If you like fights, Tuesday was a head spinner.
I opened my podcast this week discussing the quality mixed martial arts on tap for June. Forget that. With all the bouts now announced, August is officially out of control. UFC will pull four events, two on pay-per-view, starting with Jose Aldo's featherweight title defense against Anthony Pettis in Rio de Janeiro. A lightweight title fight at UFC 164 closes out the month, when Benson Henderson defends against TJ Grant. And sandwiched in between, the first and second UFC events on FOX Sports 1 are loaded.
Henderson tweeted early Wednesday that he learned the date and location of his fight with Grant, which headlines a terrific card in Milwaukee, via Twitter. I'd hazard a guess that the UFC lightweight champion isn't the only fighter who found out like this. Plenty of them, men and women both, ought to be fired up. That goes the same for fans, which is why you shouldn't need to try hard to rattle off 10 contests that are worth getting excited about.
Including the title fights, my list is Brad Pickett-Michael McDonald, Carlos Condit-Martin Kampmann, Sara McMann-Sarah Kaufman, Frank Mir-Josh Barnett, Lyoto Machida-Phil Davis, Alistair Overeem-Travis Browne, Matt Brown-Thiago Alves, Eric Koch-Dustin Poirier. I like each for their style, relevance and expected level of competition, and could have chosen others -- that’s how deep August has turned out to be.
It's strange how some factors, such as time to prepare, can influence perception. On Monday I thought a fight between Chael Sonnen and Mauricio Rua next weekend in Winnipeg would have been a nice way to fill the void left by Antonio Rogerio Nogueira's injury. Visa issues prevented Sonnen from getting into Canada, so the UFC scrapped Rua's appearance and transferred him and the American to the main event of the Aug. 17 card in Boston. Now with two months to prepare as opposed to two weeks, I really don't expect Sonnen to do much against Rua, and I’m not so into the fight.
Recognize Sonnen’s M.O., though, because I think it's fair to call it that. When Sonnen steps up to fight on short notice, he ends up taking on the same guy at a later date. Good fortune, I suppose. But as Sonnen always says, you don't get anything you don't ask for. In and of itself there's nothing wrong with this. Yet, even with the extra time, Sonnen doesn't appear to have much hope at 205. He's a middleweight fighting a larger man's game, and that could make him more susceptible to getting hurt. Shogun Rua needs no help in this department. That's why I didn't list his fight among the best in August.
However: Since I highlighted my top 10, why not choose a favorite?
Upon further inspection (I could easily have gone several directions and no one could have argued otherwise) Sara and Sarah get the nod. Women have lived up to their billing in the Octagon. McMann is on the cusp of something big. Kaufman can rise to the top again if she handles the physical grappler.
There's a lot to like here, even for McMann's crew, who were disappointed that they didn't hear from the UFC when Cat Zingano was injured. The story line between bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and McMann needs some fleshing out, and TUF comes off as a perfect place for both Olympic medalists to take the next step. Alas, we know that'll have to happen some other way, and the first step would be McMann toppling Kaufman.
In part, I felt the need to highlight it because of just how much news poured out of the UFC last night.
Owning the news cycle
Bellator MMA had designs on owning the news cycle Wednesday, when it was set to unveil Quinton Jackson as its latest addition. Up against nothing, Jackson’s ability to stir up press is formidable. But with so much stuff breaking the night before, that’s unlikely to happen. At the very least, Jackson’s news conference in Los Angeles won’t get the kind of play it could have.
Would it be cynical to suggest all this news was released as a response to the Jackson signing?
Take it as little more than speculation, and not even the informed kind. But having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be true. Either way, this is undoubtedly part of the budding war between Zuffa and Viacom, which isn’t so cold these days.
Jackson did the smart thing by laying low for six months and allowing his deal to lapse so Zuffa couldn’t match even if it wanted to. This shouldn’t be a tough concept to grasp. Patience is key, and based on Eddie Alvarez’s experience, fighters in position to control even a little bit of destiny in their own hands is something that must be taken seriously.