Five Quick Rounds 12.11.12: UFC on FOX 5, Rousey’s Debut, Hendricks’ Nightmare, and More!
Welcome to another edition of Five Quick Rounds, 411’s fastest-finishing weekly opinion column. I’m your host, Wyatt Beougher, and I’m back for another week of news, results, ratings, and more, so join me, won’t you, as I break down the past week’s stories?.
Round 1: UFC on FOX 5 Sees a Champion Retain and A Challenger Crowned
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
Saturday night was UFC on FOX 5, and it proved to be quite the show, from the Facebook fight all the way up to the main event. On the main card, Matt Brown started the night off by winning the first round over Mike Swick and then knocking him out midway through the second frame. From there, Rory MacDonald cemented his status as a fighter to watch in the welterweight division, as he easily dispatched of former champion BJ Penn, earning a 10-8 round on two judges’ scorecards. In the co-main event, Alexander Gustafsson proved why he was the favorite going into the fight, disposing of another former champion in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. In the main event, lightweight champion Benson Henderson had no problems retaining his title against Nate Diaz, earning a unanimous decision (including a 50-43 scorecard from one of the judges) against a challenger who had looked extremely impressive since returning to the lightweight division.
I have to say, this show delivered. I was watching with my girlfriend and daughter, and while neither of them is an avid MMA fan, they were engrossed with the action in most of the fights, asking questions and cringing/cheering as the action unfolded. This is definitely the type of show the UFC needs to air on FOX from here on out. This was a nice win for Henderson, especially coming off of a fight in which many analysts thought he lost to Frankie Edgar, and it re-establishes him as the dominant force in the UFC’s lightweight division. As for Gustafsson, who earned a light heavyweight title shot, and MacDonald, who likely earned a title eliminator fight against now-snubbed welterweight number one contender Johny Hendricks, I’m not sure either of them has shown me enough to make me think that they’d fare particularly well against the champions of their respective divisions. That’s not a knock on either fighter, to be sure, as they’re easily the hottest prospects at their weights, but it speaks volumes to just how good Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre are.
Round 2: UFC on FOX 5 Ratings Rebound
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
The overnight and early ratings for UFC on FOX 5 have been promising, as the show led FOX to the most viewers in the UFC’s target demographic on Saturday night. Even better, the estimated 3.41 million average viewers was a whopping 65% increase over the previous two installments, one of which featured Nate Diaz earning his title shot against Benson Henderson. The main event fight between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz scored a 3.6 rating, well over the 2.8 rating that the show itself averaged.
From these numbers, I think it’s safe to say that the UFC needs to continue to find exciting title match-ups in the lower weight classes and then schedule them for FOX cards. And now that Henderson has benefited from the network television exposure, if I were Zuffa, I’d aim to have one of the three or four fights he’ll likely take in 2013 air on FOX. Also, if Ronda Rousey’s first UFC fight doesn’t do well on PPV (more on that later), I don’t think it would hurt to feature the women’s bantamweight title on FOX.
Round 3: Ronda Rousey’s Debut is Set
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
Ronda Rousey will make her UFC debut on February 23rd at the Honda Center, in Anaheim, California, at UFC 157, taking on Invicta standout Liz Carmouche in a women’s bantamweight title fight. This announcement wasn’t without controversy, as Dana White made several comments during the announcement that ruffled some feathers. The primary one was that Tito Ortiz, who is managing Cristiane Santos, advised his fighter not to take the fight with Rousey. White also managed to rile up former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and the woman many thought Rousey would face, Sara McMann, by stating that both women had turned down the fight.
As it turns out, Santos’ camp, McMann’s camp, and Tate herself have refuted those claims, with Cyborg’s people stating that Cyborg couldn’t safely make the 135 pound limit (a statement that was refuted by Santos herself) and that Rousey was afraid to fight Santos as a 140 pound catchweight. Also, McMann’s representatives said she was never offered a fight with Rousey, and Tate took to Twitter to clear her name as well, saying she was never offered the fight either. I’m not sure how much of any of those claims are true and how much is a result of White being a fight promoter and trying to sell his champion as unbeatable, but if it means we get to see a McMann/Tate fight, I’m all for. As for Sheborg? She needs to realize that Rousey has nothing to prove, as it’s Santos who is coming off of a PED-related suspension and hasn’t fought in over two years. For her part, Santos has said that she could make 135 and will likely do so if the title opportunity is presented to her, but she didn’t feel that she could safely make the weight by February. If that’s true, then I can’t say I blame her, but I’m maintaining my skepticism until she’s actually reinstated and passes a Zuffa-administered drug screen.
Round 4: Hendricks’ Worst Fears Come to Fruition
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
After stating in an interview with MMA Junkie last week that he wouldn’t fight again unless it was against Georges St. Pierre, recently named number one contender Johny Hendricks found himself being passed over in the conversation for GSP’s next opponent, as Dana White essentially said that Nick Diaz would be receiving the next crack at the welterweight champion if the superfight with Anderson Silva didn’t materialize. Hendricks was rightfully upset and he aimed his anger directly at the champion, believing that by giving Diaz a shot in spite of the Stockton native coming off of a loss and still being currently suspended, that GSP was sullying the integrity that he claims to respect so much. Hendricks also said that he doesn’t blame the UFC, as he feels that they’re just trying to keep their champion happy.
This is just a bad situation all around, one that probably could’ve been avoided had Hendricks not been so outspoken last week. To me, this just reeks of Dana White proving who the boss is, and it’s that kind of pissing contest that is going to eventually hurt the UFC. For his part, Hendricks has said that he’s not going to be more controversial in hopes of regaining the title shot, but that he’s going to keep training in case Diaz has another mental lapse and no-shows a promotional appearance (which cost him his first crack at St. Pierre) or fails to complete the terms of his license reinstatement. If you’ve read this column before, you know I’m not fan of Diaz, and I completely agree with Hendricks that by rewarding Diaz’s behavior with a title shot, it’s only reinforcing that same negative mindset that has caused him so many problems throughout his career.
Round 5: Gustafsson Looking to Stay Busy
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
In a callback to our first round, co-main event winner Alexander Gustafsson potentially earned a light heavyweight title shot against Jon Jones with his win over Shogun Rua (as White had said that barring some unforeseen circumstance, the winner would meet Jones in the Octagon). However, Gustafsson has said that he doesn’t want to wait until July or later to face Bones, who already has a title clash with Chael Sonnen on his docket for April. In the UFC on FOX 5 post-fight press conference, Dana White mentioned that he had heard that Dan Henderson’s knee wasn’t healing as quickly as they had hoped, and that Gustafsson could potentially be tabbed to replace Henderson in a fight against Machida in the co-main event of UFC 157 (which I talked about in Round 3 – I love it when a column ties together).
If that’s the case, and Gustafsson does step in to face Machida, then I don’t see any way (barring injury, obviously) the winner of that fight doesn’t become Jones’ next challenger. And as impressive as Gustafsson has looked to date, I think he still needs a bigger win than Shogun Rua before he’s ready to step into the cage against Jones. If Henderson isn’t ready, then the fight with Machida would certainly fit the bill, and I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to see those two square off. If Henderson is able to heal in time for the fight with Machida, then put Gustafsson in there with Rashad Evans to see if he’s able to defeat a strong wrestler, as his only career loss came to Phil Davis in a fight where displayed solid takedown defense before being submitted by Davis after a failed takedown attempt of his own. Rashad’s rumored to be facing Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in February, but I think a fight with Gustafsson is better for all parties involved (with the exception of Nogueira, of course).
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