The problem with hype is that it’s always looking down on its subjects.
Jorge Santiago came back to the UFC with a head of steam that was created (mostly) in Japan where he won 11 of 12 fights. Only one of those went to a decision, which couldn’t help but raise the collective eyebrow at Zuffa. The UFC brought him back and fed him -- somewhat ceremoniously at first -- to its hungriest on-the-cusp contenders at 185 pounds. There was even talk that this version of Jorge Santiago could be a wildcard to challenge Anderson Silva but, you know how it is -- retrospect has a way of coloring faces.
The new Santiago, at first glance, looked remarkably like the other Santiago from his first UFC stint, the one who got knocked out by Chris Leben and Alan Belcher in 2006. He was tossed back into the Octagon with Brian Stann, who caught Santiago in the second round and then put him away with a barrage of punches. It was good enough for fight of the night honors, so there were silver linings. Even still, that familiar outcome turned the knob down from the hot talk to a “keep warm” setting.
Next thing you know, Santiago’s on the UFC 136 prelims on Oct. 8, trying to salvage his job against former No. 1 contender Demian Maia, the meanest kind of consolation. It was the quietest intrigue fight on the card, and, as it turns out, for good reason -- Maia took him down for three rounds and worked his ground-and-pound. This was a unique wrinkle for a serial jiu-jitsu player in Maia, and it was a bland enough showing on the other end of it to get Santiago axed (a second time).
Now he’s either headed to Bellator to lend a hand in challenging Hector Lombard, or back to Japan where at 31 years old he can ante up again.
In other words, we may have read (way) too much into Santiago’s return to the UFC -- but you can’t help but feel a little for him, too. Getting dealt Stann and Maia back-to-back is a tough set of circumstances.
If the UFC could have spared a Riki Fujada or a Constantinos Philippou as opponents, maybe Santiago is still around right now. Instead, he was a ramp for Stann to launch into contention, and a life preserver for Maia to stay near it, and the only thing that went on besides was our expectations getting played with a little bit.
That's not the first time it's happened, and it won't be the last.