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Hughes/GSP Rubber Match to Replace Hughes/Serra Grudge Match at UFC 79

Man, I can’t leave you people alone for two seconds…

While some of us were enjoying a few days off the grid during the Thanksgiving holiday, the UFC was busy releasing the most disappointing news in recent memory — followed by the most exciting. On Thanksgiving day, Dana White announced that Matt Serra has withdrawn from UFC 79 due to a back injury sustained during a routine training session in his Long Island gym. According to Dave Meltzer at the Wrestling Observer, Serra suffered a herniated disc on Monday while working out with Matt Arroyo (who knocked off Troy “Rude Boy” Mandaloniz on Wednesday’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter). Writes Meltzer:

It was serious to the point he had to practically be carried to the hospital. And after an MRI, he had to practically be carried off the table. He didn’t tell anyone about it, hoping it would heal. He went to the chiropractor to see if he could make it better, and ended up hurting even worse. The doctors told him there was no way he could fight on Dec. 29, so he canceled yesterday. Matt Hughes was told this morning and naturally noted he had three bulging discs when he fought Royce Gracie. But said he believes Serra is really hurt…Serra’s doctors haven’t even given him an estimate of when he’ll be ready [to fight again].

After the anticlimactic shitshow that was UFC 78, this was the worst possible thing that could have happened to the organization. The Hughes/Serra feud — which the UFC has spent so much energy and resources hyping up for their meeting on December 29 — will go unresolved, and the pay-per-view event that was supposed to get the UFC back in fans’ good graces suddenly lost its main attraction. Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Thiago Alves were discussed as possible replacements for Matt Serra, but without a championship belt on the line, “Nemesis” would likely play out like UFC 78.2.0. Of course, MMA diehards are still salivating for Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva, but since both fighters lost their last two bouts, there isn’t much riding on the outcome. And of course, Serra’s injury has sucked all the tension out of the remaining episodes of The Ultimate Fighter.

But then, in the horizon, a savior appeared.

On Saturday evening, the UFC announced that Georges St. Pierre would be replacing Serra at UFC 79, and that his fight against Hughes would be a five-round battle for an interim UFC Welterweight Championship (yes, another interim title). On his blog, Matt Hughes claimed that he “basically” got to pick his opponent when Serra dropped out, and he picked St. Pierre. Despite the fact that the fight was only a month a way, GSP had the same thing in mind; Yahoo! Sports reported that St. Pierre and his management team called the UFC after Serra’s injury was announced, and asked for the match. The plan is, Serra will fight the winner of the Hughes/St. Pierre fight; as Serra told UFC.com’s Thomas Gerbasi, “I can’t believe the position this puts me in. I’m actually rooting for Matt Hughes so I can beat his ass.”

Though the possibility now exists that Serra and Hughes will never fight, the substitution of St. Pierre is a divine intervention-caliber save for the UFC that replaces manufactured hype with real drama. St. Pierre and Hughes first faced off at UFC 50 in October 2004, where Hughes regained his welterweight title by catching St. Pierre in an armbar in the final second of the first round. St. Pierre avenged that embarrassing loss two years later at UFC 65, scoring a TKO due to strikes in the second round, and snatching Hughes’s belt away — which he squandered in his very next fight against some Long Island jabronie named Matt Serra.

So, UFC 79′s main event will now be a tie-breaking rubber match between two legends (not too shabby, as main events go), and since St. Pierre was scheduled to fight the winner of the Hughes/Serra fight anyway, Serra’s injury simply represents a change in the timeline; the UFC’s welterweight championship picture wont be altered whatsoever. If Matt Hughes really deserves to be champion again, he’ll beat GSP next month, and the UFC’s fans will eventually get to see the Hughes/Serra grudge match they’ve been waiting for. If St. Pierre beats Hughes again, Serra will be forced to prove that his shocking upset of St. Pierre wasn’t just a fluke.

And somewhere, Dana White is thanking his lucky fucking stars…

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