So, things didn't exactly go as planned at UFC 127 on Saturday in Australia.
The main event of the pay-per-view card was supposed to crown the next contender to the welterweight title. Instead, former champion B.J. Penn and one-time contender Jon Fitch fought to a draw, and the fate of the division now rests more than ever on the outcome of champ Georges St-Pierre's sixth title defense, against Jake Shields at UFC 129 in April.
In the co-main event, Michael Bisping and Jorge Rivera were supposed to squash a rivalry born of Internet hijinks. The beef is anything but squashed after a brash display of poor sportsmanship following Bisping's second-round TKO win.
Finally, George Sotiropoulos was to climb a rung on the lightweight ladder by schooling Dennis Siver on the mat. Instead, he got schooled in a stand-up fight and lost a decision.
Look on the bright side: At least Steven Seagal wasn't there.
You can't very well control these things when two people get in a cage. Take the main event. If you looked at it as a whole, or perhaps scored it on a half-point system, it would take some cojones not to pick Fitch. But in the 10-point must system, a different story emerged.
Penn won the first round because he was the more effective fighter. Fitch was clearly a dominant fighter in the third, and thus he (rightly) won a 10-8 score. In the second frame, Fitch spent the first part of the round on a takedown attempt, took significant damage from an elbow and spent the last minute dominating the action on the mat. Penn, on the other hand, stuffed a takedown, got one of his own, achieved back control and delivered said elbow to Fitch's nose. Close, but I'm betting the judges saw Fitch's blood and Penn's back mount and gave it to "The Prodigy" by, well, a nose.
Frustrating, yes, but it's just another day in this highly unpredictable (and strangely compelling) sport. So, we'll trudge on now to some of the winners and losers from the UFC's second trip Down Under.
While it's clear Penn's takedowns and back control weighed heavily on the scoring, Fitch won on the overall war in damage and broke the will of his opponent. Penn's forlorn gaze both before and after the scores were announced said it all. With a few more rounds, that look might have reflected an official beatdown. Instead, it framed another disappointing end to a UFC main event and another to-do item on the promotion's check list with a rematch.
Although he'll fly home with a poofy nose courtesy of that elbow, Fitch can with complete confidence and say, "You should have seen the other guy."
The good news, at least for Siver, was that he would pick up a few clips for his own best-of series, a couple of left-hook anvils that put Sotiropoulos on his back twice in the first round and completely changed the course of the three-round fight. Siver would also take away Sot's next best out: a low gas tank engendered by a tough weight cut (it took him two tries at the scale to make the 171-pound mark allowed for non-title affairs). Sotiropoulos was game despite the cobwebs upstairs, but ultimately couldn't keep up with Siver on his turf.
What's next for Siver? I like a rematch with Melvin Guillard, who knocked him out in July 2008, or perhaps a meeting with the winner of Jim Miller-Kamal Shalorus. Neither will be a smooth ride.
Ebersole acted as the fistic equivalent of a musical theater actor during the first part of the fight, mixing an awkward and freewheeling fight style with hammy asides that bordered on the disrespectful. As it turns out, though, there was design in his antics. They frustrated Lytle, who tried to fight the absurd man with a straight style before throwing caution to the wind and chasing Ebersole with looping punches.
Somewhere in the craziness, the newcomer took full advantage of the herky-jerky fight and managed to crack Lytle with a leaping knee. The shot swiftly turned momentum in his favor, and the ham turned into a tough ground-and-pound artist who punished with punches and elbows and avoided submission attempts.
Will that act fly as Ebersole advances in the welterweight division? Absolutely not. But it will be fun to see him try.
Yes, the former PRIDE and K-1 fighter's days in the UFC are probably limited; Hunt was brought back as a local draw after a first-round submission loss to Sean McCorkle at UFC 119. But it will always be fun to watch Hunt give and take shots of enormous force. Paging Pat Barry?
It's doubtful that Penn has the desire to scrap it out in the wilderness of non-title fights; he's now a devoted father and family man and doesn't need the money (and never did, really). There are a few possible scenarios that could get him out of bed: St-Pierre beats Jake Shields in April and moves up to middleweight, and Fitch-Penn II is for the welterweight title; Shields beats St-Pierre and the rematch is for the No. 1 title contender position; Shields wins and Penn gets a title shot while Fitch gets a rematch with St-Pierre.
As with all of the speculation surrounding the future of the welterweight division, it all depends on what happens in April between St-Pierre in Shields. Until then, "The Prodigy" won't know one way or the other if it's wise to wait out his current feelings of disappointment, or hang 'em up.
The fact is, Bisping is not a bad guy. He was, in his mind, protecting his family's honor by attacking the people who attacked him. But he must learn to curb his behavior before, and not after, he does something that could reflect poorly on him and the sport. What he did was dishonorable, and he needs to hold himself to a higher standard.