(They never sleep and they’ll never die.)
Well, here we are once again. Time to battle it out over questions of who should keep it up and who should pack it in, how the UFC might get around Portland’s weak economy and ridiculous taxes in order to fill an arena, and so much more.
Who will win tomorrow’s main event? Subquestions: Is the winner worthy of a title shot and should the loser retire?
BG: I got Randy on this one. Both guys are coming off ugly losses, but while Couture’s could be chalked up to his massive size disadvantage against Brock Lesnar, Nogueira’s loss against Frank Mir seemed to be result of slowing reflexes and a softening of his famously iron-clad chin. Come to think of it, there’s a common theme in all three of Big Nog’s UFC appearances — he’s taken a lot of hard blows to the head, many of which have knocked him down, and he doesn’t seem to be able to do anything about it. Meanwhile, there’s nothing to suggest that Randy Couture can’t still be competitive against someone closer to his own size, and I think he can score a late TKO or unanimous decision over Nogueira with his striking and trademark clinch-boxing.
That being said, I have no desire to see Couture face Brock Lesnar again. They’re just not in the same weight class, and their first fight left no questions unanswered. Hopefully Dana White understands that there’s better uses for a legend like Couture then throwing him against the same brick wall. Of course, I could see Randy getting another crack at the belt if someone else manages to take it from Lesnar in the near future. And yeah, maybe Nogueira should retire if he loses tomorrow. He’s only 33, but after 10 years of wars, he looks and fights like he’s older than Randy. Risking more brain trauma is probably not in his best interest.
BF: I’m also taking Couture, but not because I think Nogueira has one foot in the grave, as you seem to believe. I just think that Couture is the worst possible style match-up for him. We all know that he wasn’t 100% against Frank Mir, but he’s supposedly doing better now and even at his worst he can take a beating, which is part of his problem. But really, I don’t see how he mounts any effective offense against Couture.
Nog can’t take Couture down and isn’t quick enough on the feet. Couture can take this wherever he wants. Naturally, you want to be careful if you end up playing around in his guard, but Couture’s not some Tim Sylvia-esque bonehead who’s going to fall for a basic set-up and get caught in a choke.
Should Nogueira retire after he loses? Not necessarily. He’s always looked like he’s fifty years old, but as long as he can avoid an absolute drubbing he can hang around a little while longer. Couture’s not getting an immediate title shot, though. He has one more fight, which the UFC will take their time scheduling. Short of Lesnar losing the title or Couture doing something amazing, like knocking out Cain Velasquez and then submitting Shane Carwin, he’s not getting anywhere near that belt again.
Should the winner of the Nate Marquardt/Demian Maia bout get a shot at Anderson Silva‘s middleweight title, even if "The Spider" doesn’t seem all the excited about a fight with either guy? And who has the better chance against Silva, anyway?
BF: I know Silva’s manager, Ed Soares, has suggested that the winner of this fight face Dan Henderson to see who gets the honor of being made a fool of by Silva’s Jedi-like striking skills, but there’s a reason the UFC doesn’t let fighters’ managers tell them how to run their business. What Soares is suggesting is that the already-thin middleweight class utterly decimate itself in order to produce a sole survivor. It sounds cool, in an abstract, Darwinian struggle kind of way, but it’s a bad idea.
Whoever wins this fight is at the top of the division. The winner of Maia/Marquardt will be more deserving of a title shot than Hendo, who beat an overhyped Michael Bisping and notched a couple of plodding decisions over Rich Franklin and Rousimar Palhares. Far as I’m concerned, this is the number one contender match.
As for who has the better chance, I have to say that it’s Maia. Marquardt is good at everything, but not great at anything. We’ve seen how that works against Silva. Maia has the ability to get guys into his world even when they’ve spent months preparing to avoid it. If Silva has any weakness it must be in the ground game, because it sure as hell isn’t on the feet. If Maia can submit somebody like Marquardt, who hasn’t tapped in a fight since 2003, he stands at least a decent chance of doing the same to Silva.
BG: I have to agree. If Anderson Silva ever loses again, it’ll be to a fighter who’s a savant in at least one aspect of MMA. Dana White might be wary of putting Silva in the cage with another jiu-jitsu specialist, but there’s a difference between Thales Leites and Demian Maia. Thales Leites’s jiu-jitsu is very good, while Demian Maia is the UFC’s most dominant jiu-jitsu practitioner since Royce Gracie. No, seriously. And even though Nate Marquardt is Maia’s toughest test to date by far, I still think Demian will come out on top.
I’ll also say that after a three-year middleweight title reign and two dominant exhibitions at light-heavyweight, Anderson Silva has earned the right to call his shots a little bit. If he doesn’t want to fight the winner of Marquardt/Maia, let him finish out the rest of his career against Frank Mir and any light-heavyweights not named Lyoto who want to catch a beating. Silva has already proven himself at 185 pounds, and it’s time to move on. If Demian Maia goes on to fight Dan Henderson, let it be for the vacant UFC middleweight championship.
The UFC reportedly had trouble selling the more expensive seats at UFC 102, due to the shaky local economy. What could the UFC do in the future to make sure that arenas stay packed during the recession?
BG: Right after I first heard that the UFC was having a rough time in Portland, I got an e-mail from UFC.com (maybe you did too, if you’re a newsletter subscriber) announcing an auction for tickets in the first three rows for UFC 102. "Smart," I thought. "They might lose a little money if the winning bids are around $500, but at least the seats will be filled without the UFC having to comp strangers hanging outside the Rose Garden." So I followed the link, and discovered that the starting bid amount was $640, which I believe is $40 above face value for ringside seats. In other words, the UFC responded to sluggish ticket sales and a depressed economy by making the tickets more expensive, not less. Maybe they were trying to incite their fans’ competitive spirit?
The auction competed directly with their partners at StubHub — the UFC’s official source for scalper-rape, and don’t even get me started on that filthy, unethical can of worms. But if the prime seats for an event aren’t moving fast enough, a ticket auction is a great idea, as long as there’s no minimum bid. You can’t assume that every city has deep pockets. Plus, Randy’s a local hero and all, but maybe Portland’s MMA fans are saving their money for a UFC card that isn’t headlined by a non-title fight between two guys who are coming off losses. Other than that, the UFC should take a page out of baseball’s playbook and give their ticket-buyers something to take home with them. Maybe every 20th fan gets a free UFC DVD. Or every 50th fan gets a pair of replica fight-gloves. Or every 500th fan gets to run their fingers through Natasha Wicks’s hair. (Trust me, she’s into it.)
BF: I got into Portland last night and took to the town to get a sense of the attitude about this weekend’s event (okay, really I just wandered around to a bunch of bars). The general sense among the people I talked to is that they’d love to go to the UFC event if only they could afford the tickets now that all the sixty-dollar nosebleeds are gone. It’s just too spendy for a town where most young people are either bartenders, baristas, or wishing they could find a job as a bartender or barista.
The easy solution? Lower prices. There’s no title fight on the card, so what is some guy who works at a used bookstore spending two weeks pay to see? But the UFC isn’t going to do that and we all know it.
The only other answer is to offer fans something they can’t allow themselves to miss: Dana White must wrestle a live bear. It’s either that, or start making good on promises to base jump off arenas if they sell a certain number of tickets and pay-per-views. In this town, the people who would love any UFC event can’t afford to drop a couple hundred on tickets, while the people from out of town who could swing it aren’t coming all this way to see aging heavyweights with some local boys sprinkled in. Bear-wrestling it is.
All the fighters who lost on the undercard at UFC 101 were released from their contracts. Who will be getting the axe after UFC 102?
BF: Looking at the undercard of UFC 102, Justin “The Nsane 1” McCully looks like an unemployed man walking. He’s survived this long in the UFC mainly by beating bottom-tier fighters at a time when the UFC was in the midst of a heavyweight talent drought. Now the division is deeper than it’s been for years and there’s whole new crop of big men coming in from the next “Ultimate Fighter.” That the UFC is putting McCully against Russow right now tells me that they want to use him as highlight reel fodder and then toss him.
Other than that, the loser of the Nick Catone/Mark Munoz bout might be in trouble. They’re both coming off losses and need to prove that they can do something worth watching. They each have less than ten fights to their credit and have both struggled a little since making the jump to the UFC. Something tells me that Joe Silva already has his ‘Go get a few wins in the smaller promotions’ speech all ready to go. He has to save the ‘This is the hardest part of my job’ speech for the veterans.
BG: That’s a good start, but there are three more guys who are just as close to getting fired. If Jake Rosholt loses to Chris Leben, it’ll make him 0-2 in the Octagon, and he’ll have proven his uselessness to the UFC’s middleweight division; he’d be released, guaranteed. Ed Herman should also be on high alert. Even though he’s coming off a decision win over David Loiseau, a loss against Aaron Simpson on Saturday would be Herman’s third defeat in four fights, and losing to a rookie like Simpson is almost certainly grounds for dismissal. And speaking of David Loiseau, I see Evan Dunham, he’ll be on the unemployment line once again. The real question is, will Brandon Vera get the axe when he loses to K-Sos by first-round kimura?