Another fight card scrambled by injury, another possibly advantageous position for the UFC.
This time around, the culprit was bone spurs which, upon detaching themselves from somewhere inside Mark Munoz’s arm, lodged in his elbow joint requiring minor surgery. Munoz was bounced from his co-main event bout against Chael Sonnen at next weekend’s UFC on Fox 2 and then a couple of additional pieces slid into place as the promotion’s matchmakers engaged in something akin to a game of real life Tetris this week.
Michael Bisping was removed from his own televised fight against Demain Maia in order to fight Sonnen. This necessitated locating a new opponent for Maia as well, which the fight company did in the form of hot prospect Chris Weidman, himself no stranger to injury-replacement situations.
And now – deep breath – the end result: The televised fight card for the UFC’s second live offering on network television looks strangely more appealing.
For starters, Weidman (whose coaches trumpeted him as a future champion before he even arrived in the Octagon last year) gets the chance to swoop in and prove he belongs among the 185-pound division’s elite. For the third time in four UFC fights, he come in as late substitute and with wins in all of his previous appearances. If he can defeat Maia, the middleweight class could have an exciting new contender on its hands.
Then there’s Sonnen-Bisping, which 10 days out from the event is already a surefire crowd-pleaser.
No offense to Munoz, one of the nicest guys in the sport and a competitor who will one day surely get a crack at the UFC title, but a matchup like Sonnen vs. Bisping is just too juicy not to savor. In fact, it’s precisely Munoz’s niceness that makes this new fight better. As it stands, two of MMA’s biggest heels (and best trash-talkers) are set to square off on national television and – we’re told – with a potential matchup against champion Anderson Silva on the line. If nothing else, it’s going to be fun.
Sure, Sonnen opened as something of a prohibitive favorite this week after all the card shuffling was done. Sure, Bisping’s strike-first attack doesn’t seem equipped to handle Sonnen’s wrestling, which is some of the best in the sport. And yes, even though Bisping is claiming he’ll submit the former Oregon wrestler if he gets taken down, the fact remains the Brit hasn’t actually tapped anyone out since a 2005 bout at an independent show in England.
No matter. Truth is, there’s probably a healthy population of fans who would tell you that the likelihood of Bisping taking a beatdown is one of the prime reasons they want to see this fight. On the other hand, there may be just as many who watch hoping the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner lands that one punch on the feet that sends Sonnen on a one-way trip to dream street.
In the end, though the new incarnation of the co-main event might turn out to be less competitive than the original, it’s prospects are far more exciting and, really, that’s what the fight game is all about. Two of the sport’s most disliked – and in a weird way, most admired – personalities fighting (and talking) with top contender status on the line.
If you wanted a pairing that could hook in mainstream fans, you couldn’t ask for much better than Bisping and Sonnen.
No matter who wins, I have a feeling most people are going to go home happy.