(“Whiter than a band-aid? You’re out of order, Jorge!”)
Everyone’s doing their part to bolster interest in this card. Dana’s doling out title shots again, Rivera’s gone to Broadway, even the mostly-beloved Octagon girls are pitching in. But beyond loose promises and tight bikinis, this card has meaning. Many of tonight’s combatants are fighting for far more than just another notch in the win-column. Let’s take a look at what’s really on the table tonight in Australia.
Jon Fitch: A legend on his decision-list and a title shot, maybe. Fitch is a good fighter, no doubt, and his victories over tough competition reflect that. What you won’t find on his record, however, is a win over a legend. If Fitch is able to capitalize on his size advantage and use his wrestling skills to wear on Penn, that could change tonight. Win streaks are nice, but every fighter wants a trophy head for their mantle, and few have a name as respected in this sport as BJ Penn. Regarding that title shot, as Fitch has learned before, those things are somewhat fickle. An exciting win could very well earn him a five-rounder, but–as affectionate nicknames like “Smoke Break” and “Yaaaawn Fitch” allude—exciting fights can be hard to come by.
BJ Penn: Stability, and a new home. Penn has always had an affinity for jumping weight classes, so it’s not a big shock to find him back at welterweight. But after being twice defeated by the new lightweight champ, Frankie Edgar, the step up on the scales hardly seems to be under his own terms. His knock-out victory over Hughes was a good start at welterweight and an emphatic ending to their trilogy, but Hughes’ days at the helm of the division are long gone. Taking out the larger, durable Fitch will soundly announce his arrival at welterweight and establish him as a true threat to any opponent at 170lbs. There’s no shame in losing to a tough competitor like Fitch, but if Penn comes up short he’ll be cast down into the deep waters of the division, and the middle of the class is no place for a Prodigy to be.
Jorge Rivera: Someone to notice him. For a guy with thirteen career fights in the Octagon, Rivera has managed to garner little attention. Some of that can be attributed to his inconsistency- prior to his current 3-fight win streak, “The Conquistador” never had his hand raised twice in a row in the UFC. Another factor, sadly important, is Rivera’s complete lack of charisma. He’s a soft spoken, no-nonsense guy from Boston, or at least he was prior to the boys at Ranger Up dragging him along on a shit-talking campaign the likes of which we’ve rarely seen . Rivera’s comedic timing reminds the viewer of the infantile Olsen twins delivering lines that they could never come up with on their own and can barely read off the cue card. But the skits have us talking about him, a lot, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how the fight plays out. The fans are watching, Jorge. Now give them a reason to want to see more.
Michael Bisping: A bit of bloody respect. Michael Bisping has a name everyone knows, a good record, and nothing to gain in this fight. A win over Rivera doesn’t exactly shoot him into title contention, while a loss against an opponent everyone expects him to beat would be crushing. There was no real upside in it for him until Rivera went all YouTube on his ass. Now “The Count” is angry and looking to silence the uncharacteristically vocal Rivera. With a solid victory, Bisping does his talking in the ring and those videos equate to an epic fail. Losing this fight means never living down the taunts, and Bisping haters—of which there are many—will have a lifetime of ammo to unload.
Chris Lytle: FOTN Bonus, KO Bonus, Submission Bonus, just give him his bonus. Lytle delivers like few other fighters can. He’s officially one fight behind Anderson in terms of all-time performance bonuses, but then again he’s never been publicly put on blast for a less than thrilling performance either. Lytle was looking forward to a battle with Carlos Condit, but injury forced him off the card and Brian Ebersole into the bright lights. This is Ebersole’s first fight in the UFC, but dude’s been around the block. He’s amassed a 46-14 record in practically every organization over the past 11 years. He can put that experience to good use tonight, where an exciting scrap with Lytle can win him new fans even if he doesn’t win the fight.
George Sotiropolis: Separate himself from the herd at 155. With the recent absorption of the WEC’s lightweights and the end of Penn’s dominant reign, the UFC’s 155lb division has been turned on its head. The new blood makes for interesting match-ups across the board, and distancing yourself from the pack has become difficult. With each consecutive win, the clamor for a title shot grows louder, and tonight Sotiropolis will have the chance to extend his UFC record to an impressive 8-0. Maynard’s got next, likely followed by Pettis, so G-Sot will likely have to topple at least one more foe before earning his shot, but a victory tonight will put him right there in contention. Then again, maybe a victory tonight is enough to earn him a title fight and he just has to bide his time. That tends to work out well.
- Chris Colemon