At UFC 125, Lightweights Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard faced off in a title fight that would be a rematch of their 2008 match. Instead of being the wrestling snore-fest many fans predicted it being, the fight was brimming with drama as Maynard decimated Frankie in the first round as he dropped him multiple times with hooks and uppercuts. Miraculously, a bloody and dazed Frankie managed to outwrestle and outbox the larger Gray Maynard for the remaining 4 rounds and earned himself a draw. The match won fight of the night and the result drew much controversy as both Maynard and Edgar believed they had won, dividing their fan base as well. So naturally, headlining 130 with a rematch made it one of the most anticipated cards of the year.
Then on May 9th, it was announced that neither Maynard nor Edgar would be fighting on the card due to training injuries. Quickly, fight fans quickly declared that UFC 130 was ruined with some going as far as to say that it should be aired on Spike TV for free. This is like having a medium rare fillet mignon with a glass of wine and saying that the whole meal was garbage because dessert got cut from the menu.
Well in my opinion, the “dessert” was month old vanilla ice cream with freezer burn and a human tooth stuck in it. That’s right, I believe that Maynard vs. Edgar III being scrapped from UFC 130 has improved it drastically and let me tell you why.
Yes, I know their title fight was easily one of the most exciting fights in recent memory, but that was by accident. Let me explain.
Frankie Edgar has fought many powerful and talented strikers in March to the UFC title fight including Spencer Fisher and the legendary BJ Penn. Not only did he manage to outpoint these opponents on his feet, but none of them managed to really threaten Edgar aside from some swelling or a cut here or there.
Gray Maynard, while undoubtedly hard-hitting, has never shown aptitude in the striking department. More often than not when matched up against adept strikers such as Kenny Florian, he utilizes his physical strength to smother his opponent instead of standing and trading. So how did he manage to kill off most of Frankie Edgar’s brain cells in the first round? The simple answer is: Luck. Frankie Edgar wasn’t out-boxed, he was caught; the stars aligned and Frankie’s superb footwork took him right into the path of a crushing Gray Maynard hook.
As we’ve established that the first round of the fight was more by chance than by skill, let’s strike it from record. The remaining four rounds was Frankie circling Maynard scoring takedowns and scoring pinpoint but relatively ineffectual punches; a relatively boring affair reminiscent of his previous fights.
Do you think Frankie Edgar would allow Gray to hit him in the face repeatedly again? I assure you he didn’t enjoy the experience the first time and is probably reluctant to repeat it. Assuming Frankie learned from their previous fight, chances are he will tighten up his defense and the fight will come down to a pitter-patter boxing match with the occasional takedown. Sound exciting? Didn’t think so.
Let’s say that steak you eat is delicious, and the wine is making your date eager to take her clothes off. If that freezer-burn-human-tooth ice cream makes you vomit on your date right as you get to her apartment, you’re not going to remember how tender the steak was or how blissful the wine was. This is the problem that plagued UFC 129.
Overall, the fights were nothing short of spectacular. Rory MacDonald thrilled the Canadian by landing suplex after suplex on a helpless Nate Diaz.
Vladimir Matyushenko defied expectations with his devastating 20 second knockout of Jason Brilz. Lyoto Machida managed to redeem himself in the eyes of critics with a Karate Kid-esque knockout of Randy Couture that became a Youtube hit. Mark Hominick fought through a tennis ball sized hematoma on his forehead to nearly come back and TKO heavy favorite Jose Aldo in the fifth round. But do you know what people remember the most?
People remember growing restless and irritated as Georges St. Pierre out-jabbed an outclassed Jake Shields on route to yet another decision victory. The last thing they saw was one of the most dominant fighters in history win in one of the most boring ways possible . . . again. Having UFC 129 remembered for GSP’s lackluster performance is a disservice to the dozen or so fighters who helped make it one of the most exciting cards. And UFC 130 is full of exciting fights.
– Brian Stann, a Silver Star winning ex-marine, is fresh off his knockout victory of the notoriously tough Chris Leben and is matched up against Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago. Santiago’s most recent fight was considered for fight of the year and was filled with back and forth knockdowns and takedowns. With both establishing themselves as superb strikers with granite chins, don’t be surprised if this matchup wins “Fight of the Night”.
– Thiago Alves was a wrecking ball before losing back-to-back fights against GSP and Jon Fitch, knocking out 5 of his last 6 opponents. He recently bounced back by out-striking feared knockout artist John “Doomsday” Howard. With his confidence restored, his fight against Rick Story has “Knockout of the Night” written all over it.
– Former heavyweight champion Frank has either finished or been finished in his last 7 fights in which he went 5-2. Long being considered the division’s only jujitsu ace (aside from Noguiera), he has established himself as a powerful striker by flooring specialists such as Cheick Kongo and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Roy Nelson knocked out his first two opponents in the UFC and then became the only man to ever take heavyweight phenom Junior Dos Santos to a decision. These are two top tier, finishing heavyweights that will potentially determine the title contender.
– Matt Hamill is a feel good story, a deaf fighter who through hard work became an Olympic caliber wrestler and holds an impressive 9-2 record within the Octagon with victories over Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz. Despite his wrestling pedigree, he even holds a head-kick knockout victory over wrestling standout Mark Munoz! His opponent, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, needs absolutely no introduction; his fight career is one long highlight reel of knockouts. Will Hamill’s more varied striking and superb wrestling prevail? Or is Rampage one counter-left hook away from another highlight victory?
None of these fights deserve to be overshadowed by what very well would have been a boring decision. Hopefully with the lightweights scrapped from the card, these fighters will have a chance to be remembered for their own spectacular performance instead of the lackluster performance of the title contenders.
I have nothing against Maynard and Edgar; they are absolute warriors in the sport and deserve recognition as such. I just feel like the quality of the card built around them is so high that it’s not worth risking boring the fans with their fighting style. If anything, the UFC should hold Maynard vs. Edgar III in Frankie’s home state of New Jersey, where the crowd will appreciate him dancing around and wrestling with “The Bully” more. UFC 130 doesn’t (and shouldn’t need them).
In conclusion fans need to buy UFC 130 because it’s damn good steak and you won’t puke on your lover afterwards.