MMA predictions for 2012
The UFC brass professes to not care about the possibility -- no, probability -- of something stomach-turning happening on Fox. "This is what they ordered seven years of," Dana White told reporters after UFC 140. "This is it. This is what you get." He might really be unconcerned, as he claims, or maybe he's posturing. The thing is, there's nothing White can do about it. Gruesome finishes are going to happen. Pretty much every UFC card features at least one beating that someone new to the sport will find bothersome. If the offended viewer simply punches the clicker to switch over to the safe confines of HGTV, fine. But the prediction here is that at some point in 2012 there'll be a groundswell of network TV viewers raising a stink, putting White in the uncomfortable position of having to defend his sport in the court of public opinion. At that point we'll get to experience the UFC president's well-honed skills as a diplomat.
But all of that has faded away in the aftermath of the UFC's parent company buying Strikeforce last March. Since then, the promotion has been doing a disappearing act. Diaz, Shields and Henderson are now in the UFC, with Melendez likely to follow. There's this thing called the Heavyweight Grand Prix allegedly going on, but we see evidence of it so infrequently that they might as well conduct the fights in Loch Ness. Yeah, I realize that Showtime has just announced a new deal to continue televising Strikeforce fights, but I still say that by this time next year we won't even remember there
An uncrowded MMA landscape is not all that this fight organization has going for it. CEO Bjorn Rebney runs a tight ship, putting his fighters in season-long tournaments that build interest and build names. And unlike past challengers to the UFC's market share, like Affliction and Elite XC, Bellator does not spend recklessly. White might not lose a lot of sleep worrying about Bellator, but this is a well-run, deep-pocketed organization whose best days are to come.
Silva might end up fighting the one man who's made him look vulnerable (Chael Sonnen); GSP has both his own body (knee injury) and a stacked division of challengers (Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit) to contend with; and Edgar has a couple of champions staring him down -- first, former WEC titlist Ben Henderson, then perhaps Strikeforce belt holder Gilbert Melendez. At least one of those three champs will not make it through the year without slipping up.
Now, I put in more than two decades as a union member and am sympathetic to the Working Man, but this is a misdirected campaign whose time is running out. By the end of 2012 the UFC will be planning a fight card for the building where Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier -- and fellow heavyweights like Springsteen, the Dead, Foo Fighters and Lady Gaga -- have called home.