It’s not the next UFC event on the docket — that would be this Sunday’s UFC Live: Marquardt vs. Story show — but we might as well start getting hyped for the next pay-per-view card. UFC 132 goes down July 2nd in Las Vegas, featuring a bantamweight title fight, a fan-friendly matchup of sluggers, and Tito Ortiz‘s ongoing quest for redemption. The extended video preview does a decent job of explaining why you should care, but as is usually the case with these things, the hype is based on a series of well-worn fight cliches. Lets run ‘em down…
“I’m not the same fighter I was then. Things are just different. It’s not the same anymore.” (Dominick Cruz)
When Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber first met in March 2007, the California Kid was the WEC’s reigning featherweight champ and the promotion’s first home-grown star. Cruz was a promising contender, but he was still a little green, and wound up getting choked out in under two minutes.
Cruz hasn’t lost a fight since, and now the roles are reversed; he’s the reigning champion (now at 135 pounds), looking to stave off a title challenge by his old rival. Admittedly, Cruz is a much better fighter in 2011 than he was four years ago. His footwork has developed into a dynamic, utterly unique style of controlled chaos; his integration of boxing and wrestling has become seamless, and maddening for his opponents.
The reason that “I’m not the same fighter” is a lame cliche, even when Cruz says it, is that it implies your opponent is the same fighter. Which he’s not, obviously.
Over the last four years, Faber has gone from “poster boy” to “washed-up” in the featherweight division. He learned some very painful lessons in his losses to Mike Brown and Jose Aldo: Wild improvisation can get you knocked out. Size matters. Leg kicks are worth checking. In response, he’s re-invented himself as a bantamweight, with impressive results so far. Cruz may be a better fighter than he was during their first meeting, but Faber is a smarter, wiser fighter than he was back then. The champ will have his hands full.
- “All the makings of the Fight of the Year, and perhaps the Fight of the Decade.” (Joe Rogan)
- “It’s gonna be nuts.” (Chris Leben)
- “I think I’m gonna beat him in the first round with my hands. I’m going to knockout him.” (Wanderlei Silva)
The MMA Gods have a way of punishing mortals who guarantee crazy brawls. Those insane Fight of the Year moments only come when you least expect them. When expectations are set too high — see Dos Santos vs. Carwin and Guida vs. Pettis for two recent examples in the UFC — the reality can’t help but fall short of our collective anticipation.
Established by his unbelievably violent run in PRIDE, Wanderlei Silva has earned one of the greatest reputations for entertainment value in MMA history. But his recent performances in the UFC show a man living off his legacy to some extent. Splitting a pair of decisions against Michael Bisping and Rich Franklin, getting KO’d by Quinton Jackson — I hate to get all blasphemous, but you just can’t rely on the Axe Murderer for epic brawls anymore. Maybe his power is fading, maybe his thirst for blood isn’t as overpowering. Whatever it is, his moment has passed, and that moment involved soccer kicks and beating the shit out of Sakuraba.
Chris Leben has long been one of the greatest power-punching blockheads in the sport, and I trust that he’ll wade in and throw the same southpaw bombs that he always does. But will Silva really be willing to stand in the pocket and take them? And will Leben actually fight a little safer considering that he’s coming off a loss to Brian Stann? Who knows. It’s impossible to predict the Fight of the Night in this sport, let alone the Fight of the Decade.
“I want that belt again. So now I just gotta do it one match at a time…physically, I’ve felt like I’ve never felt before.” (Tito Ortiz)
Oh, for God’s sake, bro. Every faded legend wants his belt back — even the ones who haven’t won a fight since 2006. Unfortunately, Ortiz walking away with a victory over Ryan Bader on July 2nd is about as unlikely as Ortiz becoming the light-heavyweight champion again someday. Breaking the losing streak would be a lofty enough goal, but the odds are good that Tito will be humiliated once again. (Ed. note: Dana White retired Chuck Liddell because he cares for Chuck on a personal level. I think Dana keeps giving Ortiz fights because he hates him.)
As for Tito’s health, well, you know how this story goes. He says he feels good going into the match, then he loses and shows you the doctor’s note about his bad back and cracked skull. Okay, so maybe there are a few things you can predict in this crazy sport…