(“Thanks Jay. Joining me now backstage is none other than…uh…wait a minute. You’re Anderson Silva’s son, right?”)
If you’ve been watching the NFL playoffs on FOX over the last couple weekends, you’ve surely noticed the frequent UFC promos throughout the broadcasts hyping a “World Title Fight” on January 26th between “Johnson and Dodson.” At no point is the word “flyweight” ever mentioned — because that would be a turnoff to casual fans, I guess? — and in most of the live promos I’ve seen, Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson‘s first names aren’t even included. Basically, they’re hoping that the mere promise of a “title fight” will be enough to lure some football fans into tuning in this Saturday night, even if those viewers have no idea who the headliners are, or what belt they’ll be fighting for specifically.
By sticking to the ironclad rule that a title fight will always get headlining-priority no matter who else is fighting on the card — a policy that previously drew some fan-criticism when Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche was given the UFC 157 main event spot over Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida — the UFC has painted themselves into a corner. Johnson and Dodson simply aren’t as well-known, marketable, or admired as some of the other fighters competing at UFC on FOX 6, namely Quinton Jackson, Donald Cerrone, and Anthony Pettis.
It’s a problem, because TV ratings and buyrates are so closely tied to who’s headlining each event. Instead of perhaps making Rampage vs. Teixeira or Cerrone vs. Pettis the headliner, the UFC is choosing to keep things vague (“world title fight!” “Johnson!”) and hope for the best. We’ll see if that proves to be the right decision, or if the ratings will plunge compared to the strong showing of UFC on FOX 5. I know the UFC wants to pump up its budding flyweight division, but I can’t help wondering if they’re doing themselves a disservice when there’s so little heat around that weight class. Could they re-consider their “championship fight always gets the main event” policy down the road?
Since I’ve been thinking about this lately, I’ve decided to present my own rundown of which fights I’m actually looking forward to this weekend. If you see things differently, please hurl some abuse at me in the comments section. Let’s begin…
#1: Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis (LW, main card): It’s the rare combination of “guaranteed banger” and “legitimately important.” Two elite-level lightweights who are known for consistently thrilling fights face off to determine who’s possibly next in line on the contender ladder after Gilbert Melendez. As far as I’m concerned, this is Saturday’s real main event.
#2: Quinton Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira (LHW, main card): I’m not as drunk on the Glover kool-aid as some of you — at least not yet — but man, oh man, do I want Rampage to get creamed. I’m tired of the constant bullshit, and I just want this story to end — particularly with a savage KO that defies any post-fight excuse-making.
#3: Erik Koch vs. Ricardo Lamas (FW, main card): I’m a big fan of Erik Koch, and it’s great to see him back after a 16-month layoff, trying to regain his place in the featherweight title picture. It’s also been interesting to see how Lamas has progressed from WEC mid-packer to undefeated UFC contender over the last couple years. My expectations are high for this one.
#4: Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson (FlyW, main event): As we learned in our first Databomb, finishing rates are strongly correlated to weight class — which should help explain why Demetrious Johnson hasn’t finished an opponent since 2010. And even though Dodson’s last flyweight match ended in a TKO against Jussier Formiga, everything that led up to that TKO was kind of awful. My relative lack of enthusiasm for this fight comes from the feeling that I already know how it will end: With Johnson earning a unanimous decision after five rounds that are so frantically-paced that the action becomes an undistinguishable mess of motion. And that’s what the UFC’s flyweight division has lacked for me, so far — the element of surprise.
#5: Ryan Bader vs. Vladimir Matyushenko (LHW, FX prelims): Two wrestlers who are coming off losses, and will likely be throwing bombs at each other’s heads. The result might not have a big impact on the light-heavyweight division, but it’ll have a serious impact on the fighters’ careers.
#6: Clay Guida vs. Hatsu Hioki (FW, FX prelims): I don’t expect a repeat of Guida’s much-reviled performance against Gray Maynard, but then again, Hioki hasn’t exactly been lightning in a bottle during his time in the UFC. The idea of Guida at 145 pounds is compelling, and he’s usually fun to watch, but I’m not expecting a Fight of the Night here by any means.
#7: Mike Russow vs. Shawn Jordan (HW, FX prelims): Russow, a full-time Chicago police officer, returns to the Octagon in a hometown appearance seven months after being wrecked by Fabricio Werdum in Brazil. We all know what this man is capable of.
#8: Matt Wiman vs. TJ Grant (LW, FX prelims): Grant is on a three-fight win-streak at lightweight, and Wiman pulled off a very unexpected and impressive submission of Paul Sass in his last fight. Sure, I’ll watch this.
#9 (tie): Mike Stumpf vs. Pascal Krauss, Rafael Natal vs. Sean Spencer (WW+MW, FX prelims): I don’t think I’d be able to pick any of these guys out of a lineup. I know that Krauss is German, and that Sean Spencer is a first-timer — and that’s about the extent of my commitment to these fights.
#11: Simeon Thoresen vs. David Mitchell (WW, Facebook prelim): I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched a Facebook prelim. It’s been a while. That’s not going to change this weekend.