Sunday 11 December 2011

UFC To Risk Big at FOX Special By Shaun Nichols

It was only last month that I wrote a blog concerning the upcoming UFC title fights which would see Chael Sonnen and Nick Diaz challenging, looking at their unique personalities and the potential big paydays they would earn the company.
A few weeks later and everything seems to have changed, one of those fights Nick Diaz facing Georges St Pierre in February as been cancelled due to GSP suffering a torn ACL in his right knee which will keep him out of action until September 2012 at the earliest. Injuries as UFC have found out to their cost this year is just one of those factors that go along with their fighters going through intense training and is something the company will have to live with. What this means though more immediately is that Diaz will have to find something else to do until GSP can return. UFC have chosen to book Diaz against Carlos Condit, who if you remember was supposed to have the title fight against GSP and then had to step aside when Dana realised the big money match was GSP-Diaz. Now Condit as a chance to throw the spanner into the works, if he can beat Diaz then he will be certain (injuries permitting) to get the next shot at GSP and knocking Diaz at least temporarily out of the title picture.
So we have seen that one of the biggest fights in 2012 as been put in jeopardy through injury. At the first FOX special in 2012, UFC will risk two of their other big PPV fights. As I talked about last month the one big fight that Anderson Silva as open to him was to face Chael Sonnen again, Sonnen challenging again will probably do at least 70% more than any other Silva title defence.
This begs the question why UFC feel the risk to put Chael Sonnen against Mark Munoz. If he wins what exactly as been gained, most casual fans would expect Sonnen to win anyway. We wouldn't get to see Sonnen ripping on Munoz as they are actually friends, so presumably Chael will spend his time having a go at Anderson Silva. The worst case scenario is that Munoz actually beats Sonnen, this would make him the number one contender and the next challenger to Anderson.
Although a Silva-Munoz fight could be good it is not a very marketable PPV fight again the casual viewer would not see Munoz as a serious threat, Munoz is also a friend of Silva's so UFC would probably struggle to sell that fight on the basis that we have two fighters who can't wait to kick the other guy's ass.
The FOX special will see another big potential PPV fight get put under jeopardy, in the last several months UFC have tried to put together a Jon Jones vs Rashad Evans title fight. On two occasions this fight as been scheduled but then we had claims of injuries that have got in the way. On December 10th Jones successfully defended his title against Lyoto Machida to set up his biggest match against Evans.
Again though UFC prefers to take a risk, Evans who is currently the top contender will face Phil Davis in a match that although he will start favourite it is also one that he could easily lose especially if the majority of it is fought on the mat where Davis would be able to out-wrestle him. A Jon Jones-Rashad Evans fight as a simple story attached to it and depending on your point of view it's a fight where fans will split solidly behind both guys. Jones was given the title opportunity after Evans was injured and the younger fighter took full advantage of it. They used to train at the same gym but now Rashad Evans as moved on, amid claims that Jones is disrespectful.
To a certain degree it tells a similar story of the American Wolves chasing Roderick Strong for the ROH World Ttile (Evans=Richards, Jones=Edwards). Where the senior guy through unfortunate circumstances fails to get the job done and his younger colleague steps in and becomes champion. Now ROH used this storyline to draw their highest iPPV buyrate at 'Best in the World' where Richards defeated Edwards to become the champion. UFC will be aware that it is Rashad Evans and not Phil Davis challenging Jon Jones that will be the best for business but for some reason they think that they can risk it.
The final match on the FOX special features the UK's Michael Bisping straight from his successful fight against Mayhem Miller on the Ultimate Fighter finale, fighting Damian Maia in a fight that could go a long way to positioning Bisping into a title fight against Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen or even Mark Munoz depending on who wins which fights. It will only be approximately seven weeks between Bisping's victory against Miller and his fight against Maia. Bisping as been told that he's not allowed to train upto Christmas due to injuries he picked him in the fight on UF Finale. That doesn't give him a lot of time to prepare for the Maia fight, Bisping is on a winning roll and due to his personality could make a very marketable PPV calibre challenger. Damian Maia does not fit that category, he was badly outclassed in his title tilt against Anderson Silva and the idea that he could challenge again anytime soon is hopelessly optimistic.
UFC as a lot riding on the events of their first FOX event in 2012, if Sonnen, Evans and Bisping all win convincingly and look good doing so then the gamble will have paid off. If either Sonnen or Evans lose then UFC would have lost a major PPV event needlessly, and while Bisping's fight can't be said to be as important at least not in the short term you can bet that Dana will have his fingers crossed that 'The Count' will also be victorious as well as Evans and Sonnen.

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