As good as the UFC on Fox 2 lineup still is, especially considering it’s free, make no mistake -- it’s not as good as the original.
Let’s start with the co-main. Due to an injured right elbow, a surging Mark Munoz was forced to withdraw from his top contender bout against Chael Sonnen. In his place steps Michael Bisping -- a worthy replacement, having won five of his last six.
The focus, considering it’s Sonnen and Bisping, was immediately on the epic trash talk that was bound to follow. Nobody knew exactly who would say what, but we assumed it would be the stuff of legends.
As it turns out, though, the talk between these two never really got going -- certainly not to the amount it would have had this fight been promoted for months. What we are left with now is an unfortunately lopsided matchup, at least on paper. Whereas a fight between Munoz and Sonnen featured a lot of unanswered questions, the reworked one features a five-to-one favorite in Sonnen.
I feel obligated to state the mandatory line, “It’s MMA and anything can happen." Yes, it is possible Bisping stuns Sonnen in Chicago. But besides a puncher’s chance, there just aren’t many areas where Bisping can win this fight. Munoz, on the other hand, would have been a legitimate challenge to Sonnen -- not just a body to throw in the cage to keep him busy as he waits for the champ.
Bisping moving to the co-main left his first dance partner, Demian Maia, in search of a new opponent. On just 11 days notice, that man turns out to be budding prospect Chris Weidman who was then, somewhat surprisingly, marked as the favorite.
I love this matchup but hate how we’re getting it. I get it. Injuries are a part of the sport and sometimes guys have to take a chance and fight on short notice or adjust to a new opponent. That doesn’t mean I like it in a fight of this magnitude.
These are two of the top guys in the division. There’s no question they deserve to fight one another, but look at the outside variables that potentially affect this outcome. Less than two weeks for Weidman to cut weight and prepare for the toughest opponent of his career. Drastic style-change for Maia, drawing a powerful wrestler with submission skills after training exclusively for an elite boxer.
At the end of the fight, part of me will wonder if the outcome would have been the same had the two prepared properly for one another. I can live with that, but again, in a fight that will go a long way in terms of sorting out the division, I’d rather not have to.
The fact the UFC was able to move things around and still produce a high-quality card in a short amount of time speaks to the depth of its roster and the professionalism of its athletes to adjust to circumstances. I still love this card. But to say it’s actually better than the original? Come on, son.