In the controversy surrounding the aftermath of UFC 167 a couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Georges St Pierre (GSP) had a right to take a break from the UFC but that in that instance, he should relinquish his title. Well, on Friday he did just that.
UFC president Dana White held a special conference call with GSP and the media to announce that GSP needed time away from competing. To all involved in the call, it seemed as if GSP had been struggling with the pressures of being the UFC champion and had simply had enough for now. Like the true champion he is, he gave up his belt to give other fighters a chance at achieving their goals. It does seem as if GSP will return at some point, but the question of “when” is a true mystery.
GSP was the UFC’s biggest pay per view draw and he carried the entire Canadian market (where MMA is the country’s number four sport) on his back. How then, will the UFC cope without him? Dana White acknowledged this but responded that “people always asked how we’d survive when Chuck [Liddell] left too, but here we are”.
If there was ever any doubt that the UFC will continue to grow and prosper, despite GSP’s status, then Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 9 event was the “proof in the pudding”.
For their penultimate event of what has been, by far the UFC’s best year to date, The UFC produced arguably the best card (top to bottom) of them all.
The card was heavily stacked toward the lighter weight classes, with the main event featuring a rematch of the first UFC Flyweight title fight; Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez.
The event was held in Sacramento which is where Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male are Based. The team, who have been on quite the streak in 2013, had 4 fighters on the card. Benavidez would have the opportunity to finally win Alpha Male their first UFC title.
The truth is that whilst GSP was a huge star in the UFC, what makes the business tick is the matchmaking. The genius of Joe Silva and Sean Shelby (UFC Matchmakers) can often go unnoticed, but Saturday night’s fight card was a work of art. Every fight was exciting and closely matched. Normally, if 8 of 11 fights go to a decision, it suggests a thoroughly dull event, but not on Saturday. On Saturday, the fights were back and forth, with continuous action and as a fight fan, I was glued to it!
The disappointment of the night, if there was one, was probably Chad Mendes’ performance against heavy underdog Nik Lentz. Chad dominated round 1 and nearly finished the fight, but in rounds 2 and 3 he seemed to struggle and coast to the finish line. He got the decision and Dana White later tweeted that Chad had a chest infection which explained the evident cardiovascular issues. Chad still looks in line for another shot at Jose Aldo and the featherweight title.
In the Co-Main Event, fan favourite Urijah Faber put on a flawless performance against Michael McDonald, 12 years his junior. Expected by many to be “Fight of the Night”, Faber dominated the exchanges early and took down McDonald at will. In the second round, after stunning him with an overhand right, faber pounced and finished McDonald by his trademark guillotine choke.
Mighty Mouse defended his title in the Main Event with a thunderous 1st round KO of Benavidez. Benividez was the fighter more known for his power, but Mighty Mouse yet again displayed the outrageous range of his skill-set. Thought by many to be the most technically sound fighter in the whole of MMA, the question now becomes, who if anyone can beat Demetrious Johnson?
GSP is gone for now, but the UFC moves onwards and upwards without him. In front of millions of people on free TV in the States, the UFC put on another stellar event thanks to the wizardry of Silva and Shelby. Bring on UFC 168 - Silva vs. Weidman 2 in a fortnight to complete an unbelievable year for MMA’s biggest promotion!
In other MMA news...
Paul Daley made his successful return to BAMMA on Saturday night, with a Main Event KO of Brazilian, Romario da Silva, in the 2nd round. The Englishman recently admitted he has come to terms with the fact that the UFC won’t resign him. Daley was cut from the UFC in 2010 following a punch to Josh Koscheck well after the fight had ended.