he did horrifying things to Mark Munoz on Fuel TV, a made up channel that nobody watches because it doesn't exist (Of course, we must always remember that the typical MMA fan is a resident of Pod 6).

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Chael, of course, is an unrepentant loudmouth (This might be stretching the definition of "fact", but I don't know if many people would dispute this), constantly calling people out (Granted, they are almost always the top guy in the division, so at least he’s always setting his sights pretty high), and had actually been trying to instigate a Twitter war with Jones a few weeks ago, leading some to believe that Sonnen knew of Henderson’s injury in advance (Sonnen and Henderson both train with Team Quest, though they are out of different branches, Portland and Temecula, respectively).  Dan Henderson has since said that Chael declined an invitation to train with him.

Jones refused the fight with Sonnen, citing that 8 days notice (More accurately, 3 days since the final week is usually spent cutting weight and fulfilling press/media obligations) wasn’t enough time to prepare for a new opponent, and that he’d rather not fight than put on a non-beautiful performance.  Injuries had already changed several bouts on this card, leaving a below-lackluster option for a new main event, so White canceled the entire event after warning Jones of the possibility of that outcome should he reject the fight with Chael.

Jones is now scheduled to face another Middleweight, Vitor Belfort, at UFC 152 on 9/22 after both Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua declined, citing lack of time to prepare (Belfort was scheduled to fight Alan Belcher on 10/5, so he was gearing up a for a fight anyway.  Belcher is glad Vitor took the fight, as he would have had to pull out due to a spinal fracture).  Fights scheduled on UFC 151 have been moved around, some landing on UFC 152, which has one fight cancelation of its own.  Dan Miller is pulling out of his fight with Sean Pierson, not due to injury, but good news, as his son is scheduled for a kidney transplant in mid-September.  Hooray Dan and Dan Jr!

Those are the facts of the situation, but as everybody knows, facts are dumb and boring, so let’s delve into opinions and blind speculation!

If I Wanted Your Opinion, I'd Read this Blog!

Okay, first off, do I think Jones should have accepted the fight with Sonnen?  Yes, it would have probably been a much easier fight than the one against Henderson (Dan has much more power in his hands than Chael, and Chael was probably fat and out of shape), it would have shut up Chael, and given how good Sonnen is at hyping fights, might have gotten Jones a little more money if PPV sales got a boost (They probably would have, since most people would be giddy at the thought of Sonnen getting his mouth shut and his lights turned off by another gangly violence monster).  Now Sonnen gets to do interviews talking about Jones ducked him and issue specials for his pizzeria like this one.

Plus, Jones has said in the past that he’d take a fight with Sonnen “in a heartbeat”, and said previously that he’s never turned down a fight, and never will.  Here's a screenshot of a tweet sent out by Jones that's he's since deleted.

Was he obligated to fight Sonnen?  No, his contract presumably said his opponent was Dan Henderson, not “Dan Henderson, or whoever we find to replace last minute due to injury, or if Dan's pre-fight testosterone ratio is too high and he's got to flee”.

Would it have been some goodwill back to the UFC, especially since Jones’s title shot against Rua came as the result of him being an injury replacement?  Yes, and champions have always accepted replacement fighters, and there have been numerous instances of fighters being replaced with much less time to formulate a new game plan than 8/3 days.

Was Chael Sonnen deserving of the title shot?  Not really, considering he fights a weight class below Jones (Though he was making a move up to 205 in December) and his last fight was loss to Anderson Silva.  However, Chris Weidman, while undefeated, is nowhere near as marketable or known as Sonnen, so I could see the UFC pursuing a Jones vs. Sonnen fight over Jones vs. Weidman, and this is all under the assumption that no Light Heavyweights agreed to fight Jones on 9/1.  I agree that Sonnen shouldn’t have been considered for the 9/22 contest, as he was basically a last-ditch, emergency replacement option, even if Jones said he’s take the Sonnen fight on 9/22.

Is Vitor Belfort a deserving title challenger?  Eh, he's marginally better than Sonnen, since he's won two fights in a row (At Middleweight).  Does he have a better chance of beating Jones than Chael (Which was pretty much nonexistant since Sonnen doesn't have the power to knock out Jones and it would be ludicrous to think Chael could out-wrestle Jones to a decision)?  Yeah, kind of.  Vitor has good power and pretty amazing hand speed, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he hurts Jones and then just blitzes him with a flurry to end the fight.  Do I care about Jones vs. Belfort?  I'll watch it (That's because I watch everything), but I'd rather it have been Machida, or, in the best possible world, Dan Henderson.

Am I mad that Machida or Rua declined the fight with Jones, either on 9/1 or 9/22?  Not really, since both fought on 8/4 and I’m pretty sure neither man was thinking about making such a quick turnaround, and again, Jones is probably one of the best fighters on the planet right now, so I can’t fault guys just coming off of fights to take that fight with just a month to prepare.  Besides, Machida was incommunicado for most of 8/23, since he was flying back to Brazil and driving to his family's ranch and had, at best, limited cellular telephone service.  Such is the cost of living in a place where monkey hugs are just a kayak trip away:

Is it solely Jon Jones’s fault that this entire card is canceled?  No, not entirely his fault, but I think he shoulders a hefty share of the blame, definitely more than what he’s apologizing for, when he's not claiming a messianic burden the UFC's decision.  Is the UFC stretching too thin, with too many cards?  That’s a tough call, because a guy like Charlie Brenneman, who was scheduled for the undercard of UFC 151 (And was a 24-hour replacement fighter awhile back) doesn’t have an option of fighting anywhere else to make some quick cash if fight cards thin out.  So the UFC has to run a lot of shows so the low-level guys can get paid on a frequent basis.  Fewer cards would lead to guys getting cut, thinning out divisions, meaning there’s fewer replacement options if a fighter does get hurt, leading to more cards getting canceled.  It’s a glorious mess of insanity.

For further reading, please peruse this thread on Something Awful's Punchsport Pagoda.