Viewers' guide to UFC 136
Never mind that the two UFC champions who will put their belts on the line Saturday night in Houston tip the scale at a combined bulk that's only slightly more than what Brock Lesnar weighs following a hog-wild weekend barbecue. The feature fights at UFC 136 are no small potatoes.
Two title bouts. One night. Consider the most recent instances of this happening: UFC 129, which shattered the fight promotion's attendance record by packing 55,000 into the Rogers Centre in Toronto, headlined by Georges St-Pierre and Jose Aldo title bouts; and UFC 100, which merely by virtue of it being a big, round number was a spotlit showcase evening for the sport, featuring St-Pierre and Brock Lesnar defending their belts.
Well, it's happening again Saturday (9 p.m. ET, PPV), when Frankie Edgar puts his lightweight belt on the line against Gray Maynard and Jose Aldo defends featherweight leather against Kenny Florian.
You know it's a good fight card when Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann, a bout that would have warranted the main event spot on many recent UFC cards, is slotted down at No. 3 on the bill.
Edgar vs. Maynard is actually Edgar-Maynard III, of course. In case you were holed up in bed with a massive hangover and missed their epic New Year's Day title bout, Edgar was about as dizzy and disoriented as you were in the first round, courtesy of an aggressive Maynard flurry of punches that nearly ended the bout. But the champ somehow survived, and either a) took control of the fight from that point on or b) held his own the rest of the way, depending on how you viewed it. I saw it as a), and despite the 10-8 first for Gray, would have given Frankie the decision. One judge thought the same, another saw it as Maynard's fight, and the third scored it a draw. So a draw is what went into the record books, with Edgar holding onto his belt.
That made it two Edgar-Maynard bouts, with Gray still unbeaten. Back in 2008, at a UFC Fight Night event headlined by a meeting of two guys also on this Saturday night's bill (Florian and Joe Lauzon), Maynard imposed his will on Frankie, scoring takedowns seemingly at will to win all three rounds and secure a unanimous decision. It's Edgar's only career loss.
Now they're set to do it one more time. Ah, yes, the trilogy, a fundamental sports attraction, particularly in combat sports. Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture got the blood boiling in all three of their UFC bouts, as did boxers Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward every time they stepped into the ring together. Of course, boxing's trilogies go way back into history, to Graziano-Zale and beyond, the most famous being Ali-Frazier. Speaking of guys identifiable without the use of first names, Bird and Magic went
There's no trilogy to talk about in MMA's featherweight division, unless you're noting that title fights come in threes for Florian. Kenny twice went for the UFC belt as a lightweight, first back in 2006 when he lost a unanimous decision to Sean Sherk, then in 2009 when he was choked out by B.J. Penn. Now he's dropped 10 pounds and, after an impressive win over Diego Nunes in June, he's getting another shot at becoming a champion. He's bigger and stronger than Aldo, but will that be enough to tame the beast that rages in the Brazilian?