UFC 123 Wrap Party: No Rampage/Machida Rematch Needed, Two Big Matches Made
One of the best bits of news to come out of the UFC 123 post-fight press conference was there are no immediate plans to have a rematch between Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida.
Thank God, Buddha, or whatever higher deity that you pray to because MMA fans don't need to see that match again.
An interesting bout going in, Jackson vs. Machida played out a bit slower than some may have hoped, marked by long periods of grappling and pursuit.
The old Machida that fans grew to abhor watching returned, albeit for a short flurry in the third round that saw Jackson in some trouble.
Despite what Jackson said post-fight, we don't need to see this fight again. Rematches should only be made if they are compelling enough for people to want to see them again, like Machida/Mauricio Rua was due to the controversial judging and the high stakes of a championship.
Machida/Jackson II has no intrigue. It was a close fight but wasn't a great fight. Not every arguable decision warrants a rematch, even with the amount of arguable decisions growing by the event.
Even though Jackson won, he doesn't feel like a No. 1 contender but may get the nod to take on the winner of the Rua/Rashad Evans title match that is tentatively set for the UFC's return to Abu Dhabi in March.
A Rampage/Rashad rematch with a title on the line? Now, that would be a very intriguing return engagement.
The 205-pound division is still one in flux, a mix of aging fighters and young stars still learning their way and preparing to take the old guys' place.
If there could be one goal the UFC could achieve competition-wise in 2011, it would be to work to bring the light heavyweight division back to prominence.
In the post-fight presser, White said the UFC expects to put on 30-31 events in 2011, up from the 24 events the UFC brand alone put on 2010. However when combined with the WEC's eight events this year, that's right on par.
How many of those additional UFC events make it to free TV as opposed to ppv will be interesting to watch.
Jon Fitch Gets His Chance To Silence The Critics
Following the post-fight presser, White told a group of reporters that he pulled Jon Fitch from his previously scheduled bout against Jake Ellenberger at UFC 127 in Australia.
His new opponent? A guy you've probably heard of—BJ Penn.
Penn's decimation of Matt Hughes Saturday gave way for the match being made between he and Fitch, one of the UFC's winningest fighters. Fitch has just one loss since joining the UFC, that to Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, against 13 Octagon wins.
But it's been the manner of those victories that have seemingly been held against him. Currently riding a five fight winning streak, Fitch lived up to his reputation as a grinder with all of those wins coming via unanimous decision and not of the crowd-pleasing kind.
But for the first time since the GSP fight, Fitch has a fight against a high-profile opponent in Penn who made his return to 170 pounds a memorable one Saturday.
If he can defeat Penn, there can be no doubting his claim for a second title shot, and if he can do it in memorable fashion, those critics of his style will have to eat their words.
Sotiropoulos/Siver Will Be Great
It was great that White didn't wait to announce the next fight for George Sotiropoulos, pitting him against fellow November winner Dennis Siver for UFC 127 in Australia.
For a country that loves its tough guys, this will be a dream fight. Sotiropoulos continued his march into title contention with a solid submission victory over Joe Lauzon Saturday, while Siver was equally impressive in submitting Andre Winner at UFC 122 the week before.
Sotiropoulos will go into the fight on an eight-fight win streak, while Siver has won six of his last seven. With a win, you'd have to expect Sotiropoulos would earn his 155-pound title shot, a huge honor in a division that is about to a get a whole lot deeper with the impending WEC merger.
And By The Way, "Shogun" Is Coming Back
The news White dropped about 205-pound champion "Shogun" Rua possibly returning this March should be seen as great news and not just a throwaway piece of information.
The champ has been out of action due to knee surgery since defeating Machida for the championship back in May, forcing Evans to stay on the sidelines and protect his status as the No. 1 contender. The uncertainty around Rua's return has caused Evans some frustration which came out in several media outlets this week.
But if Rua can indeed come back in March, he'll provide the UFC something they haven't had since the end of the spring: an active Light Heavyweight Champion.
Josh Nason is a New England-based freelance MMA journalist that covers live events, has written for FIGHT! Magazine and frequently does radio/podcast appearances. He asks for your "like" for ESPN Boston to cover MMA. Follow him on Twitter.