411 MMA Fact or Fiction 01.02.13: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III, Silva vs. Jones or GSP, More
Welcome to a new year of 411’s MMA Fact or Fiction, and as always, I’m your host, Wyatt Beougher. Last week, we closed out 2012 with Todd Vote and Alex Watt looking back at the year that was, and while I scored the bout a draw, the reader vote saw the bout in favor of . This week, Dustin James and Dan Plunkett will be looking at the year to come. And again this week, I’ve given my guest judges the week off to better enjoy their holidays.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Columnist, The Greatest MMA News Column/Roundtable Coordinator
Contributor, MMA Zone
1.) Cain Velasquez/Junior dos Santos will be the rivalry that defines the UFC Heavyweight division in the post-Lesnar era.
Dan Plunkett: FACT Despite the one-sided loss to Velasquez, I think it’s pretty clear that Velasquez and dos Santos will meet at least once more down the line. At the moment, the top three heavyweights in the sport by a clear margin are Velasquez, dos Santos, and Alistair Overeem. Daniel Cormier may fit in with that group, but I didn’t include him as it’s looking like he’ll drop to light heavyweight after his next fight to avoid fighting his teammate Velasquez. I’d categorize Fabricio Werdum as just below that group. Beyond that, the heavyweight division sees a clear drop-off. Plus, Velasquez is only 30-years-old and Junior is just 28. As such, a third fight between Velasquez and dos Santos seems unavoidable. Even if Velasquez gets beaten by Overeem, he’ll meet dos Santos at some point down the line. As far as it being the rivalry that defines the post-Lesnar era of the heavyweight division, at the moment it’s the only real rivalry of substance in the heavyweight division. The first fight was the most watched MMA fight ever on North American television, though the second fight probably didn’t do as well on PPV as it should have. Still, they’re two guys that will likely stay at the top of the heavyweight division for a long time and they’ll probably fight each other more times than any current top heavyweights, so their rivalry will more than likely be the one that defines the current heavyweight division.
Dustin James: FICTION People aren’t going to like to hear this, but there’s no rivalry if it’s one-sided and that’s exactly what the Velasquez/JDS rivalry is now after that ass beating that Cain handed out this past Saturday night. A lot of people were shocked after watching Velasquez maul JDS the way he did at UFC 155, and I don’t know why. Where have these people been all this time? This is the same Cain Velasquez that went over a year and a half between fights before he entered the UFC because NO ONE wanted to fight him due to all the gym rumors they were hearing. So what did Cain do? He signed with the UFC and proceeded to kick the shit out of anyone the UFC put in front of him en route to winning the UFC heavyweight title and was widely considered the new “baddest man on the planet” by many.
However, he ends up getting caught by a JDS punch last year at UFC on FOX 1 and he became an afterthought to a lot of folks. Why? Because he got caught by a punch? I’m pretty sure Matt Serra and GSP proved that anyone can get caught by a punch in a fight and that also happens to be one of the best things about MMA. Anyway, you know what Cain did after losing to JDS? He got better. Seriously. Look at his last two fights and tell me that loss to JDS last year didn’t make Velasquez a better fighter. Am I honestly supposed to think that JDS has a chance against this guy in a rematch? Velasquez handed out an ass kicking to JDS and it was bad enough that Dana White even mentioned that JDS would likely have to win another fight before getting a rematch. Maybe the loss to Cain will make JDS a better fighter and their next fight will be much closer than the one-sided ass beating we saw last weekend? All I know is, this rivalry would need a miraculous close fight in the rubber match to be considered one of the greatest rivalries of all-time and I don’t see it being the rivalry that defines the heavyweight division.
Judge Wyatt Beougher’s Scorecard: Both guys with excellent points here, but I tend to agree with Plunkett. I’m not sure why Dustin is casting JDS aside after wondering why people did the same to Cain, as I think dos Santos will be driven to improve his game before he steps into the Octagon with Cain again. Still though, as depressing as it is, Plunkett has a valid point – as shallow as the heavyweight division is, what other rivalry is there? Plunkett, 10-9
2.) Erik Perez will become the Hispanic star that the UFC thought that they had in Roger Huerta.
Dustin James: FACT Sure, why not? The kid has a lot of charisma and if he can keep winning in the Octagon, I imagine he’ll become a massive star in Mexico. The UFC has been wanting to push its way into Mexico for some time now and with Cain winning the UFC heavyweight title back and the emergence of Erik Perez, the UFC may have found exactly what the promotion needs to become much bigger in the eyes of our friends in Mexico. VIVA LA RAZA!!!!!
Dan Plunkett: FICTION This is really tough to say because Perez is only 23-years-old so I’m going with the odds. He certainly has potential to be a major star and breakthrough to the Mexican audience, but he’s going to have to be slowly groomed and keep winning. Roger Huerta was looked at as a guy that could be UFC’s version of Oscar de la Hoya (though those are astronomical expectations in terms of both fighting skill and drawing ability), and he was given favorable match-ups but never made it for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was that he didn’t seem to have a great desire to be a fighter, which Perez does seem to want to be. Huerta was also supposed to be a guy that significantly raised UFC’s profile with the Latino audience, which is traditionally a big boxing market. However, that role may be filled by UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, meaning Perez wouldn’t get a chance at fulfilling Huerta’s supposed destiny.
Judge Wyatt Beougher’s Scorecard: Dustin could’ve scored a second-round knockout if he’d sent along a video of himself doing the Konnan “my testicles are too big for my pants” dance to go with that last exclamation. Sadly, he didn’t do so, but he still won the round because Plunkett seemed to spent the greater part of his answer explaining why it was a “FACT”, only to tack that bit on at the end about Cain. Honestly, I think the Hispanic combat sports fandom tends to gravitate towards lighter weight fighters (as opposed to their American brethren, who have traditionally loved the heavyweights), so I tend to think Perez will capture their imagination more than Cain will. James, 10-9
3.) Even a change in nights and high profile coaches won’t be able to salvage the ratings for The Ultimate Fighter.
Dan Plunkett: FICTION There are some wild card factors that don’t make the answer clear cut. For instance, it could very well be the case that the show, in its current format, has become stale. Additionally, the show is unproven on FX, having drawn far and away the lowest ratings in series history over the past two seasons. However, the show has had down years in the past, albeit not nearly as down as it has been over the past two seasons, and has come back stronger in most cases due to a strong coaching dynamic. The best example of that would be when the Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos season did then-series low numbers, but a rivalry between coaches Michael Bisping and Jason “Mayhem” Miller in the following season saw ratings rebound. The complaint of a stale format has been around for years and probably had something to do with ratings falling off a cliff, but it more than likely wasn’t the most significant factor. And even if it was, a strong dynamic between coaches can put a band-aid over that problem for one season. There is the question of how strong the dynamic between coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen will be and it almost certainly won’t compare to the feud that made Sonnen a star (with Anderson Silva). Regardless of that, they’re still two of the five or so biggest stars in the company and one has a very strong personality. Because of that, the show will always maintain some level of interest and be newsworthy, which can’t be said for the season with Lesnar and Dos Santos or the past two seasons. Furthermore, the change from Friday to Tuesday night is significant. That alone will help move the baseline rating from an 0.49 this past season to at least an 0.7 or 0.8. I’m not certain we can expect Spike level ratings for the next season, but it’ll be far stronger than the past two seasons and do well in the key demos. Plus, the new, more lucrative time slot should be coupled with stronger promotion from FX.
Dustin James: FACT. I don’t think it matters who the UFC brings in, The Ultimate Fighter has been a dead horse running on its last legs for years now. The show has been unbelievably boring and has blessed us with some real craptastic champions these last few seasons. Even though I’m kind of interested to see the interaction between Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones next season, I know exactly what we are in for before I’ve even watched the show. Sonnen’s going to come out and try to get under the skin of “Bones”, but Jones will remain cool and insist that he’s only on the show to try to help the UFC find a new prospect. The only problem is, most of the good prospects have already been discovered and instead we’re forced to watch boring ass fights all season long just to see if Sonnen can manage to piss Jon Jones off. Is that enough to get me to watch the show? Maybe. Last season of “TUF” was so awful that I ended up deleting most of the episodes from my DVR. While I would really love to see “TUF” go back to the “must-see TV” it was back during the first season, I just don’t think that’s possible no matter who they bring in (although there would be an outside shot of a women’s version coached by Ronda Rousey and “Cyborg” Santos being a success, but would the UFC actually do it?).
Judge Wyatt Beougher’s Scorecard: Dustin scores points with his suggestion that an all-womens TUF could do a marked increase in ratings, but Plunkett takes the round with his thorough and detailed analysis. Dan’s our ratings expert, so this round wasn’t really fair to Dustin. Plunkett, 10-9
4.) Bellator’s ratings won’t show a significant increase in 2013, in spite of their move to SpikeTV.
Dustin James: FACT Sorry Bellator. Even though I think the promotion will see an increase in ratings when they move to Spike TV, I don’t see the promotion earning a SIGNIFICANT increase. Who do they have to sell to the mainstream MMA fans to get them to watch, especially if Eddie Alvarez leaves to go to the UFC? I can see the promotion having a hard time selling people on the likes of Ben Askren, Christian M’Pumbu, and Alexander Volkov and anyone expecting the promotion to go on Spike TV and become a real contender to the UFC’s crown as the top dog MMA promotion is in for a big time let down.
Dan Plunkett: FICTION 1000% fiction. They’re moving to a network in nearly 20 million more homes than MTV2. They’re moving into a network that has a vested interested in the promotion’s success. They’re in a time slot directly following the one of the station’s highest rated series which should feature a good deal of cross-promotion. When MMA Uncensored Live moved into the time slot Bellator will be starting in, the show drew 696,000 viewers, more than double Bellator’s all-time high viewership of 325,000 viewers for Bellator 44. With live fights following TNA Impact Wrestling, Bellator should at least triple their 172,000 viewer season 7 average right out of the gate and stay well above their MTV2 numbers.
Judge Wyatt Beougher’s Scorecard: Remember how I said the last round wasn’t fair to Dustin? Neither was this one, but damn if he didn’t get me on his side with this one. Unfortunately, Plunkett is pretty much the ace when it comes to ratings and he makes a pretty ironclad case for why Bellator’s ratings will see a significant increase. Plunkett, 10-9
5.) The UFC will put together an Anderson Silva superfight (either against Jon Jones or Georges St. Pierre) before the end of 2013.
Dan Plunkett: FICTION I’d love to go fact here, but I really don’t see either fight being made in 2013. UFC was closer than ever to making Silva vs. St-Pierre after GSP beat Carlos Condit in November and that ended up falling apart due to St-Pierre’s desire to fight Nick Diaz. If Silva and St-Pierre fought more often, it’d be more likely a fight between the two would be made in the new year, but Silva hasn’t fought more than twice per year since 2008, and St-Pierre hasn’t fought more than twice per year since 2007. If all keep winning, I see it going like this: St-Pierre beats Diaz and at that point feels Johny Hendricks deserves a title shot. If Hendricks loses to Jake Ellenberger, that’s out the window and there wouldn’t be a clear contender for St-Pierre since Rory MacDonald won’t fight him. But if Hendricks wins, I think they’ll do GSP vs. Hendricks next. Jon Jones will fight Chael Sonnen in April, and then he’ll have Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson, or Glover Teixeira to deal with after that. It’s very possible Jones could squeeze another fight in before 2013 comes to a close, and that fight could be Anderson Silva or one of the previously mentioned light heavyweights that may be long overdue a title shot by then. That’s not even factoring in injuries and potential losses. By letting GSP vs. Silva fall apart, UFC didn’t show the sense of urgency needed to make sure these fights happen. Anderson Silva, the link between the two super-fights, will likely be 38-years-old by the time of his next fight. At some point, perhaps even his next time out, he’s going to show signs of aging and lose. Unless he retires, it’s an inevitability. If that fight happens before Anderson fights Jones or GSP, it kills both of those fights. There’s always the chance something could happen, and I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Silva asked to fight Jones and was granted the opportunity to jump to the front of the line (he’d deserve it no matter who the other contenders had beaten, anyway), but I’m not betting on it.
Dustin James: FACT. Anderson Silva’s fighting a superfight sometime in 2013, even if it’s against Cain Velasquez (OK, that may be taking it a little too far). Silva has gone on record and stated that he’s only interested in big time fights now that his career is entering its twilight years and something tells me the guy will be standing across the cage from either GSP or “Bones” Jones at some point in 2013. While I used to think it was almost a foregone conclusion that Silva would fight GSP before Jones, I’m actually starting to think Silva may actually end up facing “Bones” before 2014 rolls around. GSP’s schedule is starting to fill up incredibly quick with fights against Nick Diaz and potentially Johny Hendricks on the horizon. All Jones has to do is dismantle Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson (and he will) and he’s pretty much beat anyone worth a damn in the division (not that Sonnen was ever worth a damn in the light heavyweight division to begin with…). Not to mention, GSP has pretty much stated that he’s not that interested in fighting the much bigger Silva. When you throw that in with the fact that Silva has already fought at light heavyweight a few times then you’d have to start thinking Silva vs. Jones becomes a real possibility once it comes time for the UFC to put on a “big time fight” in a time of need. As a Silva fan, I hate that fight. Would I pay to see it though? You bet your ass.
Judge Wyatt Beougher’s Scorecard: Both guys make compelling points, but I’m favoring James in this round solely for his optimism. As an MMA fan, I want to see Silva fight in a superfight, preferably against Jon Jones. James, 10-9
Judge Wyatt Beougher scored the bout in favor of Dan Plunkett, 48-47.
With no guest judge again this week, it falls on you, the readers, to either confirm my decision or ensure that the fight ends in a draw by voting for James. So what will it be?
Bonus) No reigning UFC champions will be dethroned inside the cage in 2013. (If you choose to answer “Fiction”, please indicate which titles you believe will change hands.)
Dustin James: FICTION. Someone will lose their title. There’s just too many titles, too many fights, and too many months in the year for every champ in the UFC to go unscathed through the year. The only question is, who will lose their title? I could see Cain Velasquez, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Jose Aldo, Ronda Rousey, Demetrious Johnson and Jon “Bones” Jones keeping their titles in 2013. That would leave guys like Benson Henderson, Dominick Cruz, and Renan Barao as the likely suspects to lose their belts. Of course, if Cruz and Barao face off to unify the UFC bantamweight title then that would guarantee that someone loses their title in 2013, but last I heard was that Cruz’s injury was going to keep him out for the entire year so that fight probably won’t happen. The lightweight title is where things get really interesting to me. I’m still not sold on Benson Henderson being able to dominate that division, especially with Gilbert Melendez on his way in and other contenders like Frankie Edgar (who beat Henderson in their last fight….), Gray Maynard, Jim Miller, and Anthony Pettis waiting in the wings. If I was a betting man, I would beat that Benson Henderson would not be champion of the UFC lightweight division by the time the ball drops in Time Square this time next year.
Dan Plunkett: FICTION When was the last year every UFC champion made it through the year without losing their title in the cage? 1999 you say? When they only had three belts? Even with a great crop of champions, it’s inevitable that one of the eight titlists will lose in 2013. As far as which title which change hands, that’s much tougher. Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, and Georges St-Pierre are probably the safest bets to keep their titles. Silva I’d put in a tier below them simply due to age. Cain Velasquez looked great against Junior dos Santos, but he’s still likely to face a dangerous opponent in Alistair Overeem. Benson Henderson is always in danger because the lightweight division is full of killers like Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis. Jose Aldo has a big threat in Frankie Edgar in February. I don’t think Demetrious Johnson will lose his title, mostly because I have no idea who is going to challenge for it after John Dodson, but who knows. For the purpose of not making this a cop-out answer, I’ll say the lightweight title will change hands in 2013 for the aforementioned reasons.
Judge Wyatt Beougher’s Scorecard: Both guys bag on Benson in this answer, but I’m giving the slight nod to Dan again, for the simple fact that Dustin listed Frankie Edgar as a challenger for Ben’s title, when he’ll in fact be challenging for Jose Aldo’s featherweight title. Plunkett, 10-9
And that’s it for this week! Again, make sure you sign up for the new comments system, so that you can let us know what you thought about this week’s contest! As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see featured in next week’s edition, leave your statement in the comments and I’ll add it in for next week. Let us know what you thought in the comments, on Twitter, or on Google+.