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Five things I think I know are true after UFC 135

By Zach Arnold | September 25, 2011

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1. Jon Jones is everything that the Japanese thought Satoshi Ishii could have been.

In or Out of the Cage, UFC champion Jon Jones proves hard to figure

Both are enigmatic, strange personalities with a lot of raw talent. One ended up delivering and the other one let his compulsive personality essentially wreck his career back home.

Remember when PRIDE died and K-1 was looking for an ‘ace’ after Masato had retired? It wasn’t Kid Yamamoto, since he and Kazuyoshi Ishii had a political falling out. It was going to be Satoshi Ishii, through the Inoki political line, that was going to be the golden ticket. He had everything in the palm of his lands. Instead, his mercurial nature doomed him with the public who turned on him and practically waved bye-bye to him as he fled for America.

In the States, Jon Jones won’t have to worry about being anyone’s savior. Fans largely care about what he does in the cage and if they get angry at him for his antics outside of the cage, then so be it. He can withstand it and make money from it. That’s the difference between Japan and everywhere else.

There are still believers in Ishii who think that he can somehow become a force in MMA, but it won’t be through the Japanese route.

2. Jon Jones is so dominant, oddsmakers will make him a bigger favorite for each future fight than they do for Georges St. Pierre.

For most GSP fights, he’s about -350 to -400 (3.5-4 to 1 favorite) for each title match. No different for his upcoming fight against Carlos Condit.

Jon Jones, for his fight against Rampage Jackson, closed out as a -515 favorite (5 to 1). Against Rashad, I would expect at least -375 as the line, if not higher. The fact that we are starting to see boxing-type lines amongst top Jackson fighters in UFC fights is remarkable.

3. Kazushi Sakuraba’s career relevancy is on par with Japanese MMA on a big stage – dead on arrival.

Ever since business fell apart after New Year’s Eve for K-1, I’ve noticed the mass media in Japan basically turn their backs on covering DREAM events on a large scale. Conversely, I’ve had several writers tell me that DREAM hasn’t opened up press opps. to talk to fighters until the week before shows. What you end up with are largely one-themed articles on the DREAM shows and a deader-than-dead vibe about their existence.

Sakuraba lost to Yan Cabral on Saturday. Yes, Yan Cabral. I had picked Cabral to win but merely because my default position now in any Sakuraba fight is that he’s going to lose. This image from Saturday’s fight is horribly sad. Sakuraba is expected to fight on New Year’s Eve (if there is a show).

The scary part about all of this is that he’s still the biggest draw available in Japan right now. Which is not saying a lot.

4. The more that Japanese fighters lose on upcoming UFC cards, the tighter the squeeze the promotion has for their February show in Japan.

In the limited Japanese media circles that covered UFC 135, the press labeled Takanori Gomi vs. Nate Diaz as the top fight on the card. Naturally, Gomi lost and in relatively predictable fashion. Takeya Mizugaki won his fight against Cole Escovedo, but Mizugaki is unknown amongst the Japanese fans at this point.

The options for UFC to have any sort of drawing cards for the show are dwindling. If Wanderlei loses to Cung Le, that would be a killer. If Akiyama fights before the Japan show and loses, that would be virulently damaging. There’s been a floated belief that UFC will sign up Satoshi Ishii and book him for the Japan show but that is fool’s gold, a Pyrrhic signing at best. He moves the needle for media attention but he doesn’t sell tickets and he gets booed vociferously out of buildings. Plus, Ishii doesn’t come across as someone who liked being in Japan full-time on a personal or professional level.

By the way, the headline of Mark Hunt winning at UFC 135 drew the most hardcore fan reaction in Japan. Hunt’s one of the few gaijin fighters the UFC has that can plausibly pull in some hardcores.

5. Joe Warren should be stripped of his Bellator Featherweight title after losing to Alexis Vila in the Bantamweight tournament.

We hear MMA fans & writers talk all the time about the absurdity of champions in non-title fights and those who lose in such bouts. Well, Joe Warren’s predictable showing against Alexis Vila on Saturday night is the ultimate cherry on the sundae — the promotion’s Featherweight champion losing in dramatic fashion in a Bantamweight tournament bout.

The fight shouldn’t have been booked given Warren’s status as a company champion in another weight class and Bellator paid the price for it.

5b. UFC 136 in Houston is completely overshadowed.

The card itself is great — Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard, Chael Sonnen/Brian Stann, Jose Aldo/Kenny Florian. The fan demand and PR For it, however, I suspect will be abysmal and/or lackluster. It will get lost amongst fan interest for the 137 show in Las Vegas with St. Pierre/Condit and Penn/Diaz. This is the type of card that would have been perfect on FX or even Spike (if the relationship between Viacom and UFC had been better).

Over/under on buy rate of this show – 300,000.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 28 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

28 Responses to “Five things I think I know are true after UFC 135”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Doesn’t look good when your champion moves down in weight and loses to a guy who isn’t even a champion or #1 contender in your company. Warren is older and not learning as he fights. It was bound to happen. And it happened to such a pompous guy that everybody basically cheered it happening.

    Jones vs. Evans is going to do big business. You could cut the tension with a knife when they were in the octagon together….

    UFC 136 is a perfect example of how the UFC’s expansion is really limited.

    1) If you put on enough cards during a month, one is bound to get lost…. Even if it’s a stellar card.

    2) The smaller guys still aren’t big sellers yet. Edgar, Aldo, & Cruz are not big time draws. It’s going to take another year or so before the general fans are comfortable with FW & BW to make it more lucrative.

  2. Liger05 says:

    Thought the event was decent but have watched 2 hours of the Dream show and I prefer that to this UFC one.

    Jones is going to KO rashad. He cant take a good shot on the chin.

    I thought when they got Rashad and Evans in the cage it was awful. They didnt do anything!!!

    • Rich Hansen says:

      Well, the mutual disdain they have for each other was palpable. My wife this morning walked past the screen while I was watching the show again. She never watches the fights, doesn’t care, etc. She watched their interaction and asked me, “Why do those guys hate each other so much?” I spent a minute explaining to her, and this is the longest she ever listened to me talk MMA. She thought for a minute and said, “Let me know when that one happens.”

      So who knows, maybe it was effective…

  3. Chromium says:

    5. Joe Warren should be stripped of his Bellator Featherweight title after losing to Alexis Vila in the Bantamweight tournament.

    I think this is silly and an overreaction. Joe Warren clearly is not a good fit for cutting that low after he went fully up to 145. He had a very subpar performance against Marcos Galvao at 137 catchweight too. But the fact is that just because a fighter can cut to a lower weight class doesn’t mean that they’ll do better there. See: Anderson Silva at WW, Alistair Overeem at LHW, George Roop at BW, and arguably Hendo at MW.

    Joe Warren tried to be a two division Champion and 135 is just too big a cut for him now. It’s not a reason to strip his title. Also him losing in the Bantamweight tournament means maybe we’ll actually see the two FW title defenses that are already planned before another FW tournament starts.

    the headline of Mark Hunt winning at UFC 135 drew the most hardcore fan reaction in Japan. Hunt’s one of the few gaijin fighters the UFC has that can plausibly pull in some hardcores.

    Serious question: what do you think about Rampage’s potential drawing power in Japan, considering Rampage has repeatedly asked for it (he can actually speak some Japanese btw, not that I think that would affect anything)?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      If Warren wasn’t the champion of a weight division, then him jumping around in different weight classes is at both his & the promotion’s discretion. The fact that Bellator allowed him, as a champion who retained his belt in shaky fashion as a Featherweight, to compete in the Bantamweight tournament without any sort of title repercussion really looks mickey mouse, IMO.

      I saw Rampage do several interviews after the show, including one with his favorite personal interviewer, and he was talking up fighting in Japan. The problem is who and why. He wants Shogun, but if Shogun beats Dan Henderson in November there’s no way he’s risking a title shot by fighting Rampage.

      Shogun/Rampage in Japan probably would be the best UFC could do given their limited options but it’s not at all a fight that would bring back the old PRIDE fans en masse.

      Rampage alluded to it in his interview with Bas — the Japanese look at Rampage as two different guys. They applaud the PRIDE-version but look at the UFC version as more or less a sports-oriented, money-making fighter. Again, this goes to a much larger cultural issue regarding Japan and why it’s such a landmine over there to navigate.

    • edub says:

      Chromium- He never even looked that good at 145. He won a very debatable decision against Pitbull (after being destroyed in the first round). He was subbed by Fernandes, and his best win at 145 was against Soto who lost his next fight to Eddie Yagin.

      He was being hyped up too much, and now Bellator has a 145 lbs champion that got destroyed in a 135lb tourney.

      • Chromium says:

        @edub: And yet Warren’s still the champion in that division. His loss to Fernandes was in his third professional fight before he even fought in Bellator. That he didn’t have a faster trajectory shouldn’t be held against him. Even Brock Lesnar didn’t have to face a harder bunch in his first three fights.

        What’s more, Joe Warren owes a title shot to the Pitbull in his very next fight. I think that issue can be sorted out on its own now don’t you think?

        @Zach Arnold: Bellator is a very “mickey mouse” promotion (actually I’m not sure if I’m interpreting that phrase correctly). They should never have allowed Warren to enter the BW tournament in the first place if he had an outstanding title challenge at 145, let alone two of them. Under those circumstances, I might have agreed with you, or if this weren’t a promotion where the tournament format wasn’t pretty much everything, then I would have said Vila deserved an automatic title shot at 145. Either way it’s too late now. Let Warren fight Freire. If he can retain against Freire and then Curran, then I think he’s earned the right to keep his FW title.

        Meanwhile we’re see how far Vila can get. If six months from now Vila is the BW Champion and Warren is still the FW Champion then I think they could just skip the tournament format for once without contradicting the company byline (“Where Title Shots Are Earned Not Given”) and just give Vila a direct crack at Warren.

  4. Mr.roadblock says:

    Zach, you’re right about the odds on Jones.

    What people like Mike Chiappeta, who wrote an ignorant article about this the other day, don’t understand is that odds aren’t about the percentage of who would win. The odds are designed to encourage am equal amount of money to be placed on each guy.

    Fairly or unfairly the perception is that GSP has a glass jaw and hat if you can touch him clean he’ll drop. There are people that bet against him each fight because of that plus the long odds. Jones has no apparent weakness. He also appears to be a full weight class above opponents.

    The fight I really want to see is Jones vs Silva.

    • David M says:

      I agree with your post Mr. Roadblock, but just want to add something about GSP. While the perception is that his chin is glass both from the Serra loss, the first BJ fight, and from him fighting not to lose, I saw his rematch vs Koscheck on tv the other day and he got hit a fair amount and wasn’t hurt once. I think his chin is not actually a weakness, he just doesn’t ever want to be a position where he could conceivably lose.

      • edub says:

        David M. Well said, and I agree to all of it.

        • Mr.roadblock says:

          I’m actually with you on that one David. GSP is tougher than some people give him credit for.

          Serra clipped him in the back of the head at least twice maybe three times.

          I’m just saying that perception about him keeps enough money coming in on his opponents to keep the line in the -400 – -500 range.

          Jones could end up hitting the -1000 level.

  5. Zack says:

    There isn’t a shittier way to start your weekend than staying up til 4AM to watch Sakuraba lose.

  6. Chuck says:

    Damn right Joe Warren should be stripped of his featherweight title. He shouldn’t have been placed in the BW tournament in the first place. He owes TWO guys (Patricio Pitbull and Pat Curran) FW title shots. And he got KTFO last night, so he will probably be put on medical suspension.

    The should strip Warren of his title, have Pitbull vs. Curran for the vacant title, and maybe give Warren first dibs for the winner.

    On another note, I predict Vila to win the BW tournament. And maybe Ivanov to win the heavyweight tournament tourney. Maybe Schlemenko to win the middleweight tourney? Again.

  7. smoogy says:

    I think Bellator needs to take a page out of TNA’s tattered playbook and concede that they can’t go head to head with UFC on the same night. They have way too many enormously talented fighters coming up now to be completely buried by the MMA media because they’re asking them to cover two events simultaneously. Eduardo Dantas and Alexis Vila both looked incredible at a time when the lower weights are getting more attention than ever, and they’re overshadowed by stuff like Tim Boetsch throwing a B-level Canadian into orbit.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      That’s like saying the wrestling media ignoring the Rock ‘n Roll Express in Mid-South in favor of covering Vince pushing Ted Arcidi at MSG.

      Oh, wait, that happened. 🙂

    • edub says:

      Tim Boestch is right around the same ranking as Vila or Dantas (probably a little bit higher). Fact is Vila is a blown up Flyweight that made Warren look extremely overrated. Dantas looked great, but Reis isn’t even a top 15 fighter.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Alexis Vila is 40 years old. The MMa Media should be ignoring him. He has no future in this sport.

      • Chuck says:

        They shouldn’t ignore Vila. If anything, he should be hyped up to just shy of the moon BECAUSE he is 40 and is great. Give him his time to shine in his twilight years.

        Don’t forget, Randy Couture was a top ten guy at 40, and didn’t retire until 47. If Vila keeps it up, and takes care of himself (which he clearly does) then he could still go for a few more years.

        And do I have to mention Bernard Hopkins?

        • edub says:

          How in the world is he great? He knocked out a guy who is notoriously easy to hit, and was on the verge of getting KOd by both Patricio and Soto.

          You mention two legends of combat sports, in the same breath as a guy who has one decent win. Let’s wait and see what he does the rest of the BW tourney.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I’ve seen other people use the Randy Couture example, and it’s a bad one.

          The smaller guys of every sport always have less longevitiy then the big men.

          Randy Couture competed at Heavyweight or Light Heavyweight. Basketball Centers are more likely to compete until thy are 40 then a point guard. With the exception of Ricky Henderson…. Most base stealers aren’t playing that speed game later in their careers.

          Vila is in a young man’s division. And he has his first semi true test at 40. He will be gone before you even know it.

        • Chuck says:

          edub;

          True Warren is over-rated, and yeah he ALMOST got KTFO against Soto and Pitbull, but notice the keyword there. ALMOST. Vila DID KO Warren in extremely awesome and quick fashion. But yeah, we should wait and see though.

          45 huddle;

          Yeah, good points about bigger men as compared to smaller men. Even Bernard Hopkins can be considered something of a “bigger” man (he was always a middleweight/light heavyweight).

          But that is the EXACT reason why I say they should hype Vila up. Because he probably won’t be around for much longer, so might as well strike while the iron is still hot. Or while Vila’s tendons are still usable.

  8. I was a bit surprised that nobody mentioned after the fight that obviously Jones’ legs are his weak point. When Rampage says he has some of the best coaches he might want to reconsiders since nobody told him to attack with his low kicks.

    Jones even hurt his own shin bone when he low kicked Rampage later in the fight and that also was the reason for him sitting in the press conference like having lost. He was in pain.

    As soon as an opponent figures this out and tries to chop his legs he will be in trouble.

    • edub says:

      But you can’t just sit there and chop his leg. Rampage could do that a few times because he was cautious and has stellar takedown defense. Most other people who try that will be put on their back.

      • IceMuncher says:

        Yep. Leg kicks leave you open to TD’s, and Jones is absolutely brutal on top. Probably the most vicious GnP in MMA. He’s a “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of opponent.

      • Stel says:

        Yes, Mark Hunt, now known as the super samoan( I prefer the nickname I just came up with “the killer Kiwi”) Is just a great guy, calm, polite and reserved even in the fight.
        This one I knew Hunt was going to win big time, and it was a great fight worth a second look.

    • Stel says:

      They do look rather flimsy and susceptible to some heel hooks, the first thing i’d do, and the most efficient thing to do, is to break that skimpy little leg.
      You notice Jones took Franklins advice and came out in a three point stance… Jackson should have rushed in right there and (tried to)crushed him.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      It makes a fight with Lyoto Machida that much more interesting. To me this is the hardest style matchup for Jon Jones. Jones will easily beat the winner of Rua/Henderson. He should beat Evans but you never know. But the Machida fight could really test those legs.

      Then again….. Perhaps Evans might test those legs out now after what he just saw.

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