Las Vegas - Maybe the biggest lesson from Saturday night’s “Ultimate Fighter” season 13 live finale was that the UFC should stop promising guys “guaranteed title shots.”
Seriously, when was the last time one of these promises worked out? We know it won’t for Anthony Pettis, who saw his immediate shot at lightweight gold go up in smoke (if it hadn’t already) when Clay Guida exploited his takedown defense en route to a unanimous decision.
For Pettis, the lesson was clear: Work that wrestling. For the rest of us, there were other things to take away from the weekend. Here are the five most important …
1. Criticisms of Guida’s performance are, frankly, wrong.
The underdog came in with a great (if obvious) game plan and executed it to perfection against Pettis. Guida was relentless with his takedowns and active from top position with just about every kind of strike allowed by the unified rules. People – and there have been some – who label Guida’s performance as “lay and pray” must’ve watched a different fight than I did. I thought his work in the cage was a great example of what makes MMA the most diverse, nuanced and exciting sport in the world.
That said, this win shouldn’t and likely won’t fast-forward Guida to a title shot. What it does is put him in position to be a legitimate contender for the 155-pound title, perhaps for the first time in his near five-year UFC career. It seems logical for matchmakers to put him into a bout with the winner of Jim Miller vs. Ben Henderson (especially if it’s Miller) to determine a next challenger for either Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard.
2. Pettis still has a bright future.
The 24-year-old was put in an impossible position after Edgar and Maynard first fought to a draw at UFC 125, then each suffered injuries leading up to UFC 130. All in all, he’s handled it with admirable aplomb, accepting this fight with Guida (and the idea of another contender bout even if he won) without too much griping. Even in defeat he reestablished himself as one of the division’s most exciting fighters. Still so young, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see him fight his way back to title contention during the next couple of years.
3. Ferguson could be scary … at lightweight.
I’m not sure anyone from season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter” will make noise in the UFC welterweight division. One thing this season’s champion, Tony Ferguson, has going for him however is power. He proved that with three straight T/KO wins on the reality show and then a first-round KO of Ramsey Nijem at the live finale on Saturday. Immediately after, Ferguson called out former “TUF” winner Amir Sadollah but then added some fire to the notion of him as a prospect by suggesting he could drop to 155-pounds in the future.
As long as he wouldn’t have to sacrifice his cardio or punching power to make the cut, I think Ferguson makes for a more intriguing up-and-comer at lightweight than welter.
4. The time has come to question the utility of “TUF.”
Assuming the UFC will keep Saturday night’s winners and cut the losing contestants from “The Ultimate Fighter,” it means season 13 will have generated all of four new prospects from the original 16. I guess a 25 percent retention rate isn’t terrible, but Ferguson, Chris Cope, Shamar Bailey and Clay Harvison already carry the added weight of my above assertion, that none will be a contender at 170-pounds.
In a larger sense, we know that through repetition after endless repetition of the show, the overall “TUF” format has started to feel pretty stale. So if the show isn’t that fun to watch anymore and it’s not really turning up much new talent for the UFC, what exactly are we doing here? And is it time to revamp the show’s formula? Or scrap it altogether?
5. The question of Kingsbury.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think that by including Kyle Kingsbury on the televised portion of Saturday’s card – while relegating guys like Scott Jorgensen, Jeremy Stephens and Josh Grispi to the prelims – the UFC might’ve been hoping the massive light heavyweight would make his case as a legit contender. I’m not sure that happened. Kingsbury escaped with a unanimous decision win over Fabio Maldonado, but didn’t look terribly impressive in a bout that appeared to feature a guy who should be a heavyweight (KK) fighting a guy who should be a middleweight (FM). He’ll need to make strides in his next fight if he’s going to take a real step forward.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
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