Those who didn’t catch WEC 51 Thursday night (which according to my research is almost everyone in the world) missed the MMA community’s most perplexing paradox: great, exciting fighters putting on great, exciting fights……with nobody watching. The best card I’ve seen since UFC 116 and it doesn’t have an audience. The start was actually postponed for the end of a UFL football game. WTF?
I’m sure Zuffa had its reasons for what its done to the WEC. The reasons were perfectly plausible, backed up by all kinds of numbers and papers. I’m a shameless Dana White fanboy, so lord knows I’m inclined to allow him and his colleagues some leeway in their decision-making. I’m sure the thinking was that the lighter divisions, if left behind, would carve out a nice niche based on the quality of fights. In theory, it should’ve worked. In practice, what the UFC has done is slowly guide the WEC into complete obscurity. It’s time for everyone involved to admit this experiment is a failure.
People would watch featherweights on a UFC card. If you took WEC 51 and UFC 119, combined them into one event, and asked fans to pick the best five fights, the only UFC fight that would make the cut is Dunham/Sherk. George Roop’s head kick makes Frank Mir’s fade-away knee look like something you’d find in my toilet after an all-night chili binge. Varner/Cerrone was every bit as exciting as Dunham/Sherk. Jose Aldo is more explosive than anyone on the UFC’s roster. There is a place for these guys in the UFC. In many cases, that place is at or near the top of a card.
more after the jump
The UFC is dealing with two fairly consistent (and legitimate) complaints right now: over-saturation and boring fights. These are essentially both a reflection of the same thing: a dearth of exciting fighters. Part of the problem is that the UFC puts on a lot of events and this is bound to dilute quality somewhat. So what do you do if your drink gets diluted? You pour in more liquor. Zuffa just happens to have a top-shelf bottle on the bureau ready to be uncorked.
The UFC’s lightweight division needs some new blood. The Prodigy is gone and the two guys at the top are decision machines. Even personal favorites like Kenny Florian and Takanori Gomi are starting to get a little long in the tooth. I’d love to see what Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Ben “Smooth” Henderson could add to the mix. Along with Dunham and George Sotiropolous, those guys would form a solid nucleus of up-and-coming talent. Henderson finishes fights and Cerrone wears a cowboy hat. That would make them, what, the two biggest characters in the division? I’m just saying, a shot-in-the-arm wouldn’t hurt, for that division in particular.
But really what this all boils down to is Aldo. People need to be watching Jose Aldo fight. This guy is one of the best things MMA has going right now. He’s said he’s willing to make the jump to lightweight to fight in the UFC. That would be great, but for the UFC to incorporate the featherweight division would be even better. Let Aldo blitzkrieg through everyone at that weight in spectacular fashion for as long as he’s able (which could be a very long time). People want to see spectacular finishes. What he did to Manny Gamburyan Thursday was terrifying. You know how Jon Fitch and Gray Maynard fight? OK, now think of the opposite of that. Such is Jose Aldo. If the UFC had a featherweight division, their cards would be stronger and Aldo would have the fame and fortune he deserves. An added bonus is they could showcase golden boy Urijah Faber. This would be a slam-dunk win for Zuffa, the fans, and the fighters.
I hope the Zuffa brass sees the light on this. I mean, it seems like a no-brainer. Put the best fighters in front of the most people, regardless of weight. It’s time to unleash Aldo.