This was an important enough topic 18 months ago that I decided to focus on it for it my first feature on SI.com. The situation has worsened, but not by much. It's always been bad. Though, now, there's a much brighter light on the outcomes, and much higher stakes for everyone involved. I'll be interested to see in 2010 how effective the Association of Boxing Commissions, the state-government run agencies in charge of combat spots, are in trying to educate their members. They could start by e-mailing around
Couture and the UFC can make plenty of money with Couture stepping into the Octagon against opponents like Ortiz,
Since I doubt he would agree to fight Forrest unless a title was on the line, a rematch with Ortiz (presuming he wins at UFC 106) makes the most sense. If not, there's a whole catalog of qualified, "interesting" light heavyweights
Does the 27-year-old Brit have a shot? As much as anyone else it seems. He's an accurate power puncher who can counter. That makes him slightly dangerous. Of course, with St. Pierre, it comes down to wrestling. Top-shelf guys have no shot of staying off their back. It's difficult to imagine Hardy is the guy that shuts down G.S.P.
That's not to say Hardy doesn't deserve the shot, though. There really isn't a better option in the UFC right now, as all the other top welterweights have already had their chance and lost to the champion. Hardy is as deserving as anyone else at the moment in a division where the champion has distanced himself from all the challengers.
Having said that, I do think Bisping's real value to the UFC is an ability to draw in England, not an ability to compete at a high level. He's not on my list of the top 10 middleweights in MMA, and I wouldn't give him a very good chance of beating anyone who is on the list. I think the UFC will continue to market him in the UK and carefully pick opponents he has a good chance of beating, but I don't think he'll be a middleweight title contender.
There is a lot to like about Bisping's game, but attitude and aggression won't carry the day versus the best middleweights in the world. I don't see it as impossible that one day he'll fight his way into a title shot. For the most part, though, I'm with you, MDS. I think he sells a lot of tickets in the UK, and therein lies his real value as a mixed martial artist.
Of the two, I prefer Escudero. He's two years younger, undefeated (12-0), and has that wrestling base which seems to support so many great fighters. I'm quite interested in Escudero's upcoming bout against the unblemished Evan Dunham.