(‘Okay boys, let’s step back and put our shirts on before we send the wrong message to the local authorities.’ Photo courtesy of Combat Lifestyle.)
As you may have heard, UFC 112 is popping off in Abu Dhabi on Saturday morning/early afternoon. In addition to providing you with a liveblog that you absolutely don’t want to miss, we’re also going to go ahead and argue about what this series of long-odds title fights really means, and what the UFC should do next once the dust settles. Won’t you join us?
BF: Since the phrasing of this question implies that both guys are in for beatings on Saturday, and since I can’t honestly say I disagree with that assessment, I’m going to assume that what I’m really being asked here is which beating is going to be worse for the recipient. My short answer is, Maia’s beating will be intense but short-lived, while Edgar’s beating will be more of a prolonged suffering.
If forced to choose between those two, I’d take Edgar’s spot. At least when it’s over he’ll be able to say he went three or four rounds with the champ, and maybe he can talk himself into believing that he was just one or two lucky breaks away from turning the tide. Silva, on the other hand, has the ability to dish out beatings that make a man question whether he has any place in this business, or perhaps even this earthly realm. He’ll make you look stupid, and that holds true even if he decides to toy with you for five rounds. Either way, you end up emerging from the fight as a battered man in body or spirit or both.
BG: So you’re saying you’d rather be the guy who has no chance to win — I repeat, NO CHANCE TO WIN — than the guy who could at least theoretically surprise his opponent with a submission? Seems a little self-defeating to me. Basically, I would hate to be Frankie Edgar right now. It has to be disheartening to prepare for a fight where you know you won’t hold a single concrete advantage. At least Maia has an actual path to victory, as unlikely as it may be. As for your idea that Anderson Silva‘s beatings are more soul-crushing in some way, that’s debatable. Personally, I’d take a peaceful nap in the center of the Octagon over reconstructive facial surgery any day of the week.
BG: No matter what happens in Abu Dhabi, Sonnen should get the next shot. I know Vitor Belfort was originally supposed to take on Anderson Silva at UFC 112 before he jacked up his shoulder, but that matchup was only put together out of convenience, before Belfort even had a single qualifying fight at 185 pounds in the UFC. At the time, there were no other clear contenders to Silva’s belt, especially with Dan Henderson heading out the door. But then Chael Sonnen somehow ground out a decision over Nate Marquardt, which followed another unlikely win over Yushin Okami. Say what you will about Sonnen’s outlandish interviews or his bizarre first name — it’s like "Michael" without the "Mi"; wait a minute, should we be pronouncing it "Cull"? — but he’s quite obviously the #1 contender in the UFC’s middleweight division. And if anybody is capable of lying on top of Anderson Silva for five rounds and stealing his title in an epic display of lay-and-pray, it’s this guy.
BF: First of all, if Maia wins this fight then all bets are off. Suddenly the belt is up for grabs again, and unless the UFC gives Silva an immediate rematch, they can pretty much do what they want with it and no one will complain because our jaws will still be hanging open in shock. Maia vs. Belfort? Sure. Maia vs. Sonnen, again? Okay. Seriously, it blows the situation wide open. Which is why it’s a shame that it’s not going to happen.
But if Silva wins, then yeah, Sonnen should get next. Not only has he earned it, but he can actually make the run-up to the fight interesting. The UFC can sell that fight based on Sonnen’s mic skills alone, but they’d be better off doing it right away before the memory of Sonnen’s upset victory fades completely from the collective fan hive mind.
Aside from money, what’s really at stake in the Hughes-Gracie fight? How interested are you in seeing old-timers with no real hopes of a title fight continue to hang around and beat on each other purely for entertainment purposes?
BF: I could give you a pre-packaged answer about Renzo’s chance to restore some of the shine to his family name, or maybe spew some crap about Hughes solidifying his legend status in the last act of his career against fellow aging greats, but I won’t. It’s unnecessary and it’s boring. Instead I’ll just say that I like this fight for this fight card. It’s sort of fun, which is probably the nicest and most realistic thing I can say about it. They seem like they’re on more or less equal footing in the sense that neither one of them is headed for a title shot, but as long as it’s the third bout beneath two title fights, how can you possibly complain?
BG: As long as they can still put on a good show, I’m not complaining either. But I think the outcome will hold at least some significance in regards to Hughes’s career. He wants to keep competing, but he clearly doesn’t want to fight anybody besides other fading legends. So if he can’t beat Renzo, what else is left for him? An obligatory rematch with Matt Serra? I think this fight will determine Matt Hughes‘s continued existence as a viable product. The UFC hasn’t been using him to headline events lately like some of their other old vets — Randy Couture, Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz — but if he can beat Renzo on Saturday, he’ll gain a little relevance, and maybe he’ll get one more chance at a high-profile fight. Or maybe he’ll use the victory as a perfect moment to retire, and then this fight really would mean something.